Tokyo is the capital city of Japan and home to nearly 10 million people, that means there are plenty of things to do at any time of the day or night!
In fact, Tokyo is one of the most densely populated cities in the world and it can be confusing to find your way around. There are actually 23 special wards within the city, all have their own special characteristics. The Japanese people refer to these wards as cities, because Tokyo is more than just a city, it’s also a metropolitan prefecture.
In other words, make sure you know where you’re going before you head out off your hotel room!
The first question you’ll need to ask yourself when planning your visit to Tokyo is whether you want to stick to the traditional tourist routes. There are plenty of opportunities for travelers to take a break from the ordinary and get off the beaten path, spend a few moments considering the following options before you decide what you want to get out of your time in Tokyo.
While you’re visiting Tokyo, plan to spend your mornings doing some of these 7 cool things:
1. Thousands Of Waving Cats
You may think you should be heading for the temple in the morning but you need to head for the right one. Gotoku-ji in the South East section of Tokyo is known as the temple of beckoning cats.
Take a visit and enjoy the history and architecture but you’ll be most amazed by the thousands of white maneki-neko, that’s the waving cat which is considered to be lucky.
This area is famous for the impressive vintage shops, numerous bars, and the laid-back vibe. In fact, it is a Bohemian paradise and one that shouldn’t be missed. It’s only a few stops from Shinjuku and gives you the opportunity to shop until you drop. The narrow streets are full of vintage clothing shops, places to buy kimonos and plenty of delightful eating opportunities.
But, what you really want to do is get here early in the morning, before the shops open. The streets are surprisingly quiet, which is unusual anywhere in Tokyo. However, this is when you’ll get to experience the abundance of high-quality shutter art.
Every shutter is covered in a beautifully created picture which could reflect what is being sold or may just be random art!
You don’t need to join in but it is worth getting on one of the early morning tours to see inside sumo stable and watch the training.
You may be surprised by how much training a sumo warrior does.
4. Fire Temple
The Fukagawa Fudo-do temple opens at 8 am and the first ritual is at 9 am. The array of simultaneous chanting, drumming, prayers, and fire will amaze and impress you. The sounds are carefully balanced in order to strengthen the god Fudomyo.
It’s an impressive mixture of activity ranging from priests using conch shells, a massive fire being built and everyone chanting.
But, while you may also be impressed by the 10,000 crystal statues, you’ll have to accept that this temple is a blend of old and new. The LED screen above the entrance announcing the time of the next fire ritual is most definitely modern, there’s even a modern building right next to the temple.
You’ll soon forget these while being impressed by the chanting and banging. You should also check out the hallucinatory rooms inside the temple where you can experience an audiovisual experience like no other!
You’ visit may start early in the morning but it won’t finish until at least lunchtime.
5. Try Sushi
It’s possible to try sushi virtually anywhere in the world and it may not appeal to you for breakfast. But, if you want to try some of the best in Tokyo and potentially the world you need to be up early.
Queuing starts at 3.30am at the Sushi Dan and Sushi Daiwa markets. Each restaurant has a few seats only, hence the early queuing, but the food is said to be worth it.
6. The Skytree
It doesn’t matter where you are in Tokyo you can see the Skytree. Of course, if you go up the Skytree you’ll be able to see all of Tokyo, which is a view that simply shouldn’t be missed.
It was unveiled in 2010 as the tallest tower in the world. Although the Burj Khalifa in Dubai is taller, it is classed as the tallest building in the world, leaving the Skytree as the tallest tower.
But that’s not all! Head up the Skytree and you’ll find the highest skywalk in the world!
If you’re in Tokyo you have to take in this sight. Although you can do this at any time of the day, it’s worth getting up there early. Not only will you find you’ll find the clearest skies and the best possible views, but you’ll also find it’s comparatively empty.
Prepare to be amazed!
7. Yanaka Cemetery
A cemetery is not normally top of your to-do list but this one is home to many famous and important Japanese people. It’s like visiting a city within the city.
Going early means you’ll get to appreciate the impressive tranquillity, despite the fact it is surrounded by houses and shops. What may surprise you is the fact that this cemetery is as large as any of the major parks in Tokyo. As well as some impressive graves, this is the place to see an abundance of cherry trees.
There are a lot of famous people buried in Yanaka, although if you’re not Japanese you may not recognize the names. The most famous is the Tokugawa Shinobu, the final Shogun of the Edo period (1603-1868).
Don’t forget, if you’re visiting in April you’ll get to experience the cheery trees flowering. You don’t have to get up early to see this one but keep your eyes open as you take in the cool things to do in Tokyo in the morning. Cherry blossom is the national symbol of Japan and festival time in the country.
If you’re looking for a place to stay in Tokyo, check these Tokyo Hotels!
Travel Resource & Planning For Tokyo
Here are some very useful tips and guides for helping you travel to Tokyo, Japan!
I always recommend having your trip covered in case of unfortunate incidents. World Nomads is a good place to start and they’ve never let me down. I’ve also used Travelex and Roam Right in the past, both are good options. Do some comparison shopping and find the one that caters to your trip best.
Best Guide Book – Fodor’s Essential Japan (Full-color Travel Guide)
Recommended Reading – Cool Japan: A Guide to Tokyo, Kyoto, Tohoku and Japanese Culture Past and Present
If you’re not a trust-fund kid or want to travel on a budget, check out my guide on how to travel cheap (and sometimes free!), also don’t forget to read my in-depth guide on how to budget for travel to save you a lot of time and money.