Home to more than 13 million people, Tokyo is an incredibly fascinating city of skyscrapers, jumbo advertising boards, quirky characters, hidden temples and intriguing cultural phenomenon. Tokyo dazzles with its love for the ultramodern and it’s passion for the traditional.
Whilst in Tokyo, you will yourself marvelling at neon-lit skyscrapers in Shinjuku, wander through anime shops in Akihabara, cross the world's busiest pedestrian scramble at Shibuya or find your zen under a cherry tree in Tokyo’s cultural heart, Ueno Park.
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Must see in Tokyo
Featuring the world’s busiest train station, Shinjuku is Tokyo’s most vibrant and colourful ward. Synonymous with business, entertainment and shopping, Shinjuku is a popular tourist destination as well as home to Japan’s wildest red light district.
Shinjuku has its own skyscraper district which includes the twin towers of the impressive Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building. You can access the observation decks free of charge and enjoy beautiful views over Tokyo from the 45th floor (202 meters).
Northeast of the Shinjuku station is Kabukicho, Asia’s largest red light district featuring countless love hotels, pachinko parlours and adult entertainment establishments. Due to its sheer amount of neon lights, this is one of the best places to set up your tripod and take some amazing shots.
For a beer and a bite, best to visit Golden Gai, Shinjuku’s hippest district, dotted with very intimate bars and eateries. Each seating only a few customers, you will feel like stepping into a friend’s kitchen.
Must explore in Tokyo
Featured in countless movies, music videos and framed pictures, Shibuya represents a Tokyo icon. The world’s busiest pedestrian scramble attracts tourists from all around the world. Just by being at the Shibuya crossing can be overwhelming as the square if full of jumbo billboards, loud adverts and hundreds of pedestrians. For a more withdrawn observation spot, you can make your way to the Starbucks located right in front of Shibuya crossing. The coffee shop features an upper storey where you can sit next to the window and take pictures and videos. It is a popular tourist spot so arm yourself with patience.
When you finished your coffee head out and explore Shibuya’s thousands of shops & boutiques. And as always, if you get hungry, there are restaurants just around the corner.
Must visit in Tokyo
Tokyo’s oldest temple, Sensō-ji, is one of the most significant Buddhist temples in Japan. Sensō-ji is a great introduction to Japan’s spirituality and traditional way of life. The temple grounds are always open and due to its popularity, it’s best to plan your visit either late afternoon or first thing in the morning. During peak times, the approach to the temple, Nakamise-Dori, features 90 shops full of goods and street food which are sure to catch your eye.
For a true Sensō-ji experience try your fortune with an omikuji (fortune telling paper strips). Pay a small fee and pick up one of the wooden boxes found on the temple grounds. Shake the box until an engraved bamboo stick falls out. Check the inscription and find your fortune paper in the appropriate drawer. You can get either a blessing or a curse. If you get a bad fortunate, leave it behind at the temple grounds for the gods to take care of it on your behalf.
Whilst at Sensō-ji buy an ema (a wooden wishing plaque), write your wish on it and leave it with the spirits to make your prayer come true.
Must eat in Tokyo
Tokyo has more Michelin star restaurants than any other city in the world. Named the world’s kitchen by several international chefs, it’s not difficult to see why Tokyo will make you fall in love with its food.
For an exciting culinary experience, try an authentic Kaiten-zushi restaurant where the plates are placed on a rotating conveyor belt. You can pick up any food you fancy and dig in. In Tokyo, Kaiten-zushi restaurants are budget-friendly and known for selling only fresh products. If sushi is not your thing, try tonkatsu ( deep-fried breaded pork ) or Kaiseki ryori (a traditional Japanese multi-course cuisine and initially originated around tea ceremonies).
Must experience in Tokyo
Mainly found in Akihabara, maid cafes feature young girls dressed as maids or manga characters. Here, you can enjoy cute pancakes, teddy shaped ice cream and all sort of rich, delicious sundaes. These establishments are supposedly innocent enough as men are only allowed to talk to these girls and no physical contact is permitted. Rumour has it that more decadent maid cafes are scattered around Tokyo, but no outsider is allowed to visit them.
Must sample in Tokyo
From takoyaki (octopus balls) to Harajulu pancakes, Tokyo’s street food has to the be the best in the world. No matter which district you end up in, you are guaranteed to find merchants trying to get you to sample delicious food. For a full street food experience, walk around Shinjuku, where you will find everything from freshly made dango, yakitori and tamagoyaki to yakisoba noodles and yummy looking chocolate covered bananas on a stick.
Must see the view in Tokyo
No trip to Tokyo is complete without admiring this mega metropolis from above. Found in Roppongi Hills, the Mori building is a skyscraper with a sky deck open to visitors. There is an entry fee of 2300 yen. It’s best to buy your tickets online in advance to save 300 yen and avoid the long queues. This is a very popular tourist spot hence it’s bound to be busy at all times.
From above, Tokyo is an endless sea of colours, lights and buildings, a vast city expanding way beyond the horizon.
Must stay in Tokyo
Since Tokyo became the largest city on Earth, finding space posed a serious issue for developers and city builders. In 1979 a new type of hotel has been developed to provide basic and cheap overnight accommodation. The hotel is made up of extremely small “rooms” (capsules) featuring some basic amenities like a TV, alarm clock and WIFI. The open end of the capsule can be closed with a curtain or a fiberglass door. Separate floors are provided for male and female guests. Bathrooms are shared and some hotels also have a pool. Don't forget to check the best places to stay in Tokyo.
Must chill in Tokyo
One of Tokyo’s largest parks and a popular hanami spot, Ueno Park is visited by more than 10 million people each year. Being Tokyo’s cultural heart, there are plenty of museums to keep you occupied for days. Visit the Tokyo National Museum, wander around the Ueno Zoological Gardens or just simply chill under the sakura trees with your favorite book.
Hungry after a long day of exploring? Buy a bento box and some green tea from the nearest vending machine, find a bench and enjoy the peace and quiet in the heart of the world largest metropolis.