Have you arrived in Tokyo early in the morning and don’t know what to do? Or perhaps you’ve got some time to fill before your plans in the evening. It’s a situation I’ve found myself in many times, so I thought I’d tell you about my top 20 favorite things to do in Tokyo in the morning.
Tokyo is filled with a huge amount of things to do in the morning – if you can imagine it, you can probably do it. From zen parks to towering skyscraper views and Otaku product treasure troves, the only limit is your imagination. And it’s never too early for ramen!!
Oh, and I didn’t put ‘visiting a konbini’ on the list, and grabbing any number of snacks and food because that’s just a given! If you are looking for food, you’ll find number 20 interesting 😉
1. Stroll through Ueno Park
If you’re looking for somewhere to relax in Tokyo in the morning, Ueno Park should definitely be high on that list. You’ll likely find quite a few locals doing their morning exercises or yoga if you go really early in the morning, or if you’ve turned up a little later, you could enjoy a coffee a pastry, or ten as you watch the world pass by.
The park is also home to Ueno Zoo, a place I decided to visit on my very first trip to Japan. Although I think that was in the Summer time so I don’t imagine we got too far before giving up and heading to somewhere a little cooler!
Fast forward several years and trips, and every time I’ve tried to visit, it’s been raining… Hopefully, you’ll have more luck!
2. Visit Asakusa Senso-ji Temple
I’ll come clean and tell you that in all honesty, I’m not really a fan of this place. The temple, though visually stunning (and the oldest in Tokyo), is a tourist hotspot and is often one of the most crowded attractions in Japan.
Granted, I wouldn’t blame you if you did decide to visit because like I said, it’s damn impressive. If you don’t like crowds, visiting this place in the morning is your best bet by far.
You’ve probably seen the millions of photos on social media of the parade of shops located just in front of the temple. I wouldn’t worry about shopping here, you’ll get much better options in other parts of Tokyo, and arriving early enough to beat the crowds and see the temple is a far better choice.
3. Scramble across Shibuya Crossing
It’s hectic, noisy, practically always busy, and definitely, something you should do at least once. This is something I’d recommend doing in Tokyo in the morning when it’s slightly less busy, or at night when it’s super busy and all the neon lights are on.
I took the photo above when I first came to Japan, and I honestly quite like it. The top left photo was taken from the Tsutaya coffee shop (a really cool place to grab a coffee if you can get a seat!), the top right was taken as soon as you get out of the station, and the bottom was taken in the middle of the madness.
You’ll also find a number of people queueing up to snap a photo with the statue of the famous Japanese dog Hachiko. I’d suggest skipping this, and if you really want to see something similar, visit Hachiko’s shrine which is far less popular.
4. Get lost in Nakano Broadway
Are you weird? Do you like weird things? Me too!
If you’re looking for things to do in Tokyo in the morning, and the thought of going somewhere as hectic as Akihabara makes you want to crawl back under the covers, Nakano Broadway is the place to come.
From 10:00 in the morning, you can dive into the depths of this otaku paradise and find shops filled with Pokemon cards, retro tech, expensive Japanese videogames, and more.
It’s absolutely huge, and I find myself spending hours here each time I visit. Not quite as much time as I can spend in Yodobashi Camera, but pretty close!
5. Stroll through Yoyogi Park
More often than I care to admit, I find myself waking up in a random hotel in Shibuya after a night out (work events, of course…). After such nights in the area, I figured out that there’s truly no better way to spend a morning than to grab a bite to eat from 7-Eleven and wander around Yoyogi Park.
I prefer this park to Ueno, simply because it seems to be a little more chilled out. Families and locals frequent the area, and it’s always nice to see loads of people being outside just because they can be/want to be.
Having a slow walk around somewhere like Yoyogi Park in the morning is a great way to recover from the hectic nature of Tokyo, or from a slightly heavier-than-intended night out! Walking around a park in the big city is also a great way to deal with your Japanese jetlag, and a great thing to do after landing in Tokyo.
6. Travel to Nikko
It might not be in Tokyo, but if you’re feeling adventurous, then taking the train out of Tokyo is a great thing to do in the morning. The earlier you get up and out, the fewer people you’ll find, and the more time you’ll have to spend at your destination.
Nikko is one of my favorite day trips from Tokyo, and a wonderful little escape to add to your itinerary if you aren’t planning any, or only a few days in the countryside. There’s so much to do in the area, though I’m particularly partial to a ride on an authentic Japanese riverboat!
Fancy something a little more chilled out, or perhaps something that includes Onsen? Hakone is the day trip from Tokyo you’re looking for.
