This Tokyo Bucket list is the ultimate for anyone planning a trip to Japan’s capital. My daughter and I just got back from Japan, and I have to say, it was one of the most amazing trips we’ve ever taken. While we mostly toured the Harajuku area, it made me want to explore more of the city, and definitely get back there again with her. When I got home, I immediately began researching the city, and it didn’t take long for my Tokyo bucket list to grow exponentially. Because the city is so packed with things to see and do, I wanted to share the best of the best with anyone out there who’s planning a trip to this vibrant city.
Tokyo Bucket List for Everyone
Tokyo is one of those cities where everything seems to appeal to everyone. From viewing a famous intersection to stopping by the life-size Gundam Statue in the city, Tokyo is a city where even the smallest things seem to jump out and grab the imagination. The entire city is like one giant feast for the senses, drawing visitors in with sights, sounds, tastes, and more than constantly leave them wondering what’s next.
Temples and Shrines
Japan is famous for its beautiful temples and shrines, and Tokyo has a few of them. The shrines and temples in the city make my Tokyo bucket list because there, visitors can experience amazing, ancient architecture, Japanese culture, and a sense of peace that is almost palpable.
- Sensoji Temple (Asakusa Kannon Temple) – This famous – and ancient Buddhist temple is a huge draw year-round for tourists.
- Meiji Jingu Shrine – This historic and beloved Shinto shrine is home to the spirits of Emperor Meiji and his wife, Empress Shoken.
- Gotokuji Temple – This temple is known for its thousands of red and white waving cat statues which are said to bring luck.
- Yasukuni Shrine – Said to hold 2.5 million shrines, the Yasukuni Shrine was founded in 1869 to honor the men who lost their lives in the Boshin War and many martyrs since that time.
- Hie Jinja Shrine – Also known as the Vermillion Gates, this small shrine hosts one of ancient Edo’s three great festivals, the annual Sanno Matsuri.
We all know that Japan puts its own unique twist on everything, and that includes dining. From puppy cafes to a robot restaurant to the restaurant that inspired the famous Kill Bill fight scene, there are some amazingly different dining options to be found in Tokyo.
- Visit a Bunny, Puppy, or Kitty Cafe – They’re exactly as their names imply. While you’re there, you can feed, touch, and generally snuggle with these adorable creatures.
- Visit a Maid Cafe – Enjoy fun food and an interesting atmosphere at cafes where maids take your order and bring your food.
- Gonpachi Nishiazubu Restaurant – Whether visitors love good food, Quintin Tarantino, or both, this restaurant is a Tokyo bucket list must. It’s the inspiration for the iconic fight scene in Kill Bill.
- Kawaii Monster Cafe – Visitors looking for an unforgettable dining experience should try this cafe, where bright colors, amazing costumes, and tasty food combine.
- Visit the Robot Restaurant – The robot restaurant is a technicolor dining experience that is truly like no other.
- Tsukiji Fish Market – Experience a true Asian fish market and find super fresh sushi, to boot!
From tower views and massive bridges to touring minibars and playing pachinko, there are some amazing urban experiences on this Tokyo bucket list that visitors shouldn’t miss.
- Shibuyu Crossing – The world’s most famous – and busiest – intersection. Just crossing the street is an experience all its own.
- Play Pachinko – Pachinko is the black sheep of gambling in Japan. It’s a garish affair filled with loud noises, bright colors, and smoke, and it’s an absolute must if you’re visiting Tokyo.
- Tokyo Tower – Tokyo Tower is filled with all sorts of interesting attractions, but the biggest draw for tourists is seeing it lit up at night. The building is a beautiful structure that reminds me of a cross between the Eiffel Tower and a rocket.
- Tokyo Skytree – Everyone visiting Tokyo should head to the observation deck of this 32 story tower. It offers some of the best views of Tokyo to be found.
- Bar Hop on a Golden Gai Night Tour – Enjoy a unique nightlife experience by touring over 200 miniature bars packed into six narrow alleys – all made specifically for pedestrians.
- Visit Piss Alley – I’m not sure why such a great place has such a terrible name, but this part of Tokyo is nothing like the images the name probably conjures up. In fact, it’s a wonderful, if packed, network of alleys which is the food equivalent of Golden Gai.
- Rainbow Bridge – It takes about 25 minutes to cross the bridge on foot, and while doing so, visitors will get amazing views of skyscrapers on the north route and islands and neighborhoods on the south route.
