The Best Things To Do In Tokyo
Glittering skyscrapers, ultrafast trains and a neon-lit nightlife all set the tone in this high-tech metropolis where time never stands still. The sprawling capital which is also Japan’s pride and joy sits on the island of Honshu and even has its very own cluster of islands (Izu and Ogasawara). It is also situated to the south of Takasaki, Tsukuba and Mito, and north of Yokohama, and Kamakura, while Chiba, Sakura and Narita lie to its east. Once you set foot in this bustling city, you will be swept up in a thrilling, energetic current of exhilarating sights, sounds and experiences. You will be able to view Tokyo in all its glory from a selection of lofty vantage points and admire its calming green spaces and traditional monuments. And once your vacation is over, you will come away with a touch of this very special city’s magic.
As can only be expected of a high-tech metropolis, Tokyo needs no less than four airports to cope with the number of airborne visitors who descend on it day and night – Chofu Airfield, Haneda Airport, Ibaraki Airport and Narita Airport. If you are already in Japan and have planned a visit to this glittering city of glass, chrome and steel, chances are that you would be arriving at Narita which takes care of most domestic flights. If you have been sampling Osaka’s plethora of delicacies and have marked Tokyo out as the next step in your adventure, you will be able to arrive following a flight trip of approximately 90 minutes. Kyoto, on the other hand, with its charming traditional inns and quaint teahouses is a 2 to 4-hour Shinkansen trip away. Tokyo itself boasts one of the best run transport systems on the entire globe and you will be able to rely on its rail, metro and bus systems to reach any destination within the city.
During your visit to Tokyo you will have the opportunity of viewing the shimmering expanse of soaring skyscrapers dotted with green spaces and temples from the Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building. The lofty and aptly named Tokyo Skytree is also another perfect choice for treating yourself to panoramic views of the Japanese capital. Especially since it comes with the added perks of enchanting lights which illuminate it in a dazzling display. In spite of its reputation as a neon-lit, futuristic urban center, Tokyo also happens to be a city where green spaces and nature are given pride of place. While holidaying in this amazing capital, you will be able to admire the exquisite Imperial Gardens and enjoy a leisurely boat ride along the Sumida River or on the lake in the beautiful Inokashira Park.
HERE ARE OUR PICKS FOR THE BEST THINGS TO DO IN TOKYO…
The magnificent Imperial Palace is the complex of gardens and buildings that is home to the Imperial Family of Japan. There are only a couple of days each year that the inner grounds can be explored, but the Imperial East Gardens are open to all, year-round. Tours take around seventy-five minutes, and while the buildings cannot be entered, your guide explain the amazing history of each, as you pass by.
Kokugikan Sumo Stadium
Come and experience the centre of Tokyo’s sumo world at Kokugikan Sumo Stadium; if you can, you should even try to see a tournament! A tournament runs for fifteen days and they are scheduled right throughout the year. So, grab a ticket and enjoy the marvellous spectacle of this traditional – and extremely popular – Japanese sport. If you can’t get a ticket, take a stroll through the museum, which takes you through the vast history of sumo wrestling, with fascinating displays and exhibits.
Great Buddha of Kamakura (Kotokuin)
The magnificent Kotokuin (Great Buddha of Kamakura) towers over you in the open-air setting of the Kotokuin Temple. Standing an imposing fourteen-metres high and dating back to 1252, this bronze statue is absolutely stunning, and is the second largest Buddha statue in the country! Explore the beautiful gardens and the nearby walking trails, which lead through some truly amazing scenery.
Tsukiji Outer Market
The Tsukiji Outer Market – made famous by its previous neighbour, the Tsukiji Fish Wholesale Market – is a bustling city district filled with amazing restaurants and retail shops. Long considered to be one of Tokyo’s most sought after food locales, this is a place where you will encounter a wide variety of Japanese culture, from amazing sushi to traditional Japanese knives!
Come on down to the Robot Restaurant – located in Tokyo’s nightlife district – for a night of neon fun and pure excitement! Get ready to witness an amazing kaleidoscope of colour, light and sound, as it explodes in a ninety-minute show that has dancers, robots, samurais, and even ninjas! This show is totally different to anything you have ever seen before, and is so unique that you couldn’t possibly forget it!
Built in the 1920’s to honour Emperor Meiji and the Empress, visit the Meiji Shrine and take a break from the hectic hustle and bustle of the city. Set in a tranquil forest with perfectly manicured gardens, take a walk through the grounds and admire their pure beauty and serenity. Explore the majestic buildings that make up this shrine, and soak up the fabulous history, shown through the many traditional artefacts on display.
Nikko National Park
Combining magnificent manmade landmarks with the natural beauty of Japan, the Nikko National Park is a must-do. Hike the trails to explore the lakes and mountains, and with stunning vistas around every corner, you just can’t get enough of the views here. Make sure you see the magnificent shrines and temples, including the famed Toshogu Shrine, which is full of fascinating colours and intricate carvings.
Tokyo’s Happo-en Garden is a beautiful and serene wonderland, filled with traditional Japanese culture and tranquil parklands. Stroll the winding paths – lined with ancient cherry and maple trees – and admire the fascinating bonsais along the way. Experience the traditional tea ceremony at the teahouse, and then retire for a meal at one of the amazing restaurants. This really is the perfect blend of natural beauty and tradition.
Located one-hundred kilometres from Tokyo, the iconic Mount Fuji needs little introduction. In July and August, you can climb to the 3,776 metre peak and enjoy magnificent 360-degree panoramic views. For the rest of the year, there are several places to visit at the foot of the mountain, to take in the spectacle of this unforgettable natural wonder. Head to the Fuji Visitor Centre’s observation deck as a starting point!
