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Top Attractions in Tokyo

Tokyo — the capital city of Japan — mixes the ultramodern with the traditional, from neon-lit skyscrapers to historic temples, all existing side-by-side. The city is not only home to opulent shrines and museums, but also to world-famous markets and neighborhoods.

As a city rich in culture, history, arts, and entertainment, Tokyo offers its visitors much to see and do, and the list of must-visits is seemingly endless. We've narrowed the search for you by listing our absolute favorite Tokyo attractions here.

Highlights

  • Claimed to be the oldest of the city's temples, Sensoji Temple in Asakusa is also believed to be Tokyo's most visited.
  • An early morning sushi breakfast of Ootoro (fatty cut tuna) at Tsukiji Outer Market is a must-do.
  • Nothing makes you feel you've arrived in Tokyo, quite like seeing thousands of people crossing the Shibuya intersection!
  • Meiji Shrine's spacious grounds offer walking paths that are perfect for visitors looking for a relaxing stroll.
  • Visitors in the market for electronic goods or anime and manga products will find anything they're looking for in Akihabara.

Shibuya

Shibuya is one of Tokyo's most popular shopping and entertainment areas found around Shibuya Station. It is one of Tokyo's most colorful and busy districts, and visitors are spoilt for choice when it comes to shopping, dining, or nightlife entertainment.

The most prominent landmark of Shibuya is the large intersection in front of the station. A must-do experience during your time in Tokyo, crossing this intersection is a very popular photo and filming spot. Nothing makes you feel you've arrived in Tokyo quite like seeing thousands of people crossing the Shibuya intersection.

The intersection is heavily decorated with neon advertisements and giant video screens and gets flooded by pedestrians every time the signal turns green.

The best times to visit Shibuya crossing are during Friday and Saturday nights when the crowds are the largest and you can get there by taking Shibuya Station's Hachiko Exit. That being said, any day of the week is suitable for a visit as the district is always busy.

If you're looking to shop in the area, it might be useful to note that while some shops remain open 24 hours a day, most close around 9 p.m.

Tokyo Imperial Palace

The residence of Japan's Imperial Family, the current Imperial Palace, is located on the former site of Edo Castle, a large 17th-century park area surrounded by moats and stone walls in the very heart of the capital.

Although the inner grounds of the Imperial Palace are not open to the public, visitors can view the Nijubashi (the two bridges that form the entrance to the inner palace grounds) from Kokyo Gaien, the large plaza in front of the residence. Some guided tours do exist, although no buildings are entered.

Only on January 2 (New Year's Greeting) and December 23 (Emperor's Birthday) are visitors allowed to enter the inner palace grounds and see members of the Imperial Family.

The Imperial Palace is a short walk from Tokyo Station.

Tsukiji Outer Market

Tsukiji Outer Market is a district adjacent to the site of the former Tsukiji Wholesale Market. The market is known for supplying the highest quality fish and seafood to some of the best restaurants in the world and is, as a result, an immensely popular tourist attraction.

While visitors have restricted access to the main market area today, the surrounding commercial area, known as the Outer Market, includes shops and vendors for tourists to visit. You can find fresh seafood and produce there and even buy food-related goods such as knives and cutlery.

We recommend visiting the market early in the morning for a sushi breakfast, so you can sit at a food stall alongside locals who have stopped in before work. Ootoro, or fatty cut tuna, is especially popular.

Hamarikyu Garden

Hamarikyu is a large landscape garden in central Tokyo. The garden, located alongside Tokyo Bay, features seawater ponds that change level with the tides, and a teahouse on an island where visitors can sit and take in the scenery. The traditionally styled garden stands in stark contrast to the city's skyscrapers.

Hamarikyu is worth visiting during any season. Although not as popular as some of the other gardens in Tokyo, Hamarikyu has numerous maple and gingko trees that show their beautiful fall colors between late November and early December.

Since most gardens are usually packed during the cherry blossom season, Hamarikyu makes for a great alternative hanami viewing spot in the city.

