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Things to Do in Tokyo

With its signature combination of neon-lit strips, Shinto shrines, and world-class cuisine, Tokyo is a city that can go from bustling to serene at the turn of an alley. Shinjuku, the city’s sprawling central district, encompasses the winding alleys of the historic Golden Gai neighborhood; the manicured gardens of Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden; and the red-light district of Kabukicho, where robots and samurais dance side by side in the Robot Restaurant. Nearby Tsukiji Fish Market and Kokugikan Sumo Stadium and Museum offer high-octane experiences, while the serene Asakusa Temple, Ueno Park, and Meiji Shrine—surrounded by 1,700-year-old cedar trees—provide a healthy dose of calm. Get your sightseeing in with panoramic city views from Tokyo Skytree, one of the world’s tallest buildings; shop ‘til you drop in Shibuya, Ginza Shopping District, and Harajuku, birthplace of “kawaii” culture; or opt for a cruise around Tokyo Bay or on the Sumida River, a truly idyllic experience during “sakura(cherry blossom season). Alternatively, you can hang with the locals and go kart around Akihabara, one of the best places for electronic stores and gaming arcades. If you’re a nature lover, no visit to the capital of Japan is complete without heading to Nikko National Park and Mt. Fuji, a UNESCO World Heritage Site iconized by its snow-capped summit. The legendary mountain is a 2.5-hour car journey from Tokyo, making a visit to Mt. Fuji’s 5th Station—as well as on-the-way attractions such as Lake Ashi and the hot springs (onsen) of Hakone—achievable in a day.

  • Language: Japanese
  • Currency: JPY ¥
  • TIme Zone: UTC (+08:00)
  • Country Code: +81
  • Best Time to Visit: Spring, Fall

When to Visit: Sakura (cherry blossom season) is indisputably the best, albeit busiest, time to visit Tokyo. The peak of the season varies each year according to the weather, but blooms are generally at their brightest from late March to early April. If you want to avoid the crowds, fall (September to November) is a great time to see Japan’s natural landscapes drenched in autumn colors.

Getting Around: Due to its status as the world’s largest city, Tokyo doesn’t lend itself well to walking. The best method of getting around is the metro, an efficient yet mind-boggling transport system of multiple branches. Make your life infinitely easier by getting a PASMO, a prepaid travel card that will save you from lining up at ticket machines and trying to decipher Japanese characters to determine ticket costs.

Tipping: In Tokyo, tipping is not customary, even though excellent service comes as standard. In restaurants, bars, and taxis, don’t be offended if your tip is refused — profuse thanks receive much more of a warm welcome. 

You Might Not Know… For a unique cultural experience, don’t miss an early-morning tuna auction at Tsukiji Fish Market, where colossal tuna fish are snapped up for sushi in seconds. Viewing the free public auction is on a strict first-come, first-serve basis, so ensure you arrive at least two hours early to register.



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Tsukiji Fish Market
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The Tsukiji Fish Market is the largest wholesale fish market in the world. Located in central Tokyo, it handles over 2,000 tons of sea products a day. Because of the huge and rare fish available, and the busy atmosphere, the Tsukiji market is one of the most popular destinations in Tokyo. The tuna fish auction is especially bustling and fun to watch, as buyers and sellers shout and compete for better prices, but it is only open to visitors from 5:00am to 6:15am to keep the numbers of people at bay and to conduct business properly.
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Mt. Fuji (Fuji-san)
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The legendary Mount Fuji is 12,388 feet tall (3,776 meters) and is Japan’s highest mountain. With spectacular, 360-degree views of Lake Ashinko, the Hakone mountains, and the Owakudani Valley, climbing Mt. Fuji is an unforgettable experience. Named after the Buddhist fire goddess Fuchi, Mount Fuji is a holy mountain that attracts over one million people annually to hike to the summit. The climbing season is from July to August, when the weather is the mildest.
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Lake Ashi (Ashi-no-ko)
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Located on the Island of Honshu, Lake Ashi, also known as Lake Ashinoko, is located inside of Japan's Hakone National Park. With Mt. Fuji as its backdrop, it is a dazzling view on the water. It is considered sacred by the Japanese and has a Shinto shrine at its base.

