In Tokyo, glittering skyscrapers live harmoniously with age-old shrines, a labyrinthian network of trains is punctuated by lilting music in the stations and the huge crushes of people emit only a low hum. Despite the cosmopolitan outlook, the capital city of Japan is very much rooted in culture, customs, and traditions. Some might say there are two sides to Tokyo– the side of technology and innovation, and the side that pays peaceful homage to the past. To experience the city’s stunning skyline and centuries-old history in all their glory, this comprehensive list of places to visit in Tokyo will come in handy.
1. Sensō-ji Temple
Sensō-ji Temple is a stunning Buddhist temple complex in Tokyo’s Asakusa district. The five-storey pagoda is definitely the drawcard but there are loads more to be seen within the complex and in the alleyway shops and eateries. Get your fortune told the traditional way, through Omikuji, or spend a few minutes watching koi fish swim lazily by. The walk-up to the temple is chock-full of delicious snack bars serving traditional Japanese delicacies; wander through the lanes dotted with compact houses for a few social media-worthy photos.
2. Nezu Shrine
Perched near Ueno Park for the past few thousands of years is Nezu Shrine. It wasn’t originally built in this location but was moved here by the fifth shogun of Japan when choosing his successor. The shrine complex is a sight to behold– lush green forests feature winding pathways and stunning torii arches in their trademark black-and-orange colours. Between late April and May, scores of azalea bushes come into full bloom, marking the advent of the much-awaited Azalea Festival. This shrine is definitely one of Tokyo’s lesser-known jewels, which means you’ll be able to wander around without crowds thronging.
Perhaps one of the most popular shopping, eating, and entertainment destinations in Tokyo, even Japan, Ginza is a haven for hedonists but back in the day, it was once a swampy marshland with no building in sight. When a silver mint was established in the area in 1912, the area surrounding it began developing into the luxe destination that Ginza is today. Its pedestrianised streets house several luxury brands; at the same time, there are also several cultural and historical landmarks in the neighbourhood, including the renowned SEIKO clock tower, constructed over Ginza Wako in 1932. Remember to pay attention to the streets you’re traversing when in Ginza because one pocket–4-5-6, Ginza, Chuo ward– is the most expensive area in the world!
Guided Local Food and Drink Tour in the Ginza District
Duration: 2 hours
4. Meiji Shrine
Very close to the modern JR Yamanote Line in Harajuku is the Meiji Shrine, known to locals as Meiji Jingu. The Shinto shrine is dedicated to the spirits of Emperor Meiji, modern Japan’s first emperor, and Empress Shoken. It’s divided into two major areas– the Naien, which is the inner precinct with buildings and a treasure museum, and the Gaien, which includes the Meiji Memorial Picture Gallery and numerous sports facilities. The massive shrine complex makes for a pleasant walk on a bright day; the neighbouring Yoyogi Park is a breath of fresh air in the otherwise dense city. It’s most popular on the eve of the Japanese New Year when Japanese locals carry out Hatsumode, their first Shinto shrine visit on the day.
A communications tower modelled on Paris’ Tour De Eiffel, Tokyo Tower is the country’s second-tallest tower. Originally made of metal lattice, the tower’s distinctive orange and white facade is a direct result of air safety regulations. Other than being a prominent feature in Tokyo’s skyline, Tokyo Tower is also considered the symbol of Japan’s post-war rebirth and economic boom. Visitors can head up to the observation deck for sweeping views of the capital city. The main deck is accessible via a quick elevator ride or a 600-step climb. The top deck is the third-highest vantage point in Tokyo. Right below the tower is the ‘Foot Town’ building, a haven for cafes and restaurants and home to an indoor amusement park called One Piece Tower.
[KLOOK Exclusive] Tokyo Tower Observatory Admission Ticket
Duration: 30 Min - 1 Hrs Duration
Kabuki-za Theatre in Ginza is touted as the best place to watch Kabuki in Tokyo. Kabuki is a classical Japanese art form that can best be described as a dance-drama. It’s world-renowned for the elaborate make-up, stage sets, and acting, and was proclaimed a piece of ‘intangible heritage’ by UNESCO. As an art form that is steeped in culture and continues to cut through modern times, a show at Kabuki-za Theatre is a must-see. The theatre itself was burnt down twice and later bombed during World War II, only to be restored in 1950. Despite the relatively recent rework, the building retains its distinctive 1924 reconstruction style. In 2010, the building was once again rebuilt to make it more accessible and hazard-proof.
