Tokyo, the capital city of Japan, is the most populous city in the world and visitors will be amazed by its busy, fast-paced atmosphere. The juxtaposition of bright neon lights and ultramodern architecture to contemplative gardens and historic temples is mind-blowing. The Imperial Palace sits at the city’s center, with Japan’s nobility making frequent public appearances. Not far away is Shibuya Crossing, Tokyo’s version of New York City’s Times Square. CDC information for travelers. Hours/availability may have changed.
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Akihabara, also known as Akiba and named after a local shrine that used to exist here, is a district in the center of Tokyo that is legendary for its wide array of electronics shops. In recent years, it’s also gained acclaim as the center for Japan’s otaku – diehard fans of anime and manga cultures – as there are stores here that cater to the cult following. Visitors to Akihabara can find almost any electronics imaginable, including computers, televisions, cameras, mobile devices, home appliances, and electronic parts as well as second-hand electronic devices. It’s such a busy site that on Sundays its main street, Chuo Dori, is closed down for shoppers.
Chuo Dori Street, Tokyo, Japan
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Asakusa was originally a temple town for the neighboring Senso-ji Temple, but is now a thriving downtown shopping district in Taito-ku that sits along the west side of the Sumida-gawa River. The town boasts a traditional and old-fashioned vibe with the iconic Kaminari-mon Gate and prominent giant red lantern drawing in a steady flow of worshippers and travelers throughout the year. Along its main street, Nakamise-dori, are several quaint shops that feature a variety of objects made from Japanese-style paper, including folding fans. This district is also known to host several traditional events annually; most popular is the fireworks demonstration along the river during the summer.
East Building, 3F, 1-20-4 Asakusa, Taitoku, Tokyo, Japan, Phone: 81-03-38-47-44-43
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In ancient times, the emperor and his nobility ruled Japan, but the era of the samurai emerged after two historic battles – the Genji and Heishi at the conclusion of the Heian era. From then on, samurai-centered Japanese culture developed through 700 years of history from the Kaakura to Edo eras. During the samurai age, many battles were fought against invaders, and the Samurai Museum honors the brave samurai warriors and their spirits with featured exhibits and interactive experiences. Guests are encouraged to participate in activities like a photo shoot where they can put on a kabuto (helmet) and samurai costume.
2-25-6 Kabukicho, Eiwa Dairoku Building 1F, Shinjuku, 100-0021, Tokyo, Phone: 81-03-64-57-64-11
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Chidorigafuchi is an astounding moat in the northwest area of the Imperial Palace, a historic site created in the Edo period. Its name comes from its shape, which is reminiscent of plovers, or chidori in Japanese, and is most notable for its 700-meter long walking path sheltered by roughly 260 cherry trees from a number of species. This tranquil place welcomes more than one million visitors yearly, most of whom come during late March and early April to enjoy the ethereal pedestrian path lined with cherry blossoms. During this season, the cherry trees are lit up with twinkling lights at night, offering a truly romantic setting.
Kudanminami, Chiyoda-ku, Tokyo, Japan, Phone: 81-03-35-56-03-91
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The Edo-Tokyo Museum opened in 1993 to serve as a place to showcase the culture and history of Edo-Tokyo as well as visualize the life and city of the future. A popular landmark and tourist attraction, the museum is housed in a one-of-a-kind building designed to emulate an elevated-floor warehouse. The museum features a permanent exhibition that displays original objects as well as replicas, giving guests the chance to explore the history of more than 400 years of Edo-Tokyo history. They also feature five to six special exhibitions each year and host various events, workshops, and lectures throughout the year.
1-4-1 Yokoami, Sumida-ku, Tokyo, 130-0015, Japan, Phone: 81-03-36-26-99-74
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Ginza’s origins began in 1612 as a location for the silver coin mint and remained that until the 1800s, but after the Great Kanto earthquake in 1923, it was transformed into an upscale shopping center. A single square meter of land here is worth an astounding ten million yen, holding the title as one of Japan’s most expensive pieces of real estate. It features countless art galleries, boutiques, night clubs, department stores, restaurants, and cafes. Visitors to the area will have no trouble finding every leading brand imaginable, from fashion to cosmetics and everything in between.
1-11-1 Yurakucho, Chiyoda-ku, Tokyo, Japan, Phone: 8-13-52-21-11-11
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The Imperial Palace sits at the site of the former Edo Castle, a giant park area enclosed by huge stone walls and stunning moats. Its position in the center of Tokyo allows Japan’s Imperial Family to make multiple public appearances on the balconies of their inner grounds. Guests to the palace are able to see the Nijubashi, the two bridges that span the moat from the Kokyo Gaien plaza at the front of the palace to the inner grounds. Though the inside of the palace is off-limits to the public, visitors are given the opportunity to take a 75-minute tour of the palace estate.
