See also: Where to stay in Tokyo
A veritable playground of historical riches, 24-hour entertainment and mouthwatering cuisine, Tokyo offers a sample of all that Japan has to offer. Amid the broad blocks of concrete and colorful display monitors are small family-run restaurants, charming shrines and serene parks. From the individualistic shopping of Ginza, Harajuku and Shibuya to the boisterous izakaya of Shinjuku’s Kabukicho and Yurakucho Gado-shita, the forest padded Meiji Shrine and Edo nostalgic Yanesen; there is something for everyone. Where does one even begin to unravel this startling, dazzling city? Start with this list of our best things to do in Tokyo for a quick introduction:
Embrace tradition at Sensoji Temple
Asakusa was once the epicenter of Edo Tokyo’s merchant district, its lingering trade roots evident in the blocks of specialty stores, crafts workshops, traditional restaurants and old-style awnings that provide cover. At the heart of this well-loved district is the ever popular Sensoji Temple, its vibrant pillars and bordered roofing drawing visitors like moths to flame. Advance through the imposing “Thunder Gate” Kaminarion to join the crowds milling about Nakamise Shopping Street, where neat lines of small stores sell trinkets, snacks and temple-themed souvenir. See more things to do in Asakusa.
Brave a walk across Rainbow Bridge
What many don’t know if that you can actually walk across Rainbow Bridge. Linking Odaiba and Tokyo, it is backed by the bay’s very own statue of Liberty replica. Take your camera and maybe a light cardigan; it gets windy out there.
An alternative view of Tokyo city
Skytree Tower is another popular landmark and for good reason. Offering a post-card perfect panorama from two decks, at 350-meters and 450-meters, visitors can look across Sumida River to downtown Tokyo from the east. Interactive maps and guides are available through the tower’s mobile app, pinpointing landmarks and attractions that you can zoom up on through viewing lenses. From base up are also restaurants, shops and galleries.
Spend a chill afternoon around Meguro River Canal
Fluttering foliage shade you along Meguro River Canal, pastel spring blossoms or summer greens alike stretching out kilometers to line the pedestrian path. The sweeping hubs of Naka-Meguro and Meguro usher in cozy cafés, boutique shops and concept stalls, attracting young crowds seeking a comfortable environment to hang out. Its soft setting plays the perfect backdrop for couples and romantic confessions, but anyone can refill their zen meter with an hour or two here.
Pray at Meiji Shrine
The grand, graveled paths of Yoyogi Park lead to the revered Meiji Shrine, sunlight filtering through the foliage to infuse the space with warmth. Wrapped within the bubble of the forested area, the spiritual air surrounding Meiji Shrine is easily felt, discouraging chatter in exchange for quiet prayers. Buy a charm for luck and protection or draw your fortune; if you receive a negative prediction, knot the paper along a special rack for the shrine maidens to purify and pray for your well-being.
Take a tour around royal grounds
The boulevard leading from Tokyo Station to Tokyo Imperial Palace may be an impressive chrome-building lined walk, but it can hardly stand against the impressive grounds at the end. Built around the ruins of Edo Castle are gardens and museums, the Emperor’s residence in close proximity. Whilst the expansive East Gardens, Kyoko Gaien National Garden and Kitanomaru Park are open to the public, access to inner quarters of the royal residence is closely regulated through guided tours. A particularly charming area during cherry blossom period, the Imperial Palace and Gardens are one of the best things to do in Tokyo.
People watching at Shibuya Crossing
Like loyal Hachiko waiting at the junction of Shibuya Crossing, you can park yourself down at the corner Starbucks and watch the never-ending crowd. A busy crossroad right outside Shibuya JR Station, it is no wonder the streets are hardly empty. See more things to do in Shibuya.
Seek out the Tokyo iteration of Kyoto’s Fushimi-Inari Shrine
A lesser-known place of worship steeped in history and culture, Nezu Shrine is often overlooked for the more architecturally elaborate. Located within the quiet neighborhoods of Yanesen, the serene grounds are hemmed in by lush greenery and torii entrances. One of the oldest shrines in Tokyo, established in 1705, it is perhaps best known for its vermillion torii path along the hillside. The annual Azalea Festival held at Nezu Shrine contributes to what the local community touts as ‘the most beautiful spring scene’.
Exude elegance in a kimono
Take cultural immersion a step further and slip into a kimono. Ranging from cheaper, light-weight yukata suitable for summer humidity to more ornate ensembles fit for colder seasons, rental shops offer your pick of traditional wear for the requisite photo op. You’ll find kimono rentals in vicinity of major temples and shrines, as visitors prefer to pair outfit to backdrop. Yukata on the other hand, is perfect to wear to festivals as many families and couples embrace the celebratory spirit by donning colorful cotton.
Float like a swan at Inokashira Park
Breathe deep and steer leisurely around Inokashira Park’s expansive pond, the leafy greens and spring blossoms creating the perfect setting for a brief respite. Regular boats aren’t enough to shield you, but these swan boats provide just enough cover if you need a snooze. If water isn’t your thing, wander the expansive trails within Inokashira Park before settling in for an oak-shaded picnic.
Sing top hits at karaoke
Can karaoke get any better than belting out Adele’s ridiculously high notes or jamming to your favorite anime soundtrack? Well, yes. Throw in some free-flow drinks and musical props for the upgraded Japanese package. Most karaoke establishments offer choice of one drink (obviously cheapest deal) or free-flow non-alcoholic beverages; there’s also a food menu and additional drinks for available for in-room purchase.
Reach new heights at Mount Takao
Delegate a day to this all-year hiking spot just a short commute away from downtown Tokyo. If the annual 2.5 million visitors isn’t an indication, Mount Takao’s eight hiking courses up the 599-meter elevation are made for hikers of all ages and ability. Trek to the top for some stunning views and claim your reward – a back-melting soak at the onsen bathhouse right by the mountain base. A cable car and chairlift is also available for leisure-seekers, linking the Takao 599 Museum at the base to the tengu worship Yakuo-in Temple at the summit.
