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Top 10 Tokyo Sightseeing Recommendations from a Local

I like Tokyo. I’ve also lived abroad for a lot of my life, but live here now, and consider myself a Tokyoite at heart. I think it’s been a good time for me, so in this blog post, I’d like to summarize 10 sightseeing spots and attractions that I really recommend in Tokyo. Of course tourism is hard during the middle of the Covid-19 outbreak, but it won’t last forever, and I hope to see a lot of foreign travelers in Tokyo again soon.

First off:

1. Get a feel for the culture and architecture of Japan at the Nezu Museum in Aoyama

Tokyo is one of the most artistic cities in the world. Among them, the Aoyama/Omotesando area is a typical example of a modern and stylish global city. There are many beautiful buildings, cafes, restaurants and shops scattered around, and even if you just take a stroll around the city, you will feel the energy.

If you want to encounter "real art" in this artists’ neighborhood of Aoyama, go to Nezu Museum. The Nezu Museum specializes in Oriental antiquities and houses many Japanese national treasures and important cultural artifacts. And not only is this museum exhibiting wonderful works of art, but the atmosphere in the museum itself is also outstanding. With an ambiance of Japanese architecture and the beautiful greenery and trees are in perfect harmony. Even just being there, you will feel your heart relax a bit.

After enjoying the arts, have a pleasant coffee break at the attached NEZU CAFE and to think about the work you saw that day.

Details of Nezu Museum

Business Hours: 10:00-17:00

Closed days: Mondays, display change periods, year-end and New Year holidays; however, if Monday is a holiday, also closed the next Tuesday.

Special Exhibits Admission: General ¥1,300 (Students ¥1,000)

General Entrance Fee: General ¥1,100 (Students ¥800)

2. Indulge in dinner, drinks, and live jazz at BLUE NOTE TOKYO in Minami-Aoyama

BLUE NOTE TOKYO is a jazz club located in Minami Aoyama. Here, you can enjoy live jazz while having a great dinner and cocktails. BLUE NOTE TOKYO hosts a lot of world-famous performers, and it is a special place where you can enjoy a high level of live jazz right in front of you. If you come to Tokyo, it's a place that you should definitely make time for some evening. Advance reservation is required.

BLUE NOTE TOKYO details

Budget: ¥10,000 - ¥20,000 per person

Performance information: See BLUE NOTE TOKYO

3. Rent a bicycle and explore the southwestern part of Tokyo

The southwestern part of Tokyo refers to areas such as Shibuya, Harajuku, Omotesando, Nakameguro, Ebisu, and Ikejiri Ohashi. This area is the most fashionable and popular in Tokyo, and if you are visiting city, it makes for wonderful biking and sightseeing. The scale of Tokyo is such that this area is probably too large to walk around in a single day, but by bike, you’ll be able to see a lot and get a feel for the city.

Japanese love bikes and have been cycling in large numbers long before urban cycling became fashionable in the West, there is a level of comfort, safety, and bike infrastructure that will make this a nice experience for any biker. It feels especially great on sunny holidays. I often come across nice cafes by chance, and take a break and have some coffee.

Details of bicycle rental

Time required for sightseeing: Half day to 1 day

Budget: ¥1,000-¥3,000

4. Be a gourmet in Ebisu

If you come to Tokyo just eat delicious food, you won’t be disappointed. Tokyo is one of the best foodie cities on earth, great not only for Japanese food but also for foreign cuisines like French, Italian, Korean, Thai, Chinese, and much more. There are lots of food options in every single part of Tokyo, but balancing price, taste, and abundance of restaurants, my personal recommendation is the Ebisu neighborhood.

In Ebisu, there are many famous Italian, Thai, Korean, and French restaurants, as well as Japanese ones. Among them, I picked up some of my recommendations, so please stop by.

Udon Yamacho, where you can enjoy the finest udon at a reasonable price.

Da Michele, the place to enjoy authentic Naples pizza.

Grilled Mash, where you can get the best hamburgers this side of the USA, and the volume is satisfying for those craving something like American portions

Coci, for stylish Thai food.

Mimfie Tonkatsu, for some of my favorite tonkatsu in the world, a Japanese fried specialty.

Mercer Café Danro, if you are missing NY Italian and a downtown ambiance.

5. Take a café tour

Maybe more so than even Paris or NY, Tokyo is a city of countless high-quality cafes, with stylish atmospheres and great attention to detail when it comes to your cup of coffee.

