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Top Five Must-See Attractions & Museums in Tokyo

While navigating Tokyo can be overwhelming for first-time tourists, especially considering its status as the world's largest city and metropolitan area, do not worry! Jetset Seeker has explored the city to bring you what is, in our opinion, the top five must-see attractions and museums in Tokyo. From the soaring heights and incredible views at Shibuya Sky, offering panoramic views of the bustling Shibuya Scramble crossing below, to the rich cultural treasures housed within the Tokyo National Museum, these attractions offer a captivating glimpse into the heart of Japan's capital city. Additionally, discover the serenity of Senso-ji Temple, the expansive landscapes of Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden, and the spiritual ambiance of Meiji Jingu Shrine. Tokyo's diverse offerings promise an unforgettable journey through Japan's past, present, and future. Join us as we dive into the top five must-see attractions and museums in Tokyo to ensure you have an unforgettable trip! 

Shibuya Sky

Shibuya Sky is a spectacular observation deck located in the Shibuya Scramble Square building, offering breathtaking panoramic views of Tokyo's skyline. Situated in the lively Shibuya district, Shibuya Sky has quickly become one of the city's most popular attractions, attracting visitors from around the world eager to experience its incredible vistas.

View of Tokyo from Shibuya Sky
As one of Tokyo's newest observation decks, Shibuya Sky boasts state-of-the-art facilities and design elements that enhance the viewing experience. The deck features floor-to-ceiling windows, outdoor terraces, and even a glass-bottomed section that provides a thrilling perspective of the city below (and, of course, the iconic Scramble Crossing).

Shibuya Scramble Crossing_Tokyo
Once inside Shibuya Sky, visitors are treated to unparalleled views of Tokyo's iconic landmarks, including the Scramble Crossing, Tokyo Tower, Tokyo Skytree, and even Mount Fuji on clear days. (We were fortunate enough to see Mount Fuji a few times on our trip to Japan, including from Shibuya Sky - as shown in our photo below!) The dynamic energy of Shibuya's bustling streets contrasts beautifully with the serene panorama visible from the observation deck, creating a memorable and immersive experience.

Mount Fuji from Shibuya Sky_Tokyo

Before embarking on your Shibuya Sky adventure, keep these essential tips in mind to ensure a smooth and enjoyable experience:

  • Book tickets in advance: Shibuya Sky is wildly popular and often sells out weeks in advance, especially for sunset. Arriving about 90 minutes before sunset is the optimal entry time, ensuring you will be treated to incredible views of Tokyo and beyond! 
  • Bring a ¥100 coin for a locker: You are not allowed to bring bags, small purses, or hats outside onto the observation deck with you. Lockers are available for  ¥100, so make sure to have a ¥100 coin handy.
  • Arrive on time: Tickets have assigned times, so make sure you arrive at your designated time slot. Late arrivals may be denied entry, so plan accordingly to make the most of your visit.
  • Be prepared for weather conditions: Wind and bad weather may occasionally close the outdoor observation deck. However, there are still fantastic views to be had from the inside Sky Gallery, so do not let potential weather concerns deter you from visiting. Also, if you visit during winter (like we did), be sure to dress accordingly. It was far colder (and windier) outside on the 47th floor observation deck than at street-level! 

Whether admiring Tokyo's cityscape during the day, capturing stunning sunset views, or witnessing the city come alive with twinkling lights at night, Shibuya Sky offers a mesmerizing perspective of Tokyo's urban landscape that is bound to leave a lasting impression.Additional information about Shibuya Sky, including opening hours and advance ticket purchases, can be found on the Shibuya Sky website

Tokyo National Museum

The Tokyo National Museum is a cultural treasure trove located in Ueno Park, one of Tokyo's most vibrant and historic areas. As the oldest and largest museum in Japan, it boasts a remarkable collection that spans thousands of years of Japanese art, history, and culture. If you only have time to visit one museum in Tokyo, it should be the Tokyo National Museum! 