Shine like a beacon with Tokyo Tower
‘Shining, shimmering, splendid’ doesn’t even begin to describe the view of Tokyo’s metropolitan, and the original observation tower sits like a flare in the middle of Tokyo. Tokyo Tower’s iconic red frame is the feature of many grounds-up photographs, but its 360℃ skyline view is unparalleled. Visit at dawn and dusk for two different vibes, where night allows a map of the awake and asleep. At the tower’s base is also a One Piece play and shop attraction for fans of this anime classic, including a café restaurant with a character-inspired menu.
Hit up a Batting Center
Wind up for a home run at any one of Tokyo’s batting centers; Shinjuku’s Oslo Batting Center being one of the easiest to find. Baseball fans and students gather to practice their swings, indulging in one of the nation’s favorite sports. Bat until your arms are sore, and then switch over to nostalgic entertainments such as air hockey, go-kart simulation and friendly competition at the basketball hoop.
Go old school at Jimbocho Book Town
There’s something nostalgic about the scent of musty parchment and faded titles, and Jimbocho Book Town has it in spades. With over 170 bookstores in the area, old Japanese scriptures are hardly the only things you’ll find. Think antique books, limited copies of European classics, vintage records and dramatic movie posters dating back to the 60s – these are all literary history.
Release your inner fashionista
Say good-bye budget and hello new wardrobe! Tokyo’s racks are made for the consummate shopper. Ginza’s luxurious brands deliver through massive shopping malls such as Ginza Six, chain Mitsukoshi and colonial-style wrappings of Ginza Wako. For hip and edgy fashion that runs from high school punk to Lolita and Goth, Harajuku and Shibuya’s street fashion presents an eclectic mix. Meanwhile, Shinjuku’s malls cater to more sensible and mainstream preferences, whereas Shimokitazawa is best for vintage pieces and thrifting. Between these choices, you’re set for a complete fashion revamp.
Delve into traditional performance arts
Just a few blocks away from Ginza’s upscale malls is the Kabuki Theatre. A timeless performance art that reimagines Japanese classic literature, Kabuki is a must on your checklist of cultural activities. Performed on a unique stage where a raised passageway extends through the auditorium to bring the act into audience space, this centuries-old art form impresses with dynamic stage sets and trained kabuki professionals. Expect live accompaniment stationed on and off stage, traditional Japanese instruments part of the layered performance.
Nerd out at Akihabara
Akihabara screams of otaku heaven, digital advertisements and characters banners wrapped around the exterior of its dozens of buildings. Calling all gamers and anime fans, Akihabara offers floor-to-ceiling shopping of fan goods, English and Japanese manga, character models, newest game releases, cosplay costumes, posters; all the goodies you can think of. Mandarake and Animate are best known for anime and manga, whereas you can revisit childhood games at Club Sega arcade. Japan’s unusual maid cafés are also plenty – no doubt there’ll be girls in maid costumes coaxing you into their cafés.
Relaxing at Shinjuku Gyoen Park
A large oasis adjacent to the bustling Shinjuku shopping district, Shinjuku Gyoen is among the largest parks in Tokyo. Divided into three main sections for variety – a neatly landscaped French Formal Garden, a traditional Japanese garden complete with stone bridges across ponds, and a sprawling lawn in between them – visitors can spend hours picnicking, strolling and relaxing. Before you disappear back into the high-rises beyond its borders, drop by Shinjuku Gyoen’s greenhouses for more plant appreciation.
Join in the festivities
Blend into the crowds for a lively night of street food and game stalls. Japan celebrates almost everything, sometimes with extravagant pomp. Take Kanamara Festival’s giant phallus sculpture paraded across town as the example. For those timing their visit for spring, try to coincide with any of these three major events: Sanja Matsuri, Kanda Matsuri and Sanno Matsuri, famous celebrations that have people flocking from all over Japan.
Relax at a traditional Japanese garden
Rikugien Garden, aptly translated into the “Garden of the Six Principles of Poetry”, exemplify the perfect hideout for aspiring poets. Intimate and a ways from central Tokyo, the garden posits a tiny rest house next to the central pond. Sip at a bowl of hot matcha and sink into your reflections, or rent one of the two wooden tea houses to practice the artful tea ceremony. If you’re feeling restless, make your rounds through the paved paths between looming trees and wispy fauna.
Take in Tokyo from bottom-up
Why not admire Tokyo from a bit of a distance at sea-level? Draw on Heian tradition of combining fresh seafood and river boating with a cruise along Sumida River or around Odaiba. The Yakatabune Harumiya Cruise is solid option for visitors seeking a unique perspective of Tokyo’s skyline.
Izakaya hopping for crispy finds
Squeezed into some of Tokyo’s busiest districts are izakaya stores lined up in chain of boisterous laughter, the tangy smell of skewers permeating narrow alleyways. Whether you’re a salaryman entertaining your department or students in need of a study break, the pattern is universal: grab a bite, down your drink, and slide over to the next late-night stop. Don’t dismiss grilled innards too quickly; some of the best crunch-and-munch include ox’s tongue, chicken intestines and gullet.
Shop for nonsense at Don Quijote
Don Quijote doesn’t sell nonsense per say, but it sure has a bit of everything. Cheap electronics, caricature t-shirts, Halloween costumes and small souvenirs; Don Quijote is a treasure trove for things you never thought you needed. You might be amused by what you find, so give it a whirl.
Seek out an older Tokyo
There’s something mesmerizing about the way Tokyo preserves history, lingering traces found in patches of cobble-stoned paths, narrow alleys and wooden shop fronts. Quiet neighborhood Yanesen in particular retains much of Edo styling in its squat buildings and preserved shrines, untouched by World War II and the Great Kanto Earthquake. Similarly, streets around Iidabashi remain narrow and houses black façades typical of olden tea houses, reminders of its past as Meiji era’s tea house district.