Take a boat ride, relax, and enjoy views of Mt. Komagatake and the lush greenery of the other surrounding mountains, or catch a spectacular view of Lake Ashi on one of the trails in Hakone National Park. One trail even leads from the summer palace of the former Imperial Family, talk about a sight fit for a queen!

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Tokyo Imperial Palace
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The Tokyo Imperial Palace is home to the head of state, and is where the Imperial Family lives. It is also the former site of the Edo Castle. Filled with gardens, ancient stone bridges, and museums, the Tokyo Imperial Palace is a beautiful, historical, and important cultural landmark in Japan. In front of the Imperial Palace, visitors can view the Nijubashi, two ancient, stone bridges that lead to the inner palace grounds. The inner palace grounds are not open to the public, except on January 2 and December 23, two days that commemorate the New Year and the Emperor's birthday. However, the Imperial East Gardens are open to the public, and stand at the foot of the hill where the foundation of the Edo Castle tower still remains. The gardens have a natural pond, with groomed trees and lush greenery.
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Mt. Fuji 5th Station
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This famous mountain station lies at the halfway point between the Yoshida Trail and the summit of Mount Fuji. Its easy access to public transportation makes it the most popular of the mountain’s four 5th stations—particularly during climbing season.

Situated some 2,300 meters above sea level, Mt Fuji’s 5th Station offers unobstructed views of the Fuji Five Lakes, as well as panoramic looks at Fujiyoshida City, Lake Yamanaka and Komitake Shrine. The station’s Yoshida Trail, which can take between five and seven hours to climb, is a favorite among hikers. It may be one of the most crowded summits, but epic sunrises make it worth the congestion.

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Senso-ji Temple (Asakusa Temple)
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The Asakusa Temple combines majestic architecture, centers of worship, elaborate Japanese gardens, and traditional markets to give you a modern-day look at the history and culture of Japan.

Erected in the year 645 AD, in what was once an old fishing village, the Asakusa Temple was dedicated to the goddess of mercy, Kanon. Known as the Senso-ji Temple in Japan, it is located in the heart of Asakusa, known as the "low city," on the banks of the Sumida River. Stone-carved statues of Fujin (the Wind god) and Raijin (the Thunder god) guard the entrance of the temple, known as Kaminarimon or Thunder Gate. Next is the Hozomon Gate, leading to the shopping streets of Nakamise, filled with local vendors selling folk-crafts and Japanese snacks. There is also the Kannondo Hall, home of the stunning Asakusa shrine.

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Meiji Shrine (Meiji Jingu)
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The Meiji Shrine is the most important and popular Shinto shrine in Tokyo. It was dedicated to the Emperor Meiji and his wife Empress Shōken in 1926. The shrine is made up of buildings of worship, forests, and gardens. Each tree in the Meiji Forest was planted by a different Japanese citizen wanting to pay his respects to the Emperor. Meiji is thought of as the man who helped modernize Japan, and though the shrine was originally bombed in WWII, the shrine was restored in 1958.

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Tokyo Skytree
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Opened in May 2012, Tokyo's newest landmark, the Tokyo Skytree, has entered the record books as the world's second tallest building. A broadcasting tower that houses a restaurant, a café and two observation decks, Tokyo Skytree towers above Tokyo at a height of 634 meters (2,080 feet). At 350 meters (1,148 feet) and 450 meters (1,476 feet) high, the Tokyo Skytree has the highest observation decks in Japan with unsurpassed views over Tokyo. To reach the highest observation deck, visitors can walk up a spiraling corridor that circles the tower and offers dizzying views across the city below.
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Shibuya
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Shibuya is a popular shopping district and entertainment center in Tokyo. It is home to the eccentric fashions of Harajuku, department stores and boutiques, post-modern buildings, and many different museums. Known for its busy streets, flashing lights, and neon advertisements, Shibuya is a definite sight to see. Next to the Shibuya train station is the statue of Hachikō, a legendary dog that waited for his late master, every day in front of the station, for twelve years. The surrounding area is known as Hachikō Square, and is the most popular area for locals to meet.

