My Tokyo Guide
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Updated: December 27, 2022
Tokyo is a bustling city of around 14 million people, a world capital that never sleeps. But if you're an early riser, or perhaps suffering from jet lag, you have the opportunity to experience another side of the city, before the majority of tourists are up and about. Join the local residents as they go about their daily life, and fulfill the proverb that the early bird really does catch the worm.
One of the most enjoyable things to do in Tokyo is to have an early morning breakfast at a market.
Fresh fish is central to Japanese cuisine, and Tokyo is home to a number of famous fish markets, where the working day starts in the early hours of the morning. After watching a tuna auction at Toyosu Market, one of the biggest fish markets in the world, visit one of the nearby restaurants for a breakfast of fresh sushi or sashimi.
Or you could visit the many restaurants and vendors selling kitchen supplies, fresh food, and more in Tsukiji Outer Market, the area adjacent to the site of the former Tsukiji Wholesale Market. For something a little different, why not try the nearby Tsumugi, a Japanese cafe at Tsukiji Hongwan-ji Temple. There are many popular offerings from an "18 dish breakfast" to a breakfast based on Buddhist Jodo Shinshu cuisine, snacks from Tsukiji Outer Market, Tsukiji Hongwan-ji Temple's original blend of tea, and sweets.
Alternatively, the Adachi Fish Market is slightly less well known to tourists, but just as fascinating. It's the only central wholesale market in Tokyo that specializes in seafood, and on "Adachi Market Day" (held on the second Saturday of odd-numbered months) locals and visitors can buy fresh seafood and have breakfast or lunch at one of the market restaurants.
Breakfast the Tokyo Way
Sumo is the ancient sport of Japan, and can be seen at one of the six main tournaments which take place during the year. Outside of the main tournament periods, however, you can get closer to the action by observing a morning practice session at a sumo stable. Most of the sumo stables are located near the Ryogoku Kokugikan. When visiting, please keep conversations to a whisper and electronic devices turned off so as not to disturb the practice.
Tenku Asa-Geiko (Sky-high Morning Kenjutsu Practice), offers an original combination of kenjutsu movements with a wooden sword and deep breathing in the pure morning air. Awaken your senses an invigorate your body, as you take part in this morning exercise, which takes place on an open roof top of a high-rise building near HOSHINOYA Tokyo, with a spectacular view of the city.
Some shrines and temples, such as Meiji Shrine and Sensoji Temple, are always open to the public, making them perfect for a quiet morning stroll before the daily crowds arrive.
Some temples offer early morning Zen meditation sessions (advance reservations may be required so please check the official websites).
If you fancy an early morning jog, you'll probably find plenty of local company at the Imperial Palace Run. This course runs around the moat of the Imperial Palace, and even features a convenient, visitor-friendly run station, complete with locker rooms and showers available early in the morning. There are also good running paths in the verdant Yoyogi Park, along the Tama, Meguro, Arakawa, and Sumida rivers, as well as a loop around Odaiba island.
It is never too early to head out shopping in Tokyo. While the major shopping areas are busy with tourists, the morning markets used by the locals are perhaps less well-known. They are held on different days and in all sorts of locations, including shrines and parks, "yokocho" alleyways and "shotengai" local shopping streets, and offer the chance to find interesting souvenirs and unusual items, including antiques, boxed lunches, second-hand clothes, and toys.
A bustling morning market is held on the central street of Harmonica Alley, at the north exit of Kichijoji Station on the second Sunday of each month from 8:00 to 11:00. Experience the lively atmosphere of a traditional Japanese "yokocho" shopping street as you browse the market stalls.
YEBISU Marche is held on second and fourth Sundays from 11:00 to 17:00 at Yebisu Garden Place. Based on the concept of "Organic & Natural," this is a community-based market that aims connects the city and the countryside, focusing on organic foods that are kind to the body and the environment.
The Aoi Heiwa Dori shopping street in Adachi is also a lively place first thing in the morning, opening with fireworks at 7 a.m.
On cold mornings, it is a good idea to warm yourself by soaking in hot water at a hot spring or public bathhouse, some of which are open early in the morning.
Tsubameyu, designated as a National Tangible Cultural Property, has a charming old-fashioned atmosphere. The high ceiling of the changing room and the decoration of the baths evoke the nostalgia and charm of old Edo.
You can also enjoy various types of baths and a sauna at Spa LaQua, a natural hot spring at Tokyo Dome which draws water from 1,700m underground.
If you'd like to visit a sauna first thing in the morning, the large Manyo no Yu Machida is open 24 hours a day, and has a high-temperature sauna as well as a mist sauna. A free shuttle bus service is available.
Tokyo also offers a number of unusual early morning experiences.
OMO3 Tokyo Akasaka by Hoshino Resorts organizes morning local guide tours with a neighborhood guide called an "OMO Ranger," to spots where you can experience the unique benefits of a Tokyo morning. At the end of the tour the guide will introduce you to a recommended breakfast spot.
Get up early to watch the sunrise from the Observation Deck in the International Terminal at Haneda Airport. Breathe in the clear morning air for a refreshing start to your Tokyo adventure.