Places to Visit
1. Sensoji Temple
Built way back in 645, the Sensoji Temple in Asakusa is indisputably the oldest and one of the most important Buddhist temples in the entire city. It is the focus of worship of the goddess Kannon and the centre for Tokyo’s largest traditional festival, the Sanja Matsuri, which takes place annually in late spring. Not only is this temple a renowned place for the faithful to come and seek blessings, it is also a popular tourist spot that attracts thousands of foreigners every year. The Nakamise-dori, a street leading to the temple’s main complex, is highly popular with tourists due to the lines of shops selling traditional snacks and souvenirs at reasonable prices. Alternatively, one can also take a stroll around the Asakusa district, where many shops selling traditional merchandises and foodstuffs can be found.
2. The Imperial Palace
As the name suggests, this is the official residence of the Emperor of Japan, located in Chiyoda. Covering a total area of 3.41 km2 in the heart of Tokyo, the palace complexes and inner gardens are generally closed to the public except on January 2 (New Year) and December 23 (Emperor’s Birthday), when visitors are allowed into the palace’s inner grounds to witness the imperial family’s public appearances and speeches. The East Gardens, however, is open to the public year-long, and it boasts scenic landscapes reflective of Japanese culture and traditional horticultural aesthetics.
3. Meiji Shrine
The Meiji Shrine is perhaps one of the best examples of a traditional-and-modern contrast in the Japanese capital. Located in Shibuya, the shrine is just a stone’s throw away from Harajuku, one of the world’s most celebrated fashion capitals. After Emperor Meiji’s passing in 1912, the Japanese government decided to commemorate his tremendous contributions in modernizing Japan by establishing a shrine dedicated to him and his wife, Empress Shoken. The current site of the shrine was chosen because it was where the iris garden that Emperor Meiji and Empress Shoken frequented stood. The original shrine structure, completed in 1921, was destroyed in the Tokyo air raids during World War II, and its current structure was completed in 1958 through funds raised from the public. Today, the shrine stands in the middle of a 175-acre forest that is home to many different species of trees donated by people from various parts of Japan.
4. Edo-Tokyo Museum
(江戸東京博物館, Edo Tōkyō Hakubutsukan)
Perhaps those who fancy learning more about the city’s past and culture should plan a trip to the Edo-Tokyo Museum in Ryogoku. This museum showcases Tokyo’s invaluable past with regards to the city’s establishment, development and economy throughout the years, as well as life and culture in Tokyo of bygone days. For those of you self-proclaimed or officially recognized history buffs out there, you might need at least half a day to absorb all the historical knowledge you can get from the museum’s marvellous exhibitions.
5. Tokyo Skytree
Currently the tallest tower in Tokyo and the whole of Japan, Tokyo Skytree stands proudly at a height of 634 metres in Sumida, near Asakusa. This tower, which was completed in 2012, is presently the main broadcasting and communications tower in the metropolis, being used by most of Japan’s largest television companies such as NHK, TV Asahi and Fuji Television. One of the main highlights of the tower is its two observation decks that provide spectacular panoramic views of the entire metropolis. At the base of Tokyo Skytree is the Tokyo Solamachi shopping centre, as well as the Sumida Aquarium, both of which are also popular with locals and tourists.
6. Tokyo Tower
Standing out in the middle of Shiba Park in Minato, this large red-orange structure was formerly Tokyo’s primary communications and broadcasting tower before Tokyo Skytree took over much of its role. It stands at a total height of 333 metres and is currently the second tallest manmade structure in the country, being the tallest since its completion in 1958 until Tokyo Skytree took over in 2012. As an alternative to Tokyo Skytree, Tokyo Tower’s observation decks are also popular with tourists, although they may not provide views as remarkable as the former. Worth noting also is FootTown, a building located at the base of Tokyo Tower that houses, among others, a Guinness World Records museum and a wax museum.
Several parks around Tokyo are indeed worth visiting, especially during the sakura or autumn seasons. Besides, there are also some nice street-shopping spots that offer relatively cheaper foodstuffs and goods for your selection.
7. Ueno Park (上野公園)
The sakura (cherry blossom) season in late winter to early spring is probably the best time to arrange a visit to this spacious park in northern Tokyo. Be warned, though, that this park is also the most frequented and thus crowded park in the capital, thus for those of you out there who prefer quieter spots to enjoy nature’s blossoms and leaves, you might want to consider other parks around Tokyo. Notwithstanding that, this park has several museums, art centres and even a zoo situated in close proximity to it.
8. Ameyoko (アメ横)
Situated just right across the street from Ueno Park’s southern entrance, near Ueno Station, is Ameyoko, a popular market street that offers a vast array of snacks, foodstuffs, souvenirs and clothes at affordable prices. Be warned also, however, that this street is so popular that it can sometimes get difficult to make your way through the crowds flocking in all directions here.