Tokyo Bucket List: Cool Things To See In Tokyo That You Can’t Find Anywhere Else

Tokyo is the capital city of everything cool and unique, so it’s not hard to find a list of unique things to do there. Sure there are many touristy things just like any other city, but the charm of Tokyo really likes in the unusual cool things you can’t find anywhere else.

Tokyo is on everyone’s Japan itinerary and it’s not hard to see why. Because of all the quirky things in Tokyo, my family and I keep going back to visit in hopes of doing them all. From entertainment, shopping, sightseeing and food, I will show you all the best things to do in Tokyo that you can’t find anywhere else.

Planning a Trip to Japan?

I love traveling to Japan and document my itineraries, hotels and travel tips, since Japan can be quite overwhelming to plan.

From first timers’ favorites like Osaka, Kyoto and Tokyo to fun day trips, quirky things to do and hotel reviews, I have a ton of blogs on Japan.

Japan Kyoto travel guide fusimi inari

1. Drive a Go Kart on the Streets of Tokyo (While Dressed Up as Super Heroes)

Have you ever played Mario Kart? Well you can actually drive a real life Mario Kart in Tokyo (and Osaka). Although now you can no longer dress up as Super Mario (or any of the copyrighted Nintendo characters), you can still dress up as other super heroes.

If there is one cool thing to do in Tokyo, that would be to zoom by Shibuya Scramble Crossing on a Go Kart with your fellow super heroes! There are a few different routes you can choose from, but the most popular one is definitely the one that allows you to drive through Shibuya.

If you are curious how exactly that works (and which tour to book), be sure to read my super detailed review of Mario Kart in Tokyo.

2. Visit Ghibli Museum to see Totoro and Robot and Other Miyazaki’s Characters

If you are an anime fan, especially a Miyazaki fan, then you must not miss out on visiting the Ghibli Museum in Mitaka.

The museum houses not only Ghibli Studio characters, but also allows you to see a replica of the room Miyazaki worked in, original sketches of the animations and a short animated film. The film is very special since you won’t see it anywhere else and they are only shown at the museum. In addition the films change every month so even if you have been before, you can always go back another month to see a new film.

When I visited we were very fortunate to get tickets, as tickets usually sell out almost immediately. If you can’t get tickets on the official website, you can always get tickets here but it is more expensive. There are no photos inside the museum but you can take pictures outside.

In addition, if you love Totoro, then you should purchase them from the Ghibli Museum. Although you can get Totoro plushie anywhere in Japan, the ones you get from Ghibli Museum have their own labels on the bottom.

Ghibli Museum My neighbor totoro plushie with label

3. See the Giant Ghibli Clock in Ginza

Ginza Miyazaki Clock

If you can’t tell already, I am a huge fan of Ghibli Studio. The cool thing about Japan is that there are anime things everywhere, randomly. I mean who would think about seeing a giant clock from an animated film in the middle of Tokyo?

But in case you are also a Ghibli Studio fan, then be sure to check out the giant clock on the second floor of Nippon Television’s building near Ginza. It’s free and quick so if you are in the area, definitely stop by.

4. Watch a Baseball Game at Tokyo Dome

Baseball is one of the most important sports in Japan so you bet it’s a whole different experience watching a game there. If you are curious how much the Japanese love baseball, it’s almost like watching a soccer game in Europe or watching a football game in the US.

The games are interesting and fans are entertaining. I saw teenage girls running up and down the aisle carrying beer in a “backpack” full of beers which I would never see in the US.

Furthermore, unlike American stadiums, Japanese baseball stadiums sell bento boxes (boxed food with rice, meat, veggie, etc) as well as western food.

You can buy tickets from the Tokyo Dome website or Getyourguide (if it’s easier).

Fun Fact: I actually got hit by a baseball at Tokyo Game during a game. It left a HUGE bruise on my arm. When it happened the security guard ran over and started asking me if I was ok in Japanese (that’s probably the only thing I could understand). I did NOT end up going to the hospital since nothing broke. The sad thing is that someone else got the ball since it bounced off my arm.

