Just because it's cold and raining in Tokyo doesn't mean you should waste the day sitting in your hotel room. Whether you're interested in touring one of the city's many museums, getting active at one of the covered sports centres, or taking a dip at a local sento (bathhouse), there are lots you can do indoors in Tokyo. Our list of incredible indoor activities proves that regardless of the weather outside, you can always have a good time in the capital.
RECOMMENDED: Best free museums in Tokyo
Best indoor activities in Tokyo
If you have just one day to devote to museum-going in Tokyo and are interested in Japanese art and artefacts, this is the place to visit. Japan’s oldest and largest museum houses over 110,000 items. The main gallery Honkan displays the permanent collection of Japanese arts and antiquities, which range from paintings, ceramics and swords to kimonos, sculptures and the like. The Toyokan building features five floors of artworks from other parts of Asia while the Gallery of Horyu-ji Treasures houses some of Japanese Buddhism’s most important and ancient artefacts from the seventh-century Horyu-ji temple in Nara. There are also a couple of restaurants in the complex, and a good gift shop.
If you’re not sure how to hit all the incredible sites Tokyo has to offer, take a tour of the historic Tokyo Station and you can see half the city without ever stepping outside. The gorgeous red-brick building is an architectural wonder, built in 1914 by the acclaimed Meiji-era (1868-1912) architect Tatsuno Kingo. Its mostly underground cavernous interior is filled with shops and restaurants, and feels like a city in itself. Sample the many different types of Japanese noodles at Tokyo Ramen Street, and then move on to the bars and izakaya at the underground ‘yokocho’ Black Fence Alley. Don’t miss Tokyo Character Street, where you can stock up on Japanese souvenirs and anime merchandise from Hello Kitty to Pokémon to Ghibli gear.
Back in 1938, Yurakucho became the very first area in Tokyo to house a planetarium. Sadly, it was destroyed during the war in 1945. But now, 80 years later, a brand-new facility has opened with two large domes and a virtual reality attraction. The first dome, a multi-purpose digital theatre, is equipped with an 8K ultra-high-definition screen that stretches from floor to ceiling. The second dome houses the planetarium, also kitted out with the latest technology. The result is as close as you can get to outer space without leaving central Tokyo.
While Toyosu doesn’t have the same soulful grit and rambling charm that were beloved about its predecessor at Tsukiji, Toyosu offers its own set of attractions. Toyosu market feels more like a collection of warehouses mixed with mini-museums than it does a market – and it's entirely indoors. It's divided into three major areas of business: The Fisheries Wholesale Market, where seafood arrives daily from Japan and all over the world and then auctioned off to wholesalers; The Fisheries Intermediate Wholesale Market, where retailers and restaurants come to shop; and the Fruit and Vegetable building. Visitors aren’t allowed down at the market floor but you can take in the view with comfort from the observation galleries above – go early (5am-6:30am) if you want to see the famous tuna auction. Plus, no visit to Toyosu is complete without enjoying some of the freshest sushi at one of the many excellent restaurants here.
This unprecedented digital art museum features 60-odd exhibitions, but true to the museum’s ‘borderless’ moniker, they are not necessarily confined to one room; they may transition from one to another seamlessly. All the exhibitions are interactive, immersive and constantly changing: you’re encouraged to touch, follow, disrupt or add to them, with specially curated music enveloping you into the experience. The museum is divided into five sections with plenty to discover, and we’d recommend setting aside a few hours to see it all.
Tokyo Sea Life Park’s glass dome (where the entrance is) doesn’t give out much, but wait until you take the escalator down to where the exhibits are. This place aims to recreate aquatic environments from around the world, and features sea creatures from across the globe as well as from local areas including Tokyo Bay. The aquarium’s most popular attraction is a 2,200 ton doughnut-shaped tank which is home to an enormous shoal of bluefin tuna. Meanwhile, seabird lovers can check out large auks, puffins and one of Japan’s biggest penguin exhibitions.
