Check! | 5 Must-Do's in Tokyo

I do a lot of business travel. So while I most certainly have the best of intentions to spend a few days carefully and thoroughly exploring the cities I visit... my work schedule often ruins all my beautiful plans. Because of this, I like to create short "check-lists" for my travels. These are things that I not only must do, but these are things that won't take up a whole day for me to check off.

Here's my checklist for first-timers in Tokyo:

  1. Eat! Eat! Eat!

  2. Visit a park (tea ceremony, hanami or momijigari)

  3. Keep up with the busyness of Shibuya

  4. Experience the traditional at Meiji Jingu

  5. Shop, eat, drink, live in Ginza

(1) Eat! Eat! Eat!

[Credit: Live Japan}

Tokyo is one of greatest food cities in the world! There's so much to eat - sushi, ramen, soba, udon, tempura, yakitori, sukiyaki, tonkatsu, yakiniku, mochi, omurice, okonomiyaki... the list goes on and on and on. While you most certainly don't have to plan your entire travel itinerary around food (although we all know by now that I do), you most certainly should spend some time thinking about it and planning a meal or two in advance. Even if it isn't a fancy meal - you may want to plan your meals just to make sure that you arrive at the right time to minimize wait-times.

In case you need some inspiration, here are some of my favorites:

  • Tempura: Kikuya Tempura

  • Ramen: Ginza Kagari Honten

  • Yakitori: Jomon Roppongi

  • Sushi: Ginza Iwa

  • Souffle pancake: A Happy Pancake

(2) Visit a park

Japanese gardens are immaculate. Even in one of the world's busiest, most digitally advanced cities in the world - there are plenty of gardens and parks that you can escape to. Take a morning stroll through the park, or sit down at a Japanese tea-house to really take in the serenity. Kiyosumi Garden is a traditional Japanese garden complete with a pond and Japanese teahouse. The garden is organized so that visitors are led on a picturesque stroll around the water’s edge. The Imperial Palace East Garden is open to the public free of charge all year-round. The gardens are beautifully landscaped and there is a museum that sells postcards and trinkets as souvenirs.

[Credit: Go Tokyo]

If you're in Tokyo for the spring - make sure to go see the cherry blossoms ("hanami"). With more than a thousand trees, free admission, and night lights... Ueno Park is one of the most popular hanami spots in Tokyo. Shinjuku Gyoen is home to dozens of species of cherry tree, totaling more than 1,000 trees in all. Because of the great variety, you can enjoy blossoms in Shinjuku even if you are a week early or late for Tokyo’s full bloom. And for a few weeks during the hanami (cherry blossoms) in spring, and during the koyo (autumn leaves) in November, the garden of the Tokyo National Museum opens to the public. On the grounds are five antique teahouses brought here from all around Japan.