Tokyo: Kabuki-za Gallery Guided Tour and Concierge Service
Duration: 1.5 hour
7. Tsukiji Honganji Temple
This Jodo Shinshu Buddhist temple is quite different from other Buddhist temples you might see in the city, not least because of its offbeat architecture. Visitors can spot many Southeast Asian, Islamic, Indian, and European influences in the facade and intricate detailing of the structure. The inside is just as surprising; flanking a structure of Amitabha Buddha is a stained-glass window and a pipe organ traditionally associated with churches. The temple is a pilgrimage spot due to the artefacts it houses of Prince Shotoku and Shinran Shonin, among others. As if the off-the-wall convergence wasn’t enough, the temple also memorialises the legendary Japanese guitarist Hideto Matsumoto, better known to the masses as “Hide”.
This bustling entertainment district is home to numerous bars and clubs frequented by locals and tourists alike. The diamond in its crown is definitely the Roppongi Hills complex, which offers a stunning view of the skyline at night. Roppongi is a favourite among non-Japanese too, owing to its history of being occupied by military troops after the Second World War. This cultural hotspot houses restaurants of international and regional origin and international performers often put on shows in one of the many establishments. Many big names in the tech and gaming industry have their offices in Roppongi– the list includes The Pokemon Company, Lenovo Japan, and Google Japan. When in the area, consider stopping by Mori Garden for a stroll or Mori Art Museum to view contemporary artworks on display.
[Sale] Roppongi Hills Observation Deck ”Tokyo City View“ Admission Ticket & Mori Art Museum Ticket
Lantern-lit alleyways host small eateries and clubs in this area of Tokyo. The entertainment district is best known for adult-oriented nightlife and also doubles up as the ‘red light’ district of the city. You could spend a strange night at Robot Restaurant or mingle with the locals at Golden Gai, a super-popular drinking area that’s relatively light on the wallet. Back in the 1940s, the area was supposed to house a theatre dedicated to Kabuki– while it didn’t materialise, the name stuck. Kabukichō is also called the ‘Sleepless Town’ due to its many hotels and night clubs; however, it continues to be populated well into the day by curious tourists from all over the world. A word to the wise– if visiting an establishment here, watch out for hidden fees on your final bill!
10. Tokyo Disneyland
Spelling out fun times for both adults and young ones alike, Tokyo Disneyland is a fairytale come to life. The massive resort runs the gamut of displays and rides, modelled quite like California’s Disneyland and Florida’s Magic Kingdom. This ‘kingdom of dreams’ was the first Disney theme park to be opened outside of the USA. It’s divided into seven themed areas, many of which are similar to the American setups. World Bazaar is the main shopping area in the park and is also designed to be reminiscent of Main Street in the US. However, many of the attractions are starting to receive distinctly Japanese touches, making this Disneyland a must-visit out of all on the theme park list.
Inokashira Park beckons for primarily two reasons–Studio Ghibli Museum and the faces of nature that change as per the season. Early April sees cherry blossoms take over the walkways and the lakeshore– if you’d like to enjoy the view from a different vantage point, consider renting out a paddle or rowboat. The park is beautiful during summer as well, when a leafy green cover takes over. During autumn, leaves of changing colours carpet the grounds while during winter, migratory birds collect at the pond and fill the place with lilting music. Apart from the dense foliage, the park also houses a temple dedicated to a Buddhist goddess, an aquarium, and a petting zoo. Ghibli Museum encompasses a children’s museum, a fine arts museum, and a lovely rooftop garden to survey the park from.