The Kabukiza Theatre has been a Ginza landmark since it opened in 1889: fires and wartime attacks damaged and almost destroyed it, but it was rebuilt every time. Traditional kabuki dance-drama performances (known for their elaborate make-up and costumes) are held most days of the month, and if you aren't sure about committing to an entire show, there are single-act tickets, called Hitomaku-mi, available for purchase at the door for around ¥1,000 to ¥2,000. Even if you’re not catching a show, you could easily spend a few hours here as there are restaurants and shops on-site, as well as an interactive kabuki museum on the first floor of the adjacent tower.
Located in the heart of the Yanesen area, this large and woody two-story gym is equipped with an extensive variety of walls directed at everyone from beginners up to advanced-level climbers. Start at the first-timer area, and work your way up to bigger and more difficult walls. The free training service is a nice touch, too.
Can’t get enough of stationery? Ginza Itoya sells everything from regular stationery and Japanese calligraphy goods to fancy fountain pens, designer paper, art tools and more. The first eight floors are reserved for shopping and are divided by function (think 'home', 'desk', etc), while the higher floors host a business lounge and an urban vegetable farm with salad leaves grown in hydroponic bins (the greens are then used in the dishes served at the 12th floor café). You can also get your mail sorted on the second floor: purchase your cards and letters, write and decorate them at a designated space, and then send them off at the in-store postal area.
Are you a ping pong (or table tennis) fan? You'll be very happy at T4 Tokyo, a multi-facility complex in Shibuya complete with a restaurant, bar and shops, all of which are themed after the game – even the food and drink menu. The shop sells gear from Victas, the preferred brand of the Japanese national men's table tennis team; there's a table tennis school; and enough tables to play to your batting heart's delight.
This impressive-looking spa complex is apparently inspired by the popular Thermae Romae series of manga and movies. Open 24 hours daily, Thermae-Yu features hot spring baths and rotenburo (supplied with onsen water from Izu daily), stone saunas, a full-on beauty salon, scrub treatments and a lounge complete with a café, bar and restaurant.
The frightful weather getting you down? Blow off some steam by swinging a bat at mechanical pitches or perfect your fastball in the bullpen. This batting centre is instantly recognisable by the giant glove above the entrance and stays open until 1am every day.
This indoor amusement park in Odaiba is packed with Sega’s virtual-reality attractions, where you'll find twenty thrilling rides spread out across three entire floors. Rest assured, bilingual instructions are available for each game.
Hop on a boat of the virtual Wild River ride and be part of an exciting rafting adventure, or board the Wild Wing, a hang-glider moving through tropical islands. The Zero Latency VR attraction, on the other hand, is perfect for gamers who always dreamed of turning into one of their video game heroes. Team up with five of your friends and fight dozens of wild zombies while you're armed with a laser gun plus the latest equipment in VR technology.
At 60m x 30m, this is a full-scale, international competition-sized rink that can accommodate ice hockey and other sports. Situated inside the Citizen Plaza entertainment complex in Takadanobaba, the rink is open to the public except for early morning and evening hours. Open for business year-round, the facility also provides a range of skating classes for everyone from children to senior citizens. The same building hosts a 40-lane bowling alley, tennis courts and dance studios.
This mini theatre in the heart of Shibuya screens a great selection of music- and art-related films and documentaries. It’s managed by the film production house and distributor Uplink, which distributes films including Alejandro Jodorowsky’s ‘Endless Poetry’ and Xavier Dolan’s ‘Tom at the Farm’. This movie theatre also features a gallery, a market and the Tabera restaurant serving some fantastic Middle Eastern cuisine. Oh, don’t miss the weekday happy hour (3pm-7pm) where beer and wine go for ¥250.
Located on Sunshine 60’s 251m-high top floor, this observation deck features funfair-style attractions – think VR-enhanced adventure rides and a mirror-covered photo spot – right next to a superb 360° view over the city. Try and spot the Tokyo Skytree, Tokyo Tower, Mt Fuji and Yokohama’s Landmark Tower in this Instagram-worthy panorama.
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