7. Chill out in Sugamo (Harajuku for Grannies)
We’ve all heard of (and probably been to) Takeshita Street. The problem is, it’s busy practically all the time. In fact, it’s so busy that I haven’t been the entire time I’ve lived in Japan. Every time I take the train and go past Harajuku, I’m never sorry I’ve made that decision!
So, for those of you who agree with me and are looking for something a little more slow-paced, you should check out Sugamo if you’ve got a morning spare in Tokyo. Nicknamed ‘Harajuku for grannies’, Sugamo Jizodori Shopping Street is lined with shops selling sewing equipment, clothing for the elderly amongst other things, and most certainly lives up to its name.
It’s a slow pace of life around here, and you’ll certainly get a lot more personal space than you’re likely to get in Harajuku. Granted it might not have all those Instagram-friendly shops you’ve been seeing, but part of what makes this area appealing is its lack of tourists. Off-the-beaten-track destinations are my favorite!
8. Grab breakfast in Tokyo’s trendiest neighborhoods
I live in the countryside in Japan and life over here moves at about 1mph. So, every time I’m in Tokyo I do enjoy visiting places that are ‘happening’ or at least have a buzz to them. Two such places are Shimokitazawa and Koenji.
Filled with trendy food joints, cute cafes, and boutique clothing outlets, this is a fantastically chilled-out place to wander around in the morning. If it were me, I’d grab a coffee and a cake from one of the cafes in these places.
I’m not really a fan of chain shops, so I’ll do my best to go somewhere independent. Luckily enough, there are loads of this kind of breakfast options throughout these areas. You’ll be spoilt for choice!
9. Get lost inside Radio Kaikan
If Nakano Broadway sounded too tame for you and you’d rather bury yourself in the madness of Akihabara early in the morning, you’ll probably make no better use of your time in Tokyo than to visit Radio Kaikan. The key here is that you’ll be doing so before the crowd comes!
Once again, this is an Otakus paradise and sells practically anything you could want to buy from secondhand Japanese games ,Gundam and Anime to Pokemon Cards and games. It’s got 11 floors, and believe me when I tell you that this place gets extremely busy.
It’s conveniently located outside Akihabara station in Electric Town, so easily accessible to everyone. It might not be my idea of fun this early in the morning, but visiting before the crowd comes is a very good idea if this place is on your itinerary anyway.
10. Wander through Rikugien Gardens
I love Japanese parks, and luckily for me, there are plenty of them! There are also heaps of them in America as well.
Yoyogi Park and Ueno Park are both great if you’re looking to chill out and watch the world go past, but if you’re looking for a slice of zen to visit in the morning in Tokyo, Rikugien Gardens is the place to go.
It costs just ¥600 to get in, and it’s absolutely stunning. We went in the summer, so I can only imagine how beautiful this park will look during the changing of the leaves in Autumn and Spring.
There are two tracks you can go around depending on how much time you have, and there are a couple of tea houses along the way as well. I think this is a relatively unknown area for tourists who come to Tokyo, or at least not very frequently written about.
Take advantage of that, go in the morning, grab a cup of tea, and live out your Japan dreams!
11. Walk around the Gardens at Tokyo Palace
Walking around the Gardens at Tokyo Palace is something we did in the morning after we disembarked from Japan’s last-running sleeper train. After having coffee at one of the best-designed Starbucks in the country (seen about 3/4 of the way down that page), we set off to the palace and originally thought you had to pay to get in.
Turns out, most of those queues you’ll see in the morning are just people waiting for the guided tour. I mean that sounds fun as well, but just remember that you don’t have to spend any money to get into the gardens pictured above. For its proximity to Tokyo station, it’s a fantastic thing to do in Tokyo in the morning if you’ve got some spare time, and it could even fill up most of your day if you get on one of those tours as well.
12. Explore Tokyo’s oldest neighborhood, Yanaka Ginza
Lots of people seem to have an image of Tokyo (and Japan) living in the future. As someone who lives here, I can tell you that this isn’t the case the majority of the time. But if you’re just visiting, those bright lights in Tokyo’s most popular areas can easily make you feel like it is and sometimes get a bit much.
Yanaka Ginza is one of my favorite places to step away from it all and also happens to be one of the oldest neighborhoods in Tokyo.
Shops in Japan tend to open a little later than you’ll be used to, but wandering around an older neighborhood like this one when there are just a few Obassan and Ojisan walking around in the morning is going to be one hell of a memory!
13. Grab some ramen for breakfast (and lunch, and dinner!)
Ramen is easily my favorite Japanese food, and I could literally eat it daily… probably. People in Japan have no issues eating fish, curry, or any manner of things for breakfast, so as far as I’m concerned, there’s no reason why you can’t eat Ramen!
If you don’t have any dietary restrictions, find a ramen restaurant that’s away from the main strip, and preferably only has locals eating inside. The longer the line, and the smaller the shop (normally) the better!