Tokyo National Museum_Exterior
Visitors to the museum can immerse themselves in a diverse array of artifacts, including ancient pottery, exquisite samurai armor, traditional textiles including kimonos, and intricate Buddhist sculptures. One of the museum's highlights is its impressive collection of ukiyo-e woodblock prints, showcasing the vibrant artistry of Japan's Edo period. One of my favorite woodblock prints from the museum's collection is the one shown below - "January 7" from the Series The Five Elegant Festivals by Chōbunsai Eishi

Woodblock Print_Tokyo National Museum
The Tokyo National Museum is not just a repository of artifacts but also a place where visitors can gain a deeper understanding of Japan's rich cultural heritage. Its location in Ueno Park makes it easily accessible and a must-visit for anyone interested in exploring the fascinating history and artistry of Japan.

Buddah Sculpture_Tokyo National MuseumTokyo National Museum_Kimono

The Tokyo National Museum is closed on Mondays, excluding holidays that fall on a Monday. Additional information, including opening hours and admission cost, can be found on the Tokyo National Museum website.

Senso-ji Temple

Senso-ji Temple (also known as Asakusa Kannon Temple), located in Asakusa, Tokyo, is the city's oldest and most significant Buddhist temple. Dating back to the 7th century, it is dedicated to Kannon, the goddess of mercy, and attracts millions of visitors each year.

Senso-ji Temple Gate_Tokyo

The temple's iconic entrance is marked by the grand Kaminarimon Gate also called the "Thunder Gate" (the back of which is pictured above), adorned with a striking red lantern and guardian deities. Beyond the gate, Nakamise-dori Street beckons with its bustling array of shops offering traditional snacks and souvenirs, creating a vibrant approach to the temple grounds. (We'll talk more about Nakamise-dori Street in a few moments.) The main hall, Hondo, captivates with its intricate roof designs and serves as the focal point for prayer and reflection. Adjacent to the main hall stands a majestic five-story pagoda, a symbol of Japanese Buddhist architecture.

Senso-ji Temple_Tokyo

Beyond its physical attributes, Senso-ji Temple holds profound spiritual significance for many, serving as a place of prayer and reflection. Visitors often partake in the temple's rituals, such as omikuji, where fortune slips are drawn to reveal predictions, and acquiring omamori, protective amulets believed to bring luck and blessings.

Whether exploring the architectural marvels, participating in rituals, or simply soaking in the serene atmosphere, a visit to Senso-ji Temple is an absolute must on your trip to Tokyo. To make the most of your visit to Senso-ji Temple, we recommend going early in the morning to avoid the crowds that tend to gather around lunchtime. This allows for a more serene and contemplative experience as you explore the temple grounds, admire its architecture, and participate in traditional rituals.

Nakamise-dori Street

As previously mentioned, Nakamise-dori Street is a historic and bustling shopping street that leads to Senso-ji Temple. The street stretches approximately 820 feet (250 meters) from the outer gate of Senso-ji Temple, the Kaminarimon Gate, to the temple's main hall, Hondo. Its origins date back to the Edo period when it served as a marketplace catering to pilgrims and visitors to the temple. Over time, Nakamise-dori Street evolved into a vibrant shopping district, maintaining its historical charm while embracing modern influences.

Nakamise-dori Street_Tokyo

Today, Nakamise-dori Street is lined with numerous shops on both sides, selling a diverse range of goods including traditional Japanese snacks like senbei (rice crackers), ningyo-yaki (sweet cakes), daifuku (strawberry mochi), and various types of souvenirs such as fans, kimonos, ceramics, and chopsticks. The shops' facades often feature colorful displays and traditional motifs, adding to the street's lively ambiance.

Daifuku_Nakamise-dori Street_Tokyo

From our experience, most of the shops were fairly priced, especially considering the location. Aside from some tasty daifuku (pictured above), we also purchased some beautifully crafted chopsticks and chopstick rests from one of the various shops on Nakamise-dori Street. Unfortunately, I do not remember the name of the shop, but the staff were so friendly and spoke English. Additionally, the shop provided customization services, allowing customers to have their names elegantly engraved on their chopsticks for a small fee.

