If you were wondering why to visit Tokyo (the East capital) then you need to know is so big and fascinating that even one full week there doesn’t seems enough.
Tokyo is the biggest city in the world since the XVIII century with a population over 37 million people today (including the three prefectures). Because of its size, Tokyo is divided in wards, cities, towns, villages and districts to be easily managed. Even if may sound complicated, as a tourist, you just need to organize your visits by areas, to be efficient during your trip.
Now, let’s virtually visit Tokyo and its main touristic attractions together!
One of the busiest places in the city especially with young people, Shibuya is built around Shibuya station. If you take the Hachiko exit from the station, you will end up in a small park which is hosting Hachiko’s statue, Shibuya crossing and the tourist information. This is the perfect place to start your visit for the day.
Hachiko is the most loyal dog and one of the reasons I always wanted to visit Tokyo and its statue. If you don’t know the story, you can see the movie Hachi: A dog’s tale with Richard Gere. In brief, his story is about loyalty, how he waited for 9 years, till he died, for his owner to return home. Be prepared to cry like a baby while watching it. At the end of the movie you will wish everybody be a dog… because of its loyalty, of course!
Shibuya crossing is the busiest crossing the world. Until visiting Japan I have never seen a diagonal crossing. Basically, it doesn’t matter in which corner of the street you want to go as you can reach it directly, amazing! The best spot to admire this or for taking a picture is from the Starbucks, perfectly located in the middle.
Visit Tokyo ‘s must sacred place! Meiji Jingu Shrine is commemorating the emperor Meiji which converted Japan to a modern era. Do not miss the splendid view of the blooming irises during June in the gardens nearby.
It is one of the most lovely areas in Tokyo. Walk among the Omotesando boulevard to stop for a coffee or shopping. Pay a visit to the oriental bazaar to buy souvenirs – are very cute and the prices are fair.
Continue your walk on the Takeshita Street, which is a very narrow and busy street, selling everything from clothes to food. You need to try the pancakes filled with different fruits & toppings plus the bubble tea!
While you’ll visit Tokyo, for sure you will end up in Shinjuku station. This train station is one of the most busiest in the world. I got lost so many times and I heard is very normal to happen even to locals. So, if you need to catch a train allocate some time to really find your way through the mess around.
In this neighborhood you can find lots of electronic shops and cameras at very good prices. It is also a vibrant area with many restaurants and bars.
One of the best thing you can do in Shinjuku is to go up into the Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building. You can enjoy a FREE view from 202 meter high. On top of this, if you are going on a sunny day, you can even see the Mount Fuji!
Near the Tokyo building you will find the Shinjuku Chuo Park and its Juniso-Kumano-jinja Shrine.
The park is cute with many trees, flowers, turtles, a big fountain and a truck food with a sitting area.
The Juniso-jinja Shrine was built in the Muromachi Period (1336-1573) and contains votive tablets donated by the kabuki actors.
On Kita-dori avenue there is a big LOVE sign if you want to take a picture with it! There is one similar in New York, at least! You can see as well an astronomical clock too!
Hanazono-jinja Shrine houses the guardian deity of Shinjuku and it is a very loved spot among the locals.
If you’re looking for a relaxing atmosphere, visit the Shinjuku Gyoen national garden. It has a mix of Japanese, English and French style gardens and it is well known for its cherry blossom trees in spring.
Make a stop in Kabukicho, an entertainment area in Shinjuku with theaters, movie theaters, restaurants, bars, shops, clubs, pubs and best known for its nightlife! Here is also the famous Robot Restaurant and the Golden Gai, known for its very narrow streets with lanterns.
I personally didn’t went yet to the Robot restaurant. Locals and visitors told me is kind of kitsch, nothing to do with the Japanese culture and on top of this, it’s expensive too! As a tip, when I went to the tourist information office, they gave me a discount voucher for the restaurant, quite consistent, like 10€ off. Ask for it!
Close to Shinjuku stands the quarter of Ikebukuro. It is a dynamic area with many shops, bars and restaurants and huge malls.
One of the reasons I went there it was to see one of the Pokemon Stores of Tokyo, located inside the Sunshine City mall. Of course, you can extend your activities apart from shopping, as in the mall there are an aquarium, a planetarium, indoor theme parks and so on.
Without a doubt, during your visit in Tokyo you need to see the most luxurious quarter of it, Ginza. This is the Champs Elysee of Paris or the 5th Avenue of New York. Even if you’re not into shopping at high prices, you can still make a stop to cheaper shops like Uniqlo. As a visitor, if you spent over a certain amount of money (normally over 50€) you don’t pay VAT, so you can make some savings too!
I was too lazy to wake up so early in the morning to come and see the Tsukiji fish market, but it’s an interesting place to do so. Wake up early in the morning to be in Tsukiji market around 5 am, because at 7 am everything is gone. You will have the possibility to see the biggest fish market in the world, where tuna and other types of fish are sold for the entire Tokyo area.