If you do have dietary restrictions you’ve got a few choices, T’s Tan Tan and Ippudo are two of the best we’ve found so far. Though good luck finding T’s Tan Tan, I’ve been to Tokyo Station soooo many times, and I always get lost trying to find that ramen shop!
14. Visit Shibuya Sky
Ok, so I haven’t visited Shibuya Sky in the Morning (hence this picture above), but the views you’ll be provided with are really something special. You can even grab something to drink on the open-air viewing deck and spend as long as you like up here.
You’ll have to book in advance which means it’s not great if you need to be spontaneous, but it’s well worth putting on your itinerary. There’s something seriously special about Tokyo’s skyline, and it’s one hell of a view to start your morning with.
If you’re closer to the west of Tokyo, (near the Skytree, Akihabara, Tokyo Station, etc) I would recommend visiting this viewing platform. It’s free, in a random part of Tokyo that practically no one visits, and gives you equally stunning views.
15. Spend the morning buying Pokemon cards
I mean, the morning is just as good as any other time to buy Pokemon cards in Tokyo, right? I’d suggest going to Ikebukuro over Akihabara because of the more relaxed atmosphere, but you may prefer the latter.
Stay away from those vending machines that have cards inside. If you don’t you’ll probably waste all your money before the Afternoon. …I’m not speaking from experience of course…
16. Grab a bargain at Hard-OFF
Just as I refuse to believe it’s ever too early for ramen, it’s also never too early to hunt through your local Hard Off for an absolute bargain (or rare find!). Secondhand shopping in Tokyo (and Japan in general) is an absolute addiction of mine.
Take a look at the article I’ve linked in the above paragraph, and you’ll see that there are so many options to find a great deal in Japan. The only caveat is the ‘Off’ stores in central Tokyo tend to be picked dry of decent finds.
I’ve always had more luck in those that are slightly more out of the city, but you never know. Just don’t bother going to the Hard Off in Akihabara, that place is pretty rubbish and never seems to have anything.
17. Spend the day avoiding jet lag
I know you want to make the most of your trip to Japan, and honestly, no one would blame you if you had an itinerary that was planned up to the minute. The issue with this is that jet lag can take hold and ruin all those plans.
Dealing with jetlag in Japan is a lot like dealing with it for other countries, but if you’ve got into the country and still feel like rubbish then it could really improve your trip if you just take it easy for a bit. Of course, if you’ve booked things up and you can’t change anything then you’ll just have to power through.
My advice is that if you know you’ll be arriving very late at night or early in the morning in Tokyo, make the first day in your itinerary adaptable. I’m not saying you should sleep the whole day, but having a loose plan of visiting a couple of gardens in Tokyo in the morning and grabbing dinner at some point is going to be much nicer than trying to visit Harajuku, Shibuya, Shinjuku, and Akihabara in one day.
Unfortunately, I’ve seen people try to do that even when they don’t have jetlag, it never ends well.
18. Join an outdoor exercise group
If you’ve been to Yoyogi Park or Ueno Park early in the morning, you’ll likely have seen a good few people doing their exercises. Whether they’re running, doing tai-chi, or doing a group radio Taiso (love that show!), it’s a very active place in the early hours of the morning.
If you love running, why not put on your shoes and go for an exploration? It’s particularly nice to do when hardly anyone else is up and the sun is just peaking above the horizon. Couple that with running streets you’ve never seen before and you’re in for a winner!
19. Go watch shopping at Seiko Square
I recently visited Ginza with a few family members who came to visit us, it’s a really nice place and the morning is a great time to visit. The reason we went here was for a member of our party who wanted to buy a watch in that massive building you can see in the photo.
They’re all far out of my price range, but he came away with a limited edition Seiko that I must admit was pretty special. There are so many luxury shops in Ginza, so if you’re after anything a bit spendy this is the place to come.
If you’re considering buying a watch in Tokyo, while Ginza has the best selection of luxury watches in Tokyo, Nakano Broadway also has a pretty good amount. They also sell a lot of vintage/second-hand watches over there so if you’re looking for something a little more unique, head over that way instead.
20. Eat breakfast at KOMEDA is
Eating breakfast at practically any Kissaten in Tokyo is possibly going to be my favorite way to spend a morning in the capital. There’s something so relaxing about eating pancakes, orange juice, and overly exuberant desserts in the morning as you watch the world pass you by.
I mean sure you could eat a ‘proper’ breakfast, but who wants to do that when cake is on offer??
Komeda IS, is our favorite Kissaten and it’s located in Ginza. If you’re in this part of Tokyo in the morning, I highly recommend grabbing breakfast or an early lunch here!