Watch a sumo match
Strength and spirit are on full display at the Kokugikan sumo stadium. Major tournaments are only hosted several times a year, so be sure to check the competition schedules. Alternatively, you can learn more about this national sport at the adjacent sumo museum, or sign up to watch contenders train at the wrestling stables during off-season.
Visit Skytree Tower’s Aquarium counterpart
Poised in the same complex as Skytree Tower is Sumida Aquarium, which boasts Japan’s largest indoor open tank as its crowning exhibit. Stroll through the moody, surreal spaces between and below the tanks for a diverse display of aquatic plantation and sea animals. The aquarium is also home to a research laboratory.
Travel back in time at Edo-Tokyo Museum
There might not be a time portal at Edo-Tokyo Museum, but the life-sized replicas of merchant districts and olden housing comes close. Smaller, scaled models of Edo castle, city districts and cultural scenes grant visual cues of life back in the day, and complementary information boards showcase how governmental systems have changed. The year-to-year and day-by-day lifestyle is better demonstrated with interactive displays, such as weighted gold pieces and shouldering market goods. A smaller exhibit bridges the past and present by detailing the gradual technological advances that led to the Japan today.
Pray for luck at Gotokuji Temple
We could all do with more luck in our lives and Gotokuji Temple is where it is at. Before the eyes of thousands of ceramic maneki-neko (the lucky cat), offer a 50-yen coin and ask for their blessings. You can even purchase your own lucky cat to bring home; may your life be filled with fortune!
Checklist the museums in Ueno Park
Tokyo is all about efficient allocation of space; Ueno Park is an all-in-one consortium of museums, zoo and park. Over 110,000 artifacts and art are on permanent display at Tokyo National Museum, whereas Tokyo Metropolitan Art Museum focuses on more modern and contemporary pieces. The Museum of Nature and Science is a natural pair with Ueno Zoo for the nature-minded. Visitors who simply want some peace and quiet can enjoy a walk around Shinobazu Pond and the plaza square, the main avenue a prime cherry blossom viewing location when spring sweeps across Ueno Park.
The best of Disney amusement parks
Commute from central Tokyo for a full day’s fun or plan an overnight stay at Tokyo’s Disneyland and DisneySea. With the two destinations conveniently side-by-side, you should indulge in both for a comprehensive choice of rides, seasonal events and resorts. Meet your favorite Disney characters in the day before waving them off with a final bombastic parade come evening. In summer months, DisneySea may edge out for best choice as the water rides are guaranteed to keep you cool and smiling.
A city within in city: Roppongi Hills
A complex encompassing offices, residential blocks, shopping mall and museum in one, Roppongi Hills is likened to a ‘city within a city’. Modern and upscale, the design of the complex is experimental and in perfect complement to the concept brands hosted within the shopping area. Most notably, visitors go for the art museum in Mori Tower. Featuring new exhibitions every few months, it celebrates art across all mediums.
Hit up night time Kabukicho
Kabukicho, or Shinjuku’s Golden Gai, is a night time hotspot. Neon signs come to life in a cacophony of color and noise as office workers and university students flock to its numerous bars and izakaya. Overnight entertainment isn’t limited to clubs and karaoke; small arcades and manga cafés stay open to entertain. Forget the last train; foray into jazz and reggae at live music bars and party until sun up.
Check out the cute animal cafés
If you just want some cuddle time thanks to a no-pet rule at home, Tokyo’s animal cafés are right for you. Ranging from typical cat and dog cafés to the more exotic hedgehog and owl cafés, visitors can choose which animal to enjoy a hot cuppa with. Do respect rules set by the staff and be gentle when handling these precious animals; it may be a good idea to research ethical cafés beforehand and avoid those that treat their inhabitants without care. Some of the best animals cafe's can be found in Ikebukuro. See more of the best things to do in Ikebukuro.
Eat under the tracks
Tokyo pampers with its generous spread of regional cuisines and desserts from both east and west, but local flavor is best sampled at its under-the-tracks eateries. Mingling in the tight spaces of Yurakucho’s Gado-shita are the slurps of slick udon noodles and the rich aroma of yakiniku grills, interspersed with the occasional bar and sleek restaurant. For more humble fare, head out of city center to Koenji’s underbelly, Koenji Street a tunnel of laid-back stalls and alternative bars.
Visit Nezu shrine to appreciate its Gongen Architecture
Nezu shrine, an old hillside Shinto shrine located in the Bunkyo ward of Tokyo, is quite a popular destination for traditional Japanese weddings. According to a legend Nezu shrine was originally built by the Japanese prince Yamato Takeru in the first century A.D and it was later shifted to Nezu during the reign of Tokugawa Dynasty. Designed like Toshogu Shrine which manifests the Japanese Ishinoma-zukuri style, Nezu shrine presents a rare ornately decorative Gongen architecture, the most impressive instances of which are the shrine’s magnificent golden dragons and intricate golden designs on the Honden walls.
You’ll also get to see here a two-storied gate loaded with statues of Kami warrior god, a popular feature of Buddhist architecture, standing between the shrine’s main building and a pretty bridge. Many of its buildings dating from 1706 are designated as Important Cultural Properties of Japan. However, the most unique feature of this shrine is its iconic torii tunnel; winding pathways amidst greeneries comprising torii gate arches that overlook the buildings of the main shrine and a pond laden with koi and terrapins. Due to its closeness to nature it seems like a world away from the bustling urbane setting of the city. The shrine also hosts the Bunkyo Azalea Festival in the month of April when its azalea garden blooms with varying shades of azalea, adding to its naturalistic splendour.
Ueno Zoo; a paradise for animal lovers
Sheltering more than 400 species and 3000 animals, Ueno zoo owns the reputation of being Tokyo’s oldest zoo with the maximum number of exhibitions. This world class zoo keeps each kind of birds and animals in exquisite natural settings so that visitors can have an authentic wildlife experience while touring the zoo. The zoo has a total of 63 different sections from large enclosures housing elephants, polar bears, giraffes, gorillas, lions, chimpanzees and zebras, to smaller ones. Besides these there’s a massive Tiger’s forest, a bird’s section, a reptiles’ section and exclusive sections of Japanese and African animals. For kids there is an exclusive section housing petting animals.
