Unique things to do in Tokyo 2020
Some activities are no-brainer must-haves on any Japanese itinerary, such as stuffing yourself with authentic local cuisine, temple-hopping, hitting up shopping districts and visiting nature spots from snowy mountains to sakura parks.
Whether you’re a regular Japan-goer or a first-time visitor who wants to venture off the beaten path of overrated tourist traps, we’ve curated a list of 8 unique things to do in Tokyo, for you to conquer in 2020. Read till the end to find out how you can squeeze as many of these locations into your trip as possible, making the most out of your annual leave.
1. Ride an old-school rollercoaster at a theme park opened in 1853
Image credit: @shi_no_sleep
The Battlestar Galactica at USS is probably as modern and futuristic of an amusement park ride you can get. Travel back in time for an olden-day adrenaline rush by visiting Asakusa Hanayashi, the oldest theme park in the whole of Japan.
All the rides spell instant nostalgia and retro charm, from the majestic carousel to the spinning “DiskO” which propels back and forth a U-shaped track. The number one highlight would have to be the rollercoaster, zipping through the entire perimeter of the theme park and reaching vantage points high enough for riders to catch a glimpse of the nearby Tokyo Skytree.
Address: 2 Chome-28-1 Asakusa, Taito City, Tokyo 111-0032, Japan
Opening hours: Mon – Thur, Sat & Sun 10AM-6PM | Closed on Fri
Admission: ¥1000 (~$12.60) for adults aged 13 to 64
¥500 (~$6.30) for kids aged 12 and under/seniors aged 65 and above
Telephone: +81 3-3842-8780
2. Visit a Book Town with streets lined with well-stocked shelves
Image credit: @jn_na
Bookworms will be reeling with excitement upon visiting the Jimbocho District, an entire “Book Town” boasting an awe-inspiring collection of tomes. Besides quaint alleyways lined with packed shelves, there are close to 200 bookstores offering literary works spanning genres and eras. You never know what treasures you’ll stumble upon just around the corner!
Image credit: @stellskin
Spending an afternoon here is like stepping into an alternate universe, bursting with old-school charm. Sift through your pick of comics, non-fiction resources, novels and anthologies. Many of the bookstores also peddle traditional gifts and souvenirs, and have cosy corners with little cafes where you can snuggle up to your chosen books.
Address: Kanda-Jimbocho, Chiyoda City, Tokyo 101-0051, Japan
Opening hours: Varies, most stores are open daily from noon to sundown.
3. Find unique instant food at the Akihabara vending machine corner
Image credit: Matcha Japan
Vending machines are a source of instant delight, but offerings at the famed Akihabara vending machine corner kick things up a notch from just regular snacks and bevvies. Besides the sheer joy of having entire clusters of vending machines within 1 area, each with unique finds, some of the food available here are real eyebrow-raisers.
Image adapted: Matcha Japan
A seemingly odd choice that has garnered positive reviews from locals and tourists alike is the canned oden, a dish usually served piping hot with ingredients such as meat chunks, daikon radish, and chewy konnyaku jelly. It’s apparently quite the treat when heated through, and contains real beef tendon bits.
Address: 2 Chome-19-42 Kanda Sudacho, Chiyoda City, Tokyo 101-0041, Japan
Opening hours: 24 hours, Daily
4. Train your ninja skills through a VR dojo session
Image credit: @vrninjadojo
Whether it’s through video games or anime, true-blue Japanophiles probably possess a fascination for ninjas. Stepping into the shoes of a ninja remains a distant fantasy for most, that is, until the VR Ninja Dojo was set up.
Image credit: VR Ninja
Bringing the ninja experience to life for average Joes, this attraction takes place within an actual dojo set in Akihabara. Players as young as 7 years old get to don traditional ninja garb from head to toe and attend a training session for real-life ninja tactical moves. Thereafter, they’ll strap on a VR headset to battle enemies in an immersive game.
Address: 2-15-15 Uchikanda, Takehashi Building, Chiyoda City, Tokyo 101-0047, Japan
Opening hours: Tue – Sat 10.30AM-7PM | Closed on Sun & Mon
Admission: ¥6,500 (~$82) per person
Telephone: +81 80-2073-8368
5. Visit an Alice In Wonderland souvenir shop with IG-worthy spots
Image credit: Alice On Wednesday
A hidden gem within the bustling Shibuya district, Alice On Wednesday spans 3 whole floors and stocks a huge range of exquisitely crafted merch and adorable snacks, all themed after Alice In Wonderland. You’ll be able to snag some unique and memorable gifts here, in between snapping up a storm of photos across the plethora of photo spots.
