Tokyo is the capital of Japan. The city is constantly changing, as the local obsession with newness makes fashions fade fast and the latest technologies quickly obsolete. However, the hyper-urban cosmopolis does have a more traditional side that, although not immediately evident, is still there to charm travelers with its shrines, public baths and leafy parks. The city is also as important historically as it is in the pop-culture world. The imperial family is a source of pride and an institution, and residents mix traditional societal mores with cutting-edge inventions, art, fashion and music. The cultural side of Tokyo is famous for its numerous museums; theaters; festivals; internationally noted cuisine; and professional sports clubs, including baseball, football (or soccer), along with traditional Japanese pursuits like Sumo Wrestling. It’s also a city rich in music and theater.
Best Time to Visit
If you are planning a Travel to Japan then the late spring (March to May) and late autumn (September to November) are generally the best times to visit Japan, when there is little rainfall, skies are clear, and temperatures are mild.
Top Places to Visit in Tokyo
1.The Imperial Palace
The chief attraction of Tokyo’s Marunouchi district is the Imperial Palace with its beautiful 17th-century parks surrounded by walls and moats. Still in use by the Imperial family, the Imperial Palace stands on the site where, in 1457, the Feudal Lord Ota Dokan built the first fortress, the focal point from which the city of Tokyo (or Edo, as it was then) gradually spread. As famous as the palace is the Nijubashi Bridge leading to its interior, a structure that takes its name (“double bridge”) from its reflection in the water. Other notable features include the two-meter-thick wall surrounding the palace and its gates, one of which leads to the East Higashi-Gyoen Garden, one of the few areas open to the public (the main Palace Gardens are only open twice a year, on January 2nd and April 29th, when crowds flock here to catch sight of the Emperor). One fortress that can be visited is Edo Castle (Chiyoda Castle), built in 1457 and located in Tokyo’s Chiyoda district.
2. Asakusa District
Asakusa district is a real highlight. The district is easily accessible by subway, but if you are not in a hurry, take the river cruise that lazily floats up the Sumida from Tokyo Bay’s Hinode pier. Once you arrive, check out the country’s first skyscraper, photo studio and cinema, then head to the Sensoji Temple. The small temple enshrines a golden statue of Kannon, the Buddhist goddess of mercy, and is located in the area’s most lively neighborhood.
3. Ginza District
Ginza is Tokyo’s busiest shopping area and is as iconic as Times Square in New York, and much older: it’s been the commercial center of the country for centuries, and is where five ancient roads connecting Japan’s major cities all met. Lined by exclusive shops and imposing palatial stores, the Ginza district is also fun to simply wander around or, better still, sit in one of its many tea and coffee shops or restaurants while watching the world rush past. At weekends, when everything is open, it’s a shopper’s paradise as traffic is barred, making it one of the world’s largest pedestrian zones.
4. National Museum of Nature and Science
In Tokyo’s Ueno Park, the superb National Museum of Nature and Science (Kokuritsu Kagaku Hakubutsukan) opened in 1871 and is one of the country’s oldest museums. Completely renovated and modernized, the museum houses a vast collection of materials related to natural history and science, including many fascinating interactive displays on space development, nuclear energy, and transportation, allowing visitors a unique insight into the latest scientific and technological advances.
5. Ueno Park and Zoo
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 lovely grounds, the park also boasts a zoo, aquarium, and numerous temples and museums 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; visiting the 17th-century Toshogu Shrine with its 256 bronze and stone lanterns; or strolling around Ueno Park Zoo. Opened in 1882, it is Japan’s oldest zoo, famous for the pandas presented by the People’s Republic of China. The Aqua-Zoo, one of the largest aquariums in Asia, is also worth a visit, especially if traveling with kids.
6. 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; a collection of old textiles, historical weapons, and military equipment; historical Japanese clothing; as well as Asian ceramics and pottery. Important artwork includes Japanese paintings from the 7th to the 14th centuries; exquisite Japanese and Chinese masterpieces of lacquer-work of various centuries, including examples of lacquer-carving, gold lacquer, and lacquer with mother of pearl; and many fine examples of calligraphy.
7. The Meiji Shrine
Dedicated to Emperor Meiji and his wife, Empress Shoken, construction of the splendid Meiji Shrine began in 1915 and was completed in 1926. Although the original structure was destroyed during WWII, it was rebuilt in 1958 and remains one of Tokyo’s most important religious sites. Surrounded by a 175-acre evergreen forest that is home to some 120,000 trees representing species found across Japan, the shrine’s highlights include its Inner Precinct (Naien) with its museum containing royal treasures, and the Outer Precinct (Gaien), home to the Meiji Memorial Picture Gallery with its superb collection of murals relating to the lives of the emperor and empress.
8. The Tokyo Skytree
The country’s tallest structure, a 634-meter-tall communications and observation tower.Opened in 2012 and has quickly become one of the city’s most visited tourist attractions thanks to the incredible panoramic views from its restaurant and observation decks. With a base designed in the form of a massive tripod, the tower includes a number of cylindrical observation levels, including one at the 350-meter mark, and another at the 450-meter point, which includes a unique glass spiral walkway to an even higher viewpoint that also boasts glass floors for those with strong stomachs.
9. The Kabuki-za Theatre
Tokyo is home to a number of excellent theaters, none as well known as the historic Kabuki-za Theatre in the city’s busy Ginza district, home to famous traditional Kabuki performances. Based upon a medieval, highly skilled, and often burlesque theatrical form including song and dance, the theater’s performances are as popular among tourists as they are Japanese-speaking people. The drama and comedy are relatively easy to follow thanks to rich visuals and theatricality. The theater’s interior, usually full to capacity with some 2,500 guests.
10. Yasukuni Shrine
The Yasukuni Shrine is another religious institution worth visiting. Dedicated to the millions of people who have sacrificed their lives for the emperors since the mid-19th century, the Shinto shrine is encircled by fragrant and delicate cherry trees. The nearby military museum is intriguing, featuring a flying suicide bomb, man-carrying torpedo and train from the Burma railway.