Ueno zoo has much more for amusing you! It is home to some rare species like giant pandas, okapi, Japanese monkeys, Galapagos tortoises and Pallas’s cats and it is the only place in Japan where you can see a tropical nocturnal animal called aye-aye. It has also got some rare features like a magnificent Five-Storey Pagoda in the zoo’s east garden, a massive hall with a reading room and a shrine dedicated to Goddess Benten located on a small island in the centre of the spectacular Shinobazu Pond filled with lotuses.
Odaiba; Tokyo’s own Leisure Island
A residential district on a small artificial island in Tokyo Bay, Odaiba, provides the best entertainment scenes in Tokyo. Go to Odaiba’s waterfront to catch a view of Odaiba Beach Park’s Statue of Liberty of French origin and the famous Rainbow Bridge which remains lit with neon colours at night. You may also set out on a water bus ride. Go to the Fuji TV building to take in more enchanting port views of Tokyo. If you want to chill and relax, you may visit one of Odaiba’s top class baths and spas. Though you’ll have plenty of options to choose from and most of them are good, Oedo Onsen Monogatari could be the best choice for it is very famous. If you want to do something fun then experience Gundam piloting at Gundam Front Tokyo, enjoy a roller coaster ride and tour the haunted house at Tokyo Joypolis.
Since Odaiba is best known for shopping, your tour wouldn’t be complete without shopping. For a unique shopping experience first head to VenusFort and don’t forget to ride its Ferries Wheel for seeing amazing views of seaside sceneries. Then head to the all in one entertainment and shopping hub of Odaiba, namely Decks, a huge shopping mall where you’ll get everything under the sun. Other shopping attractions are Aqua City and Diver City. You may also want to explore Odaiba’s National Museum of Engineering Science and Innovation is a space and technology exhibition centre. Overall Odaiba accounts for a fun and leisurely touring experience.
The majestic Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden
Laden with scores of cherry trees and open green spaces, the Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden dating from the Edo Period stands as a sharp contrast to the bustling urbane scenes of the city. This former imperial botanical garden is now Tokyo’s most popular national park. Covering an area of about 58.3 hectares, it consists of three different sections; the formal French Garden, the English landscape garden and the traditional Japanese landscape garden. The first two consist of open grounds harbouring cherry trees and the traditional section features large ponds connected by bridges and surrounded by pretty shrubs.
The garden is at its best during the cherry blossom season. Its greenhouse is painted with contrasting colours during fall. Take a leisurely stroll, admire the garden’s art gallery and enjoy some Japanese delicacies of the garden’s restaurant. If you don’t want to regret it later, spend an afternoon here while you are in Tokyo.
Get engrossed in the world of animation at Ghibli Museum
To the west of Tokyo lies Ghibli Museum, a unique art museum dedicated to exhibiting fascinating works of a famous Japanese animation studio known as Studio Ghibli. Both the location and the structure of the museum are equally impressive. The museum looks like a large mansion having multiple floors and narrow windows and doors. The ground floor portrays the history of animation and its techniques, the floor above it hosts special exhibitions and up on the terrace there is a garden housing a big robot-sized statue from the film "Castle in the Sky”.
At the back of the ground floor is a small theatre that features a short film, made exclusively to be displayed only at the museum. The decorations on the walls of the museum depict the world of the animated characters and the frontiers exhibit models of popular animated film settings like the flying ships of Laputa and the giant Catbus from the popular film My Neighbour Totoro. The museum has excellent guides who are fluent in English to guide the visitors well through all the exhibition rooms.
Take in the stunning sights of the city from Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building
The world’s tallest city hall, Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building, overlooks the entire city of Tokyo and offers unparalleled panoramic views of the cityscapes. Commonly known as Tocho, this iconic building often features in Japanese anime, science fiction and popular films like Godzilla versus King Ghidorah. The 243 metre tall building consists of 45 floors occupied by government offices and a huge assembly hall and above them rise two 202 metre high observatory towers.
Both the North tower and the South tower have cafés and souvenir shops. However, the south one offers better night views of downtown Tokyo. You’ll be able to see from here Tokyo’s best-known attractions such as Tokyo Skytree, Meiji Shrine, Tokyo Tower, the Tokyo Dome, Roppongi Hills, the Midtown Tower and sweeping views of Tokyo Bay. During fall and winter Mount Fuji can be seen from here on days when the sky is clear. Occasionally fairs are also hosted in this building for tourists.
Take a stroll in the historic Hamarikyu Gardens
The traditionally designed Hamarikyu Gardens featuring a pretty seawater pond with a teahouse at its centre surrounded by open green spaces, trees and pathways is an oasis in the heart of the city. Hamarikyu Gardens was formerly the residence of a feudal lord and consequently it still retains some old remains like the duck hunting blinds which hints at the fact that during the Edo Period this garden was used as a duck hunting ground, remnants of an old moat and a 300 year old pine tree near the entrance. Though it’s an all-time picture perfect place, the garden becomes more attractive when fall colours paint it brightly and during spring when plum and cherry blossoms cover the place in awesome shades.
Omotesandō; Odaiba’s trendiest fashion hub
Resembling Paris’ Avenue des Champs-Élysées, Omotesandō is an area stretching from Omotesandō Station to Meiji-Jingūmae Station consisting of Omotesandō Avenue Street lined with series of Zelkova trees along with huge departmental stores, luxury brand shops, top class restaurants, galleries, museums, and theme cafes. Originally built as an entrance to the Meiji Shrine, presently Omotesandō serves as one of Tokyo’s best fashion hubs where you won’t get tired of doing window shopping all day. From famous brand stores like Louis Vuitton, Dior, Alexander McQueen and Gucci to small boutique shops, this place has got everything you would like to shop. Omotesando Hills, composed of 38 apartments and 139 shops, is the largest shopping complex here. If you visit this place in winter, you’ll get to see its charming winter illuminations.