Mount Fuji’s 5th Station
At 2,300-metres high, the Mount Fuji 5th Station is the perfect launching pad for climbers heading to the peak of Mount Fuji. If you are not a climber, it is still a fantastic spot to get magnificent views of the surrounding lakes, city and shrines. And from here you can also explore the Ochudo Trail, which makes its way around – rather than up – the mountain!
A visit to the Asakusa Temple (Sensoji Temple) is a unique opportunity to explore the city’s vast history, while absorbing yourself into modern day Tokyo. Dating back to 645AD, this is the oldest temple in Japan, and is full of colour and intricate decorations. As you pass through the Thunder Gate, you enter a shopping precinct with over 200 metres of stalls to browse through, before exploring the main hall that stands five stories high!
Take a break and visit the picturesque Lake Ashi (Lake Ashinoko), located in Japan’s magnificent Hakone National Park. With many scenic vistas, and the beautiful Mount Fuji towering in the background, there are plenty of amazing places to capture that special photo. For a different perspective, hike along the banks of the lake, to explore the many shrines and temples, and also visit the summer palace! Once you have finished for the day, browse the shops and enjoy the restaurants that are scattered throughout.
A great way to get your bearings in Tokyo is to visit the Tokyo Skytree. Zoom up to the observation decks – that are 350 metres and 450 metres high – and be wowed by the spectacular 360-degrees views of the city. In tech savvy Tokyo, there are apps that highlight and explain the landmarks, so plan your itinerary as you enjoy the view, or while you have a meal at the restaurant or cafe!
A visit to the Tokyo Tower will certainly whet your appetite for sightseeing, as you look over all the of landmarks and activities that the city has to offer. With an aquarium, restaurants, and a museum, you can slowly work your up to the two observation decks and enjoy the 360-degree panoramic views.
Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden
Spread over 58 sprawling hectares, take time to relax and enjoy nature’s beauty at the Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden; an exquisite display of contrasting gardens, including French, English and traditional Japanese. The park was established in 1906, and is now the largest and most popular park in Tokyo. As you may expect, the Japanese traditional garden is spectacular, with pools, statues, and 1500 cherry trees that blossom into a stunning display of colour in March and April.
Shrine of Tsurugaoka Hachimangu
Explore beyond the city of Tokyo with a memorable day-trip to the Shrine of Tsurugaoka Hachimangu. In early spring, the cherry blossoms will welcome you as you stroll through the magnificent entrance, with several elaborate gateways along the way. The buildings, gardens, and large ponds, are so stunning that it is also a much sought after location for weddings! Dating back to 1063, this is a fascinating trip into the ancient culture of the country, which should not be missed.
Thunder Gate (Kaminarimon)
The imposing entrance to the Sensoji Temple is marked by the Thunder Gate (Kaminarimon), the “Gate of the Gods of Wind and Thunder”. Standing almost twelve-metres high, this intricate landmark seems to draw you towards it like a magnet; study the statues that flank the gate and the large lantern that adorns it.
Studio Ghibli Museum
The Studio Ghibli Museum is a celebration of the history of animation. You need to buy your tickets before arriving, but once you arrive, you will be welcomed by a giant robot that stands by the entrance! Inside there is a feast of films and exhibits, that tell the story of how animation has evolved over the years!
Hakone National Park
Hakone National Park (Fuji-Hakone-Izu National Park) is the banner under which many of Japan’s natural wonders lie. Mount Fuji, Lake Ashi, and the hot springs, are all within its boundaries. For lovers of natural beauty – and for those who admire the many great treasures of Japan – you can’t go wrong with a visit to this region!
Hot springs and the scent of sulphur will meet your arrival at the Owaku-dani Valley. This live volcanic valley is best known for its pristine scenery, amazing hiking trails, and its traditional “black eggs;” hard boiled eggs cooked in sulphurous waters, rumoured to extend your life by seven years! Take the Hakone Ropeway, or hike to the peak for magnificent views, which on clear days include Mount Fuji!
Beni Fuji no Yu Onsen
Pamper yourself with a day at the luxurious Beni Fuji no Yu Onsen. With indoor and outdoor pools, bath in hot therapeutic waters as you look out over a magnificent view of Mount Fuji. Enjoy the pristine gardens, get a much needed massage, or book in for a relaxing beauty treatment in the salon! This is the perfect place to spend a day recuperating from sightseeing – go on, you deserve it!
Step back in time at the magnificent Edo Wonderland and experience the ever so intriguing Edo period, from 1603 to 1857. Fun and educational, explore the town built to reflect this magical time, and see the actors in traditional dress. Enjoy the theatre shows, and dare the kids to enter the Haunted Temple! History is so much fun here; come for a day you’ll never forget!
For magnificent views of the Nagano Alps, take a ride on the Komagatake Ropeway; the highest ropeway in Japan. Leaving from Lake Ashi, you climb to the peak of the Komagatake, and on clear days, the vistas are nothing short of superb. When you reach the summit, take in the magnificent views of the surrounding mountains, lakes, islands and the coastlines, and explore the wonderful walking trails and nearby shrines!
Cute and quirky, come down to Omoide Yokocho and take a step back in time to one of Tokyo’s most authentic and atmospheric dining precincts. Enjoy a totally different dining experience; as you arrive at this narrow little alley, the tiny bars and restaurants beckon with tasty food and plenty of drinks! Known by the locals as “Piss Alley”, don’t let the name throw you off, Omoide Yokocho is truly an amazing experience!
Take a trip out of Tokyo and visit the fascinating Toshogu Shrine. This Shinto shrine – dating back to 1617 – is a kaleidoscope of colour and sumptuous decorations. With more than twelve buildings to explore, you will discover an abundant use of gold leave, with many magnificent ornate sculptures on display. The shrine is nestled into a beautiful forest, and the visit will be a restful and informative day out.
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