explore Tokyo, japan

What to see in Tokyo, Japan

Tokyo has a vast array of sights, but the first items on the agenda of most visitors are the temples of Asakusa, the gardens of the Imperial Palace (in Chiyoda) and the Meiji Shrine, in Harajuku).

Tokyo has many commercial centers for shopping, eating and simply wandering around for experiencing the modern Japanese urban phenomenon. Each of these areas have unique characteristics, such as dazzling Shinjuku, youthful Shibuya and upmarket Ginza. These areas are bustling throughout the day, but they really come into life in the evenings.

If you’re looking for a viewing platform, the Tokyo Tower is the best known and offers an impressive view, even if it’s rather overpriced. The highest spot in Tokyo is the Tokyo Metropolitan Government building (in effect, Tokyo’s City Hall) in Shinjuku. Its twin towers have viewing platforms that are absolutely free, and offer a great view over Tokyo and beyond. However, the best option would probably be from the World Trade Center Building (10:00-20:00, or 21:00 in July and August) at JR Hamamatsucho station which, although not as high, offers stunning views of Tokyo Tower and the waterfront due to its excellent location, especially at dusk. A recent addition to the viewing platforms around Tokyo is Tokyo City View in Roppongi Hills, Roppongi — admission is a steep, but includes admission to the Mori Art Museum. Another good option, if you don’t mind traffic noise and smell, is the Rainbow Bridge at Odaiba, whose pedestrian walkways are free. The night-time view across Tokyo Bay is impressive but the walkways close at 20:00. Also, on a clear day, the Bunkyo Civic Center (next to the Tokyo Dome) offers an iconic view of Shinjuku against Mt. Fuji (especially great at sunset), also free.

The city is dotted with museums, large and small, which center on every possible interest from pens to antique clocks to traditional and modern arts. Many of the largest museums are clustered around Ueno.

Riding Sky Bus Tokyo, an open-top double-decker operated by Hinomaru Limousine (every hour between 10:00 and 18:00), is a good option to take a quick tour around the city center. The 45 minutes bus ride on the “T-01 course” will take you around the Imperial Palace via Ginza and Marunouchi district, showing the highlight of Tokyo’s shopping and business center. You can borrow a multi-language voice guide system free of charge upon purchasing a ticket, subject to stock availability. Four other bus courses are offered, including a night trip to Odaiba, but those trips are conducted in Japanese with no foreign language guidance.

