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Tokyo is the World’s No.1 Place to Visit
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Tokyo is the World’s No.1 Place to Visit

Tokyo is officially the world’s number one trending place to visit in 2024 according to TripAdvisor. Let’s take a look at the reasons why.  

Why is Tokyo so Special?
12 of the Best Things To Do In Tokyo
Five Areas to Visit in Tokyo
Bonus Recommendations


Tokyo is No.1. Naturally, here at JR Pass, we’ve known this for years, but recently it was made official in a brand new poll. Japan’s spectacular capital city was voted the No.1 trending place to visit in the entire world for 2024. The poll, compiled by TripAdvisor, based its results on travellers' reviews and views. In their annual Travellers' Choice Best of the Best awards, Tokyo came out on top, receiving praise for its unique combination of ancient tradition and contemporary pop culture. So, what are you waiting for? There’s clearly no better time to plan a visit to the incredible city of Tokyo and we’re here to tell you everything you need to know. 

Why is Tokyo so Special?

A truly sumo-sized metropolis, Tokyo is Japan’s capital and the biggest, most populous city in the world. The term ‘mega city’ was practically invented for Tokyo. It is a vast, sprawling, dazzling, vision of the future, with more landmarks packed into a single city than most countries can offer. Tokyo is a truly unique experience - a global city that’s also quintessentially Japanese, with a huge amount to see and do and a quirky character that’s all its own. Tokyo has it all. This dazzling, futuristic city is fun, different, vibrant, edgy, fast-paced, exciting, and everything in between. It has been setting trends in contemporary culture for decades and is a genuine city of the future where tomorrow is happening today. At the same time, Tokyo is also steeped in tradition and history, honouring its proud history and heritage and preserving its temples, shrines, gardens, and palaces, for generations to come and for international visitors to experience. Tokyo is also one of the safest big cities in the world, it's incredibly clean, and its public transportation is a marvel of speed and efficiency. Add to that the world-leading food scene and it’s no wonder that Tokyo is trending as the world’s No.1 city to visit!   

12 of the Best Things To Do In Tokyo

Tokyo is so huge and so packed with exciting things to see and do that this list could easily be called 1,200 amazing attractions and activities in Tokyo, but we’ve done our best to narrow it down to just 12 for your reading pleasure!  

1. Enjoy the view from Tokyo Skytree

To start off, why not enjoy an epic view of Tokyo to appreciate the size and scale of this incredible city and where better than the Skytree. With a height of 634 metres, Tokyo Skytree is the tallest tower in Japan, and has an amazing 360° observation deck. Go up and see a full panoramic view of Tokyo, Kanto, and even the iconic Mt. Fuji on a clear day. Naturally, Tokyo has several other options for epic views too such as Tokyo Tower and Shibuya Sky, but the Skytree is Japan’s tallest building and will give you unbeatable views of this vast mega city.

2.  Relax in Yoyogi Park

From picnics to performers, street food to music festivals, rockabilly dancers to cycling, Yoyogi Park in Tokyo has something for everyone – trees, lakes, greenery, and a reputation for being fun, vibrant, and quirky. Yoyogi is well known for staging events and festivals almost every other weekend, which makes it one of Tokyo’s liveliest city parks. Events like Tokyo Rainbow Pride, Outdoor Day, Earth Day, St Patrick’s Day and a whole host of music and food festivals take place in Yoyogi. Tokyo’s fourth biggest park (and its largest green space when combined with neighbouring Meiji Shrine), Yoyogi has a reputation for attracting colourful people from all walks of life, as well as for legendary street food stalls, family friendly activities, relaxing outdoor fun like cycling and bike hire, and it’s a great spot for hanami (flower gazing), especially during Cherry Blossom season. Find out everything you need to know about this beautiful and lively green space in the heart of Tokyo in our Guide to Yoyogi Park: A Green Getaway in the Metropolis.

