photo looking down Omoide Yokochō

Tokyo in Twenty-Four

A Quick Guide To Activities In Tokyo, Japan

In February 2020, my partner and I went on a group trip to Hakuba, Japan, planned and organized by the wonderful outdoor adventure store Evo. My partner and I stayed in Tokyo for an extra day before returning to the states.

We packed a lot in, so get ready for our whirlwind 24 hours in Tokyo!

Where We Stayed

Ritz Carlton, Tokyo

Like any Ritz-Carlton, the Ritz Carlton, Tokyo is stunning, but this one is next level. Located in Downtown Tokyo, the Ritz is surrounded by the Midtown shopping mall, full of upscale stores and restaurants. The hotel begins on the 45th level of Midtown Tower, one of the city’s tallest buildings. The lobby is airy, and the staff is warm and welcoming. Upon arrival, they offered tea to guests to enjoy while checking in. The rooms boast floor-to-ceiling windows giving incredible views in every direction. Even though the view was socked in with fog when upon our arrival, it was magical and felt like floating among the clouds. Once the air cleared, we could see the Olympic Stadium for the 2020 Summer Olympics, later held in 2021. This hotel has thought of every detail and will not disappoint.

A view of Tokyo looking out at the Olympic arena
View from our window at the Ritz Carlton, Tokyo

Where We Ate

Ritz Carlton, Tokyo

The Ritz Carlton, Tokyo has seven restaurants in total. During our stay, we ate at the Towers restaurant, once for breakfast and once for dinner. The Towers “focuses on the highest quality ingredients from around the world, prepared using traditional French cooking techniques.” Breakfast was a combination of buffet and made-to-order food. Even with the buffet, everything was fresh and beautifully prepared. The dinner was elegant and delicious. We selected the four-course dinner and were able to make selections between two options per course. Through every course, the staff was well-informed and offered the perfect wine pairing for our choices. Above all, what was most important for my partner and me during this stay was making sure our food was gluten-free and hadn’t been cross-contaminated with gluten somewhere in the process. Once again, the staff was extremely well-informed, knew the process for each item we received, and had helpful suggestions for navigating the buffet safely. If you, or someone you know, has celiac disease, you likely know that it’s near impossible to eat at a buffet safely, but they were able to make it happen, and we were delighted.

Gluten Free T’s Kitchen

Across the street from the Ritz Carlton, Tokyo was an unassuming stretch of stores. One in particular that caught our eye was Gluten Free T’s Kitchen, a dedicated gluten-free fast-casual restaurant. After my partner was diagnosed with celiac disease in 2019, we had all but given up hope that he would ever have gyoza again until we found this restaurant. It was so wonderful to walk across the street from our hotel and eat so much incredible gluten-free food. We devoured gyoza, ramen, fried chicken, and fresh pressed juice. Gluten Free T’s Kitchen was the first restaurant in Asia to receive certification from The Gluten-Free Intolerance Group. Gluten Free T’s has also tackled other allergies, including nuts, dairy, eggs, and soy! What this place lacks in flash or flair, it more than makes up for in mouth-watering food that people with allergies likely won’t find anywhere else!

Gyzoa and juice at Gluten Free T's Kitchen
Gyzoa at Gluten Free T's Kitchen

Teppan Baby

Teppan Baby is an Okonomiyaki restaurant that prides itself as “a place where you can enjoy "entertainment" and "okonomiyaki" at the same time, unlike any other in Japan.” Okonomiyaki is a savory Japanese pancake dish. Commonly they’re made with wheat flour batter and other ingredients cooked on a teppan, a metal griddle similar to a flat-top grill. Toppings for okonomiyaki are as vast as the number of fish in the sea! Some toppings include cabbage, meat, seafood, okonomiyaki sauce, dried seaweed, Japanese mayonnaise, and pickled ginger. While you may be thinking, “uh, you’ve been talking about gluten-free food and celiac disease and then spun around and started talking about wheat. What?” Well, I have a surprise for you! Teppan Baby was able to accommodate dietary needs! The staff was friendly and really knowledgeable. They guided us through the menu and confirmed that they could ensure there was no cross-contamination as our food would be prepped and cooked right in front of us on the teppan. They also made great suggestions on sake to enjoy with dinner.

A small baby figurine next to chopsticks and a chopsticks wrapper with the Teppan Baby logo
Each place setting comes with a small baby figurine

What We Did


Pokémon Go

Playing Pokémon Go while traveling may seem silly to some, but it was so much fun getting to play this game in real life and virtual reality, where the game originated. Pokémon started as a Japanese card game launched in 1996 and was one of my favorite tv shows in my childhood. As we moved from location to location, we were hatching eggs, finding new Pokémon, and seeing parts of the city that we may not have seen otherwise. The game also boasts finding new Pokémon in different places around the world, so what we could find and catch in Japan, we would never see at home in Oregon or anywhere in the world.