Nearby is the Center Gai, a little street packed with stores, boutiques, department stores, restaurants, and arcades. Close to the Center Gai are a series of strange and fun museums, including the Bunkamura-dori, Tobacco and Salt Museum, and the Tokyo Electric Power Company Electric Energy Museum. There are many clubs and performance spaces in the area as well.

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Tokyo Tower
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At 1,092 feet (333 meters) tall, Tokyo Tower is an impressive Japanese landmark that offers 360-degree views of the city. Housing an aquarium, two observation decks, a Shinto shrine, a wax museum, and the famous Foot-Town, Tokyo Tower is a great center for entertainment.

Built in 1958 and inspired by the Eiffel Tower, Tokyo Tower is the central feature of Tokyo. At night, the tower lights up, creating a beautiful glow throughout the city.

The first floor is home to an aquarium that has over 50,000 fish, a souvenir shop, restaurants, Club 333, and the first observatory. Next is the second floor, which houses the food court. Then there’s the wax museum and Guinness World Record Museum on the third floor. The fourth floor has an arcade center, and finally, on the top floor is the Main Observatory and the Amusement Park Roof Garden.

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More Things to Do in Tokyo

National Diet Building

National Diet Building

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The National Diet Building is the center of Japanese politics, as it houses both chambers of the Diet, or legislative arm: the House of Representatives, which meets in the left wing, and the House of Councillors, which meets in the right wing. Built in 1936, the building is constructed almost entirely of Japanese materials.

The building is iconic for its pyramid-shaped dome in the center of the complex, which made it the tallest building in Japan at completion. The interior is decorated with cultural artifacts and art pieces, such as bronze statues of the men who are credited with formulating Japan's first modern constitution. The building sits on land once inhabited by feudal lords, giving the spot even more historical significance. It is sometimes referred to as the House of Parliament or the Government building in Tokyo.

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Nikko National Park

Nikko National Park

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The Nikko National Park is home to Buddhist shrines, incredible lakes, mountains, and natural beauty. It is renowned for its Botanical Garden, the intricate Iemitsu's mausoleum, and the Toshogu Shrine, which is the most ornate and lavish shrine in all of Japan. The Toshogu Shrine is Nikko's main attraction. A mausoleum dedicated to the founder of the Tokugawa shogunate, the shrine was designed by over 15,000 craftsman in two years, and is distinguished for its rich colors, elaborate carvings, and ornate details in gold leaf. As for the Iemitsu's mausoleum, it is known as Taiyuinby, and is more traditional in design. It is part of the Rinnoji Temple, which is dedicated to the Buddhist monk who introduced Buddhism to Nikko.
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Hakone Ropeway

Hakone Ropeway

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An hour train ride west of Tokyo sits the mountainous area known as Hakone, an area known for its views of some of Japan’s most famous natural sites. Domestic and international tourists have been coming here for decades to gaze upon snowcapped Mt Fiji, Lake Ashi and the Great Boiling Valley. On a clear day, the best way to enjoy the sights is on the Hakone Ropeway, the second longest cable car in the world.

The 30-minute journey on the Swiss-made cable cars stops at three stations along the way; for the best photo op of Mt Fiji in the distance, hop of at Owakudani Station. Pack a swim suit for a dip in one of Japan’s famous onsen, volcanic-heated sulfuric hot springs. The entire ropeway extends 2.5 miles (4 kilometers) and hangs 427 feet (130 meters) above a large crater at its highest point.

