Tokyo is home to plenty of historic landmarks, cultural sites, and world-famous buildings, but Japan’s capital also has a lot to offer within the realm of the unusual. If you’re looking for activities that are a bit exotic, off the beaten path, or just plain weird, this is the list for you.
EAT AT A ROBOT RESTAURANT
Situated in the heart of Shinjuku’s Kabukichō district, Robot Restaurant features a raucous pop-culture laser show with robotic monsters, dinosaurs, and dancers. It’s quite the establishment, to say the least. Visitors are also treated to giant robot battles, live music, and sushi — though the latter is not typically why most choose to go.
WALK THROUGH AN ANIMATED MUSEUM
Located in Inokashira Park in western Tokyo, the Ghibli Museum offers fun exhibits for all ages. The museum showcases the work of the Japanese animation studio Studio Ghibli (such as “Spirited Away,” “Castle in the Sky,” “My Neighbor Totoro,” and “Kiki’s Delivery Service”) and was designed by director Hayao Miyazaki. Each room has a unique theme, which makes it seem as if you’re walking through an animated storyboard. The museum also screens a different short film each month, so be sure to check their calendar to see what’s playing!
SEE THE WORLD’S LONGEST TAPEWORM
One of the strangest museums in a city known for its oddities, the Meguro Parasitological Museum is dedicated entirely to parasites from around the world that infect animals and humans — in fact, there’s a separate floor for each. But the Meguro’s claim to fame is actually that it houses the world’s longest tapeworm, which is nearly 30 feet long. Needless to say, we recommend eating before you go.
STAY AT A CAPSULE HOTEL
Scattered across the city, these compact hotels feature “rooms” that are only long and wide enough to fit a single body. So, if you’ve ever wanted to sleep in a small, person-shaped capsule, you’re in luck! Plus, because of their size, these pods are significantly cheaper than conventional accommodation. If you’re looking to stay in one of Tokyo’s most well-known capsule hotels, check out Capsule Inn Kajicho.
UTILIZE JAPANESE TOILETS
Japanese commodes are no ordinary potties. With seat warmers, music, bidets, and an array of other functions, these bad boys are like a spa for your derrière. So go button crazy! You’ll be able to experience these toilets in restaurants, hotels, and sites across the city.
ATTEND SUMO WRESTLING PRACTICE
Although sumo wrestling is deeply rooted in Japanese culture, competitions are rare, and it’s difficult to get tickets. Instead, watch the rikishi (sumo wrestlers) in their morning practices at their sumo stable! Although these practices are open to the public, chatting, eating, drinking, and entering the ring are strictly prohibited. If you’re not sure of where to go, head to Hakkaku Sumo Stable — located near Ryogoku Station, off the Toei Ōedo Line.
DINE IN A JAIL CELL
Looking for an offbeat dining experience? Head to Alcatraz E.R. This restaurant is designed to resemble a jail, and each cell represents a different dining area. Servers wear medical costumes covered in fake blood, and occasionally bang metal rods against cell bars for added “ambiance,” while diners drink cocktails out of dummy heads and choose from menu items like “dead chicken” and “intestines.”
GET YOUR KARAOKE ON
In case you forgot (or didn’t know), karaoke was invented in Japan. It originated as a Japanese tradition to entertain guests with music, but thanks to the nation’s innovative spirit, the practice evolved and, eventually, modern-day karaoke was born. Tokyo offers plenty of fun and somewhat strange karaoke bars where you can sing to your heart’s content. One of the more well-known is Karaoke Kan, which is where Bill Murray sang “More Than This” in the movie “Lost in Translation.”
EXPLORE UNDERGROUND TOKYO
Take a free guided tour through the city’s drainage systems, learn about water flow, and feel like you’re the lead in a low-budget disaster movie. This series of concrete silos and tunnels between Tokyo and Saitama, called the G-Cans Project, is actually the world’s largest underground flood water diversion infrastructure. Get your oohs and ahhs ready.
PLAY REAL-LIFE MARIO KART
MariCAR Shibuya is a go-kart rental company that encourages visitors to drive through the streets of Tokyo in full costume (which they provide). It’s completely legal — all you need is an international driving permit. Race through Shinjuku, Roppongi, and Shibuya, or choose from a list of guided tours. Either way, watch out for those banana peels!
Header image by Patrick Gather.