We all know that Tokyo is a flat-out WEIRD and wonderful place, truly unlike anywhere else in the world. Arriving into Tokyo is like stepping into an enigmatic alternate reality, a futuristic world brimming with robots, cat cafes, bullet trains, and anime. Words alone can’t fully capture the essence of this place.

You can wander through this city for weeks, months, even years, and never get bored. The sheer abundance of things to do in Tokyo can be overwhelming, leaving you wondering, “Where do I even start?”

Now don’t worry, the rest of your Japan trip will be filled to the brim with historical temples, kimonos, serene parks, and world-class museums. But, my friend, Tokyo stands as a universe of its own and I encourage you to step away from the well-trodden tourist path during your time here and dive into the weird, unusual, and utterly unique side of this neon wonderland.

During my week in Tokyo, I made it my mission to avoid the more touristy spots and fully embrace the peculiar. My days were filled with moments that left me shaking my head and thinking, “Only in Japan.” So, without further ado, here’s your ultimate guide to all things weird and unusual in Tokyo. Let’s dive right in!

Tokyo streets lit up at dusk, crazy anime billboards and neon lights.
Oh Tokyo, you are so gloriously strange…
Photo: @audyscala

1. Eat at a Cosplay Restaurant

The basic idea here is that it is a normal restaurant, except the ladies are dressed in French maid outfits, and address you as “master” or “princess”. Are any ladies reading this and not totally loving the idea?

Don’t worry – they’ve got butler restaurants for you, too. Hell, there’s even one where chicks dress up as the butlers. Basically, there’s a rather strange-themed restaurant for you, whatever your tastes, in Japan.

Photos of girls dressed up as maids at the famous maid cafe in Tokyo, Japan.
Photo: @audyscala

Akihabara, also known as the manga and electronics hub of Tokyo, is a neighborhood renowned for its maid cafes, which are popular among fans of anime and manga (otaku). To fully enjoy this unique experience in Tokyo, I suggest making reservations at a family-friendly Akihabara maid cafe in advance.

It’s important to note that while Akihabara offers various maid cafes, some cater to a more mature audience, so choose your venue wisely.

Japanese girl and American girl smile for cute polaroid at maid cafe in Tokyo, Japan.
Kawaiiiiii ?^•?•^?
(meaning “cute” in Japanese, you’ll hear this a lot…)
Photo: @audyscala

2. Real-life Mario Kart

There’s no denying that Mario Kart is one of the greatest video games ever created. I mean, there’s a reason they’re still coming out with new versions decades later.

Get ready to have your minds blown, my friends. In Tokyo, you can play real life Mario Kart!

Seriously – you can dress up as fucking Yoshi and ride a go-kart through the streets. They even have cameras and Bluetooth speakers in the go-karts, so you can capture all the action and blast your own tunes.

Just don’t go throwing any banana peels off to the side! Also, big point to note is that you will need a valid driver’s license to participate in go-karting.

Live out your Mario Kart fantasies in real life

3. Become a Samurai

A very fun, unique, and educating experience is to become a Samurai for the day, learning the fascinating history of the samurai, as well as the proper techniques to hold the sword, attack your foes, and defend yourself. At the end of the class, you’ll have the chance to slash and decapitate some rolled-up reed mats; a thrilling ending.

Girl holds samurai sword during a class in Kyoto, Japan.
Photo: @audyscala

4. Visit the Cat Temple

If you’re seeking an unconventional and less-touristy destination in Tokyo, consider a trip to Setagaya, a neighborhood in the southwestern part of the city. Here, you’ll have the opportunity to explore Gotokuji Temple, a Buddhist temple that has gained fame for housing thousands of cat statues, known as Maneki-Neko in Japanese.

A temple full of cat statues, symbols of good luck, in Tokyo Japan.
Photo: @audyscala

Maneki-Neko figurines are commonly placed in front of businesses and stores to attract customers. When you visit Gotokuji Temple, you can purchase these figurines, and it’s believed that leaving one here can lead to increased customers and success for your business.

5. Eat Some Pufferfish

In case you weren’t aware, fugu, also known as pufferfish, is notorious for harboring enough poison in its body to potentially kill eight humans! Despite this aspect, it’s rather peculiar that in Tokyo, fugu is regarded as a delicacy.

A pufferfish gets ready to be sliced up and served as a delicacy in Japan.
A fish that can kill…
Photo: @audyscala

The city consumes more than 10,000 tons of it annually (crazy right?!). To handle this lethal ingredient, chefs are required to undergo extensive training over several years and pass a rigorous national written and practical examination before they can prepare and serve fugu to patrons.

It’s the only food in Japan that the emperor isn’t allowed to eat! About 23 people have died since eating the fish since the year 2000, is that a risk you’re willing to take?

Pufferfish lantern on street food tour in Tokyo, Japan.
A lantern made out of a real Fugu body!
Photo: @audyscala

Fun Fact: Lanterns can be crafted using preserved fugu bodies, which can be found not only in fugu restaurants but also as children’s toys, folk art, and souvenirs. The skin is also used to create everyday items such as wallets and waterproof boxes.

6. Visit the Poop Museum

Embark on an unforgettable journey to the Crappy Unko (Poop) Museum in Tokyo. A museum entirely dedicated to the cuteness of poop is a concept that could only originate in Japan.

This is a place where visitors can let loose, have a good laugh, and learn something new about a subject that is usually considered taboo.

Mr. Poop Man contemplating life

At the “Kusogame Center,” which humorously translates to the “Shit-game Center,” you’ll find a room dedicated to Unberuto, the museum’s anthropomorphic mascot who is a philosopher that gives birth to other sentient poops. It’s every bit as outrageous as it sounds, creating an experience that’s bound to leave you both baffled and amused.