Discover Harajuku street fashion at Takeshita Street
Another famous fashion and youth centre of Tokyo is Takeshita Street. Located in Tokyo’s Harajuku district Takeshita-Dori Street is a straight long shopping street lined with chains of outlets ranging from fast food eateries and crepe stands to individualistic shops and boutiques selling varieties of garments and accessories. This is teenagers’ favourite spot and they mostly gather here to buy funky T-shirts, cool shocks and Goth clothes.
This place was more popular in the nineties when it gave rise to Japanese kawaii culture and Gothic Lolita fashion both together commonly known as Harajuku-style street fashion. It also popularised Tokyo’s pop culture. Famous celebrities are known to have shopped here but let that not leave an impression upon you that shopping here would be very expensive. On the contrary, it is here where you can have the most economical and inexpensive shopping experience in Tokyo. So, don’t miss out on this in any way for embracing a unique Japanese experience.
Nakamise-dori; the go-to place for souvenir shopping in Tokyo
Hailing from the 17th century, Nakamise-dori is a traditional Japanese shopping street starting from the famous Kaminarimon gate to the famous Sensoji Temple which happens to be one of the oldest shopping centres in Japan. It is undoubtedly the best place for souvenir shopping in Tokyo. All the shops lining this street sell pretty souvenirs, the most popular of which is maneki neko; cat-like showpieces that are believed to bring good luck. Other souvenirs you must look for are Buddhist scrolls, woodblock prints and kimonos.
The place is also beautifully decorated and has altogether a different appeal to it. Here you’ll get not only traditional gifts but also traditional food such as senbei; rice crackers, kibi-dango; sweet dumplings, and age-manju; fried buns with a sweet bean paste and ningyo yaki; a cooked pastry filled with sweet red bean paste. When all your shopping is done, take a few moments to admire its natural beauty.
The Edo themed Odaiba Ōedo-Onsen Monogatari
You may have visited many theme parks but surely not one like this! The Edo theme of this park is emulated by Edo street recreations. Filled with a plethora of hot springs and baths, this park provides its visitors the opportunity to relax and rejuvenate after tiring explorations of the city. There are baths for general bathing, old style rotenburo outdoor baths, traditional bath tubs and many other types having special facilities. Kinu-No-Yu bath is quite good for skin because of its water’s micro-bubbles and Himalayan Rock Salt Sauna relieves stress.
Another amazing feature of this park is its footbath where visitors can stroll while admiring the surrounding gardens and embracing its therapeutic effect. However, if you have a tattoo, you will not be able to take showers in the baths as this place still abides by old Japanese traditions but you’ll be more than welcome to receive some remarkable spa treatments. Its streets are decorated with illuminated yellow lanterns and street food stalls selling traditional Japanese food like noodles, sushi and ramen.
Also, don’t forget to have some traditional Japanese sweets that have been prevalent in Tokyo’s dining scene since centuries. And if you’re a foodie, you’d definitely love to indulge in seasonal delicacies like Kaiseki banquet privately in tatami rooms. You can also enjoy watching old Japanese carnival games or shopping unique things like decorative souvenirs, bath salts, fancy T-shirts and gifts.
See extraordinary masterpieces of art at c
If you’re an art lover, you should visit Tokyo’s National Museum of Western Art once. Built by Matsukata Kojiro, the Japanese art patron, and designed by Le Corbusier in the year 1959, this three-story museum situated in Tokyo’s Ueno Park is dedicated to the portrayal of diverse range of western art works. Boasting a collection of about 6000 paintings, sculptures and artefacts belonging to different eras from the medieval times to the first half of 20th century, this museum is one of a kind.
The main building and the New Wing exhibits the permanent collection which includes the Matsukata’s collections brought from France and artworks of famous artists like Renoir, Max Ernst, and Joan Miro, Monet, Cezanne, Picasso, Rubens, Van Gogh and many others. One of the most world famous paintings of the 20th century, Claude Monet’s Water Lilies is held on display here. Special exhibitions featuring collections of other Japanese or international museums as well as private possessions are also held here. Moreover it is the only national institution in Japan dedicated to promoting western art not only through exhibitions but also by facilitating research, publications, restoration and conservation of western art. Its immaculately designed outer lawns and gardens are also worth a stroll.
Commend contemporary artworks at Mori Art Museum
Another good museum in Tokyo is the Mori Art Museum. Occupying the 52nd and 53rd floors of Roppongi Hills Mori Tower, this museum provides the public with an opportunity to admire and appreciate contemporary art. It was founded by Minoru Mori. Its collections include artworks of eminent Asian artists like Poklong Anading, Yayoi Kusama, Mari Katayama, Tokujin Yoshioka, Yoko Ono, Ai Weiwei, Yin Xiuzhen, Bill Viola, Gohar Dashti and many others. You can visit it on any day as it remains open every day.
Sanrio Puroland; an especial amusement park
Sanrio Puroland is a small cute theme park situated at Tamo New Town. This is literally a paradise for children. With plenty of rides and visuals it has become one of the most popular theme parks in Japan. Its theme is emulated by the world of Sanrio characters and Hello Kitty. Detailed portrayals of Kitty’s house including old style family portraits and stylish furniture as well as personal belongings are the park’s main features.
Kitty’s head shaped television and face-shaped bath-tub are just too cute! A boat ride takes the visitor to Keroppi's pond and Badtz Maru's cave. Besides Hello Kitty attractions, this park also has a few live theatres, one big film theatre and several factories where bread, juice, candy, ice cream, and chocolate are manufactured. This place is as good for adults as it is for kids. There are gift shops where you can buy unique souvenirs, try out some dishes at some of its restaurants or catch a live show. You’ll be quite amused if you watch Kabuki which is a 17th century classical Japanese dance-drama.