5. See a Traditional Japanese Wedding at Meiji Jingu

Meiji Shrine is probably on everybody’s Tokyo itinerary and I admit I really like going there. Located in a large forested area next to Yoyogi Park, Meiji temple is a tranquil and peaceful place to escape from the hustling and bustling Tokyo city center.

The shrine itself is dedicated to the deified spirits of Emperor Meiji and his wife. and as you walk in through the gate and lines of trees, you will see these sake barrels. They are empty of course, but sake in Japan is a way to bring people and Gods together.

If you have seen the movie What’s Your Name, the movie also discusses the importance of sake as a connection between humans and Gods. These sake barrels at Meiji Shrine are donations from different manufacturers.

If you are lucky, you may actually witness a traditional Japanese wedding. I have seen it twice but I know people who never got to see it. It surprises me that the wedding ceremony takes place in public for all visitors to see but it is certainly a cool thing in Tokyo that you won’t see anywhere outside of Japan.

6. Expand Your Imaginations at teamLabs in Tokyo

If you are on social media looking at Tokyo things to do, then inevitably you would come across photos and videos of two really cool digital art museums in Tokyo:

There are also 3 other teamLabs creations in Tokyo:

  • teamLabs Galaxy Harajuku (free)
  • teamLabs Moon Flower Sagaya Ginza (restaurant)
  • Vegan Ramen Uzu Tokyo (restaurant)

I personally think teamLabs set the standard for digital art museums and out of all the different digital art museums I’ve visited, nothing can top teamLabs. From both the experience, aesthetics, and the scale, teamLabs is something you simply can’t miss in Tokyo.

Even if you can only do one teamLabs during your stay in Tokyo, you can’t go wrong with either Planets or Borderless. Borderless is however closer to the city center and Tokyo Tower, so if you want to save on commute time you should go there.

7. Eat Sushi (and other things) at the World Famous Fish Market

Tsukiji Market is a name that any sushi lovers would recognize. In 2018, the original Tsukiji Market moved to Toyosu Market and what is left is the outer market.

While you can certainly book a tuna auction tour to Toyosu Market, I think a better idea to spend your money is to eat sushi at the Tsukiji Outer Market as breakfast.

Since the market opens by 8am (some stalls open even earlier), I would recommend coming here early in the morning before it gets crowded. There are over 400 stalls selling food at the market, so you would have no problem finding stalls selling sushi (the most popular ones generally come with a long line).

Besides sushi, there are a ton of other foods to eat at Tsukiji Outer Market. If you are overwhelmed by all the choices you can do this food and drinking tour in Tsukiji to try the best places. This tour tells you the history of Tsukiji Market and takes you to some really local spots that you may not have found by yourself.

8. Explore the Most Beautiful Aquarium at Art Aquarium Museum

Located in Ginza, the Art Aquarium Museum is a unique thing to do in Tokyo. When you visit, you are not just there to look at fishes, but really you are there to see digital art, with different types of gold fishes in them. In fact I never realized there were so many types of gold fishes!

You can book tickets online and it’s generally not too crowded. You can expect to spend 20 to 30 minutes at the museum but we ended up spending longer since it was so relaxing and beautiful inside. If you are traveling to Tokyo with kids, this is also a great place for kids.

9. See the Giant Godzilla Head in Shinjuku

Godzilla hotel in Tokyo - unique things to do in Tokyo

Only in Japan can you see something right out of the movie, and in this case, it’s the Godzilla vs. Mothra movie from 1992.

Placed on the 8th floor terrace of Hotel Gracery in Shinjuku, you can spot its giant head from the street. However if you want to get close to the Godzilla Head, you will need to visit its 8th floor cafe.

But what’s even cooler is if you actually stay at Hotel Gracery. There are two rooms that allow you to see and/or experience Godzilla at this hotel:

  • The Godzilla Room where there is a Godzilla model in the room and all the Godzilla themed decorations all over the room
  • The Godzilla View Room is a regular hotel room with the window right next to Godzilla

But if you are like me, just seeing the Giant Godzilla head is cool enough (also because there are even more unique hotels in Tokyo).

