Tokyo skyline at night
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50 reasons why Tokyo is the greatest city on Earth

From food and fashion to nightlife and unique events, here are just a few reasons why we can't get enough of Tokyo

Written by
Time Out Tokyo Editors
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Way back in our our inaugural magazine issue in 2013, when Tokyo had just been appointed the host of the 2020 Summer Olympics and Paralympics, we set ourselves the impossible task of enumerating all the things that make Tokyo great – we stopped at 50 but could easily have kept going. Now, eight years on, with Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics behind us, we decided to revisit that list and update it for a new decade.

We weren't surprised that a recent global survey by Time Out named Tokyo one of the top ten best cities in the world. Of course, there are numerous cool new attractions that weren’t around in 2013, but the overall character of Tokyo is different now, too. Tokyo has transformed so much. It’s become more edgy, more global and even more vibrant, but one thing hasn’t changed at all: Tokyo is still the greatest city in the world. Here’s 50 reasons why.

RECOMMENDED: 101 things to do in Tokyo

City pride

Because Tokyo is resilient
Photo: Vincentstthomas/Dreamstime

1. Because Tokyo is resilient

Covid-19 isn’t behind us just yet, but if there’s one thing the pandemic has proven, it’s that this city can get through anything. In those unsteady early days of 2020, Tokyoites were quick to bring out their face masks and hand sanitiser and adhere to all the new safety measures. Even through three separate states of emergency, people kept helping each other out: donating unused face masks to the needy, helping the elderly book vaccination appointments and supplying goods to food banks.

There’s no doubt the past 18 months have changed the world forever, and Tokyo hasn’t been spared. But our beloved city is no stranger to sudden change. Tokyo has weathered typhoons, fires and earthquakes, coming out the other side different, reinvented, and always on its feet. Tokyo’s adaptability is exactly what makes it so resilient. We know Tokyo can adapt to all this, too – and we can’t wait to get back out there and see what’s new. Tokyo will always be here, ready when you are.

2. Because Tokyo is more than just one city

Technically, Tokyo isn’t a city at all – it’s a metropolis made up of 26 different cities, a handful of towns and villages and 23 central wards. That’s not just a piece of pub trivia; it’s key to understanding how Tokyo works. The sheer size of the Tokyo Metropolis – around 14 million people living over 2,191sq km – means Tokyo doesn’t have one single mood. Each city has its own personality, which you discover as you go from the glitz of Shinjuku and the relentless cool of Shibuya to the old-fashioned roguish charm of Toshima. Once you think you’ve got that down-pat, you realise even the neighbourhoods within each city have their own distinctive character: Tsukiji and Ginza are right next to each other in Chuo ward, but they look like polar opposites.

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3. Because Tokyoites are the most considerate people on the planet

Tokyo is the most populous city in the world, known for its densely packed urban landscape. But it seldom feels overcrowded because Tokyoites generally have exceptional manners – and we don’t mean just saying ‘please’ and ‘thank you’.

People here are considerate of those around them and try to avoid doing anything that could annoy or inconvenience others. That means you won’t hear loud conversations, ringtones or music blasting on the train (people have their phones set to ‘manner mode’, aka silent mode). Most indoor public spaces are treated the same way, so cafés and bars are free of annoying phone calls and cinemagoers remain tight-lipped until after the credits finish rolling.

Because Tokyo is serious about sustainability
Photo: Tokyo Salad

4. Because Tokyo is serious about sustainability

In Tokyo, sustainability is central to city planning, with the goal of drawing 30 percent of the capital’s power from renewable sources by 2030, then upping that to 100 percent renewables and net zero emissions by 2050. It’s ambitious, but if any city can do it, Tokyo can. Local businesses are committed to sustainability, too; the capital is full of bright, green ideas like growing salad greens under the Tozai line train tracks (Tokyo Salad), or trendy tote bags made of discarded umbrellas (Plasticity) and street banners (Hataraku Tote). 

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Because Tokyo is always evolving
Photo: Kisa Toyoshima

5. Because Tokyo is always evolving

Tokyo has a long history of reinventing itself, going back way before the salarymen replaced the samurai. The rapid pace of modernisation hasn’t slowed down since then, and urban renewal projects are everywhere.