  • Tokyo Skytree. Tokyo Skytree is a broadcast, restaurant, shopping mall, and observation tower in Sumida, Tokyo, Japan. The construction was started on July 2008, and finished its construction on 2012 of February. It measures 634 meter, and became the tallest structure in Japan and also in the world. There are two illuminations that lights up the tower, which are called Iki (lighted blue) and Miyabi (lighted in pink). The observation deck is available from 8:00~22:00 and the admission fees are required only when entering the observation deck.  
  • Classic Tokyo, Modern Tokyo — a one-day tour of the old and the new
  • One day in Tokyo — a hectic whirlwind tour of the many faces of the city
  • A beautiful weekend afternoon is best spent in Yoyogi Park, where young people from all walks of life gather to socialize, practice their hobbies (devoid of any fear of public humiliation), join a drum circle, play sports, etc. Afterwards, take a stroll down the trendy Omote-sandō shopping street nearby.
  • Check out the hip and young crowd at Harajuku’s Takeshita-Dori (Takeshita Street) or the more grown up Omotesando.
  • Eat a sushi breakfast at the Tsukiji Fish Market.
  • Enjoy a soak in a local “sento” or public bath. Or one of the big “super sento” onsen such as LaQua at the Tokyo Dome (Bunkyo) or Oedo Onsen Monogatari in Odaiba.
  • Explore nightlife with a boisterous crowd of thirsty locals and expats on the Tokyo Pub Crawl.
  • Ghibli Museum, Shimorenjaku, Mitaka (15min walk from Mitaka Stn). 10:00–18:00. For die-hard Anime fans, the Ghibli Museum is a must. For international visitors tickets need to be purchased before leaving home.
  • Go to an amusement park such as Tokyo Disney Resort, which consists of Tokyo Disneyland and Tokyo DisneySea which are Asia’s most visited and second most visited theme parks respectively, or the more Japanese Sanrio Puroland (in Tama), home to more Hello Kitties than you can imagine.
  • Have a picnic in a park during the cherry blossom (Sakura). Unfortunately Sakura only lasts for about a week in spring. But be warned, parks are usually very crowded during this time.
  • In the spring, take a boatride in Kichijoji’s lovely Inokashira Park, and afterwards visit the Ghibli Studios Museum (well-known for their amazing movies, like Spirited Away, and Princess Mononoke), but you will need to buy tickets for these in advance at a Lawson convenience store.
  • Lose yourself in the dazzling neon jungle outside major train stations in the evenings. Shibuya and east Shinjuku at night can make Times Square or Piccadilly Circus look rural in comparison — it has to be seen to be believed.
  • Party in the Park with local Tokyoites and expats in the park. There is a weekly party at Ueno Park / Yoyogi Park where 90’s and 00’s hip-hop music is played.
  • Take a stroll through the Imperial Palace’s East Gardens (open to the public daily at 09:00, except Fridays and Mondays).
  • Take a boat ride on the Sumida River from Asakusa.
  • Take the Yurikamomeelevated train across the bay bridge from Shimbashi station to the bayside Odaiba district, and go on the giant ferris wheel
  • Watch a baseball game; the Yomiuri Giants at the Tokyo Dome, or the Tokyo Yakult Swallows at Jingu Stadium. Nearby Chiba hosts the Chiba Lotte Marines, Saitama has the Seibu Lions, and Yokohama has the DeNA BayStars.
  • Drive a kart around the city. Several vendors offer guided street legal go-kart tours of the city for tourists. Costumes are usually included and you will be very popular among Tokyo crowds when you drive through. Note that this does require an international driving permit and while Mario Kart themed, racing and throwing banana peels is not allowed.
  • From Tokyo, the entire surrounding Kanto region is your oyster.
  • Hakone — for hot springs and views of Mount Fuji
  • Kamakura — home to dozens of small temples and one Big Buddha
  • Nikko — grandiose shrine and burial site of Shogun Tokugawa Ieyasu
  • Odawara — houses the only Japanese castle in greater Tokyo area
  • Tokyo Disney Resort — with Tokyo Disneyland (just like the ones everywhere else) and Tokyo Disney Sea (an only-in-Japan theme park which includes some unique rides and some imported rides from Disney parks outside of Japan)
  • Yokohama— Japan’s second-largest city and a suburb of Tokyo
  • Ashikaga — historical hometown of a famous shogun clan
  • Hachioji — a refreshing climb up Mt. Takao through a forest to a shrine and beer garden
  • Kawasaki — home to the Nihon Minka-En park with 24 ancient farmhouses (more interesting than it sounds), not to mention the annual Festival of the Iron Penis (Kanamara Matsuri)
  • Kinugawa — Onsen town in Nikko, home to Edo Wonderland Nikko Edomura, a theme park set in the Edo era with shows and populated by ninja, samurai, geisha, et al., in a beautiful mountain setting
  • Fujino — a small town popular with locals and foreigners alike interested in the arts. Beautiful scenery and very refreshing after the bustle of Tokyo.
  • Izu Islands — easily accessible seaside and hotspring getaways
  • Ogasawara Islands — 1000 km away from big-city bustle, for whale watching, diving and those who want to get away from it all

The Sumo tourney is in mid-September. If you can’t get tickets, there are same day unreserved seats for sale at the Sumo hall. These seats are located on the upper level, last row in the back up against the wall. You can still see fairly well.

There is a McDonald’s visible from the line and a Family Mart or two at the Joban station next to the hall.

  • On the ground floor there are kiosks that sell a small booklet that explains Sumo in both English and Japanese.
  • Check out the food service and where the water fountains are. As the day goes on the food lines get longer and longer, you are not supposed to bring food. Visit the Sumo museum inside the hall.
  • On the outside balcony on the exit gate side in the afternoon you will get a bird’s eye view of Sumo fans welcoming their favorite wrestlers. If you leave you will get the back of your hand stamped with invisible UV ink. It washes off, be careful at lunch.
  • Outside visit the EDO museum. During the tournament it is open every day, even Mondays when it is normally closed. As you might imagine a ton of people pour out of the hall when the event is over and the ticket machine lines at the stations are very long.

Outside of the hall you are not supposed to disturb the Sumo wrestlers, don’t ask them to pose for pictures etc. Good luck!