10. Play (and Win) the Claw Games at an Arcade

Japan arcade claw games

Japan pretty much invented the claw games and there is no better place to release your inner child than at an arcade in Tokyo.

There are arcades everywhere in Tokyo with a ton of games to play, but the one experience you should not miss is definitely the claw games.

What’s different about Japanese claw games is that the workers are super nice. I used to frequent these arcades whenever I went to Tokyo and I have always won something every single time. The secret? I asked the workers to move the items in the machine, so I could more easily win.

11. Go to a Themed Cafe or Two or Three

Japan is all about themes so it should be no surprise that there are a ton of different themed cafes in Tokyo. In particular, Tokyo is all about Pokemon themes and other anime/ cartoon themed cafes.

While you may have heard about the Pokemon Cafe where your food actually looks like pokemon characters, did you know that there are a ton of other cute themed cafes (and restaurants)? Below are some of the ones I know about, but I’m sure there are a ton more since cafes and restaurants open up faster than I can visit.

  • Kirby Cafe near Tokyo Skytree
  • Sanrio Cafe in Toshima City
  • Pompompurin Cafe in Harajuku
  • PEANUTS cafe in Harajuku
  • Pikachu Sweets Cafe near Sanrio Cafe
  • Shiro-Hige’s Cream Puff Factory near Setagaya City that sells Totoro cream puffs
  • Disney Harvest Market with Disney themed food and drinks

Besides the cutesy cafes mentioned above, there are other cool themed cafes in Tokyo like the LV themed cafe, Ninja themed cafe/ restaurant, vampire themed restaurant, Harry Potter themed restaurant, etc.

12. Observation Deck Hopping in Tokyo

There is no shortage of observation decks in Tokyo, given there are so many skyscrapers. In fact there have been new observatories that opened up almost every year or two in the recent years.

There are a number of free ones as well as a number of admission-required observatories. From the famous Skytree to the Social Media viral Shibuya Sky to the shiny new Azabudai Hill Skydeck, you will never run out of options.

Personally I think the new Skydeck at Azabudai Hills is the best, with an up close view of the famous Tokyo Tower. It is also right next to teamLabs Borderless, making it a super convenient stop for a fabulous view.

If you are looking to get the viral photo at Shibuya Sky, then just keep in mind that you have to wait in line to get that shot. Everyone floods to Shibuya Sky for sunset, so you won’t be the only one there. When I went the line was pretty long (like more than 30 minutes) and we had dinner reservations so I didn’t even get to take the photos!

13. Get the Giant Cotton Candy in Harajuku

Harajuku-Cotton-Candy-Japan-Guide

Harajuku is a cool area that any trendy young person should not miss in Tokyo. Known for its anime association, young fashion, themed cafes and shopping, Harajuku is one of those quirky areas of Tokyo that has a lot to offer.

If you walk down the famous Takeshita Street, you will find a ton of shops. You will also come to the famous Totti Candy Factory, known for its giant rainbow colored cotton candy.

I can’t say I’m a big fan of the cotton candy since it’s way too street for my taste, but I certainly thought it was one of the coolest food items I got in Tokyo (and it makes cute photos).

14. Shop at the a MEGA Don Quijote in Tokyo

MEGA Don Quijote is one of those shops that just sells everything. It’s not the biggest discount store for nothing. There are over 80000 items at Donki, spanning over 7 floors (plus basement levels for food). From souvenirs to cosmetics, anime goods, paper products, snacks and food, household products, you can basically buy everything from this store.

I don’t think I’ve ever been to such a large store in the US, so it was a complete sensory overload to step into this store. But it’s an incredible shopping experience that you should definitely not miss. And you know what the best part is? The Mega Donki in Shibuya is open 24 hours, so you can go shop at 3am if you are jet lagged.

15. Get a Taste of Fushimi Inari in Tokyo at Hie Shrine and Ueno Park

Rows and rows of red torii gates is a symbol of Fushimi Inari near Kyoto. However, in the event that you can’t make it to Kyoto or Fushimi Inari, you can get a similar experience in Tokyo.