Shibuya seems to be constantly outdoing itself. Within the last couple of years, it has opened Miyashita Park (pictured), the chic shopping mall with a rooftop park, as well as the impressive Shibuya Scramble Square with its vertigo-inducing rooftop observation deck (one of the best in Tokyo). Older districts are given a new lease on life as well, like Nihonbashi, which recently preserved a historical bank building to house a boutique hotel (K5), a modern Japanese restaurant (Caveman) and a cocktail den (Ao Bar), turning it from boring and buttoned-up into Tokyo’s coolest neighbourhood in 2020. 

The Toranomon-Azabudai Project in particular is a colossal undertaking that will create a new kind of Tokyo neighbourhood, where futuristic buildings designed by Thomas Heatherwick and Pelli Clarke Pelli Architects blend in seamlessly with lawns, gardens, trees and water features. More impressively, when completed in 2023, the district will be powered by 100 percent renewable energy.

6. Because customer service here is next level

Service is everything: it creates a lasting impression and elevates your experience. There’s a word for it in Japanese: omotenashi, which translates to the warm, selfless and unparalleled hospitality that’s become a key part of Tokyo’s charm. Service in Tokyo is so intuitive that you can be assured you'll be thoroughly looked after even without having to explicitly ask for it, whether you're in a five-star hotel or a neighbourhood izakaya.

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Because Tokyo is a city of contrasts
Photo: TKTKTK/Dreamstime

7. Because Tokyo is a city of contrasts

Tokyo is a perfect mix of tradition and modernity. To travel through time without leaving a walkable section of downtown, grab a snack at a local market (Tsukiji), catch a centuries-old kabuki show (Kabukiza; pictured), stop by a standing bar for a glass of sake (Shubiduba) and then peruse the ritzy Ginza Six department store.

Because in Tokyo, futuristic technology is part of everyday life
Photo: Keisuke Tanigawa

8. Because in Tokyo, futuristic technology is part of everyday life

Where else but Tokyo would you expect to order a coffee from a robot, or have the checkout machine automatically recognise your items by shape and calculate your bill?

Sure, Tokyo’s space-age toilets have features that seem baffling at first, but you’ll find yourself counting on that heated seat in winter. And there’s no need to worry, the technology isn’t designed to replace people – the robots that wait tables at DAWN Avatar Robot Cafe, for example, are remotely controlled by humans, some of whom may not be physically able to do the job without robotic assistance.

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Because everything has a mascot
Photo: Koronon

9. Because everything has a mascot

Tokyo loves its cutesy characters, from Pikachu to Hello Kitty, and it’s common to see people in life-size costumes outside train stations. But you’ll also find an ever-growing D-list of questionable mascots all around the city. Almost every random brand, city office, government initiative and sports team in Japan has its own marketing mascot and Tokyo has some of the best (or worst, depending on how you look at it).

Shibuya has the dubious honour of being home to Soft Kuriinu, a bright pink dog turd (yes, really) who’s committed to keeping the streets clean. And 2020 gave us Koronon, a cat who fights coronavirus by handing out free face masks.

Because Tokyo is a city of global icons
Photo: Sean Pavone/Dreamstime

10. Because Tokyo is a city of global icons

Every great city has its iconic landmarks, but Tokyo is in a class of its own. The Shibuya Scramble Crossing is estimated to be the world’s busiest pedestrian crossing. The massive vermillion gates at Asakusa’s Sensoji Temple are one of the city’s definitive nighttime scenes and just across the river stands the 634m-tall Tokyo Skytree. Better yet, the almighty Godzilla watches over us, protecting us from his lofty home in Shinjuku.

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Because Tokyo is very walkable
Photo: Fermatastock/Dreamstime

11. Because Tokyo is very walkable

Walking is the best way to discover Tokyo’s weird and wonderful neighbourhood restaurants, stores and cafés that you might otherwise miss if you were taking public transport. One of the best districts to explore on foot is Shibuya, which includes smaller neighbourhoods such as Ebisu and Daikanyama.

For a city-centre nature walk, opt for a stroll through trendy Tomigaya, which leads to the lush Meiji Shrine grounds (pictured) besides Yoyogi Park. Or take a tripalongtheold-schoolstreets of Yanesen, the collective name for three of Tokyo’s best preserved traditional neighbourhoods: Yanaka, Nezu and Sendagi.

Because the public transport system is second to none
Photo: HK-SAN/PhotoAC

12. Because the public transport system is second to none

Tokyo's train system is ridiculously efficient. In fact, punctuality is such an obsession here that railway companies will apologise if a train departs a few seconds earlier than scheduled. There’s also a network of buses and trams criss-crossing the capital, ready to take you anywhere the trains don’t reach.