1-1 Chiyoda, Tokyo, 100-8111, Japan, Phone: 8-13-32-13-11-11
8.Meiji Jingu Shrine
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The Meiji Jingu Shrine was established in 1920 along with Yoyogi Park, a forest created from the hard work of the people of Japan and generous donations of more than 100,000 trees. Meiji Jingu is a Shinto shrine dedicated to the celestial souls of Emperor Meiji and his partner Empress Shoken. Shinto is Japan’s original ancient religion, and is deeply grounded in Japanese culture. Visitors can enter the shrine complex via the torii gate to experience the tranquil silence of the forest, which lies in stark contrast to the bustling city. Visitors will also see the Meiji Jingu Treasure House, displaying the Emperor and Empress’s personal belongings, and the inner garden, a powerful spiritual vortex. Things to Do in Japan
1-1 Yoyogi-Kamizono-cho, Shibuya-ku, Tokyo, 151-8857, Japan, Phone: 8-13-33-79-55-11
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The Nezu Museum was opened in 1941 to preserve the collection of pre-modern East Asian and Japanese art that was accumulated by businessman Nezu Kaichiro throughout his lifetime. After his passing, his son Kaichiro Jr. established a foundation and later opened the museum in his honor to display his father’s collection of 1860–1940 era artworks. The museum resides on the former Nezu residence and has been expanded several times throughout the years. It started with over 4,600 works and has since grown into just under 7,500 pieces of various genres of pre-modern art, including calligraphy, ceramics, paintings, textiles, armor, metalwork, and more.
6-5-1 Minami-Aoyama, Minato-ku, Tokyo, 107-0062, Japan, Phone: 81-03-34-00-25-36
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Odaiba is a man-made island popular for entertainment and shopping in Tokyo Bay. It started from humble beginnings, when just a few small man-made fort islands were present, but was built upon at the end of the Edo Period. Roughly a century later the small islands were merged by large landfills to create larger islands, but it wasn’t until the early 1990s that the area began to thrive. Today it has transformed into a popular tourist attraction featuring several shops, restaurants, and leisure locales. It is also home to some of the most adventurous architecture, like the Fuji TV Building, Tokyo Big Sight, and Telecom Center.
Daiba, Minato, 135-0091, Tokyo Prefecture, Tokyo, Japan
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11.Sumo Museum (Ryogoku Kokugikan)
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The Sumo Museum was originally opened in 1954 as the realization of professional sumo’s first home, the Kurame Kokugikan. The museum’s original curator Sakai Tadamasa accumulated the materials to preserve the rich history and heritage of Japan’s national sport. In 1985 the museum moved to Ryogoku, when the sumo tournament returned to the area; it is currently housed on the first floor of Ryogoku Kokugikan. The museum displays a variety of materials, including aprons worn by esteemed rikishi of previous years, woodblock prints, and banzuke (official rankings). Themed exhibitions take place six times a year, displaying unique memorabilia.
1-3-28- Yoko-ami, Sumida-ku, 130-0015, Tokyo, Phone: 81-03-36-22-03-66
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The Senso-ji Temple is located in Asakusa, a Buddhist temple known as the oldest temple in Japan, having been constructed in 645. Built for the goddess of mercy, Kannon is a prominent fixture with an outer gate Kaminarimon (Thunder Gate), where visitors enter and which serves as the symbol for the city of Tokyo. From Kaminarimon to the temple’s second gate, Hozomon, visitors will walk the more than 200 meters of space known as Nakamise to peruse the various souvenir stands, featuring folding fans, yukata, and traditional local snacks. Outside the Hozomon gate is the main hall of the temple, where a five-storied pagoda resides.
2-3-1 Asakusa Taito Ward, 111-0032, Tokyo, Japan, Phone: 81-03-38-42-01-81
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Shibuya Crossing is best described as an even more hectic intersection than that at Times Square, and a must-do destination when visiting Tokyo. It’s a place of constant action that puts the intense energy of the city on display. Every space is covered in lights, three giant television screens are fixed to the buildings along the intersection, and a remarkable flurry of people are coming to and fro in every direction. It’s such a staple of Tokyo that it’s often featured in movies that take place in the city, including The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift and the iconic Lost in Translation.
