Tokyo, the capital of Japan and the political, economic, cultural and educational center of the country, has continued to grow rapidly since Tokugawa Ieyasu established the Edo shogunate in 1603, despite being the third smallest metropolis in terms of surface area in all of Japan. With a population of about 13 million, it is one of the most prominent cities in the world. In terms of transportation, it is the nucleus of the nation’s road, air, and rail networks, including the monorail; and is the most complex and extensive in the world, with 14 lines and approximately 700 stations, overseeing the world’s busiest and most punctual operating schedule. The western portion of Metropolitan Tokyo (for instance, Okutama) falls under the regional boundaries of the Kanto Mountains, while the Izu and Ogasawara Islands in the Pacific are categorized under the city limits of Tokyo.
Since the Edo period, Asakusa has flourished into a busy shopping district with playhouses and performance halls, and continues to be a popular tourist destination with a downtown atmosphere. Points of interest include: Nakamise Dori, a busy street with nearly 90 souvenir stores; Sensoji, the oldest temple in Tokyo built in 628, with its impressive Kaminarimon (Thunder Gate) adorned with its large, iconic red lantern; Kappabashi Dogugai (cooking utensils, tableware) Street; the 634-meter high tower, Tokyo Skytree; and delicious gourmet restaurants.
From mass merchandisers to small specialty stores, Akihabara is known as an “electronics town,” where you can find a variety of electrical products, including: home appliances; computers; wireless devices; and cameras. There are also many specialty stores that carry anime and manga products, figurines, cosplay costumes, games, and pop idol merchandise. It is a world-famous mecca for enthusiasts, where the subcultures of Japan converge.
Roppongi Hills and Tokyo Midtown are popular commercial complexes in Roppongi, with brand shops, restaurants and museums. The National Art Center, Tokyo, is part of a joint collaboration of museums known as the Roppongi Art Triangle, and serves to promote original works of cutting-edge art and design. In addition, there are many up-scale restaurants, clubs, and bars, making it a popular city nightlife destination.
Omotesando and Harajuku
Omotesando Street is beautifully lined with zelkova trees, a species of the elm family that is native to Japan, Korea, and China, and leads from Aoyama to Harajuku. It is a sophisticated street where you can take a leisurely stroll and do some window shopping. Fashion enthusiasts will love the luxury brand stores that line the street, as well as the Omotesando Hills complex, and Cat Street, known for the latest fashion trends and cafes, located along a back alley. Takeshita Street in Harajuku is popular with teenagers, and brims with youth culture; a variety of fashionable clothing and general merchandise can be found there. After experiencing the hustle and bustle of Harajuku, you can take a respite at the Meiji Shrine, a quiet place surrounded by deep greenery, and dedicated to the Emperor Meiji.
Popular with young people in their teens and 20’s, Shibuya is the hub of youth culture, with many offerings of fashion, gourmet food, and entertainment. Points of interest include: SHIBUYA 109, Shibuya Center Gai Street, and Spanish Slope. The famous Shibuya Scramble intersection is always crowded with people. You can catch an overhead view of the scrambled intersection from SHIBUYA SKY, located 230 meters above the ground in Shibuya Scramble Square.
Toyosu Market and Tsukiji Outer Market
Transferred from Tsukiji Market in 2018 due to aging facilities, Toyosu Market is one of the few seafood, fruit and vegetable markets in the world where you can see tuna and vegetable auctions. The on-site tours have been upgraded, and observing the market activity is easier than at the previous location. First floor admission is by lottery only; the second floor is open to visitors without reservations.
Adjacent to the former Tsukiji Market site, you can enjoy walking through the Tsukiji Outside Market, which is comprised of over 400 specialty stores where you can enjoy food items such as: sushi; tuna; eel and other seafood; egg rolls; ramen; and Japanese confections.
Awarded three stars by the Michelin Guide in 2007, the 599-meter high Mt. Takao is a hiking and climbing destination with easy access, and is only one hour from downtown Tokyo. Depending on your level of physical ability, there are several hiking trails to choose from, including beginner courses, cable cars, and lifts.
There are many other places to visit in Tokyo, including: the Imperial Palace, which was the residence of the shogun in the Edo period, and is now the residence of the emperor; the old downtown atmosphere in the local areas of Yanaka, Nezu, and Shibamata; Ueno Park, known for its beautiful cherry blossoms; Chidorigafuchi; and Hamarikyu Gardens, overlooking Tokyo Bay.
In terms of art and culture, the Tokyo National Museum is regarded as Japan’s oldest and most prestigious museum, where various artifacts designated as national treasures and important cultural properties are exhibited. The National Museum of Western Art, the only building in Japan designed by Le Corbusier and registered as a World Heritage Site, houses the world’s finest Western artworks by such masters as: Rodin, Monet, and Cézanne. Recommendations for traditional Japanese arts include: Kabuki performances at the Kabuki-za Theater; and the National Noh Theatre, where you can attend Noh and Kyogen performances. Another must-visit is the Ghibli Museum, Mitaka, which is filled with the works of Hayao Miyazaki, famed animator and director of Studio Ghibli, who has moved people’s hearts all over the world. At Ryogoku Kokugikan, you can enjoy the powerful experience of the national sport of sumo.