A place of wonder and beauty, where the ancient blends with the new, Tokyo has everything you could ask from a tourist destination. From old historic places to parks where you can relax, a wide of variety of restaurants, and a very lively night-life, Japan’s capital is often chosen as one of the cities to visit at least once in your life time. This crowded city with high-tech gadgets and cutesy anime mascots, home to the understated and the wacky, is a marvelous mix of modern living and old fashioned manners. It is hard to choose Tokyo’s top locations but here are some ideas if you plan on visiting soon.
Shibuya Crossing is a famous intersection outside Shibuya station. Spectacular both during and day and night, it would be a shame to visit Tokyo and not cross it at least once. Shoppers, students, and commuters, when the red light lights in every direction, pedestrians cross the intersection from all angles, like marbles spilling out of a box. It is also a highly popular place to take pictures.
Yoyogi Park in Shibuya-ku is one of the biggest parks in Tokyo and the perfect comic relief after a low-key shrine stop. Because the living spaces are so tight in Tokyo, parks are a lovely place to jog, relax and other outdoor activities. Yoyogi Park may not be the most beautiful of parks but people of all sorts come here to relax, which makes the scene more satisfying than the Gothic Lolitas and Cosplay kids gathering on the Harajuku Bridge. Lovely to visit in the autumn because of the leaves of the ginkgo trees turn into a golden-like color, make sure you stop by Yoyogi Park when visiting Tokyo.
Meiji Shrine which is dedicated to the late 19th century emperor, who opened Japan’s borders after hundreds of years of being isolated from the world, is Tokyo’s most famous shrine, a wonderful serene and austere scenery, not flashy and colorful unlike many other Asian places of worship. The 40 feet high torii gate at the entrance is made of 1,500 years old cypress. There is a cleansing station where you can dip into a communal water and purify your hands and mouth before offering up a prayer, and if you want to follow the local tradition, you can write wishes on a piece of paper and tie them onto the prayer wall.
Sumo is Japan’s national sport. If you happen to be in Tokyo during one of the three grand tournaments in January, May or September, make sure you won’t miss it. Even though the peak of fight lasts a few seconds, the traditional rikishi parade when sometimes former champions demonstrate some classic moves will definitely bring you closer to understanding the Japanese culture. If you happen to be in Tokyo outside the tournament season, you can visit some early-morning training sessions, but make sure to have a Japanese speaker call before going, because many beya or sumo stables, have become quite reticent in allowing foreigners in.
Tsukiji Fish Market is the world’s largest and busiest fish market and has been a tourist favorite destination for quite some time. The market opens its doors very early in the morning, at 5 a.m. in order to catch the live tuna auction. Make sure you check before going to see if access is allowed. If you’re not an early bird, you can visit around 9 a.m. when the rush of the morning is cooling down. Have a sushi breakfast, buy fruits, vegetables and delicious fish. Outside the market are stalls selling fresh seafood and other specialties so make sure you book a morning to enjoy this wonderful place.
Mt. Takao, although not as famous as Fuji-San, is a sacred mountain located in the metropolitan area of Tokyo. It’s a perfect one-day getaway and if you are passionate about hiking, bike riding and mountain climbing, this is the place to go. 45 minutes and 350 yen to get from the center of Tokyo to Mt. Takao, you won’t lose too much time to get there.
Yamanote Line is the most crowded and used train line in Tokyo. Prices and cheap and the trains are fast and regular so if you want to visit the whole Tokyo’s downtown, this is the perfect choice for you. However, you should avoid the rush hour because you can easily get lost or robbed. The 29 stops will take you in Tokyo’s important areas and in such a busy and crowded town, trains are the best way to move around.
Rainbow Bridge, crossing northern Tokyo Bay between Shibaura Pier and Odaiba waterfront in Minato, is one of the most popular places to take beautiful pictures. The construction completed in 1993, it has two levels and is 798 meters long. Take a stroll after a busy day in the city, and if you are lucky enough, after rainy days you might even see a rainbow.
Dinner and drinks in Ebisu is a trendy neighborhood in Shibuya-ku and is full of establishments, which specializes in grilled meat and vegetables, sashimi and other casual fare. If you want to rub elbows with a salary-man and eat in a colorful standing bar, Ebisu offers a full Japanese experience. The neighborhood is accessible, just one stop from Shibuya on Yamanote Line. Lively and crowded place, Ebisu also has Chinese and Korean food restaurants, so make sure you enjoy the complete Eastern Asian experience.
Sento is the Japanese public bath which were used and created during the time when houses did not have their own baths. These establishments are highly popular so it will not be very hard to come across one. One thing to know though, in a sento you will have to get fully naked and even though the baths are gender segregated, many foreigners do not feel comfortable entering such a place. Nevertheless, it’s an authentic Japanese experience.