The entrance alone features a mini door where you can create the illusion of Alice before she took the “Drink Me” Potion, and the store is filled with iconic set-ups including the giant toadstools and the Queen of Hearts’ throne.
Address: 6 Chome-28-3 Jingumae, Shibuya City, Tokyo 150-0001, Japan
Opening hours: 11AM-8PM, Daily
Telephone: +81 3-6427-9868
6. Taste plant-based Japanese cuisine at a Buddhist vegetarian eatery
Image credit: Happy Cow
Japanese cuisine is wildly popular across the globe, and the most quintessential dishes contain meat and seafood staples, from pork katsudon to sashimi. Whether you follow a vegan diet or just wish to sample a lighter meal in between greasy and heavy feasts, swing by Komaki Shokudo for a filling, no-frills dining experience.
Image credit: @vulcanvegan
The serene Buddhist vegetarian eatery specialises in simple yet tasty fare containing only vegan or vegetarian elements, with no added dairy, refined sugar or heavy aromatics such as garlic and onion. We love that each meal comprises separate little components, almost like a grand sampler so you can enjoy small quantities of numerous creations.
Address: 8-2 Kanda Neribeicho, Chiyoda City, Tokyo 101-0022, Japan
Opening hours: 11AM-7.30PM, Daily
Telephone: +81 3-5577-5358
7. Ride on a giant ferris wheel with unblocked views of Tokyo bay
Image credit: Wally Gobetz via Justgola
Pokémon fans will get a kick out of this attraction’s name: The Giant Ferris Wheel at Palette Town, which sounds delightfully reminiscent of Pallet Town, Ash’s hometown. In reality, this ferris wheel measures 115 metres tall – roughly 35 storeys – and illuminates the Tokyo skyline with gorgeous rainbow shades come sundown.
Image credit: Jean Vella on Unsplash
Riders will be treated to panoramic views of the Odaiba district, spotting lit-up skyscrapers, Tokyo Gate Bridge and the twinkling bay area, as the city’s nightlife scene springs into action. 4 out of the 64 ferris wheel pods are equipped with floors and seats that are transparent, perfect for daredevils to peer downwards and take in the scenery from a whole new perspective.
Address: 1 Chome-3-10 Aomi, Koto City, Tokyo 135-0064, Japan
Opening hours: 10AM-10PM, Daily
Admission: ¥1,000 (~$12.70) per person for a 16-minute ride
¥500 (~$6.35) for children below 12
Free for infants aged 3 and younger
Telephone: +81 3-5500-2655
8. Witness an actual sumo morning training session up close
Image credit: Kawaii Aichi
Watching a sumo wrestling match is one thing, but getting to sit in on one of their regular training sessions offers a rare glimpse into this fascinating mix of Japanese culture and martial arts. Sumo stables open their doors to visitors on an advanced booking basis, where you can sit around the training grounds as close to a few metres away from the action.
Do be prepared to fork out a premium of roughly SGD$100+/pax per 2-hour session for such an intimate and exclusive experience.
Image credit: Kawaii Aichi
The Japan Sumo Association has a helpful compilation of sumo stables across the country, but most of them only operate in their native language. For options which have had a stable following of foreign visitors over recent years, try Musashigawa Beya and Asakayama Beya.
Address: 4 Chome-1-10 Central, Edogawa City, Tokyo 132-0021, Japan
Opening hours: Mon – Fri 12PM-10PM | Sat & Sun 11AM-10PM
Telephone: +81 3-5879-9268
Address: 4 Chome-21-1 Midori, Sumida City, Tokyo 130-0021, Japan
Opening hours: Varies according to training dates and times.
Call at least 1 day in advance to enquire.
Telephone: +81 90-1505-1421
Travel through Tokyo with the Shutoko Metropolitan Expressway
Image credit: Metropolitan Expressway Company Limited
Most of the locations above can be accessed with great ease via a drive on Tokyo’s Shutoko Metropolitan Expressway. Whizzing through the city in the comfort of a car instead of squeezing in public transport means you’ll get to experience more activities on your trip, and spend less time fussing with train routes and ticket machines.
Image credit: Kanagawa Prefecture
You’ll also discover another side of Tokyo through scenic drives and spectacular night views that can only be seen from the expressway. It’s like Initial D, but IRL!
Image credit: Roppongi Hills Tokyo City View
Best part is, you’ll get to plan your itinerary wisely and make the most of your trip with the Metropolitan Expressway’s traffic updates, available online and updated in real-time. If you need more tips and recommendations on activity routes, there are Shutoko driving guides by people who have been there and done that. There’s also a comprehensive parking guide for parking lots across different regions, with Google Translate options.
*In view of the COVID-19 outbreak, some places might be closed. Please check the respective official websites for the latest updates.