3.  Find serenity at Meiji Shrine

Located next to Yoyogi Park, Meiji Shrine is arguably Tokyo’s best known shrine and is definitely worth a visit. Built in 1920 and surrounded by 100,000 trees that form a vast forest in the centre of the city, the Shinto shrine celebrates the life of Emperor Meiji and Empress Shoken. You will find a large and impressive Torii at the entrance to the grounds of the shrine, which features a large and tranquil forest that offers a leafy haven from the surrounding city. Meiji Jingu Museum is also worth a look and was designed by superstar architect Kengo Kuma. Also close to Harajuku is Togo Shrine. This Shinto shrine is dedicated to Admiral Togo who defeated the Russians in 1905. For more on Tokyo’s shrines read our Spiritual Guide to Japan. Of course, Tokyo has a huge number of temples and shrines to visit. Here are a few of the best to consider. Sensoji Temple - also known as Asakusa Kannon Temple - is the oldest temple in Tokyo, dating back to 645. It was founded by a Buddhist sect to honour the god of mercy. Today Sensoji is well-loved by both locals and tourists. It is one of the most popular spots in Asakusa and crowds can be massive during the weekends. 

4.  Visit the Toyosu fish Market

Seafood is a major part of Japanese cuisine which is why so many travellers are interested in going straight to the source on their trip. In Tokyo that used to mean heading for the famous Tsukiji Fish Market where you could see seafood sold at its wholesale market and eat fresh seafood at its many stalls. Now though, you’ll need to visit Toyosu Market near Odaiba in the Kōtō ward for all that. Within this large market complex, tourists are able to witness lively auctions, see all manner of produce being sold and treat themselves to some delicious seafood. A unique and wonderful experience, which should be high on the list of Tokyo destinations if you’re a seafood lover.

5.  Cross the Shibuya Scramble

The famous Shibuya Crossing. A visit to Tokyo simply wouldn’t be complete without ducking and weaving through its oncoming foot traffic at least once. As one of the world’s busiest intersections, it transports thousands of people in all directions at a time in a wonderful, chaotic pulse. The densely populated yet fluid motion of pedestrians and vehicles navigating Shibuya Crossing’s 10 lanes of traffic and five major crosswalks (all in one intersection) is fed by Shibuya station — one of the world’s busiest train stations. Shibuya Crossing is a landmark of Tokyo and Japan, and a regular filming location for movies and media. Shibuya is a great place to experience during your time in Japan generally thanks to its many dazzling sights and sounds. We’ll have much more on what makes Shibuya so special and why you should go in our list of five cool Tokyo neighbourhoods to visit later on in this guide. 

6.  Discover Golden Gai: Tokyo’s mythical nightspot

Tokyo’s legendary Golden Gai bars offer a chance to step back in time to the city’s vibrant post-war nightlife. When it comes to experiencing Tokyo at night, there’s one location above all others that offers visitors a taste of Japan’s past. Welcome to Golden Gai in Shinjuku – a legendary quarter of the city filled with narrow alleyways, hidden, hole-in-the-wall drinking establishments, and colourful nightlife that has remained untouched by modernisation. It really is like going for drinks in post-war 1950s Tokyo, and the area is famous for its ‘Showa retro’ atmosphere.

7.  Explore Tokyo's Imperial Palace and Garden

The Imperial Palace and Garden is in the centre of Tokyo. If you look at any map of Tokyo, you’ll see a large green area around which the rest of the city seems to extend - that’s the Imperial Palace and Garden. These beautiful buildings and their grounds are well worth a visit for a taste of Japan’s history and traditional culture.

8.  Have a soak in the best onsen in Tokyo

Tokyo, naturally, has some of the best onsen in Japan. An onsen is a Japanese hot spring or bath house. The term sometimes extends out to encompass bathing facilities as well as hotels/inns, traditional ryokan, and spas that are built surrounding the landmark. Besides being a relaxing experience, onsen have deep ties within Japanese culture. Aside from the cultural ties, the geothermally heated springs offer potential benefits such as pain alleviation, clearing up skin, reduced fatigue, and overall stress reduction. You’ll find onsen right across Japan due to the country’s volcanic activity, which produces plentiful hot springs. As Japan’s capital and biggest city, Tokyo has a surplus of opportunities to visit genuine and traditional bathhouses. If you are looking to get the full experience of Japan by diving deep into cultural norms, onsen should definitely be included - it’s a quintessentially Japanese experience like trying sushi or watching a sumo match. Read our guide to The Best 5 Onsen in Tokyo for our recommendations.