When exploring Senso-ji Temple, be sure to set aside some additional time to wander through the charming shops lining Nakamise-dori Street!

Temple Etiquette 

Before entering a temple in Japan, like the Senso-ji Temple in Tokyo, it is customary to follow a few etiquette guidelines:

  • Wash your hands: Look for a temizuya (water pavilion) near the entrance of the temple. Use the ladles provided to rinse your hands and mouth before proceeding further. This ritual is called temizu and is symbolic of purification.
  • Remove your shoes: When entering temple buildings, you will often need to take off your shoes. If shoes need to be removed, clear signage should indicate so in a number of different languages, including English. Look for designated areas or racks to leave your footwear before stepping inside. 
  • Bow respectfully: As a sign of respect, it is customary to bow when approaching the main hall of the temple or when encountering statues or sacred objects. A small bow with hands together in front of you is a common gesture. 
  • Photography: While photography is generally allowed in outdoor areas, be mindful of signs and guidelines regarding photography inside temple buildings or around specific areas.
  • Quiet and respectful behavior: Maintain a quiet and respectful demeanor during your visit, especially if there are ongoing ceremonies or prayers taking place.

By observing these simple guidelines and visiting Senso-ji Temple early in the day, you can fully immerse yourself in the spiritual atmosphere and historical significance of this iconic Tokyo landmark. Additional information regarding Senso-ji Temple can be found on the Senso-ji Temple website.

Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden

Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden is a sprawling oasis of nature nestled in the heart of Tokyo's bustling Shinjuku district. Covering an area of 144 acres, the garden is renowned for its diverse landscapes, serene ambiance, and vibrant cherry blossoms in spring, making it a popular destination for locals and tourists alike. 

Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden_Japanese Garden

Originally established as a feudal lord's residence during the Edo period, Shinjuku Gyoen was later converted into a botanical garden, and then designated as a national garden in 1949 when it was opened to the public. Today, it stands as a harmonious blend of traditional Japanese garden styles, English landscaped gardens, and French formal gardens.

Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden_Tokyo

The garden features three main gardens: a picturesque Japanese garden with meandering paths, ponds, bridges, and tea houses where visitors can experience the tranquility of traditional Japanese aesthetics; the English landscape garden section featuring rolling lawns and flower beds; and, the French formal garden with symmetrical layouts, manicured hedges, and elegant flower arrangements. Additionally, there are rest houses serving food and beverages, tea houses, and restrooms on-site. 

Tea House_Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden

Throughout the year, Shinjuku Gyoen transforms with the changing seasons, offering different experiences with cherry blossoms in spring, vibrant foliage in autumn, and blooming flowers in summer. Despite the colder weather, Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden remains a captivating destination even during winter (when we visited). While cherry blossoms are the main attraction in spring, the garden boasts beautiful blooms year-round, including in winter. We were treated to daffodils, wintersweet (also called Japanese allspice - pictured below), camellias, and even winter cherry blossom varieties! These seasonal flowers add bursts of color and fragrance to the winter landscape, creating a serene and enchanting atmosphere that is well worth experiencing.

Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden_Wintersweet Tree

Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden: Greenhouse

Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden is also home to a large greenhouse that showcases a diverse collection of tropical and subtropical plants from around the world. The greenhouse provides visitors with a fascinating opportunity to explore exotic flora that thrives in different climates, adding a dynamic dimension to the garden's offerings.

Within the greenhouse, visitors can encounter a variety of plant species, including lush tropical foliage, vibrant orchids, and towering palms, among others. The controlled environment of the greenhouse allows for the cultivation of plants that may not survive in Tokyo's outdoor climate, offering a glimpse into the biodiversity of tropical regions.

Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden_Greenhouse_Orchids

Whether exploring the tranquil pathways, enjoying a peaceful moment by a pond, or simply admiring the winter blooms, Shinjuku Gyoen offers a unique and refreshing escape in every season. Its vast open spaces provide opportunities for picnics, leisurely strolls, and peaceful contemplation amid nature's beauty.

The Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden is closed on Mondays, excluding on public holidays that fall on a Monday. Additional information about Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden, including opening hours and admission cost, can be found on the Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden website

Meiji Jingu Shrine 

Meiji Jingu Shrine, located in Shibuya, Tokyo, is one of Japan's most revered and culturally significant Shinto shrines. Dedicated to Emperor Meiji and Empress Shoken, the shrine is surrounded by a lush forested area, creating a serene oasis in the heart of the bustling city.

The shrine's history dates back to 1920 when it was established to honor the spirits of Emperor Meiji, who played a pivotal role in modernizing Japan, and Empress Shoken, known for her philanthropic efforts and support for education. The shrine was rebuilt after being destroyed during World War II, and it continues to be a symbol of Japanese spirituality and cultural heritage.

Approaching Meiji Jingu Shrine, visitors pass through massive wooden torii gates, marking the transition from the secular world and into the sacred realm of the shrine. The expansive gravel pathway leading to the main shrine complex is lined with towering trees, creating a tranquil and solemn atmosphere.

Meiji Jingu Shrine_Tokyo
Within the shrine grounds, visitors can participate in traditional rituals, offer prayers at the main hall, and purchase omamori (protective amulets) and ema (wooden prayer plaques). 

Meiji Jingu Shrine also serves as a cultural center, hosting various events, ceremonies, and performances throughout the year. Its serene surroundings and historical significance make it a popular destination for locals and tourists alike, offering a peaceful retreat and an opportunity to connect with Japan's spiritual traditions amidst the urban landscape of Tokyo.

Meiji Jingu Shrine is open from sunrise to sunset, daily. Entrance is free of charge. More information about Meiji Jingu Shrine can be found on the Meiji Jingu Shrine website.

Other Top Attractions & Museums in Tokyo

While our top five attractions and museums in Tokyo offer a captivating glimpse into the city's cultural scene, there is so much more to see and do in this vibrant metropolis. Tokyo is a treasure trove of diverse experiences, catering to every interest and inclination. From the avant-garde artistry at the Yayoi Kusama Museum and Mori Art Museum, to the whimsical wonders of the Studio Ghibli Museum, and the immersive digital art experiences at teamLab Planets and teamLab Borderless, Tokyo beckons with an endless array of attractions waiting to be explored. Whether you're a history buff, an art enthusiast, or a technology aficionado, Tokyo promises to delight and inspire with its boundless offerings.

Yayoi Kusama Museum

The Yayoi Kusama Museum in Tokyo is a haven for fans of the iconic Japanese artist known for her mesmerizing polka dots and vibrant installations. Situated in the Shinjuku area, this museum showcases Kusama's works in a space specifically designed to immerse visitors in her unique artistic vision.

Inside the museum, visitors can explore Kusama's eclectic and avant-garde creations. The museum's design and layout are carefully curated to complement Kusama's art, creating a dynamic and immersive environment that amplifies the impact of her work.

For art enthusiasts and admirers of Yayoi Kusama's distinctive style, a visit to the Yayoi Kusama Museum offers a unique opportunity to delve into the mind of this visionary artist and experience her artistic universe firsthand. We, personally, skipped the Yayoi Kusama Museum as we have previously seen her work at The Broad Art Museum in Los Angeles, California, including her iconic Infinity Mirror Room-The Souls of Millions of Light Years Away (photo below) and mirror box and LED light piece known as Longing for Eternity. However, for fans of her work or those who have not had the chance to experience her art in person, a visit to the Yayoi Kusama Museum in Tokyo could be a real treat! 

