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5 unique things you need to try out when in Tokyo

Nightlife and neon lights in downtown Tokyo at night

Japan is the master of the quirky and the crazy, what about trying these five activities?

Forget about the highlights, stow away your travel guides: sometimes you just need the unexpected. Good thing is, Tokyo has plenty of the unexpected for you. Here are some suggestions, out of the dozens we could pick from. 

More Japan inspiration
There's more to Japan than just Tokyo. How much more? Well, we've got plenty of content to get you started. Our blog about the contrasts you'll find throughout Japan should do the trick if you want a broader overview of what to see and do around the country and how to get around. Follow us on a bullet train journey from hyper-modern Tokyo to the history-rich Kyoto and Hiroshima. All aboard!
Visit Japan in 2023: A fascinating blend between ancient tradition and modern innovation

What makes Tokyo so special

Tokyo is a bustling city that combines futuristic technology with traditional culture. It's where neon lights meet ancient temples, and where foodie adventures await at every corner. This city never sleeps, with shopping districts like Shibuya and Ginza that'll keep you on your feet all day, and landmarks like the Tokyo Tower and Imperial Palace that'll take your breath away and make for great photo-ops. For art lovers, Tokyo has got you covered too, with museums and galleries that showcase the best of Japanese creativity. And when it's time to take a break, the city's spiritual side shines through at its numerous shrines and temples. It's the coolest mix of old and new in Tokyo - the city that's always on the move.

With all the sights to see, it's easy to forget about all the great experiences that are to be found in all corners of the city. These five suggestions are all about what makes Japan, Japan, without falling into cliches and stereotypes. If you've travelled this far, you better absorb a bit of local culture while you're at it!

Shibuya crossing in the city centre of Tokyo, Japan

1. Sing your lungs out at a karaoke bar

Did you know Japan is the birthplace of Karaoke? Well, now you do! The Japanese take their karaoke very serious, with various national chains (like Joysound, Big Echo and Manekineko) of Karaoke ''bars'' to visit. Most places are not like the karaoke bars we know and love in the west though, where your drunken friends butcher Bohemian Rhapsody like there's no tomorrow in front of a crowd of bewildered people. None of that, as the karaoke bars in Tokyo are mostly private. You and whoever you bring get your own room, with a screen and mics, so you don't have to embarrass yourself in front of strangers (unless you decide to go there with a group of rando's from your hostel) if you don't want to. You can even get a single room! There is, of course, plenty of J-pop, but if you're not familiar with that they've got a lot of western songs too - all the classics you want are there. They serve food and drinks too, so you can have a complete evening out without leaving your private karaoke room. We say, go for it and embrace the Japanese karaoke culture - it's the most fun you're going to have in a long time! 

A Joysound karaoke bar in downtown Tokyo, Japan

2. Be a samurai for a day

Learn the ways of the warrior when visiting Japan. It might seem like the most obvious tourist trap, but it's a great way to gain a lot of insight into Japanese culture and history. Samurai training is much more than dressing up as a Samurai and posing for the obligatory Instagram moment. You'll have the chance to understand the true meaning of the Samurai code, which emphasizes the importance of self-discipline, respect, and loyalty. There's more to it than just being a master of the sword, as a clear and focused mind (achieved through meditation techniques) is vital. As it's only for a day, you'll get an introduction to the basics before trying it out yourself, if you want to of course. You'll get a taste of the traditional side of Japan, and hopefully take some of the mental resilience with you in your daily life! 

P.s. If you're mainly in it for the swords, visit a traditional Japanese blacksmith. Some of them even allow you to create your own personalised sword or knife, the perfect keepsake to remember your adventures in Japan.

Travellers partaking in Samurai training in Japan

3. Play games at a Japanese arcade

Japan is the country that made arcades BIG. Companies like Sega and Taito defined the arcade and still continue to this day. Prize games featuring popular anime characters or simply a game of Mario Kart, These colourful gaming spaces are packed with the latest games and technology at a low price. You don't pay for entry, just for the game you're playing so you're in control over how much you spend. This makes arcades one of the preferred hangout spots for Japanese youths. 

Gaming is seen as a community thing, but it's easy to visit an arcade by yourself too. There are plenty of single and multiplayer games to try. Whether you're a seasoned gamer or just looking for a fun evening out, Japanese arcades have something for every skill level. The offerings depend on the type and brand of arcade you go to, but in the funky Akihabara district you never need to go far to find one. The hardest part will be choosing your pick. Ready to get hands-on with Japanese pop culture and have a blast trying to win some goofy prizes? Grab a bunch of yens and get ready to level up at a Japanese arcade!

People playing inside a Taito Game Station in Tokyo, Japan

4. Enjoy an authentic Japanese performance

Immerse yourself in the beauty of Japanese culture with an authentic performance of Kabuki, Noh, or Bunraku. These traditional art forms offer a unique experience, showcasing Japan's rich heritage through colourful costumes, intricate makeup, mesmerizing music, and dramatic storytelling. Whether you're a theatre enthusiast or just looking for something new and different, you're transported to another world when attending a Kabuki, Noh, or Bunraku performance. It's the magic of Japanese culture, and simply a must-do when visiting Tokyo. Luckily it's not hard to find something good, as in Tokyo there are often festivals and street performances going on in the parks or at busy squares. Check out the GoTokyo event calendar for what's happening when you're visiting. 

A selection of Japanese theatre masks

5. Try one of the many delightfully ridiculous themed cafés

Once something becomes popular, leave it to the Japanese to take it to the next level, and Tokyo is the absolute epicentre of that mindset. The cat café is a great example of this craze, with a variety of animal cafés (owls, capibaras and more) popping up all over Tokyo. While we don't necessarily want to recommend any animal-related activities here, there are plenty of other themed cafés that are too cool to pass on! Unfortunately the famous robot restaurant is closed, but may we suggest the Pokémon Café (book in advance!) or the Alice in Fantasy Book restaurant in Shinjuku? With a little research it's easy to pick something cool! 

Robot themed restaurant in Tokyo, Japan

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