what to do in tokyo

Some things in Tokyo, like Kabukicho Robot Restaurant, you just have to see to believe. (Photo: Getty Images)


Flipping Perspective: See Tokyo in a New Light

So you’ve already paid your respects at the Meiji Shrine and smiled at kimono-clad locals strolling the streets around Asakusa? Maybe you’ve even channeled Scarlett Johansson while strolling along Hachiko Crossing in Shibuya, made famous by “Lost in Translation,” or gawked at the wonderful weirdness of Harajuku. Think you know all there is to know about Tokyo? Think again.

Whether you’re visiting for the second time or have lived there for years, there is always something new to discover in this vast metropolis. Plan another trip or an indulgent staycation and check out these lesser-known gems.

READ ALSO: The Ten Commandments of Sushi

Friday Morning

You’ve probably already woken up at some ungodly hour to scarf sashimi at Tsukiji Market. Now it’s time to do as the locals do and explore some of the multitude of other eateries clustered around the area.

Your first stop should be Tenfusa Tempura (5-2-1 Tsukiji, Chuo-ko), which serves a batter-fried anago (saltwater eel) so greaseless and feather-light it practically levitates.

Friday Afternoon

Kabukicho Robot Restaurant is something that simply must be seen to be believed. To call it a cabaret would hardly do justice to this delirious spectacle full of lasers, giant automatons and dancing girls all battling for supreme domination.

The food is mediocre, but that’s not why you’re here. Because this is Tokyo, production values are freakishly high, and it is virtually impossible not to get swept up in the sheer insanity of it all.

The opening act starts at 3:10 p.m., but like everywhere in this city, this establishment is strict about punctuality, and anyone who arrives less than half an hour before the show will forgo their seat. Don’t make this mistake — you’re going to want to see this.

Friday Night

From the legendary Jiro Ono to the culinary heroes behind the city’s 10,000-plus ramen shops, many of Tokyo’s finest chefs specialize in doing just one thing really, really well. That includes transplants like Australian Sarah Crago, who helms the kitchen at Out.

Don’t bother looking at a menu here, because you won’t find much of one. The only dish available is a perfect plate of house-made tagliatelle cloaked in a velvety sauce with shavings of fresh truffle. It comes with a glass of full-bodied red — or Champagne, if you’re feeling fancy — accompanied by a pounding Led Zeppelin soundtrack.

what to do in tokyo
Nope, it’s not a gimmick. Check out the monks at Vowz Bar. (Photo: Getty Images)

A bar run by Buddhist monks? Only in Tokyo. Make no mistake though, while Vowz Bar might sound like a gimmick, the devout staff are serious about their, ahem, vows.

Yoshinobu Fujioka is a member of an indie rock band and the Jōdo Shinshū sect, which has fairly relaxed views on minor vices like the consumption of alcohol. He and his monastic colleagues aren’t out to convert anyone, but rather to spread a gentle message of tolerance to anyone who wishes to receive it.

Patrons can enjoy tipples with cheeky names like Gokuraku-Jodo (Nirvana in the Pure Land) or tune in for the nightly chanting.

Saturday Morning

what to do in tokyo
More robots? Yes, please. (Photo: Getty Images)

Maybe you’ve already snapped the obligatory selfie in front of the Tokyo Tower, but have you visited the 65-foot-high Gundam robot looming over Tokyo Bay?

The original statue first popped up in 2009 to celebrate the 30th anniversary of the beloved anime series. Erected in 2017, the new version of the monstrous mecha fires off lasers, shoots smoke and plays disco music. What better way to start your day?

Saturday Afternoon

When self-professed surfer-dude and seafood junkie Teruyuki Tange decided to open an izakaya back in 1985, he wanted to do it his own way. The result is Kaikaya by the Sea, an unpretentious joint specializing in dishes like slow-braised tuna ribs and pristine Hokkaido prawns.

Deliciousness trumps tradition in this kitchen, which is why your sashimi is equally likely to come with Italian adornments like a classic crudo as it is a knob of fresh wasabi root.

No one is ever too old to pay a visit to the whimsical world of Kiki, Ponyo and Totoro. The Ghibli Museum is a trip down memory lane for fans of Hayao Miyazaki, the genius behind films such as “Princess Mononoke,” “Spirited Away” and “Howl’s Moving Castle.”

Saturday Night

There’s a good reason DEN is one of the toughest tables to score in this gastronomically obsessed town. Rockstar chef Zaiyu Hasegawa may be a Michelin darling, but his style of cooking remains utterly irreverent and, frankly, much more fun than many of his critically acclaimed peers.

Beg your hotel concierge to book well in advance and settle in for a tasting menu full of surprises like a faux-KFC box with a single glutinous rice-and-edamame-stuffed chicken wing and a Starbucks-style mug with a “cappuccino” made of burnt caramel infused with black truffle.

If you’re looking for fancy cocktails or raucous conversation, head to another bar, but if the thought of an evening of ultra-smooth jazz and Japanese whisky appeals, sidle up to one of the few seats at JBS (1-17-10 Dogenzaka, Shibuya), a jazz bar stocked with more than 11,000 vinyl records.