Shibuya-ku, Tokyo, 150-0043, Japan
14.Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden
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The Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden was built on the land that used to be the private mansion of Lord Naito, a feudal lord, also known as a “daimyo” in Japanese, during the Edo era. In 1906 it was turned into an imperial garden and designated a national garden; at the end of World War II it was opened to visitors. The 144-acre of national garden intermingles three specific design styles: Japanese traditional, French formal, and English landscape, creating one of the most complex and influential gardens of the Meiji era. Guests are welcome to tour the grounds, including the teahouse, greenhouse, and promenade as well as various restaurants.
11 Naito-machi, Shinjuku-ku, 160-0014, Tokyo, Japan, Phone: 81-03-33-50-01-51
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15.Tokyo Central Railway Station
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The Tokyo Central Railway Station is a commanding brick building east of the Imperial Palace, south of Akihabara, and slightly north of Ginza in the business district of Marunouchi. Originally designed in 1914 to reflect Amsterdam’s Central Station, the three-story station showcased a red-brick façade. Unfortunately, it was damaged during the Second World War, and underwent a renovation that wasn’t completed until 2012. Although it was restored to its pre-WWII splendor, it is set to undergo yet another round of improvements to be completed by 2020. It serves countless railway lines, but is most prominently known for its Shinkansen bullet trains.
1-9-Chome 1, Marunouchi, Chiyoda, Tokyo, 100-0005, Japan, Phone: 81-50-20-16-16-00
16.Tokyo City View Observation Deck (Roppongi Hills)
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The Tokyo City View Observation Deck, located in Roppongi Hills, is an observation center in the middle of the city. The indoor observation gallery is an astounding 250 meters above sea level with an outdoor sky deck that reaches a whopping 270 meters above sea level. In this legendary space guests can enjoy sweeping views of the capital’s landmarks like the Tokyo Skytree and the Tokyo Tower. On especially clear days a lucky few will even get a glimpse of famed Mount Fuji. Views morph into new experiences with the changing light of day. Visitors can enjoy the calm of a setting sun or the energy of a nighttime cityscape under glittering stars from the open-air sky deck.
6-10-1 Roppongi, Minato-ku, 106-6150, Tokyo, Japan, Phone: 81-03-64-06-66-52
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17.Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building
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The Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building is a highlight for savvy travelers who want to create memories without breaking the bank. This 243-meter tall building features two towers, each fitted with an observation deck at 202 meters in height. The best part? It’s free. Once the tallest building in Tokyo (until Midtown Tower took the title in 2007), it provides guests with a magnificent view of all of Tokyo’s famous landmarks. These include the Meiji Shrine, Tokyo Tower, Tokyo Skytree, and Mount Fuji when the weather permits. The North Observatory is the only one that remains open at night, providing an excellent spot to view the city lights.
8-1 Nishi-Shinjuku 2-chome, Shinjuku-ku, 163-8001, Tokyo, Japan, Phone: 8-13-53-21-11-11
18.Tokyo National Museum
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The Tokyo National Museum (TNM) collects, houses, and displays an all-encompassing assortment of antiquities and works of art from across Japan and various Asian countries. They also investigate and oversee research pertaining to their collection of photographs, rubbings, and books connected to fine art, and allow scholars to utilize these materials. TNM features several permanent exhibits that include their Japanese Gallery (Honkan), Asian Gallery (Toyokan), Gallery of Horyuji Treasures, and Kuroda Memorial Hall as well as several special exhibits. Some of these traveling exhibits include Celebrating 130 Years of Amity between Japan and Thailand, Thailand: Brilliant Land of the Buddha, and Chanoyu – The Art of Tea Ceremony.
1-3-9 Taito, Uenokoen, 110-8712, Tokyo, Japan, Phone: 81-03-38-22-11-11
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Tokyo Skytree embodies the essence of Tokyo in “a fusion of traditional Japanese beauty and neo-futuristic design.” It’s the world’s tallest broadcasting tower and made with state-of-the-art Japanese building technology. Visitors are welcome to tour this incredible space, stopping first at the 350-meter above ground Tokyo Skytree Tembo Deck, featuring a glass floor and providing a 360-degree view that allows them to see 70 kilometers into the distance. They can then head up to the Tokyo Skytree Tembo Galleria, which takes them from floor 445 to floor 450, the highest point, in a glass tube elevator where they might actually feel as though they’re walking in the sky.
1 Chome-1-2, Sumida, Oshiage, 131-0045, Tokyo, Japan, Phone: 81-03-70-55-06-34
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The Tokyo Tower was completed in 1958 and maintains the status of a Registered Tangible Cultural Property of Japan. Known as a symbol of Tokyo, this 333-meter tower offers two observatories for guests to enjoy. Their main observatory is 150 meters high and their special observatory is an astounding 250 meters high; it offers picturesque views of Mount Tsukuba, Mount Fuji, and the Tokyo cityscape. Within the Tokyo Tower guests will find several attractions, which include an aquarium and several restaurants. It also features specialty nights during the week, where live concerts take place and guests can enjoy the illumination of the city’s lights while hanging out on the observatory decks.
