How To Have Fun in Tokyo at Night: Skyscrapers, Festivals, Illumination and more!
You’ve made it halfway around the world to Tokyo, the last thing you’re going to do is sleep the night away right? Good, because there are plenty of great things to do and see in Tokyo after the sun goes down. As long as you go to Roppongi, Shibuya, Shinjuku, or Ginza you’ll definitely be able to find bars and clubs (all different atmospheres depending on the location you decide to venture out to) so I’ll tell you some of the other things you can enjoy in Tokyo under the starry sky.
Night View from Tokyo Skyscrapers
A great way to see the beautiful city of Japan all lit up at night is to pay a little visit to one of the few observation decks. There is the famous Tokyo Tower that you could go up, or the fairly recently built Tokyo Skytree. The Tokyo Tower (16 floors) is open until 11:00pm and the Tokyo Skytree (29 floors) closes a little earlier at 10:00pm. There are also Roppongi Hills, Tokyo World Trade Center, Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building, Bunkyo Civic Center, and Sunshine 60. Check out the closest tower near you or the one that suits your personality and enjoy a romantic view of the city at starlight.
If you’d rather enjoy dinner or drinks with the beautiful view, why not try a restaurant on the top floor of a tall building? Ginza, Shinjuku, Marunouchi, and Shiodome are good locations to search! There is also the Sumitomo Building in Nishi-Shinjuku that have plenty of restaurants that offer a great view!
Even though this is limited to the season you go to Japan, if you travel around late July to September, then you’ll be able to enjoy the Japanese summer festivals, omatsuri. These are usually held later in the afternoon or evening at local parks. Every omatsuri is different but most of the time they have food vendors and game stands on the perimeter, with a huge stage in the middle. Typical omatsuri food include yakisoba, takoyaki, kakigoori, and watagashi. As for the games, kingyo-sukui and mizufuusen-yoyo are really popular.
Okay let me back up and explain what all this is! Yakisoba literally means fried buckwheat noodles and they are fried with carrots, cabbage, and chicken topped with dried seaweed and pickled ginger. Takoyaki literally means octopus fried, and it is a ball shaped snack made in a special pan with pieces of octopus, green onions, and ginger in a wheat batter. Kakigoori is shaved ice and Watagashi is cotton candy! With a selection like this you really can’t go wrong!
Kingyo-sukui is goldfish scooping. You are handed a little scoop made out of a plastic rim and paper “net.” By not leaving the scoop in the water for too long and carefully aiming, you can scoop out the goldfish of your choice out of a small pool! Whatever goldfish you scoop out, you get to take home! With a similar concept, Mizufuusen-yoyo is scooping out little yoyos (waterballoon attached with a long rubber band) of a pool. Again whatever you scoop out is yours to keep! These are just a few foods and games that are at the festivals, so don’t forget to check all the other ones out!
In the center is usually a stand where there are several taiko Japanese drums and everyone dancing around it. Of course this is always different based on the festival you go to. Most of these omatsuri are funded and held by a local shrine so there may be something related to that. If you really want to fit it, buy yourself a cheap yukata at a secondhand shop or Uniqlo! The traditional yukata is a lighter and more casual than kimono.
Christmas Lights Illumination
Another seasonal evening activity would be to walk around the city of Tokyo during Christmas season. Although not a Christian nation, Japan has started to take part in Christmas festivities. There are Christmas lights illuminating the whole city which would make a wonderful little stroll!
Tsukiji Fish Market
This is way past dusk/evening but check out the Tsukiji Fish Market. If there is one stereotype about Japan, it’s that everyone eats sushi. Well, the Tsukiji Fish Market is where a lot of those restaurants acquire their batch of fresh fish! Make sure you get there early enough (I’d say maybe around 2am) to get in line for the limited tickets they hand out to actually go inside and watch the auction happening. Although you’d think that it would be fresh fish just from around the area, some of the fish they auction off is from other countries like Australia.
Before the auction starts there are small plates with bite size fish cut up for the auctioneers to taste before it’s game time. Now let the auction begin and enjoy the show! Worst case scenario is that you get there too late and you don’t get to see the action happen. Don’t fret because outside the area they auction off the big stuff are small seafood vendors. You can treat yourself to some really early sushi for breakfast and enjoy the atmosphere of the place!
I could go on about the unlimited number of things to do in Tokyo at night! The city is hustling and bustling day and night! Just a friendly reminder that the train and subway system do stop running at 10:00pm to 1:00am depending on the line, so if you plan on staying out late be ready to pull an all nighter or pay an exorbitant amount for a taxi! Or just make sure that you book a hotel close to where you want to wander off to!