The capital of Japan, the seat of the Emperor and the most populous metropolitan area in the world, there’s a lot of life happening in Tokyo. While some of the everyday bustle is what you might expect from any given major city, some of the specifics are wholly Japanese—untranslatable to the world at large. It’s these specifics that make for instances of wonderous discovery when visiting, tidbits of Tokyo’s soul that get lost in translation if they were anywhere else. To sample some of the Japanese quintessential, here are a few of the top things to do in Tokyo you simply don’t want to miss.
The largest fish market in the world, Tsukiji Fish Market invokes equal parts street markets, food stalls and the New York Stock Exchange. Fish is serious business in Japan, and business is booming at Tsukiji. The tuna auctions are world-renowned, begin at 5 a.m. and only allow a little more than 100 people inside. As such, you need to wake up at an eye-popping early time—or be sufficiently jetlagged—to have a chance to witness it. Outside of the auction, the liveliness of the market is the perfect morning stroll, with every stall selling some of the freshest breakfast you can find before the sun rises.
A quick disclaimer: the Tsukiji Fish Market, at the time of writing, is currently in transition to a new location in preparation for the 2020 Olympics. While the auction and inner market are closed, the outer market still hosts over 300 shops and restaurants. Check on the progress of the new location before heading there!
The spirit of competition may be universal, but depending on the nation, it can manifest in many forms. There are two sports worth witnessing in Tokyo, and the first is certain to be familiar to Americans: baseball. Tokyo boasts a slew of teams, split between the high school and professional league, each with its own rabid fan-following. While you may not understand the announcers at the games, the energy in the air is easily palatable. Trade in cracker-jacks for ramen, yakisoba noodles and takoyaki octopus balls and you’re all set to root for the home team.
The other sport that makes for a memorable experience is sumo wrestling. Official sumo tournaments (bashos) are held throughout the year, with each lasting multiple days at a time—substantially increasing your odds of witnessing the time-honored tradition. If your visit doesn’t coincide with a basho, you still have options: You can either go to a sumo exhibition, or visit a sumobeya and witness the athletes practice. Whichever route you take, pair the show with a helping of sake to experience it like the Japanese.
For a peek at what’s become an integral part of life in Japan, you’ll want to pay a visit to the Akihabara neighborhood. This is the nexus of technology, and subsequently, otaku culture. For the unfamiliar, otaku culture defined is the following: “A young person obsessed with computers or aspects of popular culture to the detriment of their social skills.” As peculiar as this all may seem from the outside looking in, the trend seems here to stay for the foreseeable future and has saturated the neighborhood with the Japanese cartoons of anime and magna. A stroll through Akihabara will give you plenty of chances to pick up the latest and greatest of Japan’s gadgetry, as well as witness more than a fair share of magna and animated cosplay amongst the bright streets.
All set to travel to Tokyo and the savor these can’t-miss experiences? Speak with one of our travel agents before you do. Not only can their knowledge and expertise lead the way to experiences you wouldn’t know to seek out, but also their professional relationships with the leading names in travel—such as Holland America Line—guarantee a vacation you won’t soon forget thanks to exclusive perks and amenities.