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Odaiba Seaside Park (Oaidaba Kaihin Koen)

Odaiba Seaside Park (Oaidaba Kaihin Koen)

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Odaiba is a chain of man-made islands inside of the Tokyo Bay. With dazzling views of Mt Fuji, the Rainbow Bridge, and the bay, it is surrounded by Tokyo's beauty. A shopping and entertainment center known for its futuristic architecture and theme parks, Odaiba combines fashion-forward thinking with fun for an unforgettable experience.

The Ferris Wheel in Patel Town, is one of Odaiba's featured landmarks. At 377 feet (115 meters) high, it offers one of the best views of the city. Other architectural wonders include the Telecom Center, Fuji TV Building, and Tokyo Big Sight, known for their avant-garde design, and a replica of the Statue of Liberty.

For entertainment there's the National Museum of Emerging Science and Innovation, the Aqua City shopping mall, and Decks Tokyo Beach, loaded with arcade games, boutiques, and a food theme park known as "Little Hong Kong."

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Aokigahara Forest

Aokigahara Forest

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The eerily quiet Aokigahara Forest calls out for lost souls. This forest, situated at the northwest base of Mount Fuji, has a long and storied history in Japanese mythology as a place of evil, demons, and paranormal activity. It’s not all ancient history, though; today, Aokigahara Forest sees more suicides per year than anywhere in the world other than the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco.

The forest has several nicknames, including the “Sea of Trees,” and – less flatteringly, “Suicide Forest.” Locals around the area say that people come into the forest for three reasons: hikers looking to see the splendid ice caves that dot the deep forest floor; people attracted to the stories and looking to see the carnage for themselves; and those people who do not plan to return. Suicide has become such a problem in the Aokigahara Forest that local authorizes have taken steps to curb it.

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Akihabara

Akihabara

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Akihabara, also called Akihabara Electric Town, is the go-to district in Tokyo for electronics, anime and manga products. Hundreds of electronics stores line the neighborhood streets, selling everything from computer parts to home goods and ranging in size from small stalls to mainstream chains. North of Akihabara Station sit stores selling video games, popular manga comic books, card games, costumes and souvenirs.

In recent years, Akihabara has become famous for its "otaku" culture, or diehard anime and manga fans. It is a great place to people-watch and see "cosplay," short for costume play, in which fans dress up as their favorite characters in anime and manga. Numerous maid cafes are found in this area as well, where you’ll find a dining experience in which the servers dress as maids and other characters.

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Harajuku

Harajuku

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Harajuku is a section of Tokyo known for its wild fashions. This is where you can spot local teens on the weekends, dressed-up in colorful and outlandish punk, goth, and anime costumes. But there’s more to Harajuku than just its extreme fashions. Sights to see include the Meiji Shrine, Yoyogi Park, and the Ometasando and Takeshita-dori shopping streets. You can’t go to Harajuku without people-watching and shopping.

The Meiji Shrine is considered Tokyo’s most popular and sacred Shinto shrine. It houses the Meiji forest, stunning gardens, and a memorial hall dedicated to Emperor Meiji, the man who many credit to modernizing Japan. Then there’s Yoyogi Park, known for its cherry blossom trees and religious festivals.

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Tokyo Station (Tokyo Eki)

Tokyo Station (Tokyo Eki)

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There are many large rail stations in Tokyo, but none have quite the elegance and history of Tokyo Central Railway Station. The station sits near the Imperial Palace grounds in the Ginza district. The classical look of the main facade is fashioned after Amsterdam's main station. In 1921, Prime Minister Hara Takashi was assassinated at the south gates. Much of the station was damaged during World War II and is constantly being renovated and improved upon.

