Westerners often find Japanese culture a little strange – in a good way. It’s different and intriguing, which is what makes it so much fun to explore. When you visit Tokyo, dive straight into the weirdness and embrace it and you’ll have an exciting and memorable trip.
You’ll never struggle to find something to do, whether strange or relatively ordinary. Tokyo has a wealth of attractions to explore, from world class cuisine to ancient temples to luxurious spas to lovely grassy parks and much more.
Plus, it’s clean and safe and has a fantastic public transport system. There is always something going on in this modern city, whether it is robot battle or samurai lessons, and many of the attractions are truly amazing and one of a kind.
When you arrive in Tokyo and you want to check out the odd and unusual side of this city, where should you start? Here are 18 of the weirdest and most fascinating things that you can do in the Japanese capital.
Dine at The Robot Restaurant
Every night in a neon-lit basement in Shinjuku’s Kabukicho district, bizarre robots, costumed performers and bikini-clad women take to the stage for mock battles and dance performances. The food at this campy dinner show isn’t great – but you won’t be paying attention to what you are eating anyway. You’ll be way too distracted by the drums, robotic dancers, space gorillas, dancers and the dazzling surreal futuristic spectacle.
Address: Shinjuku Robot Bldg. B2F, 1-7-1 Kabuki-cho, Shinjuku-ku
Visit a Maid Café
A strange and fascinating aspect of Tokyo culture – maid cafes are simultaneously geeky, cute, sexy and a little bit weird and awkward. The costumes of the servers vary from cafe to cafe, but most of them are dressed like French maids – usually in a dress, a pinafore, a petticoat and stockings. They were originally designed to cater to the fantasies of the male otaku, aka fans of video games, anime and manga. Your maid hostess will usually kneel next to the table to stir cream and sugar into your coffee and may even offer you a back massage or play board games with you.
Address: All Over Tokyo
Website: The 10 Best Maid Cafes in Tokyo
Sleep in a Capsule Hotel
Capsule hotels are an intriguing idea – you sleep in rows of little pods along the wall for the ultimate minimalist accommodation experience. Although your sleeping pod is not much bigger than your own personal space bubble, it contains everything that you will need for a comfortable night including Wifi, electrical sockets, a reading light and more. These strange but practical hotels are located all over Tokyo and it should be on your Japan travel bucket list to stay in one at least once. (We stayed in a capsule hotel in the Kuala Lumpur airport in Malaysia and it was pretty cool.)
Address: All Over Tokyo
Website: The Best Capsule Hotels in Tokyo
Watch Morning Practice at the Sumo Stable
Start your day by watching chunky dudes in little folded diaper-like briefs grunt and grapple with each other. Sumo wrestling is a huge part of Japanese culture, but It can be difficult to get tickets to a competition. However, it is possible to watch the morning training session from 7:30am to 10am at the sumo stable, such is called a keiko. You’ll need to be quiet and respectful as you watch these athletes practice – no chatting, flash photography, food or drinks inside the stable.
Address: There are 45 different training stables in Tokyo, mostly in the Ryogoku district
Go Fishing for Your Dinner at Zauo
Seafood doesn’t get much fresher than this! At this concept restaurant in Shinjuku, you can personally catch your dinner and then have it cooked to order any way you like – making this one of the most delicious quirky things to do in Tokyo. The entire restaurant is decorated like a boat, which adds to the atmosphere.
Address: Japan, 〒160-0023 Tokyo, Shinjuku, Nishishinjuku, 3 Chome−２−９
Watch a Robot Play Football
Asimo is one of the most famous Japanese inventions – a fully articulated robot who looks a little bit like a child wearing a spacesuit. He is able to do a number of surprising things, including playing football. Asimo can be seen at the National Museum of Emerging Science and Innovation, which is also home to an array of other fascinating futuristic exhibits.
Address: 2-3-6 Aomi, Koto-ku, Tokyo, Japan
Eat Dinner at the Ninja Restaurant
You’ll be ushered into this restaurant, a wooden building designed to resemble the interior of an ancient Japanese castle, by a nimble waiter dressed all in black. Other waiters sneak up with food and menus in an impressively stealthy way and there are also performances by a magician. The food is pretty good, but it’s the performances of the waiters and the overall theatricality of this restaurant that make it an unforgettable dining experience.
Address: 2-14-3, Nagatacho, Chiyoda-ku, Tokyo, Tokyu plaza Akasaka 1F
Stand on the Glass of the Tokyo Skytree
The Tokyo Skytree is the tallest building in Tokyo – so this is the best place to head when you want to soak up a bird’s eye view of the city. On a clear day, you can see nearly all of Tokyo. There are two observatory decks at 350m and 450m. The floor of the observatory decks is made of glass, so you will be able to look down between your feet all the way to the street below. If you are afraid of heights this might completely freak you out, but if you can handle it then it’s a pretty cool experience.