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Because Tokyo is a city of subcultures
Photo: Kisa Toyoshima

13. Because Tokyo is a city of subcultures

No matter how wacky, unorthodox or specific your style is, you'll always be able to find a dedicated haunt and a tribe of like-minded people. In districts like Shibuya, you’ll often spot groups of lace-loving lolitas, fairy kei youth sporting pastel trinkets and gyaru with deliberately dishevelled schoolgirl uniforms, but that’s just a small fraction of Tokyo’s diverse range of subcultures.

Subcultures in Tokyo aren’t just limited to the way you dress – you’ll find venues and even whole neighbourhoods catering to what you’re into. Nostalgic rockabillies with slicked-back hair can be found showing off their dance moves in Yoyogi Park on the weekends, while wota (idol group fanatics) often head to stores like Johnny’s Shop in Harajuku to hunt for exclusive merch together. 

Because Tokyo is perfect for singles and introverts
Photo: Kisa Toyoshima

14. Because Tokyo is perfect for singles and introverts

While dinner and drinks for one might look like a cry for help in other cities, in Tokyo going out on your own is the norm. Most venues are set up for solo customers.

Ramen chain Ichiran is famous for its ‘flavour concentration booths’ with serving windows and dividers designed to give single diners a little privacy, but its commitment to solo slurping isn’t unique. High-end restaurants like Fushikino (pictured) and The Blind Donkey serve up gourmet meals to diners around an open kitchen – a perfect dinner for one.

To stop noisy parties dominating the room, some bars even ban groups altogether, like Hitori in Shinjuku, which only allows lone drinkers to enter. You can easily go a whole day out in the capital barely saying a word to anyone. That’s not to say Tokyo is unfriendly, but people will respect your personal space when you need it most.

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Because the LGBTQ+ community is small but fierce
Photo: Keisuke Tanigawa

15. Because the LGBTQ+ community is small but fierce

It's impossible not to be in awe of the local LGBTQ+ community in its tireless fight for equality. The movement isn’t limited to those who identify as sexual minorities either, as the number of allies and activists at the annual Tokyo Rainbow Pride keeps growing every year. Shinjuku’s Ni-chome district is especially welcoming to queer folks. There are the iconic gay clubs with their awe- inspiring drag shows, but the community also provides refuge and a platform to help sexual minorities find their footing. At Pride House Tokyo Legacy (pictured), Japan’s first permanent LGBTQ+ support centre, people can go for workshops and counselling on relationships, employment issues and more. 

Because Tokyo is becoming more accessible
Photo: Tsukiji Hongwanji Temple

16. Because Tokyo is becoming more accessible

Accessibility can be a challenge in a densely packed city like Tokyo, but we're seeing more new initiatives cropping up every day. Tourist attractions including temples (Tsukiji Hongwanji), observation decks (Tokyo Skytree), and museums (Nezu Museum) are going barrier-free. Even bathhouses like Mikokuyu have become fully accessible. Meanwhile, specialist tour agency Omakase offers a one-day excursion to the best accessible spots in town. 

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17. Because Tokyo is spotlessly clean

Bins are hard to come by on the streets of Tokyo, but you won’t see any rubbish lying around – and that’s because cleanliness is ingrained into the culture here. As for where all the rubbish goes, there are bins at convenience stores and train stations, but many people just take their trash home. It’s a habit that’s remarkably easy to get into. Naturally, the same culture of cleanliness extends to public toilets, trains and buses, too.

18. Because Tokyo offers great value

Tokyo often tops the world's most expensive cities lists, but that’s not the full picture. Sure, the cost of living is high but you get great quality for what you pay for. From ¥100 stores to designer goods, cheap bento meals for under ¥500 to ¥30,000 kaiseki dinners, Tokyo can be as affordable as you need it to be and as luxurious as you’d like it to be.

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Because in Tokyo, no interest is too niche
Photo: #000T Kabukicho

19. Because in Tokyo, no interest is too niche

Tokyo is rightly famous for its diverse and oddly specific array of goods, services and hangout spots for people with niche interests. It’s common for speciality shops to only sell one thing, often catering to an extremely exacting clientele. Ginza’s Solco, for instance, sells only varieties of salt, the Morioka Shoten bookshop only sells one title at a time, while #000T in Kabukicho has a huge range of black T-shirts and nothing else. Even if you’re not on the hunt for a particular product, there are places all over the city where you can chat with like-minded individuals, like the architecture café Sumika Shinjuku, or the death metal and horror-flick-themed bar Deathmatch in Hell.