9.  Enjoy the food of Japan in Tokyo’s restaurants

Tokyo is a global capital for food and drink. Alongside its extraordinary street food, local produce, and regional dishes, Tokyo, Japan is also world-famous as a centre of fine-dining with one of the highest concentrations of Michelin-starred restaurants anywhere in the world. In fact, Tokyo is the No.1 city in the world when it comes to having the highest number of Michelin-starred restaurants. Remarkably, many of these restaurants are incredibly affordable too. Two great examples are Sushi Masuda, Tokyo and Sukiyabashi Jiro Honten, Tokyo. The former was awarded two Michelin Stars and is a high-class sushi restaurant and exclusive dining experience with just six seats and exceptional food. If you’re lucky enough to get a reservation, look out for specialities such as shirako with white truffles, sayori (needlefish), hirame (flounder), and surume ika (Pacific squid). Sukiyabashi Jiro Honten, Tokyo is another exclusive experience. Thanks to a visit from President Obama and the successful documentary film, Jiro Dreams of Sushi, this exclusive and high-end Tokyo sushi restaurant, run by 93-year-old three Michelin star chef Jiro Ono, has become even more exclusive. For a more laid back experience, how about dining at a robot restaurant? Tokyo’s world-famous Robot Restaurant brings all of that together in one place with dancing robots, cosplay, J-Pop, and neon lights, to create a unique and unforgettable night out that’s half meal and half entertainment extravaganza. The restaurant is located in the vibrant area of Shinjuku - one of Tokyo’s most famous districts. Meanwhile, for something more old-school look for red lanterns hanging outside shop fronts in Tokyo’s many alleyways for the locations of izakayas - traditional Japanese ‘gastropubs’ where food and drink go hand-in-hand. You may hear cries of kanpai (cheers) and even singing!   

10.  Shop until you drop on Tokyo’s Fifth Avenue

Tokyo’s Omotesando neighbourhood is a tree-lined avenue located between Shibuya and Harajuku, and best known for luxury stores and high quality products. It is considered one of the most beautiful streets in Tokyo, because of stunning architectural buildings on both sides of the avenue. The area is also home to Omotesando Hills, a large and luxurious shopping complex with about 130 shops. Unlike larger brand shops close by, shops in Omotesando hills are smaller and sell a wider range of brands and items. The complex is also special in that it has 12 stories but six of them are built below ground. You can find out much more about this high-end street, and how to get there, in our comprehensive guide to Omotesando: Tokyo’s Fifth Avenue.

For more old-school shopping, try Nakamise-dōri in Asakusa. One of Japan’s oldest shopping streets, dating back to the 17th century runs up to Senjo-ji temple. Many shops in this arcade have been run by the same families for several generations, on sale are a variety of novelties, local street food and souvenirs. Also nearby is Shin-Nakamise (or New Nakamise), a shopping street arcade that is filled with small restaurants and stores. Unlike Nakamise, it caters more to locals than tourists and retains the feel of older Tokyo. As such the experience is more authentic and a great price to have lunch or dinner.

