10 Unforgettable Tokyo Experiences

Old meets new in Harajuku, Tokyo

Old meets new in Harajuku, Tokyo
This ‘cleaning priest’ statue at Mount Takao-san in Tokyo is the Japanese way of telling you not to drop litter

This ‘cleaning priest’ statue at Mount Takao-san in Tokyo is the Japanese way of telling you not to drop litter

Looking for some unmissable Tokyo experiences? Then welcome to UnmissableTOKYO.com!

You’re going to Japan to experience something different, right? So here’s a guide to some of the most interesting, unusual and extreme aspects of Tokyo. Most of them aren’t tourist attractions at all. Tokyo is full of museums – but you could do that anywhere. Here we’ve only included ‘attractions’ and ‘experiences’ that you won’t find anywhere else – and you’re not likely to ever forget them as long as you live. When you get back home, you might even wonder if you hallucinated some of the details because they’re so different from what you experience in your normal life.

So, here we go with a fast track to culture shock. Simply click on the links below to see the ten most ‘unmissable’ Tokyo experiences. Unmissable, so long as you know about them in the first place!

  1. Golden Gai : A Surviving Fragment of Old Tokyo
  2. Kabuki-za : Theatre from the Samurai Era
  3. Tsukiji : The World’s Biggest Fish Market
  4. Shimokitazawa : Tokyo’s Coolest Neighbourhood
  5. Manin Densha : Train Travel Sardine-Style
  6. Shibuya : A Playground for Japan’s Youth
  7. Shinjuku Station : The World’s Busiest Station
  8. Meiji Jingu : Tokyo’s Royal Shrine
  9. Super Sento : Getting Naked with Strangers
  10. Depato : Temples to Consumerism

It’s a long way to Tokyo, and most visitors only have a limited time to spend there, so it’s worth being well prepared – and the best preparation you can do is to work out what’s worth seeing, and how and when to go there, before you set off.

Central Tokyo, with Tokyo Tower on the right (until 2010 Japan’s tallest building) and Roppongi Hills’ ‘Mori Tower’ at the far left

Central Tokyo, with Tokyo Tower on the right (until 2010 Japan’s tallest building) and Roppongi Hills’ ‘Mori Tower’ at the far left

Having spent two years living in and exploring Tokyo, these are the books I found most useful for helping me to get the most of my stay in what must surely be the world’s most exciting metropolis. I can honestly give my wholehearted recommendation to all of them – each one paid for itself many times over, in terms of helping me to see and experience aspects of Japan that would otherwise have passed me by.

“Time Out” Tokyo “Time Out” Tokyo Whether you live in Tokyo or are just visiting, this book will help you to optimise your leisure time. It details the best of Tokyo, whether it's nightlife, daylife, or trips out of town.

Eyewitness Travel Guide: Tokyo Eyewitness Travel Guide: Tokyo By Stephen Mansfield. A comprehensive guide to Tokyo, with the added bonus of pictures. Perfect for anyone (like me) who’d rather be seeing the sites than reading about them.

Tokyo (Lonely Planet Encounter Guide) Tokyo (Lonely Planet Encounter Guide) By Wendy Yanagihara. A comprehensive guidebook that won’t weigh you down. Probably the best choice if you’ve just got a few days in Tokyo.

Culture Shock Tokyo Culture Shock Tokyo By Yuko Yoshida Morimoto. If ‘when in Rome’ is your philosophy, you’d better get this book so you know what to do. Even if you’re not too worried about observing local customs, this book could really help to make your visit go more smoothly, and give you a better understanding of what goes on around you while you’re there.

Hiking in Japan Hiking in Japan By Richard Ryall, Craig McLachlan and David Joll. Covering everything from gentle day walks around Tokyo, to multi-day hikes in remote mountains, this book is a must if you want to experience the best of outdoor Japan. Most of Japan’s population is crammed into giant metropolises, leaving plenty of space for idyllic mountain villages, and huge expanses of forest roamed by bears, monkeys and wild boar. Without this book, I would never have experienced that side of Japan.

Tokyo City Atlas Tokyo City Atlas: A Bilingual Guide By Atsushi Umeda. Does what it says on the tin. And given that the Japanese address system doesn’t give names to most streets – relying instead on a system of numbered districts and sub-districts – you’ll probably be needing this. If you end up perplexed by an indecipherable array of Japanese characters, don’t say you weren’t warned.


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