Akihabara

Located in central Tokyo, Akihabara (also known as Akiba) is a district of the city best known for its many electronic shops. It has gained recognition for being at the forefront of Japan's otaku (anime and manga obsessed fans) culture, and many shops and electronic stores in the area are devoted to anime and manga.

Visitors in the market for electronic goods or anime and manga products will find anything they're looking for in Akihabara.

These shops offer everything from the newest computers, cameras, televisions, mobile phones, and home appliances to otaku goods such as anime, manga, retro videogames, figurines, card games, and collectibles.

Meiji Shrine

Meiji Shrine is a shrine dedicated to the deified spirits of Emperor Meiji and his consort, Empress Shoken. The shrine and the adjacent Yoyogi Park (both located beside JR Yamanote Line's Harajuku Station) occupy a large forested area in the city.

Entry into the shrine grounds is marked by a massive torii gate, after which a tranquil forest replaces the sights and sounds of busy Tokyo. The spacious grounds offer walking paths that are perfect for visitors looking for a relaxing stroll.

Do note, however, that renovation works are currently being carried out on some of the shrine's buildings, and the treasure house remains closed at the time of writing. The renovation is due to be completed by 2020, in preparation for the shrine's 100th anniversary.

Omotesando and Harajuku

Harajuku refers to the area close to Tokyo's Harajuku Station, which lies between Shinjuku and Shibuya. It is the center of Japan's most extreme teenage cultures and fashion styles but also offers shopping and historic sights.

The main attraction in Harajuku is Takeshita Dori (Takeshita Street) and its side streets, which is the hub of the city's teenage culture. The streets are lined with trendy shops, boutiques, clothes stores, food stalls, and fast food outlets geared towards the fashion- and trend-conscious teenagers.

Just south of Takeshita Dori, and over twice its length, is Omotesando, a broad, tree-lined avenue sometimes referred to as Tokyo's Champs-Elysees. Visitors can find famous brand name shops, cafes, and restaurants in Omotesando.

Asakusa (Sensoji Temple)

Asakusa is an older district of Tokyo, where an atmosphere of the past still lingers. The district is also home to Sensoji, a very popular Buddhist temple, built in the 7th century.

Claimed to be the oldest of the city's temples, Sensoji is also Tokyo's most visited. Dedicated to Kannon, the Buddhist goddess of compassion, the temple was built in AD 645 and retains its original appearance, despite having been rebuilt many times.

Highlights include the Kaminari-mon Gate with its 3.3-meter-high red paper lantern, the famous and much-loved Incense Vat that is reputed to drive away ailment, and the fascinating temple doves that are said to be Kannon's sacred messengers.

Visitors are encouraged to explore the rest of the 50-acre temple precinct with its labyrinth of lanes. If you can, revisit the temple again at night for a completely different (and far less crowded) illuminated experience.

Ueno Park

A paradise-like oasis of green in the heart of busy Tokyo, Ueno Park is the city's largest green space and one of its most popular tourist attractions. In addition to its spacious grounds, the park also houses several temples and museums for visitors to explore.

Criss-crossed by pleasant gravel paths, this 212-acre park includes highlights such as a trip on a small boat on the reed-fringed Shinobazu pond around a little island with its Bentendo Temple, and visiting the 17th-century Toshogu Shrine, with its 256 bronze and stone lanterns.

The Aqua Zoo, one of the largest aquariums in Asia, is also worth a visit, especially if you're traveling with kids.

Tokyo National Museum

The National Museum of Tokyo houses more than 100,000 important works of Japanese, Chinese, and Indian art, including more than 100 national treasures.

Opened in 1938, the museum includes highlights such as numerous Buddhist sculptures from Japan and China, dating from the 6th century to the present, collections of old textiles, historical weapons, historical clothing, and Asian ceramics and pottery.

Also worth a visit is the museum's traditional Japanese landscape garden with its three pavilions, including the 17th-century Tein Teahouse (Rokuso-an), and the nearby Museum for East Asiatic Art with its 15 exhibition galleries.

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