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Tokyo | Japan Travel Guide

tokyo

When travel guides tell you that Tokyo is all about madness, take it seriously.

It is the world’s largest & the most populous megacity converging about 35 million people. Fueled by its formidable economy, it lists 51 of the Global 500 companies with headquarters in Tokyo. In the 2015 survey by Mercer, it ranks 11th in the roll of the most expensive cities to live.

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But Tokyo is also about being the Most Livable City in the World according to Monocle & an unwavering first rank in Safe Cities Index. It is also home to the most number of Michelin starred restaurants worldwide, sliding Paris to a close second.

Tokyo is an overwhelming city.

tokyo

From neon-lit skyscrapers to ancient Shinto temples & traditional kimonos to outlandish decora street fashion, Tokyo yokes vibrantly between its past & future. And with so many things going on here, it would probably take a lifetime to experience everything.

I listed some of the most popular attractions that first-timers in Tokyo must experience. These are clustered according to geographical contiguity to make your itinerary easier to plan & execute.

CENTRAL TOKYO

Akihabara

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If you are an otaku (diehard fan) of Japanese anime & manga kissa, then this is your paradise! Regarded as Tokyo’s hub of gaming paraphernalia, comics, costumes & maid cafes, Akihabara brings in the younger crowd. If you’re into electronic gadgets, look no farther than Chuo Dori Street because anything you fancy about electronic stuffs are all here.

How to Get There
Take the train served by JR Yamanote Line, JR Keihin-Tohoku Line, JR Sobu Line, Tsukuba Express & Hibiya Subway Line. Get off at Akihabara Station.

Imperial Palace & Imperial East Gardens

tokyo

The inner courtyard of this 1888 Imperial Palace is not open to public. However, you can take a peek of it from Kokyo Gaien with a good view of Nijubashi Bridge in the foreground. The Imperial East Gardens is also a fantastic showpiece of Japanese garden design highlighted by motes, ancient defense walls & bonsai trees.

How to Get There
The Imperial Palace is about 10-minute walk from Tokyo Station. The Imperial East Garden is best approached from Otemachi Station.

Tsukiji Market

tokyo

It is Japan’s largest fish, fruit & vegetable market. Tourists come here to observe the tuna auction & to sample delectable fresh seafood prepped in the highest Japanese cookery. Come with a huge space on your tummy because Tsukiji surely brings its visitors to a real gastronomic spin.

Tip: The auction takes place at around 4AM & is limited only to a few foreign observers. Just skip this if you don’t want to be cutout from the list. Otherwise, you’ll have to wait ‘til 8AM when restaurants open to public.

How to Get There
Take Oedo or Hibiya Subway Line. Get off at Tsukiji Shijo Station.

Ginza

Photo credit: www.en.wikipedia.org

Photo credit: www.en.wikipedia.org

It’s glitzy. It’s posh. It’s expensive. It’s Ginza! This trillion yen block is home to the finest retail brands from lifestyle to what-have-yous. If you are in the mood for splurge shopping or dining, Ginza is the brightest destination in Tokyo. This is also the residence of Kabukiza Theater, where you can watch a full or 1-act scene of the ancient Kabuki art.

How to Get There
This is accessible on Hibiya & Ginza Subway Lines. Get off at Ginza Station. Alternatively, you can take JR Yamanote Line & get off Yurakucho Station.

Koishikawa Korakuen

Photo credits: www.tsunagujapan.com

Photo credits: www.tsunagujapan.com

Built in the early Edo Period, Koishikawa Korakuen is one of Japan’s oldest & exemplary Japanese garden art. In this scenic spot, guests are treated to a relaxing landscape composition of bonsai trees, ponds, willowing twigs & manicured bushes. During the season of Cherry Blossoms & Peach Blossoms, this garden becomes the Eden of locals & visitors. Surrounding Korakuen are other attractions like Tokyo Dome City & Nihonbashi Bridge.

How to Get There
Iidabashi Station on JR Chuo Line is the best access to Korakuen. It is also easy to get from Korakuen Station along the Marunouchi & Nambuko Subway Line.

NORTHERN TOKYO

Tokyo National Museum

Photo credits: www.japanguide.com

Photo credits: www.japanguide.com

The Tokyo National Museum holds the largest collection of art & archeological artifacts from all over Japan. Being the oldest among the high-caliber museums in the country, its gallery is home to most of Japan’s national treasures.

How to Get There
It is located on Ueno Park, just 10 minutes away from Ueno Station.

Ueno Park

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Just right next to Ueno Station is the largest public park in Tokyo, the Ueno Park. It is popular as the city’s museum ring & cherry blossom spot. Interesting sights here also include the Ueno Zoo, Kaneiji Temple & Toshogu Shrine.