Culture and the Arts
From art museums to the Imperial Palace, culture and the arts are just as much a part of Tokyo as are bright colors and themed restaurants. Visitors shouldn’t pass up an opportunity to learn more about Japanese culture, the arts, and the City of Tokyo itself while visiting.
- Intermediatheque (IMT) Museum – This museum is a complete experience unto itself. Be sure to give yourself a day to explore everything it has to offer, from Egyptian mummies to ancient treasures.
- Edo-Tokyo Museum – History buffs should check out this museum which chronicles the history of Tokyo from its beginnings as Edo to current Tokyo, one of the most influential cities in the world.
- Kabuki at Kabuki-za – Take in a Kabuki theater show at Kabuki-za and enjoy a combination of song, mime, dance, costuming, and elaborate makeup.
- Imperial Palace – While the main palace area can only be toured during the New Year’s Greeting event on January 2nd and the Emperor’s birthday on December 23rd, the grounds are open year-round.
- Meguro Parasitological Museum – For lovers of the weird and gross, Meguro Parasitological Museum offers a plethora of parasites on display.
- Mori Art Museum – Located at the top of the Roppongi Hills Mori Tower, this modern art gallery features an ever-changing variety of exhibits with everything from artwork and installations to architecture and even manga.
- Sumo Practice – Watch sumo wrestlers hone their sport at a sumo stable.
- Sumo Grand Tournament – If you visit Tokyo in January, May, or September, be sure to take in a few matches at the sumo tournament.
Like all major cities, Tokyo has amazing gardens and parks. Their park areas are some of the most beautiful to be found in the world, with cherry trees, water features, native plants, and even some special ceremonies and activities to help visitors learn about Japanese culture.
- Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden – See the cherry blossoms at Tokyo’s Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden in the spring, as well as all the other gorgeous plantlife it has to offer.
- Yoyogi Park – Visit Yoyogi Park for a break from the frenetic energy of the city. A wonderful place to view cherry blossoms and people, the park is a tranquil setting in which to relax.
- Tea Ceremony at Happo-en Japanese Garden – Natural beauty and Japanese tradition are both on hand at a tea ceremony at this beautiful garden oasis in the city.
Pop Culture and Entertainment
From a life-size replica of a giant robot to a 4-story arcade to a Hello Kitty-themed room at a hotel, these pop culture and entertainment musts should not be missed by tourists.
- Browse HMV Records – This mecca for music, movies, toys, and more has something for everyone from classic vinyl lovers to manga and anime enthusiasts.
- Stay in the Hello Kitty Room – This is a special room offered at Keio Plaza Hotel. It’s decked out in signature Hello Kitty decor, and you can even have kitty shaped and stamped breakfast.
- Life-Size Godzilla Head at the Toho Building – Godzilla and giant monster fans should head to the Toho building, the home of Toho productions, to see a life-size Godzilla head.
- Diver City Mall – Anime and mecha lovers along with those who just love to shop should head to this massive mall in Tokyo Plaza. It has everything from clothing to toys, as well as a life-size Unicorn Gundam in front of the building.
- Karaoke Kan – This famous karaoke chain has spots in nearly every major station in Tokyo. Karaoke is a huge part of Japanese culture, so of course, Karaoke Kan makes this Tokyo bucket list.
- Ooedo Onsen Monogatari – Believe it or not, this is a hot spring theme park. While there, visitors can enjoy hot springs, baths, foot massages, or even fortune-telling.
- Disneyland Tokyo – An absolute Tokyo bucket list must, you haven’t seen Disneyland until you’ve seen it with a Japanese flair. The magic of Disney meets the unique sensibility of Japan for an unforgettable experience.
- Kawasaki Warehouse – A truly unique experience for gamers, the Warehouse is a recreation of Kowloon Walled City and has a dark, grim atmosphere that is a counterpoint to the variety of arcade games.
A Tokyo Bucket List Best of the Best
With everything from culture and the arts to pop culture and unique dining experiences, this Tokyo bucket list has the best of the best that the city has to offer. Whether you follow this list exactly or pick and choose – or even if you just read this and forget it, please take away one thing. You need to visit this iconic city. My daughter and I had the most amazing adventure of our lives exploring Tokyo, and I know anyone reading this will, too.