20. Because Tokyo is the safest of cities

With one of the lowest crime rates in the world and residents with a high level of civic consciousness, Tokyo is so safe that children go to school unaccompanied, and people leave their valuables like laptops on café tables unattended. Jaded about humanity? Tokyo will restore your faith in the goodness of people.

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Because Tokyo is attuned to the seasons
Photo: Navapon Plodprong/Dreamstime

21. Because Tokyo is attuned to the seasons

The Japanese way of life is about being in harmony with the seasons – a trait that has also shaped the personality of the capital. Every season brings out a different side of the metropolis, changes the cityscape, calls for different celebrations, and serves up different food and flavours.

Spring brings joy as the city bursts into a sea of pink cherry blossoms while the longer summer days host vibrant street festivals (although the pandemic has temporarily put a stop to that). In autumn, the city mellows as leaves turn yellow and red and nabe hotpot becomes the go-to meal. Come winter, the city compensates for the longer nights with sparkling illuminations that light up the streets and public spaces.

Food & drink

Because Tokyo gave the world sushi
Photo: Keisuke Tanigawa

22. Because Tokyo gave the world sushi

Can you imagine a life without sushi? We can't. Sushi may have been born in the Edo period (1603-1868) out of necessity (the need to feed hungry workers fast and cheap) and abundance (fresh seafood off Tokyo Bay), but it has grown into an indispensable part of global food culture, eaten and revered around the world. Still, no other city does it quite like Tokyo: since the freshness and the quality of the fish are a given –thanks to Toyosu Market, the world's largest seafood market – chefs distinguish themselves through impeccable knife skills and their unique take on the sushi rice, resulting in an extraordinary morsel of food that's unlike anything you've ever tasted. 

Because Tokyo has the best food in the world
Photo: Den

23. Because Tokyo has the best food in the world

The proof is in the Michelin guide. With the latest 2021 figures, Tokyo maintains its crown as the city boasting not just the most Michelin stars (278 for those counting) but also the highest number of starred restaurants (212) in the world.

However, that doesn’t mean good food in Tokyo is elitist or unattainable. Quite the opposite, asmanyoftheseillustrious restaurants offer affordable lunches that hover around the ¥1,500 mark. So if you’re looking to splurge, treat yourself to a perfectly executed modern Japanese kaiseki meal at the two- starred Den, or go cheap with a bowl of seafood-based ramen at the one-Michelin-starred Konjiki Hototogisu – either way you’ll end up having some of the best meals of your life.

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Because Tokyo is an excellent place for a drink
Photo: The SG Club

24. Because Tokyo is an excellent place for a drink

Tokyo is home to some of the best cocktail bars around – and we’re not the only ones who think so. In the expanded list of Asia’s 50 Best Bars for 2021, Japan claimed more spots than any other destination, and the vast majority of those world-class bars are in Tokyo.

Shibuya’s raucous SG Club serves up twists on classic cocktails in a handsome space, while the quieter Gen Yamamoto pioneered omakase cocktail tasting courses. At the other end of the scale, Shinjuku’s famous Golden Gai alleyways boast more bars per square metre than anywhere in the world. Whatever your poison, Tokyo has a bar to quench your thirst.

If you think Tokyo is only good at Japanese food, you are seriously misguided. Some of the world’s top chefs have raved about the excellent pizza in our beloved city, while Associazione Verace Pizza Napoletana, the authority for Neapolitan pizza, has honoured more than ten pizzerias in Tokyo for their authenticity. Japan’s obsession with precision and perfection has no doubt led to this accolade and you can taste it yourself at Savoy (pictured), Seirinkan and Pizzeria da Peppe Napoli Sta’ Ca”, just to name a few.

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Because Tokyo has a café for everything
Photo: Benelic

26. Because Tokyo has a café for everything

Themed cafés are all the range in Tokyo. Almost every franchise and character, regardless of whether it's Japanese or an import, has its own café in Tokyo, from Gundam and Pokémon to the Moomins and Snoopy. And it’s more than just the decor; these hangouts even serve up food and drinks presented in the likeness of their namesakes. Fashion brands are also getting in on the game. Louis Vuitton recently opened Le Café V, which doesn’t exist anywhere outside of Japan, in its jaw-droppingly beautiful Ginza Namiki store.