Tokyo Ghibli Museum and Inokashira Park Walking Trip
Duration: 30 Min Duration
This broadcasting and observation tower in Tokyo also doubles up as a lofty vantage point that overlooks Tokyo’s neat grid system. Two observation decks allow visitors to look out over the vista– on a clear day, you might even be able to spot Mount Fuji in the distance. The Skytree Terrace stands 155 metres (180 feet) above the ground; the Panorama Guide on the 350th floor gives you the lowdown on major tourist hotspots to be seen from the vantage point. The broadcasting tower is often lit up on the outside with LED lights in themes named ‘Iki’, 'Miyabi’ and so on. Despite playing host to hordes of tourists every day, Tokyo Tower is a live and stable transmission provider for digital terrestrial broadcasting.
TOKYO SKYTREE® Admission Ticket
One of the remaining few districts that hold on to the old-town (Shitamachi) atmosphere, Yanaka is a stone’s throw away from the massive Ueno Park. It’s a residential district, which means visitors can enjoy the scenes of locals going about their daily chores in this little peaceful pocket in Tokyo’s heart. Yanaka Ginza, the shopping street in the area, is bustling with shops selling groceries, clothes, toys, and beyond. Consider attending a class detailing the origins and practices of some of Japan’s oldest art forms including kabuki, calligraphy, and flower art. Yanaka Cemetery is a beautiful cherry blossom tree-lined sanctuary that’s said to be the largest in Japan. It is spread over a massive plot of land– both locals and visitors frequent this area to honour departed loved ones or catch their breath away from the bustling city.
14. National Museum of Nature and Science
This museum is one of Japan’s biggest dedicated to science. It houses over 25,000 exhibits spanning topics from space to dinosaurs and everything in between. The 360-degree theatre and hands-on exhibits are a delight to experience for children and adults alike. Rotating special exhibitions and permanent displays enthral visitors; discovery talks and observation tours are often held for young people displaying an interest in the workings of the natural world. The museum premises are also home to the gorgeous Tsukuba Botanical Garden where visitors can sign up for a 15-minute talk on the plant life that thrives in the wonderland.
15. Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden
In the midst of Tokyo’s cityscape yet refreshingly well-removed from it, Shinjuku Gyoen garden offers shaded respite after a long day. There are three distinct garden styles within the garden complex– the Japanese, French, and English styles. The complex once served as a private retreat for the Imperial Family and their guests. Meandering paths and lush green patches of grass and foliage deliver welcome shade from the business of the city. The park is also one of the many stunning features of the city that was destroyed during World War II– however, it was rebuilt and opened up to the public in the late 1940s. The drawcard of the garden is the 400 Somei Yoshino trees that line the English garden and burst into bloom during spring. That said, the garden is equally stunning during autumn when the leaves are turning in colour across the species on display.
16. The National Art Center
A visually striking structure with just as much to enrapture on the inside, The National Art Centre is one of Tokyo’s most significant art spaces. A meal at Brasserie Paul Bocuse Le Musee is an experience of French dining with a stunning view; the third-floor art library is extensive in its collection and free to use for all.
17. Nakamise Shopping Street
This 250-metre (820-feet) long street is a massive crowd-puller in Tokyo’s Asakusa district. It leads up the Senso-ji temple and offers up a plethora of food and souvenir options. It’s not the only ‘Nakamise’ in the district but it’s by far the most well-known.
This wholesale fish market drew fame due to its tuna auctions but became a general tourist favourite over time. Today, the inner market has been moved to the Toyosu area and is now known as the Toyosu market. However, the outer market, complete with fresh seafood and marine produce, still remains. The drawcard of this area is the many restaurants replete with fresh fish and seafood dishes. Food shacks along the narrow lanes open at around 5am and stay in business until the afternoon before shutting shop for the day.
Tsukiji Fish Market Food and Drink Half Day Tour
Duration: 3 Hrs Duration
19. Yasukuni Shrine
This Shinto shrine was founded by Emperor Meiji himself, in memory of those who were martyred in Japan’s name during wars and skirmishes including the Boshin War and the First Indochina War. Yushukan, a museum within the shrine grounds, details all the wars found by those enshrined.
Bringing in around 1.5 million visitors per year, the Sanrio Puroland theme park is a homage to the world-famous Hello Kitty and the rest of the Sanrio characters. Experience fun rides, sit through musicals and interact with dressed-up characters along the paths in this kawaii-centric theme park.
