Gaijin’s galore always wax lyrical about all the crazy things to do in Tokyo, and their amazement isn’t without reason. Japanese culture is very alien to the West in many ways, but this doesn’t always mean eating raw fish or sleeping during your fifteen-hour shift at work. The weird and wonderful activities you can get up to whilst visiting are a massive tourism draw in Tokyo, and even if you’re the most ardent lover of Japanese culture, you’re bound to find something unique and, in many ways, shocking when you visit. These delights range from the sublime to the ridiculous, but, like most things in Tokyo, are easily accessible for a memorable experience. Hold onto your hats, because we’re delving deep into Tokyo culture to show you the strangest things the Japanese capital has to offer.
The Japanese love of vending machines is a well-documented and unescapable element of Tokyo’s culture. All along the streets of Tokyo are seemingly randomly placed machines, offering everything from slices of pizza to diapers.
However, there’s one area where this apparent national institution takes a truly bizarre turn. Just a short trot from Akihabara station, on an apparently nameless corner, there are a collection of vending machines accompanied by jokey signs that make fun of the vending machine culture. It’s not just the self-aware signs that make the trip worth it, though: the machines themselves offer up a profusion of absurd items, as well as mystery bags with short stories written on the outside. If you’re feeling adventurous, then feel free to go in for the lucky dip; who knows what you’ll be rewarded with?
Bibliophiles and those who love the feeling of vellichor cannot miss out on a trip to this gorgeous bookstore.
Set over three floors, Daikanyama Tsutaya Books also has an absurdly large collection of audio and visual content, as well as a glut of rare books, vintage magazines, and toys for sale. The store is surrounded by lush greenery and stepping in feels like an adventure in itself; the theme of the building is “A library in the woods”, and that shines through everything they do. Beautiful, impressive, and dreamlike, even just wandering through this bookstore is an experience.
Themed cafes are a massive part of Tokyo culture, so it was inevitable that some would eventually be dedicated to man’s best friend. You don’t need to have a dog to get into ABC, but anyone with a four-legged friend is allowed to enter this Tokyo dog cafe. There are several leash free zones and petting is encouraged (with the owner’s permission, of course). Importantly, the food and drink doesn’t suffer as a result of the theme: it’s delicious and reasonably priced.
Stargazing in the city isn’t exactly easy with all the light pollution, but at the Konica Minolta Planetarium in Tokyo you can look into the heavens to your heart’s content. Run by a huge Japanese tech company, they have some truly astounding – and educational – shows, and unlike some other planetariums in Tokyo, also provide commentary in multiple languages. With comfortable seats, beautiful visuals, and an accessible location, this is the perfect trip for any astronomy lover.
Seasoned golfers and novices alike should pay a visit to this rooftop driving range in Tokyo. Located at the top of one of the biggest electronic stores in the city, you can rent equipment with ease and swing the time away perfecting your golf stroke. There’s no messing around with buckets of balls either: you pay for your entry and can hit as many balls as you can in the allotted time. Beginners don’t need to fret at potential embarrassment due to a lack of skill; at this Tokyo rooftop driving range, there are screens with the basics of the game and replays of your swing provided to make sure you’re improving as you have fun.
Originally a 19th century flower park, Hanayashiki is the oldest amusement park in Tokyo. The park has a long history and has also served as a zoo (the first lion to be born in Japan was born here in 1931). The park has several rides and attractions, and having a go on the rollercoaster is one of the many crazy things to do in Tokyo. Other attractions include haunted houses, 4D experiences, and gaming arcades, so there really is something for everyone.
Both strange and familiar, Odaiba (or Daiba for short) is a massive artificial island in Tokyo bay with a tonne of different sights and attractions. The area has everything from shopping centres to stunning views of the Tokyo skyline, and shows off the best of Tokyo culture. You can easily spend a day here, riding the Ferris wheel or taking a dip in the hot springs at Oedo-Onsen Maonogatari. Culture vultures and futurologists can head to the National Museum of Emerging Science and Innovation, and those just looking for some serenity can wander around the park that borders the area, catching a glimpse of the Statue of Liberty replica one the northern side of the landmass. Even getting here is an event: you can cross the Rainbow bridge for gorgeous views of the city.
For a slice of the high life at a fraction of the cost, you can visit this Butler café/mansion in the Northwest of the city. Upon arrival, you’re greeted by your butler for the evening, who then leads you to your table and proceeds to wait on you as you indulge in your meal. The mansion setting really makes you feel like you’re in the lap of luxury, and for 90 minutes you truly are. A surreal and crazy thing to do in Tokyo, but certainly worth the trip up into the suburbs.
Playing darts is massive in Tokyo culture, but not every bar is so happy to welcome tourists. I-Darts is a chain of darts bars with an outlet in Tokyo, where you can enjoy a few games alongside even more beers. Novices can also get help from the floor staff, who are all trained to help you improve your game. If you don’t fancy chucking projectiles all night, the drinks flow easily, so there’s something for everyone.
When it comes to wonderful sights in Tokyo, one article doesn’t always cut it. Take a look at our guide to Tokyo’s cherry blossom season for even more spectacular insights into the city.
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