There are a few different places you can see these red torii gates in Tokyo, with the most famous one at Hie Shrine, and another one at Ueno Park as well as Nezu Shrine. I think the one at Hie Shrine looks the best, but if you happen to visit Tokyo during the Azalea season, then you can pay a small fee to see the beautiful Azalea garden at Nezu Shrine.

16. Walk Across Shibuya Crossing and Do Some People Watching

Shibuya Scramble Crossing is the famous crosswalk that appears in almost every movie that takes place in Japan, including the Fast and the Furious. Whenever you walk around Shibuya, you will not only see students in uniforms but also very fashionable people and of course, a lot of tourists. There are many shopping centers in Shibuya catering to both high school students and professionals.

The Starbucks on the second floor in Shibuya is probably the world’s most popular Starbucks because everyone sits by the window to people watch. It has the best vantage point to see the entire crossing and the good news is that it was just remodeled and reopened in April 2024.

Walk across the crosswalk and check out that Starbucks to do some people watching (before you head over to the MEGA Donki for some late night shopping).

17. Visit the Tokyo Tower (or Just See It)

Nothing is more iconic for Tokyo than the Tokyo Tower and the good thing it you can go up the Tokyo Tower, or simply just enjoy the view of it from an observation deck, your hotel room, or a restaurant/ bar.

I debated a lot about whether it was worth it to go up Tokyo Tower (we eventually did), and it was a cool experience to know that we were standing on top of Tokyo Tower. But I feel like seeing Tokyo Tower is probably better than actually going up it. It’s almost like when someone goes to New York City and goes up the Empire State Building, when you can’t see it since you are standing on top of it!.

If you have no interest in going up Tokyo Tower (considering there are free observation decks in Tokyo), then the next best thing is to just walk around Tokyo Tower, book a room at the luxury Tokyo Edition, or grab a drink at Sky lounge Stellar Garden nearby.

18. Go to Tokyo DisneySea

You may wonder why I’m telling you to go to Disney in Tokyo, but did you know that Tokyo is the only place with DisneySea? Sure there are a number of Disneylands all over the world and nothing can top Disney World, but DisneySea is unique to Tokyo.

Similar to Epcot where it’s country themed, DisneySea, as you guessed it, is water themed. There are 7 different areas with themes like Arabian Coast, Mysterious Island, Mermaid Lagoon, etc, each featuring different decorations, characters and rides. As expected from Disney, I felt like I was in a movie with the different themed decorations and buildings.

There are cool and unique attractions that I have never seen before, such as Fortress Exploration, Aquatopia, riding a Venetian gondola, Nemo & Friends Searider, Raging Spirits roller coaster, etc.

Another great reason to visit is that the tickets to the park are SO cheap, like 1/3 of Disney World ticket cost. By my girl math, going to DisneySea is pretty much like saving money!

19. Visit the Biggest Buddhist Temple in Tokyo (and Get Street Food)

Sensoji in Asakusa is the largest and most famous Buddhist temple in Tokyo. Although I’m usually not super interested in temples, I absolutely loved visiting Sensoji because there is a lot to do in that area.

As soon as you get off the train at Asakusa Station, walk towards Kaminarimon (thunder gate), a huge lantern that leads to Sensoji Temple. After walking through Kaminarimon, you will be on Nakamise-dori street, the traditional street with a ton of food and souvenir stalls. During different months, there are different decorations on the street.

Pro tip: If you want to get a nice aerial view of the street, be sure to stop by the Asakusa Culture Tourist Information Center.

While at Sensoji, you can also rent a Kimono to wear and take photos. We saw a lot of girls renting kimonos there and it looked really pretty.

20. Experience Nightlife in Shinjuku

You really can’t say you’ve been to Tokyo until you spend the evening in Shinjuku. From arcades to shopping to eating skewers to getting drunk, Shinjuku is a must visit night spot on every tourist’s list (including mine).