11.  Weird and Wonderful Tokyo

Drive the streets of Tokyo in a real-life, life-sized Mario Kart, spend the night sleeping between the shelves in a bookshop, take a trip into virtual reality at Sega Joypolis, or visit Tokyo’s parasite museum (yes really!), and more. There’s no end to the weird and wonderful attractions you can find in Tokyo! Find out more in our full guide to Weird and Wonderful Japan

12.  Attend a Sumo Match

Sumo is quintessentially Japanese and Tokyo is home to some of the biggest tournaments in Japan. Big, bold, steeped in history and tradition, and completely unique. Sumo is so synonymous with Japan, it’s hard to imagine it existing anywhere else and at the same time, it’s also quite a surprising national sport for a country with a reputation for being understated and polite. Attending one of the six grand sumo tournaments - honbasho - is an amazing way to experience this unique sport. The three honbasho in Tokyo are held at the world famous Ryogoku Kokugikan stadium which can seat up to 13,000 spectators. As a bonus tip, attending a match, you can rent English audio commentary headsets if you’d like a play-by-play account of the action. Read our guide to Sumo in Japan for a comprehensive guide. Another fun option is Japanese baseball. While the sport didn’t originate in Japan like sumo wrestling, it’s hugely popular in the country and so well loved amongst Japanese people that attending a baseball match is a very fun experience. To find out more, read our Beginners Guide to Japanese Baseball

Five Areas to Visit in Tokyo

Tokyo has thousands of must-see visitor attractions, but there is much more to the city than that. In fact, Tokyo’s unique and diverse neighbourhoods are attractions in themselves. Let’s take a look at five of the best:

  1. Harajuku

The quirky capital of contemporary Japan, Harajuku is world-famous for its teenage street fashion, cute ‘kawaii’ style food and shopping, cosplay culture. It’s much more than a place, it’s an entire culture. From hip-hop Harajuku teens to street-style fashionistas, Japanese schoolgirls to pink-haired princesses, this famous district is the place to go to experience contemporary Japan’s creative, theatrical, and sometimes outrageous youth culture and unique street fashions. A visit to Tokyo – one of the world’s biggest and greatest cities – just wouldn’t be the same without walking along Harajuku’s famous Takeshita Dori (street) – the spiritual home of its world-famous fashion and street style. And it’s not just clothes, but music, food, shopping, accessories and more. Harajuku is vibrant, dazzling, and unforgettable. 

Harajuku is an area of Tokyo between Shinjuku and Shibuya. When people talk about Harajuku, they are often referring to Takeshita Dori – a famous shopping street – and its surrounding alleyways. Harajuku and Takeshita Dori exploded onto the world stage as an icon for teenage fashion and culture in the 1980s, but the history of the area dates back much further. 

More than an area for teenagers to simply hang around, Harajuku became a vibrant, colourful, and unique space for youth culture, art, dancing, conversation, and of course, street fashion. Teenage dancing groups called takenoko-zoku took to the streets on a regular basis, and increasingly large crowds of young people gathered at the entrance to Yoyogi Park to watch impromptu dance shows and performances by the likes of the Rockabillies and more. During the financial crisis of the 1990s, the outrageous clothes and hairstyles of Japanese teens gathering in Harajuku was seen as a form of rebellion against their traditional culture. The teenage fashions were so wild, experimental, and at the cutting edge of fashion that they soon became world-famous – influencing youth culture worldwide. Naturally, this new young scene attracted a wave of international fashion shops to the area, with brands like Uniqlo, Forever 21 and Gap Inc opening in the Harajuku backstreets of Ura-Harajuku. Takeshita Street in particular was the focal point and spiritual home for this movement and style and remains a hugely popular destination today, not just for the quirky and colourful fashions, but for the shopping, food, culture and unique atmosphere. For all these reasons and more, Harajuku is unmissable.

Harajuku is the area around Harajuku station which sits between Shinjuku and Shibuya. The station can be easily reached using the Yamanote rail line, which is fully covered by the Japan Rail Pass. The JR Yamanote line, or Yamanote loop line, runs in a circle around Tokyo, stopping at important stations like Harajuku, Ikebukuro, Shinjuku, Shibuya & Tokyo stations. Read our comprehensive Guide to Tokyo’s Yamanote Line to find out more. As soon as you step out of the station, you’re essentially in Harajuku and all of the attractions above, including the famous Takeshita Street, are just a short walk away. When you come out of the station just cross the street and turn left for Takeshita Dori. Read our full Travellers Guide to Harajuku for more.