Wonderful new cafes pop up all the time, so it might be best to just choose a neighborhood and take a stroll. A good area would be southwestern Tokyo, in neighborhoods like Ebisu, Nakameguro, Daikanyama, Aoyama, Omotesando, and Hiroo. Just keep an open mind and pop in when somewhere strikes your fancy. A bustling café with a lot of Japanese local customers is always a good sign.

Time required for sightseeing: Half day to 1 day

Recommended sightseeing areas: Southwest Tokyo ( Ebisu, Nakameguro, Daikanyama, Shibuya, Aoyama, Omotesando, Hiroo, Ikejiri Ohashi) Northeast Tokyo (Kiyosumi Shirakawa)

6. Odaiba for family fun

If you're going to Tokyo with your family, the Odaiba area is my recommendation. There reason is that there are many theme parks for the kids to enjoy. Tokyo Joypolis is an indoor amusement park that you can enjoy regardless of the weather, and brings back nice memories for me as the spot of my first date! KidZania Tokyo is a theme park for children. The Fuji TV building has many famous children’s program activities for children to enjoy, even if they aren’t familiar with the particular TV programs.

After any of these activities, let’s go to Oedo Onsen, which is also in Odaiba. It’s a hot spring theme park where adults can enjoy the baths and relax after a long day, with delicious food and sake, and kids can explore the hall done in a traditional old Japanese townscape of old. There are also rooms for lodging, which might be good for those who can afford it.

Details of Odaiba

Time required for sightseeing: Half day to 1 day

Sights to visit: Aqua City Odaiba, Tokyo Joypolis, Fuji TV, Oedo Onsen, Venus Fort, Odaiba Seaside Park

7. Visit Tokyo's new tallest structure and city symbol, Sky Tree

Not only by far the tallest structure in Tokyo, Sky Tree has quickly become the city’s defining symbol, like the Eifel Tower in Paris or the Empire State Building in NY. The view from the observatory is truly magnificent, to it’s definitely worth a visit.

In addition, Soramachi (Sky Town in Japanese) is a new shopping mall attached to Sky Tree, with more than 300 shops to fulfill any shopper’s desires. Soramachi also includes Sumida Acquarium, a wonderful place popular with tourists and Tokyo families.

Sky Tree details

Business hours: 8:00 to 22:00 (Sky Tree)

Nearest station: Tokyo Sky Tree Station or Oshiage Station

8. Take a break from the urban bustle and see beautiful Japanese nature at Mt. Takao

Mt. Takao is a popular reprieve from Tokyo’s kilometer upon kilometer of never-ending cityscape, and can be reached in about 1 hour from central Tokyo. Perfect for those who want to enjoy nature and refresh themselves after the urban energy of the city.

Any time of year is great, but personally, the summer months with lush, beautiful greenery, and the autumn months with vivid fall colors are my favorites.

Details of Mt. Takao

Access: 45 minutes to 1 hour by train from Shinjuku Station

Time required for sightseeing: Half day to 1 day

9. Enter the world of Ghibli at Ghibli Museum, Mitaka

If you like Ghibli’s animated masterpieces, Mitaka no Mori Ghibli Museum in Mitaka is a must-visit spot. Popular with children and also with adults who want to feel a little of the magic they first felt as children. A large number of storyboards from movies like Laputa are stored here, and famous scenes will come to mind one after the other. Tickets must be reserved by time and date, so make sure to secure them in advance before visiting.

Details of Ghibli Museum, Mitaka

Business hours: 10:00-18:00

Closed days: Every Tuesday

Access: Bus from JR Mitaka Station

Admission fees:

Adults ¥1,000

High school/junior high school students ¥700

Elementary school students ¥400

10. Make friends at Ebisu Yokocho

If you come to Tokyo by yourself or in a small group, it makes sense to try to make some friends in Tokyo. In that case, check out Ebisu Yokocho, which is a bar area located a few minutes on foot from JR Ebisu Station. There are about 20 bars lined up together, and many people enjoy drinking here on weekdays and holidays. I often find myself talking to a group of people sitting next to my group as the night wears on, so this is a friendly place to strike up a conversation and meet some local Tokyo-ites!

Details of Ebisu Yokocho

Number of bars: 20 bars

Nearest station: 3 minutes walk from JR Ebisu Station

Budget: ¥3,000 to ¥5,000

 

Thank you for reading this far! If you liked this post, please take a look at some of my other blog posts where I write about Tokyo, Japan, Japanese food, Japanese product reviews, and generally anything else that comes to my mind.

And if you can’t make it to Tokyo just yet, or want to get a taste for Japanese products before you come, please visit the new online marketplace where I work, Allegro Japan, where our aim is to bring the best of what Japan has to offer together in one place, and introduce it to the world!

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