If you are looking for bars, especially interesting themed bars, then Golden Gai is your best bet. This little area is known for its narrow alleyways and small bars, densely packed within 6 alleys in fact. There are over 200 bars and some do welcome foreigners (there are many that don’t, and will not even allow you to go in).

Piss Alley (Omoide Yokocho or Memory Lane) is also a collection of small alleyways known for izakayas. You will find small spots that serve all kinds of skewers (again, some are for locals only). The alleys are frequently decorated. When we went in November, there were maple leaf decorations.

You can always do a food tour in Golden Gai or a night foodie tour in Shinjuku if you don’t know where to go eat and drink. These tours are usually led by a local showing you a few famous places to eat and drink since you might not be able to go to the really local places without knowing Japanese.

Besides these two areas, you can also go to Shinjuku Kabukicho, Tokyo’s red-light district, is known for its neon lights, lively bars, and plenty of adult entertainment options such as karaoke bars and host/ hostess clubs.

Lastly, there is a famous free observation deck in Shinjuku called Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building. It opens late and you can see the beautiful night view of the city.

21. Stay at an Unique Hotel in Tokyo

One quirky thing I love about Tokyo is that you can find cool and themed things EVERYWHERE. I mean Japan pretty much invented the concept of Love Hotel and Capsule hotels. And the Godzilla hotel I mentioned above is only one of those unique hotels.

Some of the most unique hotels I found include:

  • Love Hotels: Not sure if these are “unique” (but they are certainly unique for Japan), you can rent themed rooms at these hotels by the hour. You don’t need to bring a lover to stay, but if you are curious, there are different themed rooms like Bali themed, Theater themed, forest themed rooms, etc.
  • Henn na Hotel: This robot themed hotel has a few different branches in Tokyo. In many of the branches in Tokyo, the receptionists are robots (that look like humans), there are other ones where you would be dealing with a dinosaur instead.

There are way more unique hotels in Tokyo than what I listed. If there is a theme you like, just google search it (like Pokemon hotel Tokyo, Hello Kitty hotel Tokyo, etc).

22. Go Clubbing in Roppongi

Cool things to do in Tokyo: clubbing and visiting Roppongi Hills for the nightlife

Roppongi is another neighborhood in Tokyo that’s known for its nightlife. There are a lot of clubs, bars, strip clubs and restaurants in Roppongi. It’s very favored by expats and business people and you will see a lot of them at night.

The first time I went to Tokyo we ended up at a few bars and a club in Roppongi. It was an interesting experience and not at all like clubs in California or Vegas.

In addition, there is a nice observation deck called Tokyo City View in the Mori Tower at Roppongi Hills. You can see the Tokyo Tower from this observation deck. During Christmas time all the trees in Roppongi have beautiful lights on them, a sight not to be missed.

23. Splurge on Vintage Luxury Shopping

Japan is known for high quality authentic vintage designer items, from vintage Chanel to Rolex watches to designer clothing and accessories.

One great thing I heard about Japan is that there are almost no fakes, since Japan has a super strict law against counterfeits. Also I heard that Japanese people really take care of their designer items, so you can find really good quality second hand items.

I haven’t done the shopping myself, but I have friends that swear by second hand designer watches in Japan. They go to Nakano Broadway to buy their watches. In addition, I’m planning to buy some vintage Chanel from Tokyo the next time I go, in particular some of the shops I’m interested in checking out include Brand Off and Amore Vintage in Tokyo. But there are tons more vintage shopping stores in Tokyo that you can check out!

24. Create Your Own Cup Noodles at the Cup Noodle Museum

I pretty much grew up with cup noodles and they were everywhere, in super markets and even at school cafeterias. Just for the nostalgia factor I had to visit the Cup Noodle Museum in Yokohama near Tokyo.

This museum is more than what I ever imagined, as I got to design my own cup and pick the different flavors and ingredients that go into my very own cup noodles.

If you are visiting with young kids, you can pay more and sign them up to join the Chicken Ramen Factory to learn to hand make the world’s first chicken ramen cup noodle!