Tokyo Tower

The iconic Tokyo Tower is often showcased in media featuring Tokyo. The tower is now the second-tallest structure in Japan, but it was the tallest tower in the world when it was built in 1958. Japan was motivated to build the tower as a monument to symbolize its ascendancy as a global economic powerhouse and provide television and radio via public broadcasting far and wide. Today, Tokyo Tower holds historical significance and delivers one of the best views in Tokyo, offering two observation decks where visitors can see the city from the clouds at 150m and 250m. If you have the time, traveling up the tower is worth the view, but it’s an icon not to be missed.

Tokyo Tower rising into the fog
Tokyo Tower on a foggy day


Just a 5-minute walk away from this tribute to, what was, at the time, modern technology, you’ll find the Zojo-ji temple. Zojo-ji is “the chief temple of the Jodo-Buddhist sect” with a complex history. Most of the 826,000 square meter property was destroyed in air raids during World War II except for an interior gate. Now the main gate, the Sangedatsumon, was built in 1622 and is one of the oldest wooden structures in Tokyo. People who pass through this gate are said to be “cleansed of the three worldly afflictions of greed, anger, and ignorance,” following the faith of the Jodo-Buddhists beliefs. These temple grounds are beautiful and open to the public. 

a man with chin length hair and a beard stands next to a blonde woman in front of a red buddhist temple entrance
Michael and Lexi at Zojo-Ji

teamLab Borderless

With fully immersive and some interactive art displays, teamLab Borderless was an art exhibition for the ages. As Will Smith put it in an Instagram post from October 18, 2019, “The blend of art & technology is mind blowing.” Borderless was an art installation by teamLab, an international art collective, at Aomi Station in Odaiba, Tokyo. Every pathway and room had different lights and projections on the walls depicting abstract and natural images: from a moose walking down a hallway to what seemed like thousands of light rods hanging from the ceiling above a mirrored floor. While the exhibition at Aomi Station closed in August 2022, teamLab Borderless has plans to reopen this exhibit as a part of the Toranomon-Azabudai Project in Tokyo and currently has another exhibition open until the end of 2023 in Toyosu, Japan.

Lights it orange and purple hanging from the ceiling in a mirrored room
One of the many rooms in teamLab Borderless

Fujifilm Photo History Museum

Take a deep dive into the history of photography and see art exhibits featuring Japanese photographers at the Fujifilm Photo History Museum. The museum features historical artifacts from different development phases of photography and rotating art exhibitions by Japanese photographers. One piece within the collection is Japan's oldest camera obscura. The camera, dating back to the late 18th century, is “a historically valuable optical device which was used for the drafting of drawings, leading to the invention of cameras.” It’s a well-rounded museum tucked away in Tokyo’s downtown area.

Fujifilm cameras from over the years
Fujifilm through the years


Video arcade

Video arcades are a staple for Japanese people of all ages. The arcades feature games you know and love, like Space Invaders and Donkey Kong, and (possibly) new-to-you games like Drummania. Curious about this cultural pastime? Almost every street in Tokyo has an arcade, so it shouldn’t be hard to find one. Just pop on in and give a game a go!

People playing games in a video arcade
Inside a video arcade

Omoide Yokochō or Piss Alley

A major attraction with an off-color name amongst tourists is Piss Alley. Known to locals as Omoide Yokochō or Memory Lane, this landmark alleyway has a selection of food stalls featuring traditional izakayas for simple fare & alcoholic drinks. This alley is beautiful in the evenings, with the warm lights glowing from storefronts and the lanterns lining the walk. It also smells way better than “Piss Alley” implies. Imagine the smells from the best backyard barbecue, add some soy sauce, and then turn that dial up to 11.

Shibuya Crossing and Shibuya SKY

Shibuya Crossing is said to be the busiest intersection in the world, with thousands of people crossing it every time the lights change. The corner is flooded with lights and giant TV screens on almost every side, reminiscent of New York’s Times Square condensed into one junction. Shibuya Crossing is an iconic stop in Tokyo, and if you feel up to it, it’s an experience to participate in! If that’s too many people and lights (it’s a lot to take in), you can watch people crossing from the Shibuya SKY, a tall building with an observation deck at 229m above the crossing. There are also several stores connected by sky bridges where you can see everyone below.


A pass time almost as popular as video arcades in Japan is karaoke. Similar to arcades, karaoke bars can be found on nearly every street in Tokyo. Inside most locations, you won’t find a large room full of strangers to compete with for stage time. Instead, you can rent rooms of various sizes by the hour. We stopped at Karaokekan in Shinjuku, and they had an unexpected amount of songs in English in addition to Japanese.

Ready for your own adventure in Japan?

If this trip sounds fun to you, reach out! I’m a travel advisor and freelance writer, and I’d love to help you plan your trip. You’ll pay the same for your hotel (no, really) and get way more with my personalized travel recs, insider knowledge, and some amazing perks at hotels like the Ritz-Carlton Tokyo!

Want to keep reading?

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