Because the city's Japanese cuisine is constantly evolving
Photo: Keisuke Tanigawa

27. Because the city's Japanese cuisine is constantly evolving

The world loves Japanese food for its clean flavours that celebrate seasonal ingredients. Tokyo takes the cuisine a step further by exploring its versatility, marrying Japanese techniques and produce with some of the world’s most revered cuisines – to great effect. Here you’ll find bold, innovative restaurants offering inspired takes on Japanese-French (Florilège), Japanese-Vietnamese (Andi) as well as Modern European-Japanese food (Kabi; pictured). To experience what’s new and next in gastronomy, Tokyo’s the city to be in.

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Because no one does desserts like Tokyo
Photo: Keisuke Tanigawa

28. Because no one does desserts like Tokyo

Tokyo’s penchant for sweets manifests itself in many amazing ways. Dainty wagashi, or traditional confectionery that’s often eaten with tea, are treated like delicate works of edible art while parfaits and kakigori (shaved ice desserts) pile up the ingredients to become heaping towers of deliciousness that look as fantastic as they taste. Some of our favourites include Nanaya Aoyama, a dedicated matcha ice cream shop, Patisserie Asako Iwayanagi for its visually stunning parfaits, and Ginza Ginger (pictured) for its bowls of fluffy ginger-infused shaved ice.

Because you’ll find the most bizarre, unique, OTT experiences
Photo: Time Out Tokyo

29. Because you’ll find the most bizarre, unique, OTT experiences

It’s no secret that Tokyo is chock-full of attractions, and some of them are well and truly mind-blowing. Tokyo just takes things one step further than the rest of the world, like adding a live band to your karaoke session at Ban x Kara Zone-R, or sweating it out in teamLab’s immersive art sauna. We’ve also got robot waiters at Pepper Parlor (pictured), art aquariums filled with thousands of glittering goldfish, and impressively detailed themed restaurants (Vampire Cafe), which even locals can’t quite believe exist.

To top it off, the city’s game centres are so impressive that some of them have even broken Guinness World Records, like the Sega Shinjuku Kabukicho for being the arcade with the most claw machines (477!), and the Gashapon Department Store in Ikebukuro with a whopping total of 3,000 capsule toy dispensers. If you think you’ve seen it all, you just haven’t been in Tokyo for long enough.

Attractions

Because Tokyo is home to some of the world's most revered contemporary artists
© Yayoi Kusama

30. Because Tokyo is home to some of the world's most revered contemporary artists

Who in the world doesn’t know Yayoi Kusama and Takashi Murakami? Both contemporary artists, two of the most celebrated names of our time, are based in this great city. The red-haired nonagenarian figure synonymous with trippy infinity rooms, polka dots and pumpkins has her own museum in Shinjuku, while the originator of Superflat has a shop in Nakano Broadway as well as a gallery in Motoazabu (Kaikai Kiki Gallery).

Tokyo is full of green spaces, from the sprawling Inokashira Park and Meiji Shrine’s 70-hectare city-centre forest – filled with trees that are a century old – to the traditional Japanese gardens dotted around town like Hamarikyu. You’ll also find nature in unexpected places, such as the Meguro Sky Garden, which is built on the roof of a circular loop junction on the Metropolitan Expressway. To escape the city without leaving Tokyo, grab a direct train from Shinjuku Station and go hiking at Okutama (pictured). 

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Because Tokyoites are always fashionable
Photo: Ambush

32. Because Tokyoites are always fashionable

Tokyo invented teh boxy, oversized silhouette that has become one of the most popular styles in today’s fashion. The city is also widely regarded as a streetwear capital, with its hip youth culture influencing global fashion trends. Plus, Tokyo is home to some of the world’s most sought-after designers. You can shop for the latest fashions here before anyone else can get their hands on them because cult labels such as Ambush only have boutiques in Tokyo, while renowned Japanese brands including Undercover and Sacai have their flagship stores in the capital.

Because Tokyo is an art city
Photo: Cowardlion/Dreamstime

33. Because Tokyo is an art city

Art may sometimes seem elitist, but in Tokyo art is accessible for everyone. World class galleries like Mori Art Museum and The National Museum of Western Art, Tokyo – designed by Le Corbusier and listed as a Unesco World Heritage Site – are just a fraction of what the city has to offer. No matter where you are, you’re also bound to stumble across public sculptures that have shaped the city’s identity, from Louise Bourgeois’s splindly Maman sculpture in Roppongi Hills (pictured) to the vibrant murals sprawled across Koenji and Tennozu Isle.