You can also take photos in the designated room with various poop sculptures and shiny poop props.

7. Shop at Don Quijote

Venture into the sensory overload experience of shopping at Mega Don Quijote in Shibuya. Don Quijote, affectionately known as Donki, is a hyperstore chain that has taken Japan by storm. Here you can literally buy ANYTHING your little heart desires.

From floor to ceiling, shelves are brimming with a myriad of items you never knew you needed, and countless screens clamor for your attention with advertisements. This is consumerism in its purest form, ya’ll. From Adult novelties, cosmetics, snacks, seasonal decorations, cosplay costumes, sim cards, anime characters and trinkets galore. You can find matcha-flavored oreos or roasted soy bean-flavored kit-kats (I know wtf right?!).

A shopping basket full of souvenirs from Tokyo, Japan.
My haul from Don Quijote; yes that camera actually works…
Photo: @audyscala

Of course, this is a great place to knock out all your souvenir shopping for friends and family, as it’s got something for everyone. It truly is Tokyo’s quirkiest retail adventure.

8. Attend the Penis Festival

Head to the Kanayama Jinja Shrine for a very unique experience. This shrine is which is known for Kanamara Festival, famously known as the ‘penis festival,’ in April. This shrine, along with the festival, pays unique homage to this male body part, evident from the numerous statues found around the shrine.

Penis popsicle anyone?

Historically, visitors have come to this shrine to seek protection from sexually transmitted diseases. However, it also serves as a place to pray for fertility and safeguarding during childbirth.

While the concept is eccentric and amusing, it’s important to remember that this is still a sacred place, so it’s important to treat the penis statues with respect.

9. Gashapon Department Store

Don’t miss the chance to visit the Gashapon Department Store in Ikebukuro. Gashapon, also known as gacha-gacha machines, are super famous toy machines in Japan, they’re everywhere. They might seem stupid at first but trust me; they’re addictive.

Girl gets toy from toy machine in Tokyo, Japan.
Can you tell how happy I was to get the toy I was hoping for?!
Photo: @audyscala

Gashapon machines are delightfully simple: insert 100 yen coins into the machine, turn the handle, and receive a surprise prize!

The pictures displayed on the front of the gashapon machines showcase the variety of prizes you might win, and each machine typically follows a specific theme, featuring a range of collectibles, such as anime characters, keychains, and more.

10. Ghibli Museum

For die-hard Studio Ghibli fans and Totoro lovers (like myself), a visit to the Ghibli Museum is an absolute must. This museum’s design is a manifestation of the personal vision of Studio Ghibli’s co-owner and director, Hayao Miyazaki.

Girl kissing giant Totoro at Studio Ghibli Museum in Japan.
Photo: @audyscala

True to his background as a director and manga artist, Miyazaki envisioned the museum “as if it were a film.” This concept materialized in the form of a series of rooms adorned with extracts from every single animation piece he has either produced or found intriguing.

If you’re a fan of the mystical world of Ghibli you have to check out this museum… make sure you book tickets in advance as they sell out quickly.

11. See Sumo Wrestling

Sumo is the national sport of Japan and seeing it live is a pretty incredible experience. There are three big sumo tournaments in Tokyo each year in January, May, and September. Each one lasts for just over two weeks, meaning there are 45 days a year where it’s possible to see sumo live.

Girl takes photo in photo stand at sumo wrestling experience in Japan.
Photo: @audyscala

If you can’t catch a sumo tournament, perhaps you can attend a baseball game. It’s not just for Americans!

The Yomiuri Giants play at the Tokyo Dome. The games are a lot of fun and with the season lasting from March to September, there are plenty of chances to catch one.  No matter which Japanese city you stay in, there will 2 big fat blokes scrapping somewhere.

12. Aokigahara Forest

Journey to the eerie Aokigahara Forest in Japan for a mysterious and unsettling adventure. Aokigahara is renowned as one of the most haunted locations in Japan, making it a compelling choice for those seeking an extraordinary experience.

Aokigahara Forest
Eerie vibes…

This forest is steeped in Japanese ghost stories, and numerous visitors have shared accounts of peculiar sounds and ghostly apparitions. It’s important to approach your exploration with caution and deep respect for this solemn place, as it bears a tragic history of individuals taking their own lives within its depths.

13. Meguro Parasitological Museum

For those with a fascination for the grotesque, a visit to the Meguro Parasitological Museum is a must-do. It proudly holds the distinction of being the sole parasite museum in the world, and one might reasonably wonder why you would ever need more than one.

Within its walls, this museum houses a vast collection of preserved parasite specimens.

Photo: Laker ac (WikiCommons)

Here, you can delve into the astonishing world of parasitology and gain insights into how leeches attach themselves to the eyelids of sea turtles or witness the ghastly sight of a praying mantis infected with a horsehair worm.

Final Thoughts

Tokyo is undeniably a city like no other, a place that constantly challenges your perception of what is normal and accepted. It’s a place where you can be truly free to be yourself, venture out of your comfort zone and embrace your inner weird.

My week in Tokyo was a journey into the strange, the unusual, and the utterly unique. It’s a city where you can immerse yourself in a neon wonderland filled with robots, poop museums, anime and cat cafes and still feel like you’ve only scratched the surface of its eccentricity.

So, if you find yourself in Tokyo, don’t hesitate to explore the bizarre and unconventional side of this city. Embrace the enigmatic alternate reality it offers and revel in the adventures that will leave you with unforgettable memories. Tokyo is a place where the extraordinary is the norm, and it’s an experience you won’t want to miss.

Girl poses for photo with anime cutouts in Akihabara Tokyo, Japan.
See ya next time!
Photo: @audyscala