Address: Japan, 〒131-0045 Tokyo, Sumida, Oshiage, 1 Chome−１−２
Buy Something Weird from a Vending Machine
Vending machines in Japan are like nowhere else in the world. They are located everywhere and they aren’t just for Cheetos, Coke and bottled water – they dispense a wide array of odd and fascinating things. Work shirts, electronics, dog food, hair products, umbrellas, hamburgers, pizza, fermented bean curds and even used panties.
Address: All Over Tokyo
Take a Samurai Course
Have you ever dreamed of being a Samurai warrior? You can don a traditional outfit, pick up a sword and take samurai lessons at Yumenoya in Asakusa. The courses are from one to three hours and they also include a photo shoot.
Address: Venis 2nd floor, 1-36-8 Asakusa, Taito-ku, Tokyo
Cuddle Up at a Cat Café
If you believe that sipping a latte is much more enjoyable when you have a furry kitten purring in your lap, you’ll love visiting one of Tokyo’s Cat Cafes. One of the most famous ones is Nyafe Melange, which overlooks the streets of Shibuya and is home to over 14 cats ready to cuddle with you while you enjoy your coffee.
Address: All Over Tokyo
Website: The 8 Best Cat Cafe in Tokyo
Or, if that’s not weird enough for you… visit the Hedgehog Café
Maybe you have been to a Cat Café before and that isn’t weird enough for you? Ok, have you ever been to a Hedgehog café? Harry is a café where you will be able to cuddle and pet adorable spiky little hedgehogs during your visit. This odd and quirky café is very popular and difficult to get into, so make sure that you make a reservation online on their website in advance. The official cafe website states “their cuteness could make you so amazed that sometimes you need to pinch yourself.”
Address: Japan, 〒106-0032 東京都港区 六本木６丁目７−２ 岩堀ビル２F
Have Your Electronics Blessed at the Kanda Myojin Shrine
There are shrines all over Japan dedicated to many different things – but this is one of the most fascinating: a shrine devoted to the blessing of your gadgets. So, if your iPhone has been acting up or you want to make sure that your laptop doesn’t crash during your trip, why not bring your electronics here to be blessed and protection (for a small donation of course). With how technology-obsessed and gadget-crazy Tokyoites are, it actually comes as no surprise that this shrine exists.
Address: Japan, 〒101-0021 Tokyo, Chiyoda, Sotokanda, 2 Chome−１６−２
Walk Through the Tsukiji Fish Market in the Early Morning
One of the most famous attractions in Tokyo, this huge bustling fish market is the largest in the world. Early every morning a feast of bounty is fished out of the sea and put on display – glistening, fresh and in some cases still wriggling. Visiting in the morning is the best time to get the freshest fish and see the market in its full glory.
You’ll be in awe as you walk around and see some of the marine creatures sold here, from squirming squids to enormous octopi to slippery eels. If this makes your mouth water, stop and dine on some of the freshest sushi you will ever have or take some fish back to your accommodation to cook.
Address: Japan, 〒104-0045 Tokyo, Chuo, Tsukiji, 5 Chome−２−１
Learn How to Make Sushi
If you have picked up some high quality fresh fish from the Tsukiji Market but you don’t know how to prepare them, take a course first. Once you know how to make sushi you can take this skill with you and prepare your own fresh taste of Japan no matter where you are.
There are several tour companies that offer sushi making lessons and some of them are even paired up with Tsukiji Fish Market tours, so you can buy your ingredients and then make your food all in one day.
Address: Various different locations around Tokyo
Enjoy a Naked Soak in an Onsen
If you want to enjoy one of the most wonderful and relaxing traditions that Japan has to offer, you will need to be able to be comfortable being naked in front of strangers. Don’t worry too much about it – it’s normal and no one will bat an eye.
An Onsen is a public hot spring bath where you can soak for a while and relieve your sore legs after walking around temples or shopping malls all day long. When you sink into the warm waters and the steam rises up all around you, all of your cares will melt away.
Address: Various Locations Around Tokyo
Website: The Best Natural Onsen in Tokyo
Watch the Orderly Chaos of Shibuya Crossing
Shibuya Crossing is one of the biggest and most complex collections of zebra crossings in the world and every time the light changes an enormous army of people cross from one side to another. You would assume it would be a big and crazy mess, but everyone makes it across in an elegantly choreographed movement, an orderly chaos like a flock of birds moving through the sky together.
The best spot to watch it is from the Starbucks directly above the crossing, where you can check out the crowds while enjoying a drink and watching the flickering electronic billboards of Tokyo’s answer to Times Square.
Check Out the Latest Trends at Harajuku
The Harajuku district of Tokyo is the fashion district and it is where you will see some of the most outrageous styles and new trends. If you hang out on the Jingu Bridge on the weekends, you will see a dazzling display of fashionistas wearing everything from Lolita doll outfits to full face paint to elaborate corsets to colourful wigs and much more. If you like the styles, you can even go shopping at the stores along this street and bring something home for yourself.
Address: 1 Chome Jingumae, Shibuya, Tokyo 150-0001, Japan
Website: A Guide to Harajuku