Top 11 Must-Do Tokyo Activities
Vibrant, hyper-organized, pulsing, historical, stylish, futuristic Tokyo oozes fun and excitement! This city abounds with quirky, kitschy and (at least to our American family) often bizarre bucket list activities that you can only do in Tokyo! This is our family’s list of highlights in the Land of the Rising Sun!
This bustling city abounds with things to do, places to see and food to eat! Your family will flip over uniquely Japanese pop-culture devotion with wacky “cosplay” (costume play). Everyone knows the traditional sites that you are expected to visit in Tokyo: the Meiji Shrine, the Imperial Palace, the Tokyo National Museum. This list is meant to shake things up! My family wanted to experience the other side of Tokyo – the wild, the kitschy, the down ‘n dirty.
After arriving in Tokyo at our perfectly located home base, Hilton Tokyo, we set out to experience Japanese culture and fall in love with all that is distinctly Tokyo. Hold on tight and get ready for a trip of a lifetime for you and your family. Writing this article makes me want to return there again and again!
Here are our family’s Top 11 Must-Do Tokyo Activities!
11 Best Things to do in Tokyo with Teens
1. Experience Fuerza Bruta
Fuerza Bruta WA! Wonder Japan Experience is the pinnacle of interactive entertainment. With productions in over 30 countries around the world, this show WOWs in every possible way. This Japanese-themed production is a visual delight featuring pulsating techno music, geishas who defy gravity, spectacular samurais and uber-cool ninja performances. Our highlight was the transparent pool of water suspended over our heads full of dancers. You have to see it to believe it! My gang can’t wait to rock out at another Fuerza Bruta production somewhere else in the world!
Tip: If you get the main area tickets, then be prepared to stand the entire show, move and groove, get wet by spraying water, and feel energized by the cool music! This area is best for kids who don’t mind loud noises and dark spaces. And yes they can take pictures and videos and post directly to Instagram and Snapchat! There are also second floor VIP lounge balcony seats available if you prefer a less interactive experience.
2. Check out a Maid Cafe
Cosplay (costume play) cafes are all the rage in Tokyo! All of our friends who previously visited Tokyo told us we had to check out a maid cafe. For the ultimate in kawaii (cute) fun, visit top-rated @homecafe Maid Cafe located in electronics center of Akihabra. (By the way, kids into anime and manga will flip in this area.)
Our English-speaking maid made the experience so much fun and magical! They chanted Japanese gibberish spells when mixing our drinks and drew Pokemon on our lattes. From watching the maids singing and dancing to playing silly games and taking pictures with them, we all let loose and had a blast!
Select the package that works best for your family. Some include drinks, meals, and desserts, as well as photos and games. Our desserts — the Cute Bunny Cheesecake and the Cutie Toy Poodle Pancakes — were delicious, but we didn’t want to eat them because they were so super kawaii!
3. Go See That’s ZENtertainment!
Action, suspense, humor, creativity, acrobatics…That’s ZENtertainment! is a totally non-verbal 30 minute show that is appropriate for the whole family. These supremely talented wizards at imagery will captivate everyone in your group.
Take a break and escape to this cozy intimate theater in one of Tokyo’s traditional neighborhoods. With six shows a day, it’s easy to find a time that works for you. This clever troupe, who performed on America’s Got Talent, features a variety of mesmerizing acts including a super-high tech Ninja projection-mapping battle, Geta tap dancing, amazing Kanji shadow puppetry, and, much to your kids’ delight, an interactive photo performance featuring the audience members.
4. Eat Your Way through the Tsukiji Fish Market
No visit to Tokyo is complete without a visit to the world famous Tsukiji Fish Market. This market is tremendous and can be overwhelming to explore. We greatly benefited from discovering this mammoth landmark with our expert guide on our private three-hour kid-oriented walking tour with Context Tours.
Our guide, an American-born college professor, led us through the inner and outer markets weaving in many topics of interest including history and religion. And if you adore sushi, this is the mecca of the freshest fish in the world. We enjoyed our lunch in a quaint restaurant among locals, where we sat at a counter and watched our sushi and sashimi being prepared.
As we toured the outer market, our tour guide bought us all kinds of tasty treats, from samples of juices we have never heard of before, to a huge towering shaved ice, to tasty coffee treats. A highlight for us was meeting a friendly fishmonger who was closing up shop, but took time out to skillfully carve a tuna in front of us and then generously hand us a bag full of the freshest fish.
Tip: Wear closed toe shoes and pay close attention to your surroundings at all times when touring the chaotic market. There are plenty of moving vehicles!
5. Take Part in the Shibuya Scramble
Grab a much-coveted spot on the second floor of Starbucks overlooking the busiest intersection in the world and watch thousands of people hurry and scurry across the five-way crosswalk below. My husband headed down to the street level with our two girls who had a blast hamming it up in the midst of the crowds while I photographed them from my bird’s eye view.
If you are in the mood for a French inspired meal, head to the beautiful L’Occtaine Cafe across the street from the Starbucks. Request a seat at a table next to the fabulous bay windows that enable you to watch the madness below while peacefully enjoying delicious soups, salads and sandwiches.
6. Play Ball!
Seeing a baseball game in Japan is a must! We used the concierge services of JapanBall who expertly recommended the perfect game for our family and sent the tickets directly to our hotel. We watched the Tokyo Yakult Swallows play at the historic Meiji Jingu Stadium.
