5 Tokyo Tourist Traps To Avoid This 2024

5 Tokyo Tourist Traps To Avoid This 2024

When it comes to Japan, I’ve seen my fair share of Tokyo tourist traps that visitors get way too excited about. And I don’t blame you, the hype makes them sound amazing! But as someone who has lived and worked in this electrifying city for a year, I’m here to give it to your straight: some of those “must-see” attractions are straight up tourist traps!

Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying these places are complete duds. They can still be fun if you go in with realistic expectations. But in my humble opinion, as a Tokyo insider, they just don’t deliver the same wow factor or cultural immersion as some of the city’s far less hyped-up spots.

So consider this your official guide for avoiding major tourist trap letdowns in Tokyo this year! I’ll share my top 5 overrated attractions that no local would be caught wasting their hard-earned yen on. Then I’ll point you towards some under-the-radar places where you can soak up authentic Japanese culture and still get those Instagram-worthy pics!

And as an added bonus, I’ll sprinkle in some basic Japanese phrases to help transform you into a Tokyo travel pro by the end of your trip! Get your pens ready, folks!

Tokyo Tourist Traps To Avoid

Tokyo Skytree And Tokyo Tower

Let’s talk about those two towering giants that dominate Tokyo’s skyline—Tokyo Skytree and Tokyo Tower. I know how tempting these icons are, with their impressive heights promising stunning bird’s-eye views of the city below. But allow me to let you in on a little local secret: these attractions are kinda overrated! You know what? Scratch that! Let’s say that these two are REALLY OVERRATED!

Don’t get me wrong, they look darn cool lit up at night for a photo op. But here’s the tea, you’re gonna waste at least an hour of your trip queuing to go up, and that’s if you pre-purchase tickets. Then you’ll be crammed cheek-to-jowl with every other tourist in Tokyo, all vying for a glimpse out the window. And for what? A view you could basically get for free from a lesser-known skyscraper like the Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building. At a fraction of the price and crowds!

Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building - Not A Tokyo Tourist Trap

Visit The Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building Instead

Let me hip you to a way better view that won’t cost you a single yen: the Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building (TMGB to us locals)!

Unlike those cramped towers, the observation decks at TMGB are completely free. And while the building may not be as tall or immediately recognizable, the views it offers of the Tokyo Skyline are just as lit. We’re talking floor-to-ceiling windows that perfectly frame those towers we just bagged on!

Plus, it’s way more spacious up there, so you can actually wander around and take in the panorama from different spots. And snap as many iconic pics as your heart desires without tourists photo-bombing every shot! There’s even a souvenir shop and cafe when you need a break from the views.

The real advantage of TMGB over those towers is that you get to appreciate them from a distance without wasting hours of travel time and money. It perfectly captures the essence of Tokyo’s skyline with the added bonus of being able to spot other landmarks like the Imperial Palace Gardens.

Asakusa Nakamise

Now folks, I know I might get some heat for this next one, but I gotta keep it real. Asakusa’s Nakamise shopping street has unfortunately turned into a bit of a tourist trap. I just had to include it in this list!

For those who don’t know, Nakamise is the strip of traditional snack and souvenir shops leading up to the iconic Sensoji Temple and walking through there used to be amazing, it was like taking a step back in time seeing all the colorful stalls selling handmade crafts and treats just like the old days.

But here’s the tea: it has gotten straight-up chaotic with all of us tourists cramming through there, turning what should be a cultural experience into more of a cattle march! Navigating through the selfie sticks and tour groups pressing in on all sides can really dampen the magic.

I’d never tell you to skip Nakamise completely. But maybe just pop your head in, snag some ningyo-yaki cakes or anime souvenirs, and then peace out before the waves of visitors arrive.

Ameyoko Is Not A Tokyo Tourist Traps

Check Out Ameyoko Instead

Now that I’ve turned you off from joining the Nakamise cattle march, let me put you on to a way better shopping spot: Ameyoko street market!

Located right near Ueno Station, this bustling open-air bazaar is like Tokyo’s version of a garage sale meets flea market meets state fair. We’re talking stalls stretched out as far as the eye can see, peddling everything from fresh octopus to designer kitsch to anime figurines. You name it, one of Ameyoko’s feisty shop owners is ready to hock it to you!

And here’s the best part, the prices at Ameyoko blow Nakamise out of the water! We’re talking discounts so hot that haggling is not only allowed but encouraged, my friend. Some solid bargaining will get you collector’s items and Japanese souvenirs for up to half what you’d pay back home.

Now, it does get crowded on weekends so I suggest going during the week if you don’t like crowds. But trust me y’all, squeezing through the passionate shop owners yelling about deals as delicious aromas hit you from all directions is an experience like no other. It’s the perfect place to grab some unique gifts and have your own Japanese bazaar moment without breaking the bank!

Golden Gai In Shinjuku

Now I’ll admit, Golden Gai still looks prettty magical, with its glowing lanterns leading into tiny shanty-style bars tucked behind alleyways. And it DOES have an intriguing history as a hangout for artists, journalists, and counter culture types back in the day. But here’s the reality check: this ain’t the same lowkey Golden Gai.

These days, it’s all about fleecing naive visitors who still think it’s some exclusive, underground nightlife destination. I’m talking jacked-up entrance fees, $20+ cocktails, rude bartenders who straight up hate tourists – the full works! The magic wears off really fast when you’re crammed cheek-to-jowl with other foreigners in a bar smaller than most broom closets.