2.  Kichijoji

Located in the west of Tokyo and only a 15-minute train journey from Shibuya and Shinjuku, Kichijoji is a trendy suburb popular with young people. One of the main attractions is the pretty Inokashira Park, a huge greenspace known for its cherry blossom and swan boats that’s also close to the famous Ghibli Museum from award-winning Japanese animators Studio Ghibli.  Kichijoji is known for its numerous restaurants, cafes, and shops, and has a reputation as being a highly desirable area for Tokyo residents to live.

3.  Shibuya

One of the most iconic places to go in Tokyo is the city-ward Shibuya. Shibuya, Tokyo is famous for a multitude of archetypical urban sights including Shibuya Station and Shibuya Scramble Crossing, which we mentioned above. There is also a large draw for youth fashion and culture, with a vast list of popular destinations for shopping, entertainment, nightclubs, and world-class dining. 

The highlights of this vibrant area include the Shibuya 109 complex and Shibuya Sky. The first is a popular ten-story shopping mall, which is notorious in the fashion community, especially for its influence as a haven for young women in the “gyaru” subculture in the early 2000s. The iconic mall is built as a large cylinder, with an obvious and massive sign on the front stating “109,” visible from Hachiko Square and in easy access to Shibuya Station. With ten floors of shopping dedicated mostly to young women interested in the latest Japanese fashion, and a variety of restaurants, it is easy to feel lost and lose track of time immersed in the shopping experience of one of the largest department stores in Tokyo. Next, Shibuya Sky - at a height of 230 metres - has two floors dedicated to observation, known as the “Shibuya Sky.” The 45th floor, known as the “sky gallery” is an enclosed observation area that hosts cafes, bars, and souvenir shops. Artistic video installations with accompanying sound offer a sense of modern Shibuya while enjoying the view. The 46th floor, known as the “sky stage” is an outdoor rooftop observatory that has an area of 2,500 square metres and includes a helipad, lounging area, and multiple spots for photo opportunities with spectacular views.

When visiting Shibuya, be sure to also check out Shibuya Station, a complex and transportation hub where a variety of railway and subway lines come together. This includes the Japan Rail Shibuya Station, a station that connects the high-speed trains available to those with the Japan Rail Pass, has eight floors of shopping as well as dining, and is next to the Shibuya Mark City mall, with six floors of restaurants and shops. Our Ultimate Guide to Shibuya can tell you more. 

4.  Shimokita

Shimokita (full name Shimokitazawa) was officially voted one of the world’s Top 10 Coolest Neighbourhoods in 2022 so it definitely has to make the list! With vintage shops, quirky cafes and restaurants, and a thriving literary, music, and independent arts scene, Shimokitazawa is a hidden gem where more and more of Japan’s cool younger crowd are gravitating. In the last two years, the area has become even more of a go-to destination thanks to the addition of a five-storey restaurant and shopping complex under the elevated tracks of Shimokitazawa Station. 

In the aftermath of World War II, the district’s shops took on a new life as a bustling second-hand market for US soldiers. This entrepreneurial, second-hand spirit remains today (as well as some of the old market buildings) in Shimokitazawa’s thriving vintage clothing and independent shopping scene today. It was during the 1970s however that the district took on the personality that it is now known for - thanks in part to that decade’s hippy youth who migrated to Shimokitazawa and helped transform it into the hipster heaven that it is today. Shimokitazawa, which is also known colloquially as Shimokita, is famous for its narrow, criss-crossing alleyways filled with vintage shops, cafes, music venues, independent cinemas and theatres. Its close-knit, laid-back, community feel makes it unique among Japan’s many districts and well worth a visit.  

Shimokitazawa can be found to the west of Shibuya. You’ll find Shimokitazawa on the Odakyu Line and Keio-Inokashira Line. Shimokitazawa Station is just seven minutes from Shinjuku Station - the world’s biggest and busiest train station - via the Odakyu line. From Tokyo station, first take the JR Chuo Line Rapid before getting on the Odakyu line to Shinjuku. Check out our Guide to Shimokitazawa & Shimokitazawa Station for the full story.

