The massive, alpha-world city of Tokyo combines high-tech and history in a unique, fascinating mix of cultures, architecture and experiences. From its iconic high-rise cityscape to its ancient temples and shrines, the sheer impact of this amazing city draws millions of visitors every year. Exploring everything Tokyo has to offer is easy via a choice of subway and overland rail lines connecting all its diverse districts. Daytime and evening recreation, museums and religious buildings telling of Japan’s fascinating history and culture, a vast selection of dining options, exciting shopping districts, festivals and Kabuki shows give a unique glimpse of modern-day Japan and its ancient heritage.
Tokyo’s landmarks range from the moated Imperial Palace and former site of Edo Castle through the fascinating Tsukiji fish market, dozens of museums and famous temples and the nightlife district of Roppongi to the city’s Sumo wrestling stadium and Shitamachi’s remnants of Old Tokyo. High-end hotels such as the Mandarin Oriental and the Four Seasons are found in the heart of the city, in Akasaka district and in Shibuya.
- Imperial PalaceThe moated Imperial Palace complex lies in the centre of the city on the site of the Tokugawa Shogunate’s Edo Castle. Although the castle itself was demolished in the late 19th century, the watchtowers around the moat are period, and the gardens are stunning. The base of the castle remains and, on a clear day, Mount Fuji rears its head in the far distance.
-Sensoji Temple, AsakusaSet in the heart of Tokyo’s old town surrounded by a huge, covered street market and traditional shops selling kimonos, Sensoji is home to Tokyo’s favourite Buddhist festival. The temple was built on the ruins of its predecessor after the WWII fire bombs destroyed the area, and is guarded by two ancient, massive carved wood demons. The surrounding Japanese gardens are beautiful, and hold a Shinto shrine protecting the temple.
-Tokyo National MuseumThis world-class museum, located in Ueno Park, holds national treasures from the four millennia of Japanese history, including ancient pottery, Buddhist images, samurai costumes, armour and swords, famous ukiyo-e woodblock prints, stunning Japanese screens, textiles, Japanese lacquerware and much more. The museum is a don’t-miss for those seeking to understand Japan’s unique culture.
Eating and drinking and shopping nearby
Tokyo is shopaholics’ heaven, from the exclusive, world-famous couture stores on Omotesando Dori to the street markets and ever-popular 100-Yen stores. The Japanese sense of design is world-famous for its originality, simplicity and stunning effect, and it’s all around you in this city. Akihabara district is electronics central, funky fashions are found in Harajuku, and Tokyo’s massive department stores, located mostly in or around subway stations, offer a huge choice of fashions and homewares. Asakusa’s covered street market is great for clothes, leather goods, shoes, jewellery, including cultured pearls, and souvenirs of all kinds. Foodies will love the city for its endless Japanese eateries, bento box outlets, Japanese-style fast food joints and fine dining in upscale hotels such as the Shangri-La. Antiques hunters should head for the Sunday shrine markets.
Tokyo’s public transport network hinges on its subway lines, with trains running every two minutes to all destinations and districts. Signage both in the stations and on the trains is in English as well as Japanese, as are the route maps on the platforms, making it easy for most foreign visitors to get around. Tickets are had from machines and are priced by distance, and subway travel is one of Tokyo’s bargains. The JR line is the city’s suburban commuter rail network, and travels to and from the farthest districts as well as providing a ‘ring road’ by rail around the central districts. Buses run all over the city, but signage is in Japanese and the drivers rarely speak English. Taxi services in Tokyo are reliable, and the cabs are sparkling clean, although the metered charges are expensive, especially during rush hours.