Whether it’s the pouring rain or burning sun that makes you want to head for cover, don’t worry, sometimes a great day in can be better than a great day out!
Rather than listing the usual suspects though—like art galleries, museums, cinemas, and karaoke—we thought we would find the best Tokyo indoor activities, where you won’t even notice you haven’t seen daylight in hours, let alone have to run between places with your 500 yen umbrella (and that’s if it hasn’t been stolen again). If the forecast for your holiday looks unappetizing, then fear not, while you can brave the elements some of the time, there are plenty of ways to experience Japan and stay inside too…
Soak, Eat, Wander, Repeat at Oedo Onsen Mongatari
Soaking away your worries and the aches and pains from carrying your luggage doesn’t need much selling. However, while normally it can kill maybe an hour or two—there is one place in town where you can soak, rest, eat, play and soak some more, for hours on end.
Oedo Onsen Monogatari is an Edo-themed onsen town where your kimono rental is included and allows you to saunter around the Edo town at your leisure. It has traditional indoor and open-air baths, a mist sauna, a rock salt sauna and a silk bath, to name just a few. When you’re done soaking you can try out the fortune tellers, sample some sweets, play festival games and try traditional dishes including sushi, ramen and street food. Basically it has everything. The fee includes yukata, towel and bath use but not the extra entertainment or food. That can all be paid for with an electronic tab—you pay when you leave.
Prices start at 2,612 yen for adults on weekdays, 2,828 yen on weekends. If you enter in the evening after 6pm, your fee is discounted to 2,062 yen and 2,288 yen respectively. You can also check the Japanese site for a discount coupon to save some extra! It’s open overnight too, so you can sleep in the lounge room if you like, last entry is at 7am and you can find the free shuttle bus routes on their website.
Indoor Thrills – Theme Parks with Roofs
There might be certain limitations to having a roof over your theme park, so these are missing certain towering roller coasters, but they have lots of other great attractions that will keep you busy for hours.
Sanrio Puroland is the Hello Kitty version of Disney, and while there are no adult-friendly rides they really go to town when it comes to the shows. While you might be familiar with Hello Kitty and some of her friends, this is also a great opportunity to meet some more unusual characters, like Gudetama. Everyone’s favorite lazy egg, he is the weird Japanese character you never knew you could love—and this is his home. They have shows, parades, costumes and a million photo-ops for all zones, so think of it as a trippy day out. Day tickets are normally 3,300 yen, but you can get up to 45% off by booking in advance on Voyagin.
Sanrio Puroland – 5 minutes from the Tama Center Station (Keio or Odakyu) | Opening hours here
For the gamers, Joypolis is the answer. Created by Sega, this Odaiba-based indoor arcade has virtual reality games as well as interactive rides and familiar faces like Sonic. If horror games give you kicks, Joypolis has plenty—with a VR Room of the Living Dolls and a Deadly Escape game among the fear-inducing options. If not, there are roller coasters, rapids and plenty of mystery challenges to keep you busy. You can pay for each activity individually with an admission fee of 800, or make the most of savings and go in the evenings to get the all-inclusive ticket for 3,300 yen. Yes, not exactly cheapo, but you did want to go to a theme park.
Joypolis – 1-6-1 Daiba, Minato-ku, Tokyo | Open 10am – 10pm, last entry 9:15pm.
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Go Down, Deeper and Down…to the Sewage Museum
If you want to know what happens to all the rainwater that tried to spoil your holiday, then you can venture deep into the drains of Tokyo (well, Saitama) and find out for yourself.
The G-Cans project is a massive drainage discharge channel which stops rivers over flowing, and looks pretty damn intense while it’s at it. The tours are free and you can book up to 28 days ahead, but you do need someone who can speak Japanese in your group. Tours are run on Tuesdays to Fridays, so no weekends unfortunately. There is a Haru bus that runs from the nearest station and only costs 100 yen so you can avoid the 40-minute trek. Prepare your dystopic comments and leave your best suede shoes at home.
Sports for Days at Spocha
Given the Japanese love for sports, it’s no surprise that you can play pretty much all of them under one roof. Spocha is a giant sports center, with everything from your regular golf and mini-bowling to some slightly more exciting ‘sports’.
You can try mini-motorbiking, bubble soccer (think soccer with zorbing), rodeo and roller skating, among others. Better in groups or with kids, it’s weirdly easy to get competitive about games no one has ever played (similar to when everyone becomes an expert on diving techniques every Olympics, “Oh, but that splash!”). If you need to beat a child at a rodeo and feel smug, this is the place to go.
The centers also offer full-size bowling, karaoke, darts and other games separately to the Spocha area, which is priced on either “free time” (2,690 yen for adults on weekdays), 3-hour or 30-minute slots. Prices increase for weekends and holidays as you would expect, but weekdays are best anyway since there are fewer queues. The nearest Spocha to Tokyo is in Odaiba, located on the 6th floor of Diver City Tokyo Plaza. While there you can explore the shopping malls and enjoy the giant Gundam too!
Subterranean Sightseeing and Shopping in Shinjuku
Shinjuku itself might be full of towering buildings and even a giant Godzilla, but the labyrinth that is Shinjuku Station extends deep underground and stretches for miles. With shops, restaurants, strange art and passages to some great spots, you can explore for hours and even pop out in a whack-a-mole fashion in different areas of town.
Some of the best parts include the Tokyo Subnade shopping area which reaches Yasukuni Street and runs beneath Kabukicho. Here you can find everything from 100-yen shops, to secondhand book shops to fancy aquarium shops. Alternatively you can reach the Tokyo Government Metropolitan Buildings and see some interesting headquarters along the way, all without stepping foot outside. Word of warning though, expect to get lost (that’s half the fun of it) and try not to imagine zombie-esque movie scenes when you find yourself in deserted tunnels with flickering lights.
Shinjuku Subnade Open 10-9pm (restaurants 11-23) 7 days a week.
If you find yourself back in the station you can check out the amazing departments stores which usually focus on fashion, but also have great souvenir options as well as some very up-market spending if you’re not feeling so cheapo. Head to the basements for the food halls in the fancier ones—Isetan has a great selection of beautiful gifts and traditional foods, as well as the opportunity to buy a single grape for 1,000 yen!
- Lumine 1 – 11 floors including a roof terrace, mainly focused on fashion.
- Lumine 2 – 7 floors, fashion
- Lumine EST – 10 floors and over 300 shops – primarily women’s fashion and restaurants
- Isetan – pretty fancy flagship store from 1933 – great food hall
- Takashimaya – also high-end, takes up most of Takashimaya Times Square and is on the south east side
- Tokyu Hands – great for souvenirs – has great variety of beauty products and massage chairs for your feet!
- Keio Department Store – west side of Shinjuku Station – great food options and nice to wander
- Shinjuku MyLord – south-west corner of the shopping mall, mostly fashion for younger women.
- Kinokuniya – books – to the south of Takashimaya Times Square
Whether it’s rain or shine, these will keep you busy for long enough to forget—just don’t lose that umbrella on the way…
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