From the best nightlife to creative museums and unique dining experiences (hello, Robot Restaurant!), here are the top things to do in Tokyo!Read More >
Tokyo is a world unto itself, and it’s an absolute must-see for any travel lover. Soak in the traditional Japanese culture, learn about modern life in the city, become a real-life cartoon character and people watch until your head spins. Not to mention the unique, eclectic, and delicious selection of restaurants. There’s no place like Tokyo…so here’s my ultimate Tokyo travel guide!
What to Expect in Tokyo
Check out my 10 Tips for Your First Trip to Tokyo!
Language: Most people in Tokyo speak limited English, but with the 2020 Olympics coming up, more English signs will be popping up around the city.
Internet Access: Free public Wi-Fi isn’t common in Tokyo. Save yourself some time and cash by getting a Skyroam device before you go.
Currency: Tokyo uses the Japanese Yen.
Cash and Cards: Many smaller spots don’t accept cards, so it’s good to have cash on you. 7-Eleven is always a sure spot to find an ATM. Most ATMs dispense a minimum of $100 so you won’t need to make too many trips to get cash.
Sanitation: Public garbage cans are incredibly rare. Japanese women stash a baggie in their handbags to hold onto garbage until they get home. Be sure to keep a few extra tissues in your bag too for non-Western-style toilets.
Our Experience as a Lesbian Couple
Tokyo is an amazing destination for LGBTQ+ women and same-sex couples! LGBTQ+ laws in Japan are more progressive than most other countries in Asia, and acceptance of the community is growing in Japanese culture. We felt very safe on our trip and the locals were extremely welcoming. The Ni-chome district in Shinjuku is Tokyo’s gayborhood, and we highly recommend the district’s lesbian bar, Goldfinger!
Getting Around Tokyo
You’ll most likely want to use public transportation to get around—it’s so organized and clean, compared to other major cities—so your first step to getting settled into Tokyo should be familiarizing yourself with the transport map. Grab a bilingual one and start planning your adventures!
To get your bearings in this crazy city, it’s good to know the basic geography of the area. The city of Tokyo has twenty-three wards, and each ward is made up of several districts. When you are planning your daily adventures, you’ll want to figure out which wards have interesting districts, and then map out your route.
Check out my Quick Guide to Tokyo’s Major Districts while planning your trip!
Where to Stay in Tokyo
Tokyo has some amazing neighborhoods, and where to stay will depend on what you’re most interested in doing! Here are some of Tokyo’s more popular areas:
Golden Gai: You’ve never been anywhere like Golden Gai. A throwback to days gone by, this area of the Shinjuku district gives you a glimpse into what the city looked like in the 1950s.
Harajuku: Harajuku is an ultra-hip fashion district while Ginza is home to upmarket shops. Meanwhile, techies will love shopping in Akihabara.
Kabukicho and Roppongi: These are the districts to see at night when the city comes alive at the clubs and bars. These districts have got everything you need for a fun night out.
Sensoji: Sensoji has Tokyo’s largest Buddhist temple and is home to several cultural treasures. Ueno is another cultural center well worth exploring.
Ebisu: For a view of modern life, check out Tokyo’s most expensive neighborhood, Ebisu, and then see the breathtaking skyscrapers of Yebisu.
And with that in mind, here are the top hotels around Tokyo!
The Peninsula Tokyo is an ultraluxe hotel in the Marunouchi district; you’ll fall in love at first sight. Located opposite the Imperial Palace and Hibiya Park. This 5-star hotel stands 24 stories high and offers commanding city views.
Located in central Tokyo, you’ll find the fab Shangri-La Tokyo. If you want five-star comfort, look no further. Located adjacent to Tokyo station where the “Bullet Train” connects to most areas of Japan. this hotel occupies the top 11 floors of a 37-story building, with panoramic views of Tokyo Bay.
In the Shinjuku district, the Tokyu Stay is a chic and comfortable spot in the middle of all the action. This budget-friendly hotel was rated the best value for the money compared to other properties in the city.
Hotel CEN is a sleek, modern hotel in the Shinjuku district—just a quick walk from two different JR stations. The rooms are more spacious than the average in Tokyo. They also have a beautiful terrace and delicious food offerings!
Where to Eat in Tokyo
Japanese cuisine is one of my favorites, and Tokyo has it ALL. Be sure to make time to try out a few Izakaya, sushi, and ramen joints when you’re exploring the city.
Here are the best restaurants around Tokyo!
Ichiran RamenJapanese, Ramen
Although this is a chain, these ramen spots are popular for a reason—they serve the best ramen.
Ramen noodles are very time sensitive. Once placed in boiling water, they expand. Ichiran has a standard of delivering your ramen from kitchen to table within a fifteen second window to ensure the perfect texture. Anything over 15 seconds is unacceptable, which is why all seats are within arm’s length.
Kagari is a famous ramen shop in Ginza, Tokyo. With only 8 seats, prepare to wait in line. The line wrapped all the way down the tiny alley and for good reason; this was the best soba I’ve ever had.
Restaurants in ShibuyaVarious
It’s hard to get a seat, so plan your visit. There is an absolutely dizzying array of foodie hot spots.
Pretty much anywhere in Tokyo has mouthwatering sushi. Check out the Standing Sushi Bar locations.
Eat With A LocalJapanese
This was one of my favorite experiences of my trip to Tokyo! I connected with a local through Traveling Spoon who walked around the farmers market with me to tell me about different foods I tried and we picked up some fresh ingredients. We ended the day back at her place to cook up a fresh, traditional Japanese meal. Watch my experience here!
You can easily get lost in a market like this! It’s a large wholesale market mainly selling fish, fruits and vegetables. Check out my video on the experience here!
Narukiyo is a funky, quirky and unconventional Izakaya restaurant. A great place for an introduction to Japanese cuisine and culture. Check out my video from dinner at Narukiyo!
Wander around this hip alleyway to find a great selection of authentic and adorable restaurants!
What to Do in Tokyo
Tokyo is truly an adult’s paradise! You can eat, shop, karaoke, and explore cultural sites to your heart’s galore. Just exploring the major districts of Tokyo could take days. I’ve listed some of the top things to do around Tokyo, but for more hidden gems and sites off-the-beaten path, check out Things to Do in Tokyo (That Aren’t Shibuya Crossing).
Here are the top activities to do around Tokyo!
No trip to Tokyo is complete without joining the sea of people in the busiest intersection in the world.
This is the perfect spot for bar hopping, and you’ve got to check out the view from Albatross. I’ve compiled my own Guide to Golden Gai to help you plan your trip!
Home to the Emperor of Japan, the Tokyo Imperial Palace is incredible. Covering 1.3 square miles, the grounds include hanami (cherry blossom viewing) spots, art galleries, ancient ruins and beautiful gardens.