Experience a roller coaster rides at Asakusa Hanayashiki
The former late Edo period flower garden is now a much loved amusement park in Tokyo. Founded in 1853 as a botanical garden, it became quite popular during the latter half of the 19th century. Stories claim that the old Japanese emperor Taisho used to pay secret visits to this garden. It fell into despair due to WWII and was rebuilt as an amusement park later on. Having attractions like roller-coaster, “Pyon Pyon”, “Space Shot”, “hidden fortress” maze, “Bee Tower”, “Disko”, a merry-go-round, Panda Cars haunted houses and a games corner, it is presently Tokyo’s oldest amusement park. The roller coaster has been running for 60 years and is the park’s most loved ride.
If you aren’t very fond of rides, you can relax at the garden area by the side of a pond or discover the park’s history by engaging in a twenty minute tour wearing special headsets called “Telepathy Walker” to witness how the park was in earlier times. For the rides the tickets cost about 100 yen and the entry fee to this park is 1000 yen and if you want to avoid paying separately for the rides, you can get a free pass for 2300 yen. While heading to this park halt at Maruhana Ninja Shop on Hanayashiki Street and participate in the “Ninja Challenge” which is a training session of swordplay, escape techniques, and shuriken blade throwing.
Spends some peaceful moments at Koishikawa Korakuen Gardens
The 17th century traditional Japanese landscape garden, Koishikawa Korakuen Gardens, is one of the three existing daimyō gardens dating from the Edo period. Named as Korakuen after a poem conveying the message that a ruler must ensure the happiness of his people first and then seek pleasure for himself, this garden, located near Iidabashi station, is full of beautiful trees and walking trails surrounding a pond. It looks amazing during fall when ginkgo groves turn yellow and varying shades of maple leaves brighten up the place. And in spring the garden is covered by fresh cherry blossoms.
Sunshine City; a massive posh complex
Popularly known as “a city within a city” Tokyo’s Sunshine City is a huge building complex in Tokyo’s Toshima area. It has almost everything under the sun that an indoor setting can probably have. The lower floors of the complex have numerous shopping malls, and top class cafes and restaurants while the upper floors are occupied by corporate offices, residential portions and hotel rooms. It also houses spas, salons, departmental grocery stores, museums, theatres and observatory decks. Sunshine City comes with all the facilities under one roof that one requires to live.
If you’re planning a tour to Tokyo, this is one of the best places you can think of staying at and even if you don’t stay here, make sure that you visit this place at least once. The most attractive part of Sunshine City is the Sunshine 60 or Sky Circus which has an aquarium where you can catch a glimpse of marine life, a planetarium, Pokémon Mega Centre, Namko Namja Town, the Ancient Orient Museum and J-World Tokyo. Pokémon Mega Centre is Japan’s largest Pokémon centre and is the go-to place for all pop culture fans. Sunshine 60 is the tallest building of the complex at the top of which lies an observatory deck which provides 360 degree view of the entire city.
Eat delicious street food at Ameya Yokocho
Not far away from Ueno station is an open-air market of Tokyo called Ameya Yokocho. This market which presently stretches from Ueno to Okachimachi Stations previously used to be a black market during the post-war years. Now, it’s a place where all goods from shoes to jackets and food are available at a much cheaper rate but it’s primarily famous for its street food stalls. Starting from kebab shops to stalls selling fresh seafood to candies and biscuits, Ameya Yokocho offers everything at a cheaper price.
To see something new, head to the underground Asian market at the basement of Ameyoko Centre Building which seems like a typical Southeast Asian market which is a storehouse of all sorts of cooking ingredients ranging from different kind of spices to fresh chicken feet, pork belly and cow lungs to live prawns and turtles as well as a great variety of unidentifiable crustaceans. People mostly flock here during December to shop cheap cooking ingredients for making traditional Japanese dishes on New Year.
Witness an incredible night scene at Shinjuku Golden Gai
Are you interested in experiencing a unique nightlife scene of Tokyo? Then just head to Shinjuku Golden Gai; a small area comprising neon-lit broad narrow alleys connecting many other narrower paths, all lined with small shanty-style bars, eateries and clubs. There are about 200 trendy colourfully decorated and painted bars here; some of them are tiny and cosy, some are quite spacious and some have special themes.
The most famous ones are Albatross; an Edwardian and Gothic themed two-story bar, Bar Darling; a brightly lit bar, Bitter Orange which serves a great variety of cocktails, wine and beer, Kenzo’s Bar; famous for its ambience brought about by leopard-print wallpapers, 80s music and best drinks, the customer-friendly Aces and Death Match in Hell. All these bars have courteous English speaking staff and are frequented by both locals as well as foreigners. Celebrities frequently visit this place as it is one of the very few places in the metropolitan city that retains the post-war ambience. However as much as this place entertains revelries, it has set strict rules that the tourists are expected to follow which includes not taking photographs of any person or the place in general.
Zojoji Temple; a symbolic remnant of Tokyo’s ancient history
The historically significant Zojoji Temple is one of the largest Buddhist temples in Japan and Jodo Buddhist sect’s head temple. Located near Tokyo Tower, the temple complex housing impressive buildings that represent Buddhist architecture is spread across quite a large area. Built in 1393 and later shifted to its present location in 1593 after which it became the Japanese emperor Tokugawa Ieyasu’s family temple and covered an area of about 826,000 square meters, the temple premises consisted of the temple’s main structures, 48 smaller temples, a grand cathedral and more than hundred schools. Many of the temple’s original buildings were destroyed by natural disasters or WWII bombings.
As a result these buildings were reconstructed but some remnants have survived the odds like the basement of the temple which consists of the original parts of Tokugawa Mausoleum where six Tokugawa shoguns were buried. These are designated as Important Cultural Properties in Japan. However, there’s one structure that exists from 1622 and has survived the WWII air raids that is the temple’s enormous main gate known as Sangedatsumon.