So while it may look charming from the outside, I’d avoid going in unless you want some Instagram pics and don’t mind dropping big bucks for the “experience.”

Yokocho is not one of the Tokyo Tourist Traps

Visit Nonbei Yokocho In Shibuya Instead

If you’re looking to get your Japanese speakeasy bar fix without the ridiculous prices or crowds, let me put you onto Nonbei Yokocho in Shibuya. This narrow alleyway is lined to burst with strings of teeny-tiny bars and smoky late-night eateries, each more invitingly retro than the last.

We’re talking hardly enough room for a bartender, cook, and a few patrons max in these shanty hole-in-the-wall spots. No flashy signs or mixology magic, just tasty grilled meat, draft beer, whisky straight from the bottle, and loads of decidedly UN-glamorous local flavor. It’s about as authentic as Tokyo nightlife gets!

Now, Nonbei has gotten a bit more love from the tourist scene than it used to. But it still maintains that cozy, nostalgic atmosphere without trying to capitalize on its charm like Golden Gai. You’ll find way-chiller patrons, reasonable prices that won’t break the bank, and bartenders who actually WANT you to be there!

Maid Cafe And Pet Cafe

I know how tempting it is to live out your kawaii anime dreams at one of Tokyo’s maid or cat cafes. But as your trusty insider guide, I gotta be straight with you – these themed cafes are major tourist traps!

Sure, the costume-clad girls or cuddly kitties toting cake slices on platters seem charming. But here’s the tea: most maids won’t actually chat or play games with non-Japanese guests. And them cat cafes get pretty foul-smelling with animals cooped up indoors all day.

Not to mention you’re looking at $20+ just to step in! Then they nickel and dime you for petting Fluffy or taking selfies with the maids. And don’t expect refunds when you run out of the allotted animal snuggle time that you likely overpaid for.

I don’t wanna be a downer, but places like this prioritize profits over authentic experience or animal welfare, for that matter! If you’re looking for quirky cosplay fun, hit up Harajuku on a weekend instead. And visit a real rescue to play with kitties in need of forever homes.

Restaurants Are not part of Tokyo Tourist Traps

Check Out Themed Restaurants And Real Cafes Instead

For all you anime otakus, there’s Baratie, a pirate ship-themed restaurant straight out of One Piece! Tokyo even has a ninja restaurant where you dine in an ancient Japanese village, and Zauo, where you can literally catch your own dinner!

When hunger strikes, you can also sit down at one of Tokyo’s incredible themed cafes celebrating video games, anime, or Japanese culture. Or just grab an iced coffee and cronut from the cute hedgehog-themed cafe right near Harajuku! No need to bother already stressed animals or uninterested maids.

Tokyo Disneyland

Don’t come at me just yet! I know how magical and iconic Tokyo Disney Resort seems. But as much as it pains me to say it, this beloved theme park has sadly become a bit of a tourist trap.

Sure, walking under Cinderella’s castle with a Mickey-shaped snack in hand seems like a dream. But between the jaw-dropping ticket prices and winding queues just to get on two-minute rides? The magic fades pretty fast, my friends. We’re talking battling massive crowds as you get herded through the park like, well… a Disney character in a sweaty costume!

And I hate to break it to you, but the Japanese attractions aren’t all that different from what you’d find back home. You’re really just paying that premium price tag for some exclusive themed merchandise in the gift shops!

Now I totally get wanting to check it off the ol’ bucket list if you’re a diehard Disney fanatic. But if you’re visiting to actually immerse yourself in authentic Japanese family fun? Save that Disney dollar for cultural attractions the kids will enjoy just as much if not more! We’re talking hands-on museums, interactive shows, and way chiller theme parks where your kiddos can actually cut loose. Minus the barrage of mouse ears and princess gowns, of course!

Odaiba is not part of the Tokyo Tourist Traps

Enjoy At Odaiba Instead

Odaiba is a lively district that is like Tokyo’s version of the ultimate amusement park/shopping center/culture hub hybrid, minus the cartoon mascots. I’m talking quirky museums, replica landmarks, beachfront views, legit street food and the pièce de résistance, the indoor theme park Joypolis!

We’re talking virtual reality rollercoasters, indoor Ferris wheels, game centers, attraction simulators – you name it! All packed with thrill rides, arcade challenges, and tech magic that makes Disney seem kinda.. basic? And no hour-long queues in sight since it’s way less crowded!

Easy Japanese Phrases For Saying No

I’ve shown you the tourist traps to avoid, now let me equip you with some key Japanese phrases so you can firmly say “OH-HELL-NO!” if anyone tries luring you into one!


Japanese Script: いいえ (eeee-eh)
Translation: No


Japanese Script: ちょっと… (cho-tohh)
Translation: Well, actually… (with an apologetic face)

“Okane Mottainai!”

Japanese Script: お金もったいない! (Oh-kah-neh moh-tai-nai)
Translation: That’s a waste of money!

Ready To Get Incredible Sights?

We’ve now covered the top tourist traps even I’ve fallen victim to over my years in Tokyo! But with these truth bombs and cheat codes for hidden local gems up your sleeve, you are officially prepped to take down this city like a pro.

Oh, and real quick before you jet off: if you want to get EVEN MORE inside intel for unlocking authentic local experiences around Japan, peep the Ling app! It’s loaded with up-to-date Japanese language lessons from natives highlighting all the best expressions that can be used in real life. Give it a try now!

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