The Broad Art Museum in Los Angeles, California - Yayoi Kusama's iconic Infinity Room

Before planning your visit to the Yayoi Kusama Museum, please note that that advance tickets are required for entry and tickets cannot be purchased on-site. It is also worth noting that the museum is closed on Mondays, Tuesdays, and Wednesdays, so planning ahead is essential in order to avoid disappointment. Additional information about the Yayoi Kusama Museum, including advance ticket purchases and current exhibits, can be found on the Yayoi Kusama Museum website

Studio Ghibli Museum 

The Studio Ghibli Museum in Tokyo is a magical destination for fans of Japanese animation, particularly the works of Studio Ghibli, one of Japan's most acclaimed animation studios. Located in Mitaka, a suburb of Tokyo, this museum offers a whimsical journey into the enchanting world of Studio Ghibli's films.

Designed by Hayao Miyazaki, the co-founder of Studio Ghibli and a renowned animator and director (recently recognized as one of Time Magazine's 100 Most Influential People of 2024), the museum itself is a work of art. Its architecture, resembling a storybook cottage, is filled with charming details that transport visitors into a fantastical realm reminiscent of Studio Ghibli's beloved films.

Inside the museum, visitors can explore a variety of exhibits showcasing the studio's creative process, including original artwork, animation techniques, and immersive displays that bring iconic scenes to life. The museum also features a small theater where short films created by Studio Ghibli are screened, adding to the enchantment of the experience. One of the museum's highlights is the rooftop garden, adorned with a life-sized robot soldier from the film "Castle in the Sky".

Due to its popularity, advance tickets are required to visit the Studio Ghibli Museum, and they often sell out quickly. Like the Yayoi Kusama Museum, tickets for the Studio Ghibli Museum cannot be purchased on-site. For fans of Studio Ghibli's captivating storytelling, imaginative worlds, and memorable characters, a visit to this museum is an unforgettable journey into the artistry and magic of Japanese animation. The Studio Ghibli Museum is closed on Tuesdays, with the exception of public holidays that fall on a Tuesday. Additional information about the Studio Ghibli Museum, including opening hours and advance ticket purchases, can be found on the Studio Ghibli Museum website.

Mori Art Museum

The Mori Art Museum, located in Tokyo, is a renowned contemporary art institution that stands out for its innovative exhibitions and stunning setting. Situated on the 53rd floor of the Mori Tower in the Roppongi Hills complex, it offers visitors not only a rich artistic experience but also breathtaking views of Tokyo's skyline.

The museum's primary focus is on contemporary art from Japan and around the world, showcasing a diverse range of mediums, styles, and themes. Its exhibitions often delve into topics such as globalization, urban culture, technology, and societal issues, providing visitors with thought-provoking insights into the complexities of our modern world.

What sets the Mori Art Museum apart is its dynamic approach to showcasing art. The museum regularly features works by both established artists and emerging talents, ensuring that each visit is a fresh and engaging experience. This diversity of artistic voices contributes to the museum's reputation as a leading institution in the global contemporary art scene.

The Mori Art Museum is closed on Tuesdays and tends to close between exhibits. Additional information about the Mori Art Museum, including opening hours and advance purchase tickets, can be found on the Mori Art Museum website.

teamLab Planets Tokyo & teamLab Borderless 

teamLab Planets Tokyo

teamLab Planets Tokyo is a unique digital art museum located in Toyosu, Tokyo. Created by the innovative art collective teamLab, this immersive museum offers visitors a surreal and interactive journey through a series of stunning digital installations.

One of the defining features of teamLab Planets Tokyo is its emphasis on sensory experiences. The museum's exhibits use cutting-edge technology to create immersive environments where visitors can touch, interact with, and even become part of the art. From walking through rooms filled with water to experiencing vibrant flowers blooming, each exhibit is designed to stimulate the senses and evoke a sense of wonder.

teamLab Planets Tokyo is part of teamLab's larger vision to explore the convergence of art, technology, and nature. By creating immersive digital art experiences that blur the boundaries between the virtual and the real, the museum invites visitors to rethink their relationship with art and the environment.

Visitors to teamLab Planets Tokyo should be prepared for a truly immersive and interactive experience unlike any traditional museum. It is a place where art comes to life in mesmerizing ways, making it a must-visit destination for those seeking a cutting-edge artistic adventure in Tokyo. There is a portion of the museum that requires you to walk through water, so take care to dress accordingly. 