4-2-8 Shibakoen, Minato-ku, Tokyo, Phone: 81-03-34-33-51-11
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Ueno Park is a grand public park in Central Tokyo next to Ueno Station. It is steeped in history dating back to the Edo period, when it was part of the Kaneiji Temple, the family temple for the ruling Tokugawa clan. After the Boshin Civil War and complete annihilation of the property due to a battle between the new Meiji government and shogunate, it was transformed into a western-style park opened to the masses in 1873. It is now famous for the multiple museums occupying its grounds, like the Tokyo Metropolitan Art Museum and Japan’s “first zoological garden,” the Ueno Zoo.
5-20, Taito, Uenokoen, 110-0007, Tokyo, Japan, Phone: 81-03-38-28-56-44
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Yoyogi Park was first opened as a city park in 1967 after it served as the home for the Olympic Village during the 1964 Tokyo Olympics. Prior to that, it was a housing community for U.S. military personnel. Now, it is known for being one of Tokyo’s largest parks boasting grand lawns, sparkling ponds, and magnificent forested areas. It’s the perfect place for families who want to picnic or outdoor-lovers looking for a relaxing jog or a fun game of Frisbee. It is also an amazing site to watch the cherry trees bloom in late March and early April, although there are only a few here. More importantly, it’s an excellent destination to view the gingko tree forest, which turns an awe-inspiring golden color in autumn.
2-1, Yoyogikamizonocho, Shibuya, 151-0052, Tokyo, Japan, Phone: 81-03-34-69-60-81
23.National Museum of Western Art
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The National Museum of Western Art is located within the zoo and museum complex in Ueno Park. It was established in 1959 and is the only national institution in Japan that caters to western art. The museum has long been involved in and devoted to research, conservation, and documentation, and the exhibitions and publication of materials are connected to Western art. It is centered on the Matsukata Collection and highlights Auguste Rodin’s sculptures and Impressionist paintings. The museum exhibits not only Matsukata’s collection, but also artwork from the Renaissance to the beginning of the 20th century, featuring several permanent collections and special exhibitions each year.
7-7, Uenokoen, Taito, 110-0007, Tokyo, Japan, Phone: 81-03-38-28-51-31
23 Best Things to Do in Tokyo, Japan
- Akihabara, Photo: Courtesy of ichima - Fotolia.com
- Asakusa, Photo: Courtesy of eyetronic - Fotolia.com
- Samurai Museum, Photo: Courtesy of WH CHOW - Fotolia.com
- Chidorigafuchi, Photo: Courtesy of jaturunp - Fotolia.com
- Edo-Tokyo Museum, Photo: Courtesy of TAGSTOCK2 - Fotolia.com
- Ginza, Photo: Courtesy of 7 maru - Fotolia.com
- Imperial Palace, Photo: Courtesy of have seen - Fotolia.com
- Meiji Jingu Shrine, Photo: Courtesy of orpheus 26 - Fotolia.com
- Nezu Museum, Photo: Courtesy of mag space - Fotolia.com
- Odaiba, Photo: Courtesy of wooooooojpn - Fotolia.com
- Sumo Museum (Ryogoku Kokugikan), Photo: Courtesy of kadenkei - Fotolia.com
- Senso-ji Temple, Photo: Courtesy of Sean Pavone Photo - Fotolia.com
- Shibuya Crossing, Photo: Courtesy of Sean Pavone Photo - Fotolia.com
- Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden, Photo: Courtesy of javar man - Fotolia.com
- Tokyo Central Railway Station, Photo: Courtesy of japan image - Fotolia.com
- Tokyo City View Observation Deck (Roppongi Hills), Photo: Courtesy of yukihipo - Fotolia.com
- Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building, Photo: Courtesy of TBD - Fotolia.com
- Tokyo National Museum, Photo: Courtesy of f11 photo - Fotolia.com
- Tokyo Skytree, Photo: Courtesy of Sean Pavone Photo - Fotolia.com
- Tokyo Tower, Photo: Courtesy of dopplerz - Fotolia.com
- Ueno Park, Photo: Courtesy of best for later 91 - Fotolia.com
- Yoyogi Park, Photo: Courtesy of naka - Fotolia.com
- National Museum of Western Art, Photo: Courtesy of f11photo - Fotolia.com
- Cover Photo: Courtesy of SeanPavonePhoto - Fotolia.com
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