What to Do in Japan: Tips for Having Fun in Tokyo Safely During COVID-19

Published June 15th, 2021

We're living in a strange, strange time. The new decade started off with a global pandemic. Even after a year into it, we're still working at home, wearing masks and sanitising our hands every other second. The usual sources of entertainment are gone, and we're left wondering what we can do to keep ourselves entertained.

A crowded street lined with merchant stalls in Tokyo, Japan.A crowded street lined with merchant stalls in Tokyo, Japan.

Japan was always coming up with another event every other weekend, pre-COVID. Tokyo, especially, is a city that feeds off the night. You might think it's not possible to enjoy the country without them. But I have some news for you. Tokyo is just as entertaining without the massive crowds. It's a city that has it all. In fact, it's the perfect time to get a new perspective of this busy city.

Take a look at the 5 things you can do to have fun safely in Tokyo during COVID-19, both indoor and outdoor activities.

1. Binge watch Japanese TV shows & movies

Anime catAnime cats need to eat too.

What better way to stay safe during the pandemic than to stay at home? Even cuddled up on your sofa, you can enjoy the city by binge watching some programs filmed and inspired by it. Take your pick from Japanese drama, movie and anime (アニメ). Your days are going to be filled in no time!

Don't worry if you think you're missing out on Japanese culture. You're getting plenty from these Japan-made entertainment. Even if your Japanese isn't 100% yet, there are so many platforms online that offer English subtitles. They've got you covered.

Especially anime, if you haven't gotten into it yet, why haven't you? This genre of animation is unique to Japan. People from all around the world travel to this island nation after being hooked on anime. There's thousands of anime in your favourite genre — any genre, really.

2. Pick up simple cooking of Japanese cuisine

Rolling sushi is fun!Rolling sushi is fun!

Everyone loves food. Nothing can beat a good dish, except for a home-made one. Pick up cooking — why not, right? You have all the time in the world, and it's a skill that'll benefit you for life. I suggest picking up some Japanese cooking skills when you're in the country. Where else is better?

You won't feel like you've missed out much of the local food in Tokyo. You'll get authentic local ingredients from the neighbourhood supermarket. Some Japanese restaurants do that, too!

The easiest thing you could start off with is making sushi. Get a sushi rolling mat from any 100yen shop, rice, seaweed wrappers and fillings of your choosing. Then, get creative! Experiment to your heart's content.

The next thing you could try is ramen or udon. It's the broth that's the key to these dishes. Look up broth recipes online and try a few until you're content with your ramen dish!

Even before COVID-19, I've been making takoyaki at home, and they taste just as delicious. Just get yourself a takoyaki machine and you're all set.

3. Stroll in the less populated parks (and areas)

I get that it can get unbearable when you're stuck at home all day every day. So go out and get some fresh air. Not only Tokyo but the whole of Japan is full of green parks and wide open spaces. Take a stroll in your nearby park or just around the area. A bit of nature is always good for the mind and soul.

Try to avoid busy areas like Shibuya and Shinjuku. Even during the pandemic, these areas can still be jam-packed. Play your part by not contributing to the crowd and staying safe.

4. Eat out at smaller eateries

Ramen barRamen is a national delicacy! Make sure to socially distance!

I love cooking, but even I find it a chore if I have to do it every day, especially on days I just want to rest. It's always nice to have the convenience of dropping by a restaurant for a meal occasionally.

You can still practice social distancing when dining at a restaurant. Pick restaurants that aren't usually crowded. The best thing you can do is dining at your local ramen shop. Not only are you avoiding crowded areas but you're also supporting small businesses that might be struggling during this time.

5. Get a bicycle

Woman on a bike riding past Mt. Fuji.

Some of us still have to commute to school or work. Usually, the train is the ideal choice for commute. But Japan trains are known to be extremely packed during peak hours in the morning and evening. It's the worst time to be packed like sardines right now. Avoid those kind of crowds and get a bicycle to commute. It's the best way to practice social distancing in public.

Your bicycle is not only useful for work but also for errands like going to the grocery store and also for exercise. You can make the most out of your bicycle. Those who don't need to commute to work can use the bicycle for a leisurely cycle in the park. There are a lot of cyclists in Japan, so you're not going to be alone!

The COVID-19 outbreak has affected everyone. Our personal lives and professional lives took a hit. But we can't always be down in the dumps. Since this is the new norm, we have to make the most out of it. Start with theses 5 activities to get you back in the positive attitude!

Even after a year into the pandemic and with the vaccines rolling out, we have to stay vigilant. Stay safe while having fun, everyone!