things to do in japan

The Japanese seem to have everything under control. From punctual-to-the-tee transportation, squeaky fresh and mouth-watering cuisine to the latest and sometimes over-the-top street styles, it is hard not to fall in love with this culturally-rich and diverse country.

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So the next time you’re planning an overseas trip, consider The Land of The Rising Sun which is a mecca for all things good. Here’s what we think that every first-timer should do when in Tokyo, Japan. There’s certainly an abundance of things to do, but here’s our list of the top 10 things you should do to experience the best of Japan in a nutshell.

Things to see and do:

1. Shibuya Crossing

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Many might lament that there’s just way too many people, but to us, there’s nothing quite as iconic to Tokyo than the famed Shibuya Crossing. You can quite literally immerse yourself in the beating heart of Tokyo – watch and join hundreds of people as they rush navigate the road junction, or gain a higher vantage point and people-watch.

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 The place is also flanked by metallic structures like the Shibuya 109, which house the latest fashion apparels. Or take a short stroll and snap a selfie with the Hachikō Statue whose story of fierce loyalty has won the hearts of people everywhere.

2. Pokemon Center

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You cannot go to the land where Pokemon was created without visiting a Pokemon Center. No matter if you’re young or young-at-heart, there’s no denying that some of these fictional creations haven’t tugged at your heartstrings (especially Pikachu). Take pictures with a statue of Charizard, or go crazy at the store where you’ll find Pokemons embellished on lifestyle items you’d never have thought it was possible.


3. Meiji Shrine

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Undoubtedly one of Tokyo’s most famous shrine, bask in the serene and calming atmosphere of this majestic and traditional structure. Roam the 200 acre park that envelops the shrine, or join the locals as they pen down their wishes and tie them to the prayer wall in hopes of it coming true.

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After you’re done, take a short stroll to the nearby Yoyogi Park which is a meeting place for the alternative crowd of Japan. Expect dancing crews rehearsing and celebrity impersonators performing their craft. It’s certainly a park unlike any you’ve visited.

4. Tokyo Tower

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Located right in the middle of Tokyo City, the 333m Tokyo Tower is a majestic structure that you cannot miss out. With its strikingly red colour and a close resemblance to the Eiffel Tower, a good day on its observation deck will allow you to see past the cityscape and catch a glimpse of Mount Fuji.

5. Tsukiji Fish Market

At the Tsukiji Fish Market.

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Perhaps a wholesale wet market is the last place you’d expect to be a tourist attraction, but the Tsukiji Fish Market is one the world’s largest fish market. Take a peek at how the tuna sushi you had for dinner got to your dinner table as fishermen battle it out in some tuna auction action.

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Do note that the number of observers allowed is capped at 120 so you’ve gotta get in line early if you want a slice of the action. There is also an outer market filled with eateries and restaurant where you get to sample some of the freshest sushi.   

Places to eat:

6. Themed Cafes

A woman holds a hedgehog at the Harry hedgehog cafe in Tokyo, Japan, April 5, 2016. In a new animal-themed cafe, 20 to 30 hedgehogs of different breeds scrabble and snooze in glass tanks in Tokyo's Roppongi entertainment district. Customers have been queuing to play with the prickly mammals, which have long been sold in Japan as pets. The cafe's name Harry alludes to the Japanese word for hedgehog, harinezumi. REUTERS/Thomas Peter SEARCH "HEDGEHOG THOMAS" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "THE WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY

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Imagine a playdate with these adorable hedgehogs snuggling beside you as you sip your coffee. Personal biases aside (c’mon who can say no to these little balls of joy!!!), Tokyo is home to many specially themed restaurants that will transport your culinary experience to a whole other level.


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From the hedgehogs curling up in Hedgehog Cafe Harry, to owls and reptiles and even a robot restaurant where you get to dine in the company of disco-dancing machineries and various cutting edge robotics.

7. Tokyo Ramen Street

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If you’re looking to get a bowl of hearty ramen in Tokyo, there’s no better place than to head to Tokyo Ramen Street, where some of the nation’s top-notch ramen restaurants have set up store next to each other.

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And if you’re easily excitable like me, you’ll certainly get a kick out of their self-ordering stations where you get to purchase your ramen from a vending machine. No need for getting lost in translation trying to point at the menu in hopes of getting the waiter to understand you.

8. 7-Eleven

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For those who don’t know, Japan’s convenience store is famously known for providing quality food at affordable costs. And we aren’t just talking about cup noodles and microwavable food. The selection in the 7 Eleven stores are decently stocked with onigiris, bento sets, noodles, salads and more. It certainly is possible to get a square meal here in Japan’s convenience store that’s cheap and portable.  

9. Cheese Tarts

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And before you start doubting me, let me just tell you that you absolutely cannot get the same kind of tarts in Singapore (at least for now). With the exception of Bake, you’ll be able to skip the hour long queues in Singapore and sample the famous oozy cheese tarts that has taken our country by storm. Besides, it has to be even better since it originated from Japan right?

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The jiggly-in-the-middle cheese tarts are something that you have to try as well. With a crunchy tart shell and warm molten cheese in the middle, you’ll get why this tart attracts both the locals and foreigners alike.

10. Kura Sushi

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Yes I might have added a chain sushi restaurant into this list but I have my reasons. Besides having an electronic menu in English, and a high-tech delivery system where they send your sushi straight to your table via a complicated conveyor belt, there is also a feeding system at every table where you simply slot your finished plates through.

But beyond that, Kura Sushi has a capsule machine located above every table. And for every five plates of sushi you’ve ordered, you get a chance in winning a capsule toy. Now who says you can’t play with your food.

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