While being around, make a stop to see the uncommon style of the Tsukiji Hongan-ji temple and have a walk in the Hamarikyu-teien garden.
The new Imperial Palace is build on the former residential palace of the Edo Period, when the former capital moved from Kyoto to Tokyo. The city grew up around it. Its grounds extend over approximately 1,000,000 square meters and is surrounded by a moat and a rampart.
To see the main buildings from the outside you need to take a guided tour. There are two per day, at 10 am and at 1.30 am. The good part is that it’s free, but you need even to register online in advance or to come and queue in order to grab a ticket, as places are limited.
At the end, you can enter and see the East Gardens of the palace. Are also free but no tour is required and you can come anytime during the opening hours.
If something really surprised me in Japan, then this is the place, the Electric town! It’s a famous area knows for its electronic shops, manga, toys, video games, anime and the maids cafes!
Don’t be surprised seeing people dressed as their favorite heroes and characters. The concept is called kasupurei and Japanese people think this is a way to a new ego and way of expression.
There are many activities to do in Akihabara apart from purchasing electronic goods. I personally wanted to buy a Sailor Moon figure but in the end, I received it as a present from my awesome Japanese colleagues, as a goodbye gift! Anyway, I still bought a Batman for my friend as a nice souvenir from Japan.
For a smaller and cheaper souvenir, you can try one of the gachapon machines, where you insert some coins and receive a small surprise, like a kinder but without chocolate!
If you like video games, there are plenty of places to try your skills. You can even find the Super Mario!
Or, if you like gambling, there are pachinko machines (like slot machines) everywhere!
I must say, Ueno is my favorite part of Tokyo. With a lot of green areas, parks, museums and temples, the day is passing too quick.
Take the time to visit the first public park of Japan, Ueno Park, with its Shinobazu Pond. Depends on the season, but you can admire the waterlilies and the splendid lotus flowers. In the middle of the lake pay a visit to the Benten-do temple. If you like zoos there is the first and the oldest one established in Japan exactly near the lake.
I made a stop to see the Shitamachi Museum for ¥300, located near the lake. There you can see how the Japanese people used to live 100 years ago. What I really enjoyed were the Japanese toys (like kendama, otedama) you can play with at the second floor. At the end of the visit, I also received an origami box as a souvenir, from a nice lady!
Continue your visit through the park and stop to the Kiyomizu Kannondo Temple, Gojo-tenjin Shrine and the more far away Kaneiji temple. In the middle, make a stop to Starbucks and enjoy a seasonal drink!
If you like museums and you do have time, there are many around this area. Some examples would be Tokyo National Museum, The National Museum of Western Art, National Museum of Nature and Science, Tokyo Metropolitan Art Museum, The Ueno Royal Museum, etc.
End your visit through the Ameyoko streets, while buying souvenirs, fresh vegetables, fruits, marine products, clothes, cosmetics and so on.
You cannot visit Tokyo without paying a visit to the Senso-ji temple, the oldest one in Tokyo. It’s the temple of Avalokitesvara Bodhisattva – commonly called Kannon – who embodies the compassion of all Buddhas, relieving the suffering and answering the prayers with benevolence.
While entering the temple, you will most probably enter the main gate called Kaminari-mon Gate (Furaijin-mon Gate). There are two status on the left and on the right, the statue of Fujin, the god of wind and the statue of Raijin, the god of thunder. Their scope is to protect the temple from natural disasters.
While walking from the gate to the main temple, you will pass the Nakamise shopping street. This is one of the oldest streets in Japan an is filled with souvenirs and cakes. While I was buying some sweets, I was told to not eat them on the street and until I didn’t acknowledged, the seller didn’t gave them to me!
On the right, stop to the Asakusa Shrine, dedicated to the three man who found the Kannon statue while fishing and built the temple in its honor.
Don’t miss the Kappabashi kitchen ware town. It’s like the heaven for any cooking enthusiasts or professionals, as you can find everything you can dream about: traditional dishes, professional equipment for homes and restaurants or anything you can associate with a kitchenware.
If you want to have a top view of the city, another option apart from the Tokyo Metropolitan building is the Tokyo Skytree. This is a broadcasting and observation tower with a full height of 634 meters.
Odaiba is an artificial island created by man. There are many things there from a Statue of Liberty, a huge robot, big malls, cafeterias, restaurants and museums.
Don’t miss the TeamLab Borderless museum of digital art. There are projections, lights and music to penetrate your senses. You have no map to move around, so you need to guide yourself through the rooms. You need to stop to the tea-house as well. As long as you have tea inside your mug you will have flowers blooming, absolutely amazing – even if it’s a bit pricey!
I do hope you enjoyed the virtual tour through Tokyo. There are a lot more things to see and do while there, but if you have only a few days just select what is really important for you.
It should soon be my new home, so if you’re coming to visit Tokyo let me know. I can be your personal tour guide! Meanwhile, you can read more about this amazing country here.