Explore the diverse exhibits of National Museum of Nature and Science
One of the best science museums in Japan is the National Museum of Nature and Science. Having more than 12000 exhibits, its objective is to promote the coexistence of humans and nature by enabling the public to appreciate nature, earth, life, science and technology. Its different galleries exhibit a huge range of authentic artefacts and statues including the 16th century Nantan meteorite that hit China. The Global Gallery exhibits stuffed animals like dinosaurs, two famous pandas, Hachiko and birds as well as detailed variations of biodiversity. T
he Forest of Discovery exhibits different kinds of leaves and nests. The Japan Gallery of the museum lets the public explore Japan's history, geography and climate and the science section exhibits aeroplanes, cars, satellites, planets and allows visitors to engage in hands-on experiments of physical phenomena like magnetism, electricity and motion. Another interesting feature of the museum is its dome-shaped 360-degree movie theatre. There is also an indoor exhibition section for children and a gift shop where you’ll find science-related stuff. It’s so large that you may not be able to finish touring the entire museum but you’ll never be tired of the explorations.
Praise artworks at The National Art Center, Tokyo
The National Art Center, Tokyo is not just a museum but Japan’s largest museum. Situated in Tokyo’s Roppongi area, the building designed by the famous architect Kisho Kurokawa has about seven massive rooms for hosting exhibitions but it has no permanent exhibitions. This museum hosts special exhibitions like Nitten Japan Fine Arts Group exhibiting more than 12000 works which is the largest of all exhibits in Japan and travelling exhibitions. All these exhibits are open to the public and are judged. In the upper floors there’s a restaurant and a café. A library and a huge auditorium are there for conducting workshops and seminars. There’s also a museum shop. And the best thing is entry to this museum is absolutely free.
Go for boating on the waters of Shinobazu Pond
The most charming natural attraction in Tokyo is the lotus pond against the background of Tokyo’s skyscrapers namely Shinobazu Pond. In the months from July to August, the pond remains covered with lotuses and lotus leaves. The pond has three sections; the lotus pond, the duck pond and the boat pond and in the centre of which lies the Bentendo temple on a small islet. Around the temple are small monuments where people’s personal belongings are buried symbolically. Some of these monuments have inscriptions on them written in English. You can go for paddle boating in the pond or sit by the side of it. And, if you are there in spring, you’ll get to see cherry blossoms adding to its beauty.
Go for a refreshing walk in the East Gardens of the Imperial Palace
The East Gardens is part of the inner areas of Tokyo’s Imperial Palace. It won’t be an exaggeration to say that this is perhaps one of the best gardens that you’ll ever come across in your life. So just go on walking tours to explore it. East Gardens, surrounded by walls and gates built by an imperial ruler, is a combination of a few gardens which contain stones and rocks that were part of the Edo Castle and the ruins of one of the castle’s central towers built in 1638 and destroyed in the subsequent years. You will get a 360 degree view of the garden from the top of it.
The site where the castle's central compound was once located in the gardens’ large lawn, Honmaru. Different sections of the garden include the pretty Ninomaru Grove; a woodland area with a pond and a cute teahouse at its centre, Honmaro; the site where the castle's central compound was once located and Kyokiyo Higashi Goen; the former site of the Edo castle’s defence walls. Different kinds of wild flowers and colourful orchards line the pathways of the garden. During winter the plum trees in their full bloom look stunning and in fall the Musashino copse paint the scenery in gold and scarlet and not to mention, the dreamy cherry blossoms in spring are worth admiring. Inside one of the entrances is the Museum of Imperial Collection which has on display more than 9000 artworks once owned by the imperial family.
Behold wonders of the sea at Tokyo Sea Life Park
The Tokyo Sea Life Park, a colossal dome-shaped public aquarium, located right in the centre of the Edogawa’s Kasai Rinkai Park, has 12 different sections homing a wide variety of sea life creatures that are found in Tokyo Bay, tropical coral reefs, temperate and frigid waters. The speciality of this aquarium is the idyllic underwater world beneath the floating glass dome above Tokyo Bay featuring wonderful creatures like flapnose rays, mudskippers, red lobsters, hammerhead sharks, bluefin tuna, and purple sea urchins. It also has one of Japan's largest penguin enclosures having three different kinds of penguins.
This aquarium is particularly well-known because one of the penguins escaped from the enclosures and was found in Tokyo Bay after ninety days in 2012. Outside the aquarium is a bird sanctuary and a waterfall. Sea birds and kelps are also kept here.
Buy Japanese style utensils from Kappabashi Utensils Street
Tokyo has really varying shopping experiences to offer and Tokyo’s Kappabashi Utensils Street provides an incredible one. At the market’s entrance is a big statue of a chef symbolising the very theme of the market. If you want to know a lot more about Japanese culture and tradition, you’ve got to visit this hundred year old utensil market. Kappabashi area is composed of one straight street connected with side alleys and lined with 170 specialised shops selling traditional Japanese culinary items from cooking utensils to tablewares and restaurant decorations. You’ll get here all sorts of dishes, pots, ceramic cups, noren curtains, fanciful glasses, pans, Japanese knives and chopsticks, tables, chairs, signs, lanterns and more. And what’ll grab your attention the most is the plastic and wax food samples that you’ll get to see in many Japanese restaurants’ show windows.
Enjoy the rides of Tokyo Dome City
Tokyo Dome City is a top-class amusement park whose major attractions are Tokyo Dome and Korakuen Hall. The former is the largest roofed baseball stadium in the world and the latter is an indoor stadium for hosting professional martial arts, boxing and wrestling matches. The other known attractions are roller coasters which operate at a speed up to 130 km/hr and a Ferris wheel overlooking Tokyo skylines, Tokyo Dome hotel, a tower that takes riders up to a height of 80 meters and a lavish spa resort known as LaQua.
Ride the Daikanransha
No matter how many rides you have experienced in Tokyo’s different amusement parks, you must experience this one as it is the world's 12th tallest wheel and Japan’s second tallest Ferris wheel. It is spectacular at night when it’s lit with 100 different shades by about 120,000 neon tubes. If you go for the 16 minute ride, you will be able to see Tokyo Tower, the Rainbow Bridge, Tokyo Bay, Haneda Airport, central Tokyo, the Bōsō Peninsula and Japan’s highest mountain Mount Fuji only on a clearer day.