Tokyo Sanrio Puroland Admission Ticket
Duration: 1 Day(s) Duration
Tokyo DisneySea is a massive theme park just outside of Tokyo on a 176-acre (71.2 hectares) plot of land. It is said to be inspired by legends and myths that revolved around the sea and is divided into seven distinct themes including ‘Lost River Delta’ and the ‘Arabian Coast’. Unlike Disneyland, however, DisneySea caters more to a grown-up audience so you’ll be sure to find alcohol and a sumptuous selection of food! It’s said to be the only Disney theme park in the world with ‘oceans’ as the overarching theme and you can see this come to life in the rides offered. The Venetian Gondolas, DisneySea Electric Railway, and the Yucatan Base Camp Grill are one-of-a-kind experiences that you can only enjoy at Tokyo DisneySea.
Tokyo: DisneySea 1 Day Admission Ticket
Duration: 1 day
For offbeat boutiques, choc-a-bloc roads, and neon lights at their finest, head to the Harajuku district in Tokyo. It’s best known for encouraging quirky fashion, street style, and colourful art, and stands out just as much for the delectable food items on offer in roadside stalls and cafes. Try the famous Harajuku crepe in the area’s Takeshita Street. Need to get some memorable photos in the area? Head to a Purikura, a wildly popular chain of Japanese photo booth stores where you can add stickers, filters and more to your booth photographs. When in Harajuku, keep your eyes peeled for some mesmerising street art, such as the iconic ‘Now is Forever’ mural created by an American artist. Harajuku Train Station is a slice of history caught in the middle of the bustling area– it is the oldest wooden station in Tokyo and dates back to 1924.
Harajuku Fashion and Street Food Guided Walking Tour
Duration: 2 hours 30 minutes
This massive public park hosts a variety of attractions including a zoo and museums. Ueno Park also happens to be one of the best spots in the city for ‘hanami’, flower-viewing the Japanese way. It’s not surprising since the park is home to hundreds of cherry blossom trees that come into full bloom in April. Shinobazu Pond, on the southwestern end of the park, is a testament to the grandeur of Kaneiji Temple which was originally tied to these grounds. The massive park today houses some stellar museums including Tokyo National Museum, Tokyo Metropolitan Art Musem, and National Museum for Western Art. Also part of the premises is Japan’s first-ever zoological garden, Ueno Zoo.
Tokyo: Ueno Park Architecture Tour
Duration: 3 hour
As one of Tokyo’s oldest museums, Tokyo National Museum leaves very little to be desired in terms of experience. It hosts a treasure trove of collections, which over a hundred national treasures are a part of. Information and audio guides are readily available in English, making this museum a great way to spend a rainy day indoors.
Expert Led Private Tour of Tokyo's National Museum
Duration: 2 hours
Think electronics in Tokyo and Akihabara must come to mind. This buzzing hub houses all things electronics, manga, anime, and video gaming. The densely packed area is a must-visit to bask in Japanese pop culture or stock up on electronics new and old.
Akihabara: Private Electric Town Experience
Duration: 2.5 hour
If there was one Tokyo attraction that took the social media world by storm, it’s teamLab Borderless. The digital art museum is in fact an art collective that aims to allow people from all over the world to create art and innovate together, all in one space. This futuristic art museum is a must-see to bookend your trip to Tokyo.
Tokyo: Digital Art Museum teamLab Borderless Entry
Tokyo’s Imperial Palace is the Emperor of Japan’s main residence. The complex is home to the main palace, residential buildings that are home to the Royal Family, a museum, and administrative offices. The stunning East Gardens are open to the public and are a wonderful display of Japan’s culture and history of horticulture and landscaping. Several of the olden-day moats, walls, and guardhouses still exist, as do the foundation stones of the former castle tower. Keep an eye out for the Nijubashi and Meganebashi Bridges, iconic structures with a distinctive place in Japan’s history and architectural story.
Tokyo Temples & Shrines Morning Tour
Duration: 4 hour
Memorable days in Tokyo
There are tonnes of activities to do in Tokyo, from relaxing in green spaces to exploring tributes to Japanese culture in its shrines and temples. This list of places to visit in Tokyo is sure to keep your itinerary full and worth your while!
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