5.  Shinjuku

Vibrant and lively, Shinjuku is considered one of the must-see areas of Tokyo and also boasts the world’s busiest railway station with more than 3.5 million passengers each and every day. From glowing neon to lively nightlife, world-famous restaurants to the city’s biggest red light district, Shinjuku has a bit of everything, and is known as a vibrant, bustling entertainment hub. Highlights and landmarks include Golden Gai, the Robot Restaurant, the beautiful Shinjuku Gyoen park, the Samurai museum, the aforementioned Kabukicho red light district, countless ramen restaurants and izakaya, and much more. It’s also one of Tokyo’s biggest shopping districts. In other words, there’s a lot to see and do in Shinjuku. It’s no wonder it’s perennially considered one of Tokyo’s coolest areas.

While the history of Shinjuku as a cool destination dates back to the opening of its famous train station in 1885 - now the busiest in the whole world - the area’s modern day history really begins after the Second World War. As kabuki and movie theatres began to open, adding entertainment to the mix alongside shopping, a nightlife culture also emerged with the red-light district of Kabukicho and the quirky drinking establishments of Golden Gai. In the late 1950s and 1960s, the area’s bars became popular among writers, artists and intellectuals. After this, Shinjuku transformed again with the addition of skyscrapers and high-rises, including the impressive Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building designed by Kenzo Tange, and a number of department stores in the area west of the station. Thus, Shinjuku became a unique melting pot of old and new and one of Tokyo’s busiest, most vibrant areas, as famous for its nightlife as its shopping and entertainment. From the legendary nightlife of the Golden Gai to the colourful craziness of the Robot Restaurant and more, Shinjuku is truly a super cool neighbourhood - and then some!

As the busiest railway station in the world, Shinjuku is connected to almost everywhere - about a dozen different railway lines to be exact, including the JR Yamanote Line - and is very easy to get to. Use the orange trains on the JR Chuo Line from Tokyo Station, which takes 15 minutes, or the JR Yamanote Line from Ueno Station, which takes around 25 minutes. Shinjuku is accessible via all the JR lines, making it ideal for anyone with a Japan Rail Pass.  

Bonus Recommendations

We have a number of in-depth guides about different aspects of Tokyo on the JR Pass blog so you can become an expert before you visit. Here are a few places to start: 

  • Tokyo is a great base for day trips to elsewhere in Japan using the Japan Rail Pass thanks to its incredible transport connections.  Find out more in our guide to The Best Day Trips from Tokyo
  • Our guide to 48 Hours in Tokyo is a great place to start for a fast-paced tour of the best activities and attractions while in this incredible metropolis. 
  • As we mentioned above, once in Tokyo, the easiest way to get around the city is using public transportation, so you’ll want to invest in a prepaid travel card such as an ICOCA, PASMO or Suica card, as well as a Japan Rail Pass for getting around the rest of the country. Check out our Top 30 Tips for Using Japan’s Metros for advice and guidance on using the city’s subway network.
  • Tokyo is BIG!! As such, it’s a smart idea to invest in PocketWifi to stay connected and avoid any unwanted data charges if you happen to need directions or language advice while you’re on the move.
  • Need a helping hand on arrival? Our dedicated Meet and Greet Service is like having a personal assistant for your holiday who happens to be an expert on Japan. We’ll take care of you from the moment you arrive in Japan. 
  • If you’re exploring a huge city like Tokyo during your first time in Japan, it could feel a little daunting. That’s why we’ve put together our Top Ten Tips for First Time Visitors in Japan.
  • Japanese etiquette and customs can also seem intimidating, but it’s really nothing to be worried about and the Japanese people are famously polite and friendly. Even so, it definitely helps to read up about basic etiquette before you go. We’ve put together a handy Beginners Guide to Japanese Etiquette.
  • Read up on Japan before you arrive with our list of the Best Books To Read About Japan Before You Travel. A little research can go a long way.  

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