Nowadays the station is the busiest in all of Japan in terms of train volume with over 3000 trains passing through and 381,704 passengers every day. It's the starting point of many Shinkansen trains as well as JR Trains and the Tokyo Metro. It's an excellent place to people watch- just make sure to stay out of the way of the busy commuters!

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Ueno Park (Ueno Koen)

Ueno Park (Ueno Koen)

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Ueno Park is a public park made up of museums, historical landmarks, and natural beauty. It houses the Tokyo National Museum, the National Science Museum, and the Tokyo Metropolitan Fine Art Gallery. Other popular attractions include the Tōshō-gū Shrine, a zoological garden, the Shinobazu Pond, and an abundance of cherry trees. The southern entrance of Ueno Park is guarded by a statue of Saigō Takamori, an influential samurai from the Meiji period. It stands in front of the Tokyo National Museum, which has about 100,000 art pieces and the National Science Museum, exhibiting life-size representations of different forms of life. Nearby is the Tōshō-gū Shrine which was built in 1617, across from the lovely Shinobazu Pond. Next to this is the Ueno Zoo, which houses rare and exotic wildlife. Cherry blossoms surround the zoo and the park, and during cherry blossom season it is where the Japanese hold hanami parties that celebrate these special trees.
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Ginza

Ginza

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With its neon lights, towering department stores, and nightclubs, the Ginza Shopping District is a chic, cosmopolitan adventure. You can catch a live Kabuki show, check out the latest Japanese film, or tour the most prestigious and innovative restaurants of Tokyo. And of course, there’s shopping!

Featuring the most exclusive stores and brands, like Louis Vuitton, Prada, and Chanel, this is window shopping at its finest. Highlights include the Sony Building and Hakuhinkan Toy Park. Another must-see attraction is the Wako Department Store, a Neo-Rennaisance-style building known for its impressive clock tower.

The Ginza Shopping District is also a great destination for entertainment. The Kabuki-za Theater presents traditional Kabuki Theatre daily. On the side streets of Ginza, there are clusters of art galleries, and then there’s the Ginza Cine Pathos, housing dozens of film theaters, small bars, and food-stalls built in a tunnel underneath Harumi-dori.

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Tokyo National Museum

Tokyo National Museum

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Shinjuku Park (Shinjuku Gyoen)

Shinjuku Park (Shinjuku Gyoen)

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You'll want to grab an (english language) map upon entering this large park that stretches across Shinjuku and Shibuya. There is a lot of ground to cover here.

The park is split into gardens of three distinct styles: French formal, English landscape and Japanese traditional. Not surprising the Japanese section is the most interesting and beautiful with waterlily ponds, artfully trimmed bushes and statues. The nearby Taiwan pavilion is an elegant spot for photos.

The original gardens date back to 1906, but were destroyed and rebuilt after the war. The diverse and well manicured gardens are great for wandering, taking photos or having an afternoon picnic. The garden has over 1500 cherry trees trees that burst into vivid blooms in late March or early April. It's a favorite spot for blossom viewing and can be very crowded during those times.

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Daibutsu (Great Buddha of Kamakura)

Daibutsu (Great Buddha of Kamakura)

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The 47-foot (14-meter) tall bronze Buddha statue of Kotokuin (Great Buddha of Kamakura) is only the second tallest statue of Buddha in Japan though likely the most recognizable. The seated figure is that of Amitabha Buddha, worshipped by Japanese Buddhists as a deity of salvation. The statue was completed in 1252 after the site’s previous wooden Buddha and its hall were damaged in a tsunami in 1248. Hundreds of years later, you can still see traces of the original gold leafing. The identity of the artist who cast the statue remains a mystery.

The temple of Kotokuin where the Buddha statue resides falls under the Jodo Sect of Buddhism, the most widely practiced branch of the religion in Japan. While the Great Buddha is the real draw, visitors can tour the temple grounds to see the four bronze lotus petals originally cast as part of a pedestal for the Buddha, as well as the cornerstones of the hall that originally sheltered the statue.

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