The Ultimate 5: Best Things to Do in Tokyo in 2023

Kabukicho, Japan

Japan is now open again to tourists, and for Mami Shirakawa, Tokyo shows the world how a large, bustling city can also be intimate and warm.

“What makes Tokyo so fascinating is that we have the modern and traditional mixed into city life,” says the director of culture and entertainment at the recently opened boutique hotel The Tokyo EDITION, Toranomon.

Shirakawa has lived and worked around the world, but she’s thrilled to be back in her home city with its endless attractions – including her glamorous hotel workplace, which inhabits the upper levels of the Tokyo World Gate skyscraper overlooking the iconic Tokyo Tower. “We’re at the very top of Tokyo; the city stretches out and welcomes you below,” she says.

From epic restaurants to incredible views and family fun, here are Shirakawa’s ultimate Tokyo experiences for 2023.

Ultimate restaurant: NINE by La Cime

NINE by La Cime, Japan

“Chef Yusuke Takada found fame with one of Osaka’s very best restaurants, La Cime, which has two Michelin stars and is on Asia’s 50 Best Restaurants list. This July Takada came to Tokyo with NINE by La Cime, its sister restaurant, situated on the ninth floor of Chiyoda Terrace, which is in the exciting new hub in Otemachi.

“It’s a truly elegant fine dining experience; a modern French restaurant serving a tasting menu of around 12 courses, made with top ingredients from different regions within Japan. I like to sit at the 12-seat counter in the beautifully refined dining room and see the chefs at work. The ‘boudin dog’, a signature dish from Osaka that plays on the hot dog with boudin noir, has been reinterpreted for NINE by La Cime. It’s a lot of fun.”

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Ultimate fun: teamLab Borderless

teamLab Borderless, Tokyo

“Here’s something to really look forward to: the reopening of teamLab Borderless, this amazing immersive art museum in a new location in central Tokyo. Over the past four years, it has been so popular, especially with families, that it broke the record for being the world’s most visited single artist museum.

“The space is a three-dimensional digital experience that engages all your senses – you feel like you actually become part of the artwork. At the previous venue in Odaiba, visitors could find themselves floating among glowing lanterns or walking among a forest of flowers that bloom as you stand still. The new project is situated between the neighbourhoods of Toranomon and Azabudai and promises to be so exciting.”

The Azabudai Hills project, where teamLab Borderless will be located, will complete construction in 2023. The opening date is still to be announced. 

Ultimate hidden secret: organic sake bar Twelv

Twelv, Tokyo

“Tokyo’s most cutting-edge sake bar will amaze you. It’s a tiny, beautifully designed space in that moody and minimalist Japanese way; hugely atmospheric and so chic and sexy. It opened seven years ago in the upmarket area of Nishi Azabu, near Roppongi, and serves only sakes that are natural and organic.

“You can order an ‘omakase menu’ of different sake flights (a curated range of sake selected by the sommelier) and bar snacks such as smoked pickled vegetables or tapas-style dishes made with Japanese ingredients with a focus on umami. It’s very exclusive so make sure you book ahead.”

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Ultimate views: Shibuya Sky Observation Deck

“It’s amazing to be working at the Tokyo EDITION, Toranomon with our incredible views, especially from the outdoor terrace overlooking Tokyo Tower. But it's hard to go past the incredible rooftop observation deck at Shibuya Scramble Square.

“The 360-degree views from 230-metres above the ground are spectacular, and there are telescopes if you want to get a close-up look at Mount Fuji on a clear day. There are also hammocks and comfortable seats so it’s a nice spot to just hang out and soak it all in.”

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$450 Qantas Travel credit

$450 Qantas Travel credit

Ultimate family fun: Ghibli Park

“Studio Ghibli is famous around the world for its animated films like Spirited Away and My Neighbor Totoro and Ghibli Park brings its beautiful visions to life for people of all ages. It opened in November 2022 near Nagoya, and has lots of interactive exhibits recreating the films. The Ghibli's Grand Warehouse is where you can see movie artefacts as well.

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“There are restaurants and cafes on site and there’s so much to see – you can easily spend a whole day here. A visit will explain why Ghibli – and animation in general – is such a huge part of Japanese popular culture. The drive there is around four hours from Tokyo, so it’s a much better idea to jump on the bullet train, which takes a little over an hour and always runs on time!”

Getting there

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SEE ALSO: Things to Do in Singapore According to a Local  

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Image credits: teamLab, Exhibition view of teamLab Borderless: MORI Building DIGITAL ART MUSEUM,  Tokyo © teamLab, courtesy Pace Gallery

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