There is also a noodles Bazaar area where you can buy different noodle dishes from all over the world (like Pasta, Pho, Laksa, etc). I got the Korean cold noodles and it was pretty good!

And while you are in Yokohama, be sure to check out the famous Chinatown (they have soup dumplings the size of your face) and go up the ferris wheel at night.

25. Let Your Inner Nerd Out in Akihabara

Akihabara Tokyo japan

Akihabara is the electronic district in Tokyo, known for its multi-level electronic stores, gaming, manga and anime shops, arcades, and maid cafes.

I’ve always been a huge Final Fantasy fan as well as anime fan, so it was super cool to visit! The electronic store is dazzling to say the least, and I ended up buying a new Canon camera from there and used it for the rest of the trip.

The most interesting experience in Akihabara would be to go check out a maid cafe. When I went years ago, there was actually a maid cafe map that showed us where all the maid cafes were. Photos were also discouraged back then but I think they are allowed now.

26. Gawk at the Life Size Gundam Statue in Odaiba

Gundam-statue-Odaiba

One of the most unique sights in Tokyo is probably the life size Unicorn Gundam statue in Odaiba. Odaiba is on a man-made island in Tokyo Bay and is known for shopping, teamLabs Planets, Fuji TV Building, and a smaller copy of the Statue of Liberty.

You can spend as much as a day in Odaiba visiting the various sights and shopping centers but even if you just go see the Gundam statue it’s worth the trip. If you visit at night, the statue lights up.

If you are looking for how to get there, simply type in “The Life-Sized UNICORN GUNDAM Statue” in Google Maps. It is located on the 2nd floor of the DiverCity Tokyo Plaza.

27. Take a Calligraphy Class in Tokyo

If you are looking for a cultural experience, then a calligraphy class is perfect. Usually spanning 1-2 hours, a Calligraphy workshop will introduce you to the Japanese calligraphy shodo, how you hold a brush and get the ink, and let you practice writing certain words on traditional paper.

You can then take what you write as a souvenir back home with you. Usually these lessons happen at the instructor’s home or a studio.

28. Get Breakfast from a Convenience Store

I am not exaggerating when I say Japan has the best 7-Eleven and Lawson. From hot foods to coffee to yummy desserts to ATMs, the Japanese convenience stores just have it all.

One of my favorite things to do in Japan is to get the fried chicken and a rice ball from a 7-Eleven (or Lawson). Unlike the 7-Elevens in the US, there is actually a ton of high quality and tasty food there! I literally ate there almost every morning when I was in Japan. Try the food and snacks there and you will be amazed I promise.

29. Stay at a Ryokan with Mt. Fuji View

I have to say I am cheating a little bit since this and the next item are not in Tokyo, but they are wonderful day trips from Tokyo.

What is more classic than staying at a traditional Japanese ryokan with a view of Mt. Fuji? When we visited Japan one year, we decided to venture out to Lake Kawaguchiko area to stay at a luxury hot spring hotel.

The hotel we stayed at was Ubuya and our room had its own private onsen (bath) as well as an unobstructed view of Mt. Fuji. There are also more budget hotels in that area with a Mt. Fuji view as well.

30. See the Giant Buddha in Kamakura

Another really cool day trip to take from Tokyo is to Kamakura, known for its ancient temples and the Giant Buddha.

Unlike Kyoto, Tokyo doesn’t have that many temples, so it’s always refreshing to visit Kamakura and see more traditional buildings. Also there are beaches in Kamakura and you can even take a trip to Enoshima if you have time. Furthermore, if you know the cartoon Slam Dunk, you might recognize a few scenes from that show in Kamakura. In particular the railway crossing at Kamakurakōkōmae Station was featured in Slam Dunk.

You can read my super detailed Kamakura itinerary to plan the perfect day.

Read My Other Japan Travel Blogs

If you are visiting Japan and want to see what else you can do, be sure to check out my other Japan travel guides!

Like this post? Pin this Tokyo activity guide to Pinterest!

top things to see in tokyo
Top things to see in Tokyo