It seems as though all your friends and your friends' moms are flying out east to vacation in Tokyo these days. But it's definitely not surprising. Not only is the city bustling with people and things to see, but the culturally rich city is one unlike any other place you've ever been to in entire the world. From maid cafes to robot restaurants, kawaii culture and ramen noodles for days, Tokyo is the place to be.
But while you're in Tokyo, there are a few bucket list things you absolutely must do to make your trip unforgettable. The city can be a bit overwhelming as it is VERY visually stimulating and there are always crowds of people everywhere, so we're here to help narrow down some of the absolute musts in the city. From things to eat, places to shop, hotels to stay, and sights to see, this list is going to be vital to your Japanese holiday.
While this list is just the tip of the iceburg, you have to do these 22 things in Tokyo for the most epic trip ever. So say sayonara to your day-to-day and konichiwa to the most memorable trip of your life.
1. Totti Candy Factory // Harajuku
Harajuku is the mecca of kawaii fashion and food, taking cuteness to a whole new level. Nestled in the corner of Takeshita street is a candy shop churning out the most whimsical, rainbow coloured cotton candy that's bigger than the size of your head. Kawaii dreams were made of these.
2. Shibuya Crossing // Shibuya
The Shibuya scramble is one of the most iconic locations in Tokyo. It's basically just a street intersection, but you can cross streets diagonally. The traffic lights on all four sides turn completely red, and pedestrians spill out onto the crosswalk water out of a floodgate. It truly is quite a beautiful mess and a sight to see.
3. Zaku Zaku // Harajuku
You've never tasted quality soft serve until you've been to Zaku Zaku. This soft serve and choux pastry shop only uses the creme de la creme of ingredients from Hokkaido and makes their desserts fresh daily. Their ice cream will have you screaming.
4. North Shimo-Kitazawa Thrifting // Shimo-Kitazawa
You may or may not know that Tokyo is a gold mine for thrifting. From high-end vintage stores with luxury finds to low-end thrift shops peppered with diamonds in the rough. Trust me, you can find vintage, second-hand YSL and Burberry for under CAD $150.
5. Spring Valley Brewery // Daikanyama
No, craft beer is not just a North American thing, the Japanese are into their brews just as much as we are (if not more). Daikanyama's super hip Spring Valley Brewery is located right beside a secret, lit up pathway, Log Road. The brewery offers beer flights that range from dark and hoppy to fruity and refreshing. When you're under the Japanese sun, nothing cools you down better than a variety of brews.
6. Tokyo Plaza // Omotesando-Harajuku
Tokyo Plaza is actually just a simple shopping mall in the Omotesando-Harajuku area, but the real pull is their mirror emblazoned entrance that reflects the most incredible image of the Harajuku streets and surprisingly, their rooftop Starbucks. Their rooftop has a magical garden terrace with twinkle lights and wooden benches where you can get a birds-eye view of Harajuku.
7. Shelf 67 // Shibuya
If you're not a local, you might not be familiar with this bookstore cafe. Shelf 67 is hidden on the 6th and 7th floor of a massive bookstore named Tsutaya right in front of Shibuya Station. This cafe serves unique small bites, coffee and delicious desserts, and is the perfect hideout for a book nerd. There's even a smoking room in the corner for those who need their fix.
8. Ameya Yokocho // Ueno
Ueno is known for its incredible shopping and hosting some of Tokyo's best cultural sites... but let's be honest, we're mostly into the shopping. Ameya Yokocho is an indoor and outdoor shopping market with tons of outlets and stalls that range from food vendors, second-hand luxury purse stores, and athletic wear outlets.
9. Mori Art Museum and Tokyo City View // Roppongi
Mori Art Museum's current main exhibition is definitely one to be seen. Leonard Erlich's Seeing Is Believing exhibition is a collection of interactive optical illusion pieces that will have you floored. A ticket to the art museum will also grant you access to the beautiful Tokyo City View which is home to a 180-degree view of Tokyo. Knock out two birds with one stone.
10. Sushi no Midori // Shibuya
If you're going to be in Japan, you absolutely must have sushi and Midori is the place to get it. To be honest, the picture above does not do Midori Sushi justice at all. The sashimi is fresh to death and massive AF. Every bite into Midori's sushi is absolutely heavenly. My mouth is watering just talking about it. However, they do not take reservations so you'll definitely want to arrive at least 45 minutes before you expect to dine as their line up is always long.
