Hanging With Hedgehogs, Island Hopping, and 8 Other Must-Do Experiences in Tokyo

Hedgehog Cafe Tokyo

In 2021, Tokyo’s population was said to be 13.96 million. Compare this with Los Angeles’ population of 3.845 million in the same year. Tokyo is teeming with people and, with Japanese culture steeped in history and tradition, that makes for all kinds of experiences offered.

So, with all that in mind, what are some of the best things to do in Tokyo on a visit? We share some of the most photo-worthy and unique experiences in the city ahead.

Before we dive into it, note that you do in Tokyo and in Japan, generally, should be based on the season you’re visiting. In spring, when the cherry blossoms bloom, you’ll have plenty of Sakura-themed food and drink pop-ups to visit. In summer, you can visit a natsu matsuri (summer festival) and taste summery treats like kaki-koori (shaved ice). Autumn is when you’ll see Japan’s fall colours, while indulging in chestnut-based sweets and hojicha (green tea), and winter is perfect for visiting hot springs and indulging in nabe (hot pot).

Image: Getty Images

Play With Hedgehogs

In Harajuku, you’ll find all kinds of animal cafés, from pigs and puppies to hedgehogs. Located on the fourth floor of a building in Shibuyaku, Harry’s Hedgehog Café is the only one of its kind in the world. Choose between 30-minute, 45-minute, and hour-long sessions of playing with hedgehogs or hamsters. Gloves are supplied.

Do a Late-Night Batting Session

Tokyo’s night owls and city workers frequent late-night batting centres for a satisfying and stress-relieving batting session. The go-to spot for insomniac baseballers is Shinjuku Batting Center. It’s open until 4 am, and you can also hone your pitching skills while you’re there with several throwing games and competitions.

See Local Architecture and Visit Art Galleries

Whether it’s Tokyo’s art deco-style buildings or those from the Taisho and Meiji eras, this city has architectural delights all over the place. Some favourites include the Jiyugakuen Myonichikan, the Kyu-Iwasaki-tei Garden, and the Tokyo Metropolitan Teien Art Museum. For something more recent, you can’t go past the Museum of Contemporary Art Tokyo (MOT) or the National Art Center Tokyo.

National Art Centre Tokyo
Image: Getty Images

Find Hidden Bars

Tokyo’s bars don’t get going until late. Many are set in narrow ‘yokocho’ alleyways that are often unseen from the main streets. These hole-in-the-wall joints usually only seat a few patrons and have an authentic, homely character. Two of the most popular bar-hopping streets in Tokyo are Golden Gai and Omoide Yokocho in Shinjuku, both great for meeting fellow travellers.

Taste Truffle-Laced Bread

Japan is home to some outstanding bakeries and patisseries. There’s even a distinctive bakeshop, Truffle Bakery, whipping up baked goods made with the addition of luxurious truffles. The now-cult bakery originally launched in Tokyo and has this year added Karuizawa and Nagano to its stable.

Feast on Italian-Japanese Fusion Eats

Gucci Osteria first opened in Florence in 2018, then in Beverly Hills in 2020. And in 2023, after years-long, pandemic-induced delays, it’s now open in Tokyo. The restaurant by Massimo Bottura can found be in Ginza, serving Italian cuisine with local Japanese produce, including a dish described to be a “parmigiana that wants to be a ramen”.

Dine at One of the World’s Longest Sushi Trains

Nothing beats a cheap and cheerful conveyor belt sushi outlet that offers plates of nigiri and maki rolls from as low as ¥110 (just over $1 AUD). Don’t miss Oshiage, the latest Kura Sushi outlet, located near Tokyo Skytree. It’s said to be the world’s largest sushi train, seating up to 277 people.

Ferry to One of Tokyo’s Islands

Most people think of Tokyo as a buzzing metropolis (which it is), but the Tokyo Islands couldn’t be more different than the city of the same name. Tropical white sandy beaches, rugged volcano-crafted landscapes, and lush forest-covered mountains — Tokyo’s islands offer endless adventure and cultural diversity. From hot springs and diving to volcanoes and snorkelling through wildlife-rich waters; Tokyo’s sub-tropical islands are the ultimate way to escape the city and get back to nature.

Shop at the World’s Biggest Uniqlo

The massive Uniqlo Ginza flagship had a recent refit. At 12 storeys high, it’s now one of the city’s biggest shopping destinations and the biggest Uniqlo in the world. Additions include a ‘custom-order salon’, where you can get measured for the perfect fitting suit and a Uniqlo Coffee, where you can get a drink with the brand’s blends, as well as cookies from much-loved bakery Ginza West.

Taste Michelin-Starred Ramen

Tokyo is filled with ramen bars that are consistently winning awards. Ginza Hachigo is the latest ramen bar in Tokyo to be awarded a Michelin Star. Try its beautifully complex soup that’s clear and flavourful. It’s made by boiling down Nagoya Cochin chicken, duck, scallop, dried tomatoes and shiitake mushrooms, konbu (seaweed), heirloom onions from Kyoto and cured ham.

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