Be mesmerized by the dance of lights at TeamLab Borderless
Tokyo has many wonderful sights to offer and TeamLab Borderless is definitely one of them displaying a plethora of colourful shades of LED lights via numerous decorative lamps and mirror floors. This museum promotes artworks from different origins and erases boundaries amongst them by bringing them together. You’ll find there superb backgrounds for taking trendy photos. Once you go there you’ll be lost in this 3D lighting experience accompanied by sound effects and you’ll surely not want to leave the place soon.
Pray at Yasukuni Shrine
A famous Shinto Shrine in Tokyo, Yasukuni Shrine is worth visiting for its rich history and captivating splendour. Built in the 19th century to enshrine those who died in war and sacrificed their lives for the sake of their country, this shrine has impressive structures like its arch-shaped gates including the first gate Daicihi Torii made up of metal, the second gate Daini Tori, the pagoda-styled Shinmon gate and the third gate Chumon Torii leading to the Haiden Main Hall’s courtyard where prayers are offered.
The Honden or Main Shrine, cannot be accessed all the time. The shrine’s biggest building is a reception hall named Sanshuden. Other features are Nohgakudo; an open air stage, the Yushukan having a modern annex and the Yushukan War Memorial Museum, statues paying tribute to those who served in Japan's military force during various wars and monuments commemorating soldiers who fought for Meiji restoration.
Chill at Tokyo Plaza
Tokyo Plaza is one of Tokyo’s most beautifully designed multi-complex shopping centres. You may select this as your one stop shopping destination as it has more trendy scenes than your eyes can devour. The mirrored wall entrance leads to the Kaleidoscope which is a storehouse of both Japanese and international trendy flagship stores. The middle floors are occupied by stores selling garments, cosmetics, and other miscellaneous commodities and the topmost floors house first-class cafés and restaurants. When you’re done with shopping from the stores and eating at the eateries, take in the surrounding views of the area from the complex’s serene rooftop garden Omohara Forest while enjoying a Starbucks coffee.
Admire the gorgeous Akasaka Palace
The Japanese state guest house, Akasaka Palace, is designated as a National Treasure of Japan. Closely resembling Hofburg Palace, the main building is built in the fashion of Neo-Baroque style. This former residence of the crown prince was one of the largest surviving buildings from the Meiji period until it was converted into a guest house in 1974. The main entrance of the guest house is a grand pathway surrounded by finely trimmed grass lawns on either side. Then comes the beautiful main garden and the annex house called Yushintei.
The palace’s main building is a marvelloussciw example of European architecture featuring samurai decorations which render it an authentic Japanese experience. Its spacious themed rooms replete with international and Japanese decors, artworks and furniture hosts meetings, interviews and banquets of political leaders and diplomats. But these rooms, well maintained gardens and the typical Japanese annex are open to the public only when no meetings and occasions take place and audio guides assist the visitors in their explorations of the imperial estate.
Look at the jaw-dropping downtown scenes of Asakusa from Asahi Building
One of Tokyo’s greatest buildings, the headquarters’ building of the Asahi Group, offers the best skyline views of the city. It is coloured with amber and white. Go up to the building’s topmost floors and dine out at the restaurant and admiringly gaze at Sumidagawa River and the Asakusa townscape. Close to it is the Super Dry Hall building having a beer hall where you’ll get to taste amazing Super Dry draft beer. The building grabs eyeballs mainly because of its big golden statue, Asahi flame, representing Asahi beer.
Embrace the serenity of nature at Shinjuku Central Park
Shinjuku Central Park is a pretty greenery spot in the middle of sky touching buildings of Tokyo’s Shinjuku Ward. If you are tired of exploring the urbane setting of Shinjuku, step into this small wonderland. The park is filled with green spaces and picturesque cherry blossoms known as sakura trees, the demand for which increases during Hanami that’s hosted in spring. There’s also a shrine which hosts a small sizzling Matsuri festival and an artificial waterfall which looks quite natural.
You can sit on the benches, stairs or open green grounds for hours. During daytime the park remains crowded with visitors and at night it becomes a home for the homeless. Office goers flock here for its famous Bento lunches. Come here during afternoon and stay till evening to experience a sizzling night scene by having a drink at the park’s evening bar set against the illuminated skyscrapers of Shinjuku.
Offer your prayers at Hanazono-jinja Shrine
Shinjuku’s Hanazono-jinja Shrine is a remnant of old Tokyo before modernisation changed it. A big red torii gate serves as an entrance to this 17th century temple which is dedicated to the Japanese Goddess of trade. An alternative gateway to this Shinto Shrine is a three-lined alley. The Honden or main hall of the temple stands at the centre above a fleet of stairs made up of stone, overlooking the shrine’s serene wooded park surrounded by various trees among which the sakura trees deserves a special mention as it enlivens the shrine’s natural ambience especially during spring.
It is also a popular spot for hosting big celebrations throughout the year like the Reitaisai Festival held in May and Tori-no-Ichi Festival held in November. If you visit this shrine during a festival you’ll never forget the wonderful scenes that it presents. But festival or no festival, the shrine is wonderfully lit every evening and it’s worth taking an evening stroll while admiring its beauty.
Take day trips out to Hakone or Yokohama
Tokyo’s diverse sights extend out of its city borders to nearby Hakone and Yokohama. Nestled in a mountainous valley is Hakone, a small town known for its traditional Japanese inns and languid hot springs. Hakone also houses Lake Ashi and spaces where art meets the outdoors, including Hakone Open Air Museum and the Venetian Glass Museum. Green carpeted mountains and restorative hot springs lure in countless visitors every year. In contrast, Yokohama sparkles with port charm. Visitors can walk along the coast and bask in fresh sea breezes, or head up Landmark Tower for a breathtaking view of the coast.
The best advice given when it comes to exploring Tokyo is to lose the map. Let your eyes guide you towards the attractions, small or big. Who knows? You might stumble upon a hidden temple or garden between office blocks, or local thoroughfare not in any travel guides.
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