Tokyo is also at the forefront of new art mediums and immersive installations. There are the mesmerising permanent exhibits by teamLab, as well as the transitory projects presented by the interdisciplinary collective Naked, Inc that are often held at Tokyo landmarks. At any one of BnA’s impressive art hotels in Koenji, Nihonbashi or Akihabara, you can stay overnight in a one-of-a-kind room created by a local artist.

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Because Tokyo is unbelievably photogenic
Photo: Time Out Tokyo

34. Because Tokyo is unbelievably photogenic

Tokyo’s tightly-packed urban sprawl may not appear as an obvious beauty but the metropolis is made for the camera. It isn’t all sleek skyscrapers; it’s got a different look for everyone. If you’re into edgy architecture, stroll down fancy Omotesando, while those who prefer atmospheric alleyways love Nakano or Shinjuku’s Omoide Yokocho. Trainspotters flock to the terrace at the Tokyo Kotsu Kaikan building in Yurakucho to get shots of futuristic shinkansen zipping above the city streets. You could run an Instagram account that just documents Tokyo’s one-of-a-kind artistic manhole covers.

Speciality stores like Shinjuku’s Kitamura Camera are everywhere and can furnish you with the latest photography gear. Film purists, meanwhile, can still revel in the joys of analogue photography at the myriad second-hand an dold-school photo shops across the city.

Japan’s convenience stores, lovingly known as konbini, are the best in the world. In fact, you could live out of a konbini. These always-open local superheroes are a lifesaver, offering everything from groceries and ready-to-eat meals to emergency purchases like phone chargers and even clothes. Konbini are also the place to do all your errands, from photocopying and printing to settling your utility bills and getting cash out. Some konbini even have seating areas where you can settle down for a quick meal or just take a break.

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Because the architecture is incredible
Photo: Sean Pavone/Dreamstime

36. Because the architecture is incredible

Tokyo’s architecture isn’t just stunning – it’s also wildly diverse. Ancient buildings like Kiyomizu Kannondo in Ueno Park are carefully preserved as examples of traditional Japanese architecture. However, a history of earthquakes means buildings are torn down and rebuilt frequently. Rather than leading to bland tower blocks, this seems to spur Tokyo’s architects to greater heights, like the Mode Gakuen Cocoon Tower in Shinjuku or Kenzo Tange’s Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building, designed to resemble a semiconductor circuit from above.

Because the city is a shopping haven
Photo: Keisuke Tanigawa

37. Because the city is a shopping haven

If you think money can’t buy happiness, you obviously haven’t shopped in Tokyo, especially in Ginza. From homegrown designers to international labels, you’ll find the world’s best brands here. Tokyo’s got more flagships than most ports, with big-name brands like Muji and Yamaha operating one-of-a-kind multi-storey city-centre stores offering an overwhelming selection. Plus, the city regularly gets special editions of everything from KitKats to cult sneakers, exclusive to Tokyo.

Better yet, many stores here offer clothes in Asian fit and sizes. Away from malls, the city is also home to districts focused on certain types of shopping: the kitchen town of Kappabashi, Nippori for fabrics, Akihabara for all your manga and anime needs, and Ochanomizu for musical instruments.

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38. Because Tokyo’s got some of the wackiest designs

As much as we love to tout Marie Kondo’s fail-proof tidying methods, it’s hard to be a minimalist in Tokyo when just about everything ‘sparks joy’. Goods like erasable pens, staple-free staplers, transparent umbrellas and cooling deodorant wipes might seem like novelty items to some, but in Tokyo they’re everyday essentials.

Mega home goods stores like Tokyu Hands make it especially difficult to exercise self control. There are portable hand massagers to soothe texting fatigue, microwave cookers for everything from eggs to pasta, and canned beer which foams up like a draught pint the moment you crack it open. Sure, some things are borderline excessive, like the infamous umbrella hat, yet it’s hard to feel buyer’s remorse when everything you buy is so brilliantly designed.

Because nightlife here means more than just hitting the clubs
Photo: Keisuke Tanigawa

39. Because nightlife here means more than just hitting the clubs

Sure, the pandemic has temporarily put the brakes on the city’s famously till-the-early-hours nightlife. While we’ll never stop boasting about Tokyo’s heavy-hitting bars and clubs, that’s not all the city’s nightlife has to offer.