Due to its popularity, advance ticket purchase is required. Additional information about teamLab Planets Tokyo, including advance ticket purchase and opening hours, can be found on the teamLab website

teamLab Borderless 

teamLab Borderless is an awe-inspiring digital art museum that just reopened in February at its new home in the Mori Building Digital Art Museum in Azabudai Hills, near Roppongi. Created by the innovative art collective teamLab, this museum is a mesmerizing exploration of the intersection between art, technology, and the natural world.

Unlike traditional museums, teamLab Borderless does not have physical boundaries or separate galleries. Instead, it immerses visitors in a seamless, interconnected world of digital art where boundaries between artworks dissolve, and visitors become part of the artistic experience.

The museum features a diverse range of interactive digital installations, from immersive light displays and interactive projections to dynamic soundscapes and virtual landscapes that evolve and respond to human presence. 

teamLab Borderless represents a new frontier in digital art and immersive experiences, inviting visitors to explore a world where art is not confined by physical constraints but instead exists in a constantly evolving and interconnected state. It is a must-visit destination for anyone looking to embark on a sensory journey through the boundless possibilities of digital creativity.

Similar to teamLab Planets, advance tickets are required for entry. Additional information about teamLab Borderless, including advance ticket purchase and opening hours, can be found on the teamLab website

Tokyo Tower

Tokyo Tower is an iconic landmark and one of the most recognizable symbols of Tokyo, located in Minato City. Standing at a height of 1,092 feet (approximately 333 meters), it was completed in 1958 and was the tallest structure in Japan until the completion of the Tokyo Skytree in 2012. Modeled after the Eiffel Tower in Paris, Tokyo Tower has become an integral part of Tokyo's skyline.

The tower serves multiple functions, including broadcasting television and radio signals, as well as providing observation decks and entertainment facilities for visitors. Its main observatory offers panoramic views of Tokyo and its surrounding areas. On clear days, visitors can see landmarks such as Mount Fuji, Tokyo Skytree, and Tokyo's skyline stretching out in all directions.

In addition to the main observatory, Tokyo Tower also features a special observation deck called the "Top Deck". This elevated platform provides an even more expansive view of the city and is a popular spot for photography enthusiasts and tourists seeking a unique perspective.

Whether admiring Tokyo Tower's illuminated structure against the night sky or enjoying the panoramic vistas from its observation decks during the day, a visit to Tokyo Tower offers a memorable experience and a chance to appreciate Tokyo's dynamic urban landscape from a lofty vantage point. 

Additional information about Tokyo Tower, including opening hours and admission cost, can be found on the Tokyo Tower website.

Tokyo Tower

As we conclude our exploration of Tokyo's top attractions and museums, it is clear that this vibrant city offers a wealth of cultural, artistic, and historical experiences. From the panoramic views of Shibuya Sky to the rich heritage of the Tokyo National Museum, the serenity of Senso-ji Temple, the lush gardens of Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden, and the spiritual ambiance of Meiji Jingu Shrine, Tokyo captivates visitors with its diverse offerings.

Moreover, the city's contemporary art scene shines bright with must-visit destinations like the Yayoi Kusama Museum, the Mori Art Museum, and teamLab Planets Tokyo and the newly redesigned teamLab Borderless. For lovers of Japanese animation, the whimsical Studio Ghibli Museum is a must-see. 

Whether you're a history buff, art enthusiast, or simply curious about Japan's rich heritage, Tokyo promises a journey of discovery and wonder. With its endless array of attractions and museums, Tokyo invites visitors to delve deeper, explore further, and uncover the many facets of this captivating city. 

Looking for more information on Japan and Tokyo? Check out our Tokyo Travel Guide for more popular sites, incredible restaurants, and general information about this dynamic city! Looking for general information on Japan before embarking on your trip? From money matters, to train information, we have it all in our Japan Travel Guide

Have you visited Tokyo? We would love to hear from you!