Visit Sensoji Temple
One of the most popular shrines in Tokyo, Sensoji is a post-war reconstruction of Tokyo’s oldest Buddhist temple complex. Expect Sensoji to be crowded but do not let that keep you from visiting. The shrine is popular for a reason! Test your luck with omikuji paper fortunes or seek healing with the wave of incense smoke.
Walk down Nakamise Street
Enter or exit Sensoji temple by walking down Nakamise Street which connects the main gate (Kaminarimon Gate) with the main hall of the temple complex. Browse the many souvenir shops or try a local snack from a food vendor. We sampled matcha ice cream and Taiyaki (fish shaped pastry filled with sweetened red bean paste).
Visit the outer markets of the original Tsukiji Fish Market
Although the original fish market, Tsukiji, has closed and moved to a new location (Toyosu Fish Market), the outer markets are still open and active. Originally Tsukiji Market was a wholesale market for professionals where restaurant owners would gather to buy fresh fish and produce as well as any other culinary needs. The doors have since been opened to the public. Wander the alleys, take in the organized chaos and enjoy the sights.
Eat all the sushi!
There are so many different ways to chow down in the city. Kaiten-zushi, conveyor belt sushi restaurants, being one of the more unique options. We opted for the alley way restaurants in the Tsukiji Outer Markets. Because most of the fish served and sold is delivered directly from Toyosu Market, we thought this would be the best place for a sushi taste test. Or if you are looking for a more upscale dining atmosphere, you could try one of Tokyo’s 230 Michelin star restaurants.
Buy tickets to the Robot Restaurant
The futuristic show is hands down the weirdest most entertaining show I have ever experienced! Expect a nonstop sensory overload lights show full of robots, dancing, drums and fake battles. Arrive early to enjoy a drink in the lounge before the show begins. Even if you buy tickets online, you will still have to stand in line to redeem them so give yourself extra time to account for this. The ceilings are low and the “stage” is very narrow. Robots were almost touching those sitting on the front row during the performance. Best seats in my opinion are second row in the middle of the floor.
Have a drink in the traditional bars of the Golden Gai
Located in the Shinjuku neighborhood, the Golden Gai is composed of 6 narrow alleys with over 200 tiny bars and eateries. The Golden Gai gives a nod to times past in Japan and still frequented by locals. Bars welcoming tourists normally have signs displayed prominently and in English outside the door. Expect to pay a cover at these bars. Again, these bars are very small and can only accommodate a few patrons at a time. Not recommended for large parties. Highly recommend Albatross bar if visiting for the first time.
Walk Takeshita street in Harajuku
Being the pop culture center of Tokyo, you will find trendy shops, boutiques, and cafes centering about teenage culture and fashion.
Travel to the top of Tokyo Tower
The observation deck of Tokyo Tower gives stunning views of the city and recently reopened after renovation in March 2018. Expect to pay an entrance fee for access to the observation deck. Current admission fees for an adult 2,800 yen (around $25 USD).
Visit Meiji Shrine
Dedicated to the Emperor Meiji’s wife, Empress Shoken, the shrine is a quiet and peaceful oasis in the middle of bustling Tokyo. Walk along the winding pathways through the 170 acres of evergreen forest and get lost in the sounds of nature. The main complex of shrine buildings is a ten minute walk from either entrance, Harajuku Station or Yoyogi Station. The grounds are free to explore unless you would like access to the Inner Garden which requires an entrance fee. The gardens are popular in June when the irises are in full bloom. Don’t miss the barrels of sake donated to the shrine creating a towering art exhibit along the paved walkway.
Egg Salad sandwich from Lawson’s
Recommended by a foodie friend, try an egg salad sandwich from Lawson’s, a local drug store chain. You will NOT be disappointed! Unlike the US, the convenient stores of Japan have tasty food options and are a popular stop to grab a bite to eat on the go. Be mindful to Japanese culture… do not walk and eat.
Rumored to be the busiest intersection in the world, this five point crossing is surrounded by tall shopping centers, neon lights and large television displays. Anywhere from 2,000 to 3,000 people can be crossing this intersection at one time giving the intersection the nickname “the scramble” crossing. Check out the view from above at the Starbucks or on top of one of the surrounding shopping centers for a great aerial view.