Tokyo is a city of nightowls, so on any given night, you’ll find people flocking to karaoke parlours to sing their heart out or spotcha centres – indoor sports arcades – like Shibuya EST to blow off steam by bowling or throwing a few darts. Not looking for a riotous night out? There is an abundance of low-key options, including late-night parfait parlours like Parfaiteria Momobukuro as well as luxe, multi-level super sento (bathhouses) like Edoyu in Ryogoku for a relaxing steam session at the end of a long day.

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Because Tokyo's got the most teamLab installations
© teamLab, courtesy of Pace Gallery

40. Because Tokyo's got the most teamLab installations

The world-conquering art collective teamLab have put their stamp all over the city with dedicated museums, temporary installations and free artworks for people to enjoy.

If you’ve already checked teamLab Borderless and teamLab Planets Tokyo off your list, then make a reservation at MoonFlower Sagaya Ginza (pictured). This spectacular private dining room projects ever-changing digital art on the table and into the surrounding space as you eat. For teamLab art that you can see for free, check out the outdoor digital monolith at teamLab Planets as well as a stunning mural at Tokyo Skytree, an 11m-tall waterfall at Ginza Six, and a continuously changing floral display inside Kitte shopping complex.

Tokyo has the most beautiful public toilets in the world. Like so many everyday things here, public loos are designed with a level of care that you just don’t see anywhere else. Shibuya’s new transparent public toilet block – with cubicles that turn opaque when locked – captured headlines around the world, but it’s just part of the Tokyo Toilet Project, in which world class architects and designers like Kengo Kuma and Tadao Ando create accessible, lavish lavatories for anyone to use. Some look like origami and some look like spaceships, but they all look like works of art.

Culture & tradition

Because it’s a book-loving city
Photo: Kisa Toyoshima

42. Because it’s a book-loving city

We might be in the age of the Kindle, but you’d never know it in Tokyo. The city is home to endless bookshops as well as book-themed hotels and cafés. Although you’ll find many small, independently run bookstores in areas like Jimbocho, bookworms will also appreciate the capital’s love of print on display at Tokyo’s mega-bookstores like the stunning Daikanyama T-Site (pictured). Here you can take your time to freely browse popular paperbacks, magazines and art books, all with a drink in hand.

Book hotels like Book and Bed Tokyo are ideal for those who want to sleep surrounded by paperbacks, and they’re also open by the hour if you’d rather just come in for a reading break.

Because Tokyo is the spiritual home of sumo
Photo: Nihon Sumo Kyokai

43. Because Tokyo is the spiritual home of sumo

As a sacred national sport, sumo wrestling can seem unapproachable to an outsider, with sumo wrestlers appearing as elusive as Kyoto’s geisha, but Tokyo makes it easier to witness this ancient martial art. There are only six national basho (tournaments) a year and three of those are held in Sumida’s Ryogoku Kokugikan – it’s Japan’s national sumo stadium and Tokyo’s largest indoor arena.

Even if your trip to Tokyo doesn’t coincide with wrestling season, you can still get in on the action by watching an early morning wrestling practice at the Arashio-beya Sumo Stable, or immerse yourself in sumo culture via your stomach by indulging in chanko nabe hotpot, a sumo wrestler’s preferred meal.

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Because Tokyo’s street festivals are out of this world
Photo: Makoto Honda/Dreamstime

44. Because Tokyo’s street festivals are out of this world

Tokyo loves a good festival, and there’s no better time to experience this than in spring and summer when the city comes alive with traditional matsuri. The sensational Kanda Matsuri is one of Tokyo’s three major festivals and takes place around Kanda Shrine on odd-numbered years. The festivities span about a week, culminating in a spectacular full-day parade of more than 200 floats and portable shrines through the city centre. The summertime Koenji Awa Odori festival is also a stunner, as it sees thousands of dancers taking over the streets in colourful outfits.

Some of Tokyo’s festivals are a little, well, strange. There’s the Oji Fox Parade where people dress up as foxes for a street procession on New Year's Eve, while the peculiar Crying Sumo Festival or Nakizumo Matsuri has sumo wrestlers strengthening blessings by holding babies up to make them cry.

Because Tokyoites have a deep respect for tradition
Photo: Molinscat/Dreamstime

45. Because Tokyoites have a deep respect for tradition

No matter how modern Tokyo seems on the surface, the metropolis will always be rooted in its rich history and traditions. Every month sees a host of traditional festivals and customs, where celebrations extend beyond local temples and shrines.

