Intimidation: often one of the first emotions travelers feel when they first arrive in the huge metropolis of Tokyo. Japan’s capital city has more than 13 million people and, if you have ever stood near the famous crosswalk junction in Shibuya during peak hours, you might feel overwhelmed by the sea of humanity and wish you had your friends around, for support. Yet, if you can muster up the courage and venture out to explore on your own, you will be considerably and consistently rewarded by Tokyo’s rich culture and hidden charms. Learn a few Japanese phrases, sling on a small backpack and check out these top things to do alone in Tokyo, Japan.
1. Guided tour around some temples and shrines
If you pick the right guided tour in Tokyo, not only can you avoid the confusion of crowded public transport, but you will also have a knowledgeable tour guide dispensing interesting facts and trivia about the places of interest. One of the most popular tours in Tokyo is the Temples and Shrines Morning Tour, a half-day trip visiting the most famous religious buildings in the city, such as the Meiji Shrine, the Senso-Ji Buddhist temple and the Imperial Palace. These are great sightseeing spots to be enjoyed alone, contemplating their impact on the Japanese culture.
Tokyo Temples & Shrines Morning Tour
Price: from 47 USD
Duration: 4 hours
Rating: 4.3 / 5
Number of Reviews: 12
2. Sample the fresh food at some Tsukiji Fish Market restaurants
Get up early, beat the peak-hour crowds and head towards the world-famous Tsukiji Fish Market. You will be richly rewarded with plenty of fresh breakfast choices, such as sushi, udon or omelet around the market’s many restaurants. If you go really early, like 5 a.m., you might even snare a prized “first come, first served” ticket, to see the daily tuna auction.
Sadly, the wholesale market that features thousands of stalls selling seafood of every kind is now closed, as it is getting ready to be relocated. Nonetheless, this is a must-do on your Tokyo itinerary, a marvelous distillation of Japan’s famous food culture you can lose yourself in.
Tsukiji Fish Market: 3.5-Hour Food and Drink Walking Tour
Price: from 95 USD
Duration: 3.5 hours
Rating: 5.0 / 5
Number of Reviews: 40
3. Learn about animation at the Ghibli Museum
Could this be the happiest place on earth? While this is the famous tagline of Disneyland (and there is one in Tokyo), it could also be applied to the Tokyo Ghibli Museum, located in Inokashira Park in Mitaka prefecture. This museum showcases the wonderfully joyous works of the Ghibli animation studio, including My Neighbor Totoro, Princess Mononoke and Spirited Away.
Learn about the animation process in its mock-up studio, take in the museum exhibitions and short films at your own pace, and enjoy snacks and desserts at its cafe. Don’t forget to get some cute souvenirs.
Tokyo Ghibli Museum Admission Ticket with Transfer
Price: from 52 USD
Duration: 1 day
Rating: 4.7 / 5
Number of Reviews: 28
4. Skip the lines at Tokyo Skytree
You probably want to get a bird’s-eye view of the huge metropolis of Tokyo at Tokyo Skytree, the tallest tower in the world, but hate being stuck in the long queues alone. So, beat the crowds by getting a “skip the line” admission ticket to get to the top of the tower with minimal fuss, so you have more quality time to take in the breathtaking views. Go in the evening and the tower will be lit up in different colors, for a great photo opportunity.
Tokyo: Skytree Skip-the-Line Admission Ticket
Price: from 24 USD
Duration: 1 day
Rating: 4.8 / 5
Number of Reviews: 198
5. Roam the streets on a go-kart
Racing fans can fulfill their fantasy by renting a go-kart, a mini version of a professional racecar, and go on an exhilarating exploration of the streets of Tokyo on this unique mode of transport. You can even hire a guide to accompany your go-kart ride, if you are new to the city and unsure of directions.
Some rental shops also loan out fun costumes to wear while driving the kart, ensuring that heads will turn to look at you during your travels. Note: you will need a valid international driver license to enjoy this activity.
Akihabara Go Kart Guided Tour or Rental
Price: from 27 USD
Duration: 1 hour - 2 hours
Rating: 4.8 / 5
Number of Reviews: 42
6. Dinner cruise in Tokyo Bay with Oiran performances
One great way to escape the crowds in Tokyo is to take a cruise around Tokyo Bay. There are many tour operators offering dinner cruises, where you can enjoy the night skyline of this wondrous metropolis while enjoying some fine dining. Some cruises also include shows on the cruise ship, such as an Oiran show, where traditional courtesans perform their Kabuki-style dance routines. Don’t forget your camera on this tour.
2-Hour Tokyo Bay Dinner Cruise and Oiran Show
Price: from 78 USD
Duration: 2 hours
Rating: 4.6 / 5
Number of Reviews: 31
7. Go on a pub crawl to meet fun people
If you want to meet new people, you can always head down at night to Tokyo’s numerous watering holes (called izakaya), especially those found in Roppongi, Shibuya or Shinjuku, where they are guaranteed to be filled with boisterous drinkers. Strike up a conversation, or just enjoy the fine sake, beer and finger food. Better still, sign up for a Pub Crawl tour and follow a gang of merrymakers around town, with games and activities to keep all entertained.
Tokyo Pub Crawl
Price: from 21 USD
Duration: 4.5 hours
Rating: 4.9 / 5
Number of Reviews: 27
8. Experience ancient culture with a geisha show
An “ochaya” was historically an exclusive tea house for customers, where they could be entertained by geishas. Geishas are courtesans who study the ancient traditions of art, dance and song and are distinctively characterized by their traditional costumes and makeup. Nowadays, some of these ochayas have opened to the public, who can come in for a geisha performance.
During the performance, geishas will do a traditional seasonal dance, play musical instruments and even recite some haiku poetry. This is a great way to experience Japan’s ancient culture and there are many tour operators who sell tickets for such shows.
Geisha Encounter: Cultural Experience at Chaya in Tokyo
Price: from 86 USD
Duration: 1.5 hours
Rating: 3.0 / 5
Number of Reviews: 1
9. Learn about the samurai at a museum in Shinjuku
Probably the coolest thing to come out of ancient Japanese culture, the samurai are military warriors from medieval times. Their legendary sword, unmistakable helmet and striking costume have enthralled many modern fans and one can find out more about them at the Shinjuku Samurai Museum.
While the time of the samurai has long passed and they are no more, you can learn all about them at this museum. You can even try on one of their war helmets and pose alongside the costumed samurai warriors.
Tokyo: Shinjuku Samurai Museum Entrance Ticket
Price: from 22 USD
Duration: 1 day
Rating: 4.9 / 5
Number of Reviews: 14
10. Bar-hopping for great food and drinks
Japanese food is some of the most unique in the world and many come to Tokyo to sample some of the exotic dishes. The problem is, there are so many eateries all over this huge city that you can get dizzy just trying to decide where to eat. So, why not join a bar-hopping tour, where a guide will take you around the city to chow down at some of the izakaya bars and street food stalls. It is a great way to meet some like-minded foodies and have a great night out.
Tokyo Bar-Hopping Tour
Price: from 93 USD
Duration: 3 hours
Rating: 3.5 / 5
Number of Reviews: 2
Pockets of fun everywhere
Tokyo may be gigantic, but there are pockets of fun to be discovered everywhere. Whether you are a culture vulture or a food junkie, you can always find top-rated cultural performances or eateries, all over the city. Public transport is convenient, even though it may take a few trips before you figure out the complicated network. And, you don’t really need your friends around in order to enjoy these urban pleasures.