11. Mega Don Quijote // Shibuya
You may be familiar with the story of Don Quijote, but the Japanese store Don Quijote is something totally different. Don Quijote (often called Donki) is a massive multi-level Japanese discount chain store with over 160 locations in the country. Why is it worth going? It has the wackiest, most outrageous Japanese products you have ever seen and the cheapest branded clothing and goods you'll ever find. We recommend visiting Mega Donki in Shibuya as it's one of the largest, and the visual stimulation is just unparalleled.
12. Afuri Ramen // Naka-Meguro
I can personally tell you that I've never liked Ramen until I tried Afuri in Naka-Meguro. Named after Mount Afuri of the Kanagawa prefecture in Japan, Afuri's ramen is just as "straight, honest, steadfast, and dependable" as the mountain. The noodles are light and refreshing, and each strand is delicate. Their signature yuzu ramen and tsukemen are two items you have to try.
13. Meiji Shrine // Shibuya
While Kyoto has some of the most incredible ancient shrines and temples, including Japan's most famous Fushimi Inari Taisha, you don't have to travel all the way to Kyoto to experience a Japanese shrine. Right in the heart of Shibuya is the Meiji Shrine. This Shinto shrine features a beautiful garden with serene walking pathways that will transport you into Japan's history.
14. Arcades // Akihabara
Akihabara is famous for its insanely packed electronics stores and otaku (diehard fan) culture. Just walking around the streets you will see locals dressed up in various types of cosplay. While you're here, you cannot miss out on the arcades like Taito HEY, Super Potato and Club SEGA. Live out your DDR dreams in the country that created it.
15. Reissue // Harajuku
You might have seen these adorable foam sculpture coffee cups on Insta, but now you can actually see them (and drink them!) in person in Tokyo. Located in the centre of Harajuku, Reissue is the home of kawaii coffee art. You can get Pikachu, Totoro, adorable kittens or even snowmen made out of foam on your lattes. Just a note, Reissue is a smoking permitted environment as it is common for smoking to be allowed at many coffee shops in Tokyo.
16. WEGO // Harajuku
WEGO might just be a retail store, but it is the cutest, most adorable, most kawaii store beyond your wildest dreams. Selling cute clothing, accessories, and even food items, WEGO is the spot to go if you're looking to get some Harajuku souvenirs. There's even a photo shoot set at the front of the store where you can take some very cute shots for the Insta. While there are many locations in the city, make sure to visit the Harajuku location on Takeshita street.
17. Uniholic // Roppongi
If you can't get enough of uni (sea urchin), it's only fitting that you dine at Uniholic in Roppongi. At Uniholic, the Japanese delicacy makes its appearance on nearly every single item on the menu. From uni rice to uni salad, uni sashimi to even uni tiramisu, the experience at this uni restaurant is definitely one of a kind.
18. Shibuya Coffee // Shibuya
After a long day of shopping in Shibuya, all you want to do is to shop even more... but you just need a little caffeine kick at a cute cafe. Hidden very inconspicuously up a flight of stairs on the streets of Shibuya is the adorable Shibuya Coffee. The cafe is adorned with lush greenery, dripping with leaves and vines. This coffee shop is also smoke-free, so you don't have to worry about breathing in clouds of cigarette smoke.
19. Cafe Gram // Meguro-ku
Fluffy souffle pancakes have taken the Tokyo food scene by storm. This incredibly trendy item has been popping up all over the place, but the best place to get them is at Cafe Gram. Their souffle pancakes are so popular that you have to call in advance to reserve them as they only make 20 of them during a very limited time of day. Make sure you call ahead to snag a bite of this beauty.
20. Sky Lounge Stellar Garden // Roppongi
Located on the very top floor of Prince Hotel in Roppongi is the lounge with a breathtaking panoramic view of Tokyo, Sky Lounge Stellar Garden. The bar lounge is the perfect place to get a nighttime view of the city lit skyline with a drink in hand. Note that the bar is a smoking permitted environment, so it can get quite musky inside. But if you can look past the smoke, the lounge this lounge will take you to cloud nine.
21. The Prime Pod // Ginza
Capsule hotels are a living experience unique to Japan and there's really nothing quite like it. You can think of it like a hostel, but your entire "room" is basically your bed and that's it. While it sounds a bit bleak, The Prime Pod in Ginza is one of the first luxury capsule hotels where guests can enjoy a quality mattress, a flat screen, free Wi-Fi and charging stations in each "room".
22. Ooedo Onsen Monogatari // Odaiba
Finally, you can't do Japan without visiting a traditional onsen. Ooedi Onsen Monogatari is one of Japan's largest onsen theme parks with pebblestone paved paths, open-air onsens, silk baths, rock salt saunas, and so much more. You can dress up in traditional kimonos and feel like you've been transported back to the Edo period. However, please note that visitors cannot have tattoos as this standard practice across the country.