The first official day of spring, known as Setsubun and celebrated in early February, sees people tossing beans out their front doors to ward off bad luck for the coming year, while May 5 – Children’s Day – is always marked by the hoisting of colourful koinobori (koi streamers) across the city. Plus, Tokyoites never miss an excuse to get dressed in a classic yukata or kimono, often doing so for casual occasions like summertime fireworks displays as well as formal ones like weddings.

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Because onsen are not only for special occasions
Photo: Yurika Kono

46. Because onsen are not only for special occasions

Spending an evening at a local onsen or sento after work is an everyday luxury in Tokyo. Each neighbourhood bathhouse is unique in its own way, whether it’s equipped with a herbal aroma bath, an inky black hot spring or a Finnish-style sauna. You’ll find a variety of baths ranging from old-school wooden ones that might have been around since the 1950s, to more modern ones like Sumida’s Koganeyu (pictured), which boasts a DJ booth and craft beer taps.

Because it’s got a lively music scene
Photo: Kyoko Obayashi

47. Because it’s got a lively music scene

Forget streaming – Tokyoites still love CDs and vinyl records, and nowhere else in the world will you find such a proliferation of music megastores and record shops. Tokyo’s music obsession becomes really apparent at the countless small jazz bars, listening bars and live music venues dotted all around the city. You can really get a feel for it when you head to a music bar like B.Y.G, known for its extensive vinyl and CD collection, or a hole-in-the-wall livehouse like Ruby Room (pictured), which champions local talents in live sets.

It’s more than just the local music scene too – the world’s biggest names always make sure to add Tokyo to their tours. In the past, we’ve had Bruno Mars, BTS, U2 and Madonna.

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Because it has shrines for everything
Photo: Nuvisage/Dreamstime

48. Because it has shrines for everything

No matter what neighbourhood you’re in, chances are you’re within walking distance of a shrine. They’re not all huge tourist attractions like the Meiji Shrine – there are plenty of small, local shrines tucked away in Tokyo’s backstreets. People usually visit Shinto shrines to pay respect and pray for good fortune, but the city has different shrines where people can make unusual wishes and seek blessings for all kinds of problems.

Having trouble studying? Head to Yushima Tenmangu near Ueno Park. At Otori Shrine in Asakusa, you can pray to improve your golf game, while you can even get a special blessing to protect your computer from viruses at Kanda Myoujin Shrine (pictured).

Because in Tokyo you can still see one of the world's oldest performing arts
Image: Shochiku

49. Because in Tokyo you can still see one of the world's oldest performing arts

Though the Kabukiza, Tokyo’s main kabuki theatre in Ginza, carefully preserves the centuries-old practices of kabuki, it has also evolved to make kabuki more accessible to modern and international audiences. These days, you can book tickets for just a single act of a full show and follow along with simultaneous translation.

On top of classic kabuki plays from hundreds of years ago, there are productions inspired by modern material such as Star Wars, with costumes, accompanying instruments and makeup that’s faithful to kabuki’s traditional origins. Even if you don’t have tickets to see a play, you can still learn about the aspects of the performances at the on-site Kabukiza Gallery (¥600 entry).

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Because Tokyo loves geeks
Photo: Sean Pavone/Dreamstime

50. Because Tokyo loves geeks

There’s no shame in being part of a fandom in Tokyo – in fact, it’s encouraged. While areas like Akihabara and Nakano Broadway are popular among otaku for their shops dedicated to manga and anime franchises, fan culture has extended far beyond shops selling collectibles for self-proclaimed geeks. Also, otaku culture isn’t just about fictional characters – venues like Tobu Museum are dedicated to trains while arcade-bars like Tokyo Video Gamers cater to video game fans.

One more thing...

Because Tokyo has everything
Photo: Keisuke Tanigawa

Because Tokyo has everything

Hypermodern cities with lush nature stretching from the forested mountains to the sea. Elegant heritage temples co-exist alongside edgy architecture. Modern lifestyles that don’t sacrifice the traditional way of life. Exceptional infrastructure that’s years ahead of its peers. World-class restaurants and bars complementing independent local joints. It’s a highly efficient metropolis where everything just works. Add to that, the nicest people around. Tokyo has everything and there’s nothing quite like it. What more could you want?

Need more reasons to love Tokyo?

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