It may seem like there’s nothing left to do but stockpile and stay home in Tokyo at the moment, and that’s exactly right.
We wrote this article earlier on in the outbreak and now, given recent advice, are retracting it. When it comes to lock-ins, a little goes a long way, and by that we mean better a week or two than months. If you’re looking for things to do, try our top Japan-related reading suggestions, give Terrace House a watch (it’s a slow burner to start with, trust us) and plan a hanami trip for next year instead – the parks are all closed anyway. #plannowtravellater
Please note: If you have COVID-19, develop the related symptoms, or have been in contact with someone who is ill with COVID-19, it is recommended that you contact a health provider, self-isolate for 14 days and avoid travel.
1. Don’t go on a self-guided walking tour
Half the fun of exploring Tokyo is exactly that: exploring. While there are still some guided tours available, like this foodie tour of Tsukiji, there are plenty of routes you can take yourself. If you’re not sure where to start, we have quite the collection of rough itineraries to introduce you to different parts of the city. While some major attractions like museums might be closed, you can still find great architecture, delicious restaurants and unusual sights thoughout the city.
For the hipsters in town, a half-day walk through Daikanyama and Nakameguro offers cafes galore, traditional houses and great views—not to mention that famous river complete with blossoms (if you time it right).
Alternatively, Shibuya and Harajuku exude full-on city vibe with shops, fashion, landmarks and the stunning Meiji Jingu to relax at in between.
If you’re looking for an area a little less explored, then a stroll through Takadanobaba is perfect. Namesake of a fictional sci-fi planet and home to vintage arcades, the area is filled with cafes and cheap eats thanks to the large student population.
A little classier, Omotesando is perfect for those in love with unusual architecture. Since even closed buildings can be seen from the outside, this walking tour offers a permanent walking architecture musuem, filled with names like SANAA, Hiroshi Nakamura and Toyo Ito. If you want to see more weird and wonderful archictecture, here are some of the most famous buildings in the city.
Other great neighbourhoods to enjoy include Yanaka, a shopping street with a tree-filled cemetery, cute cafes and bars, plus cats, cats and even more cats (some real, some taiyaki shaped).
2. Don’t attend any locally run Tokyo events
While most large-scale events have been canceled for the forseeable future, there are still some smaller, locally run nights you can enjoy. From stand-up to science nights, there are great things happening thanks to these dedicated teams in Tokyo.
Check out our Top March Events breakdown updated with all the best options as well as our April events post. Please do note that events can change at short notice, so please be sure to check the official pages before attending.
3. Don’t go outdoors: Hikes in and around Tokyo
For some fresh air and fewer people, why not get out of the city and into the mountains? There are plenty of great hikes you can do in a day, including some which are especially great for spotting cherry blossom. Whether you’re a beginner or an avid fan, our guide to the best hikes in Tokyo has something for everyone.
4. Don’t take to the road
If Tokyo is feeling just a bit too claustrophobic, then consider a road trip to somewhere new. You can either rent your own car and stay in local hostels or ryokan, or you can book one of the kitted-out vans over at Dream Drive. Including all the bedding and camping equipment you need, you can go totally off grid (if that’s what you fancy) until things go back to relative normalcy. You can also listen to our podcast episode about them and learn all about Dream Drive’s start-up journey before booking your own!
For longer trips, consider Kanazawa—it’s easy to get to, has fantastic gardens and plenty of gold ice cream! Takayama and Shirakawago are also welcoming all visitors during the outbreak—see those stunning thatched houses for yourself, without the crowds.
If you don’t have a driving license you can still get out for a day on one of these spring bus tours (luckily many are still running).
5. Enjoy the cherry blossoms from your window
So you probably heard that hanami has basically been canceled, but that doesn’t mean you can’t see the blossoms. There may not be any lights or food stalls, and many areas are banning picnics, but you can still stroll beneath the cherry trees. We’ve got the latest forecasted cherry blossom dates as well as all the best parks and places to visit (including some quieter ones).
6. Hit the (sound) waves (with some music)
So while it may seem a bit early for water-based adventuring, it’s actually already dry-suit season and Tokyo has a surprising number of nearby diving spots to check out. If you prefer to admire the water from a sandy distance, then check out our beach day trip guide—the weather is borderline warm enough to actually enjoy some salty sea air.
If you prefer some river action, then head to Tama where you can canoe at sunset (and make soba)—a pretty perfect way to forget about the world’s problems, we reckon.