Your kids (and you) will love observing the differences between attending American baseball and Japanese baseball. There are adorably dressed beer girls strap kegs to their backs! The cheerleaders (yes, baseball cheerleaders!) entertain between innings while fireworks light up the sky. And you can even bring your own food to the stadium. The lady sitting next to me was chomping on fried octopus balls and edamame. And when the home team scores a run, the fans open up their mini-umbrellas in unison as they sing the Tokyo anthem. What a show!
7. Take a Food Tour & Learn Origami
Spend time at the Omotenashi Nihonbashi Information Center which offers expert tours and activities to acquaint your family with Japanese culture and cuisine. We donned traditional Japanese robes and joined our well-informed guide on a 90-minute indoor gourmet Best of Japan Food Tour in the gorgeous Coredo Muromachi shopping complex. Learn about new foods as you sample Japanese regional specialties such as wagashi (sweets) and candied sweet potato fries. You even get to make and taste your own katsuo (skipjack tuna or often called bonito) shavings.
Next we took an introductory origami class where we had a blast creating our own souvenirs to remember our time in Tokyo. Using beautiful multi-colored washi paper, we learned how to craft goldfish, a ninja star and a kimono. A fabulous way to jump into Japanese culture and cuisine!
8. Stroll Teen Heaven: Takeshita Dori in Harajuku
The center of all things kawaii and pop-culture, this fun neighborhood offers delicious crepes (stuffed with heaping scoops of ice cream and gobs of whipped cream), mega-servings of rainbow cotton candy, cat cafes, owl cafes, retail stores and more. My girls loved this short and extremely crowded, funky, hip, colorful pedestrian street. This teen paradise is situated just blocks from the famed Meiji Shrine.
A highlight for my girls was a Purikura parlor packed full of elaborate photo sticker booths where kids can pose for pictures and then edit and add embellishments. Explore the streets of Harajuku and Omotesando, full of vintage and trendy shopping, including Kiddyland, a multi-story toy store, and Laforet, the ultimate teen department store. On a weekend, this area is chock full of teenage girls dressed in identical outfits having a blast!
9. Explore Odaiba
Hop on the front car of the Yurikamome driverless train in Shimbashi (like a kiddie ride in itself) and head to ultra-modern Odaiba. Unfortunately, we only had a half-day to visit this futuristic island surrounded by spectacular views, cutting-edge architecture and so many family-friendly things to do!
We loved the interactive Panasonic Center (free) where the kids were able to learn about technological advances in the Olympic Games and future high-tech products. Then we visited the mega Aqua City mall with its huge arcade of uniquely Japanese games, strolled along the beach area and snapped pictures with Japan’s replica of America’s Statute of Liberty. Other family-friendly activities include the towering Daikanransha Ferris Wheel at Palette Town, LEGOLAND Discovery Center, the Trick Art Museum, and the hot baths set in a festival atmosphere at the Ooedo-Onsen Monogatari.
We ended our day with one of our favorite dinners of our two weeks in Japan at the beautiful waterfront Sakura Japanese Restaurant at Hilton Tokyo Odaiba. Watch the sun set on the colorful Rainbow Bridge as you leisurely dine at Sakura which features a sushi bar, Teppanyaki and a Tempura counter. This traditionally Japanese-designed space includes private rooms, garden terrace dining, plenty of dishes for your whole family and world-class service. Hilton Tokyo Odaiba is a great choice for families planning to spend extended time in the kid-friendly Odaiba area.
10. Visit Posh Department Stores
Arrive at a department store minutes before opening and be treated to Japanese hospitality and culture at its best. Impeccably dressed hostesses bow and greet you at the entrance promptly when the store opens for business. As you enter, rows of employees bow respectfully to you as you whisk by them, waiting to engage with their first customers of the day. So NOT like in the U.S.!
There are plenty of shopping options, but our favorite stop in every department store was easily the basement food floor with courteous staff offering gourmet samples galore. We bought some of our favorite souvenirs here. Challenge your kids to find the most expensive fruit item on display. We found a $62 box-shaped watermelon!
11. Check out the View
Take your family way up high to appreciate the vastness of this mega-tropolis. Zip up the elevator to the main observatory of the Tokyo Tower, a huge steel structure resembling the grandeur of the Eiffel Tower. Have your children find a tiny Shinto Shrine, shop for souvenirs and grab some green tea ice cream. We loved gazing at the sparkling lights in the night sky. Check the website for special events. Other high-up views include the Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building (free) or the Tokyo Skytree.
Where to Stay in Tokyo
We loved Hilton Tokyo! Located in lively Shinjuku and a short walk to the bustling Kabukicho district, Hilton Tokyo is the perfect choice for families who want to explore all of Tokyo. Surrounded by restaurants and entertainment options, you will never run out of things to do while staying at this hotel.
This full-service family-friendly hotel has everything you could possibly want: a fabulous executive lounge, many dining choices, an indoor pool, a sauna, a Japanese bath, tennis courts, and an impressive 24-hour gym. There is also a free shuttle to the Shinjuku Station and a subway entrance connected to the hotel. What’s more, Hilton Tokyo has the friendliest, most helpful staff. We adored our Japanese-styled room with fabulous views of the city.
You may also enjoy:
- 15 Things You Must Do in Tokyo with Kids
- Top 10 Things To Do In Tokyo With Kids
- 9 Tips for Viewing Cherry Blossoms in Tokyo
Hilton Mom Voyage writers receive free night certificates to use at Hilton Hotels & Resorts worldwide. To learn more, visit our About Us page.
Lisa’s family was provided with discounted and/or complimentary admission to some of the attractions so that she could try them and review them for your information. Lisa chose the above attractions based on their reviews and recommendations from friends.