How to Get There
Take any train that runs north to Ueno Station.

Ameyoko

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Ameyoko is any shopaholic’s paradise. Here, all the quirky Japanese stuff from traditional to pop, food & souvenir items are just so dizzily abundant. It is also a happening spot for cheap dining & entertainment.

How to Get There
You can get off at Ueno Station or Okachimachi Station along JR Yamanote Line, JR Keihin-Tohoku Line or Oedo Subway Line.

Asakusa

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Asakusa Ward is the face of old Tokyo. Here, many are kept in antiquity like its main attraction, the Sensoji Temple. Although it is best to explore it on foot, you might want it done on a human-pulled carriage called jinrikisha. Within the Asakusa radius are other interesting landmarks like the Tokyo Skytree, Sumida Park & Kappabashi Shopping Street.

How to Get There
Get off at Asakusa Station from any of Ginza & Asakusa Subway Lines, Tsukuba Express & Tobu Railways.

WESTERN TOKYO

Shibuya

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If there is one popular street in the world, that would be Shibuya. Anyone who comes to Tokyo must have his obligatory shot of the manic Shibuya crossing. But this place is more than just the frenzied crossing, it is the birthplace of many pop cultures in Japan. It is the hub for shopping, dining & entertainment.

How to Get There
Shibuya is a major train interchange. It is served by almost all train lines.

Shinjuku

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Shinjuku is synonymous to its popular red light district, Kabukicho. It’s the wildest side of Japan. Although this place has more than what it is as a titillating spot, surely, most people come here for its entertainment spectacle. Never leave Tokyo without visiting Shinjuku.

How to Get There
Almost all lines traverse through Shinjuku. Get off at Shinjuku Station. But know first where you’re going because this station has more exits than you can count.

Harajuku

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Do you ever wonder why Japanese fashion is so quirky? And do you know where to spot them? Look nowhere but Takeshita Dori in Harajuku. This area is the birthplace of avant-garde teenage fashion. The best time to come here is on weekends when they converge in Yoyogi Park for an unimaginable real-life fashion show. On the next block is the quiet Omotesando Hills, a quiet departure from all the eccentricities of Harajuku colors.

How to Get There
Harajuku Station, Meijijingu-mei Station & Omotesando Station are the best access to this place.

Meiji Shrine

tokyo

Located across Harajuku & Yoyogi Park is the popular Meiji Shrine. It is dedicated to Emperor Meiji, the first emperor of modern Japan. It is tucked in a lush forest & is best for unhurried afternoon walks.

How to Get There
Take Harajuku Station or Meijijingu-mae Station along JR Yamanote Line or Chiyoda Line.

Yebisu Garden Place

tokyo

If Yebisu Beer rings a bell, then this is the spot where that familiar brewery once stood. It is a pleasant garden city filled with upscale dining & shopping. Make sure you visit Yebisu Museum for a sampling of this popular Japanese beer. If you feel like going all the way, Beer Station is just around the corner.

How to Get There
Get off at Ebisu Station. The garden is connected from the station via the Ebisu Skywalk.

SOUTHERN TOKYO

Odaiba

Photo credits: www.en.wikipedia.org

Photo credits: www.en.wikipedia.org

Odaiba is a futuristic entertainment & business district. It is a man-made island on Tokyo Bay filled with theme parks, restaurants & shopping complex. It is the site of architectural showpieces like Fuji TV Building & Telecom Center. Check out Palette Town for a one-stop shop of everything Odaiba.

How to Get There
Odaiba is connected by Yurikamome Line & Rinkai Line from downtown Tokyo. Alternatively, it can also be accessed by a water bus from Hinode Pier to Odaiba Seaside Park.

Roppongi Hills

Photo credits: www.matsunuma.deviantart.com

Photo credits: www.matsunuma.deviantart.com

Mori Tower is the most popular attraction on this upmarket side of Tokyo where one could take an aerial view of the city from the building rooftop. Roppongi Hills is the center of IT business & is peppered by chic apartments, department stores & international gourmet restaurants.

How to Get There
Coming from Roppongi Station, Roponggi Hills is just about 10 minutes by foot. It is served by Hibiya Line & Oedo Line.

Outlying Areas

Tokyo Disneyland

Photo credits: www.japantimes.co.jp

Photo credits: www.japantimes.co.jp

The happiest place on earth needs no further description. Modeled after the California Disneyland, the one in Tokyo that opened in 1983 was the first theme park outside the USA. Although it is already in Chiba Prefecture, it is widely referred to as Tokyo Disneyland.

How to Get There
You have to get to JR Maihama Station from Tokyo. From there a special Disney monorail brings you to the park.

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