One of the world’s most modern cities in terms of infrastructure and design, Tokyo is a vibrant contrast to bustling districts and tranquil shrines. It’s a place where you can explore fascinating museums, indulge in fresh seafood fare, shop for high-tech gadgets and soak up panoramic views of the city, all in one day thanks to its super efficient transportation system. From the fresh sushi at Tsukiji Market to the colorful oasis of Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden and the shopping opportunities in Ginza, here are some of the best things to do in Tokyo, Japan.
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Sample seafood at Tsukiji Market
Tsukiji Market is the world’s largest and oldest fish market, offering the perfect chance to get acquainted with some of Japan’s freshest seafood fare. Food enthusiasts will salivate at the over 500 different types of seafood sold here. While the famous tuna auctions occur early in the morning, even if you arrive in the afternoon the market will still be a bustling maze of excitement. Seafood lovers will no doubt be in awe with the vast array of local delicacies on offer, where you can have lunch at one of the small restaurants that line the area.
Explore artifacts at Tokyo National Museum
History enthusiasts won’t want to miss out on the fascinating exhibits in the Tokyo National Museum, a perfect place to learn about Japan’s rich history. Covering the longest recorded history of Japan, meander through the museum and take a look at over 116,00 pieces of art and artifacts. You’ll also find Chinese and Indian art, in addition to more than 100 national treasures. Boasting Buddhist sculptures in addition to a collection of samurai armor and swords, delicate pottery and historical Japanese clothing, after you’ve browsed the interior you can head outside to enjoy the landscaped garden and 17th-century Tein Teahouse.
Soak up the culture at Meiji Shrine
Located in the heart of Yoyogi Park, Meiji Shrine was completed in 1926 and remains one of Tokyo’s most important religious sites. Nestled in a verdant landscape of a 175-acre evergreen forest, some of the highlights of this historic landmark includes an Inner Precinct that holds royal treasures, an Outer Precinct, and a Memorial Picture Gallery with a colorful collection of murals that depict the lives of the emperor and empress. You’ll enter through the Torii, the shrine’s large archway and find the locals at the temizuya to cleanse themselves with holy water.
Admire the beauty of Senso-ji Temple
Considered one of the most significant Buddhist temples in Japan, Senso-ji Temple is dedicated to Kannon, the Buddhist goddess of mercy and happiness. Built in 645 AD, the highlights here include the Kaminari-mon Gate with a 10-foot-high red paper lantern bearing the inscription “Thunder Gate”, an Incense Vat to drive away ailments and temple doves. After exploring the temple, make sure to meander through the rest of the 50-acre precinct and browse the shops along Nakamise Dori.
Visit the royal family at Tokyo Imperial Palace
Home to the Emperor of Japan and the royal family, the Tokyo Imperial Palace is the premier attraction in the Marunouchi district. Lined with beautiful 17th-century parks surrounded by walls and moats, the Imperial Palace was the residence for some of Japan’s most important figures. A notable feature of the palace is the six-foot-thick walls that surround the palace, one that leads to the tranquil oasis found in East Higashi-Gyoen Garden.
Get a bird's-eye view at The Tokyo Skytree
A 2,000-foot structure that rises out of the city’s glistening skyline, The Tokyo Skytree is the world’s largest freestanding tower. For a bird’s-eye of the city, visit the collection of cylindrical observation decks that were designed in the form of a massive tripod where you can awe at Tokyo below you. A unique glass spiral walkway and 1,500-foot viewpoint will test your fear of heights, while an array of family-friendly attractions below make it a popular excursion throughout the day. The tower is also home to a split-level shopping, dining and entertainment complex called Tokyo Skytree Town.
Discover family-friendly fun at Odaiba
Part neighborhood part mini-island, Odaiba is a hub of entertainment, restaurants and eclectic architecture located on the Tokyo Bay. Home to the National Museum of Emerging Science and Innovation and Odaiba Seaside Park, families with kids will delight at the beach area and Tokyo’s own Statue of Liberty. Head to Leisure Land for go-kart fun and a spin on one of largest Ferris wheels, or rest your weary muscles in the natural hot springs theme park in the Ooedo-Onsen-Monogatari. Stay until the sun sets and you’ll be able to capture stunning views of Rainbow Bridge and glittering skyline.
Shop for souvenirs at Ginza
If you’re in need of some retail therapy, head to the pedestrian-friendly Ginza, Tokyo’s busiest shopping area. Home to a variety of storefronts that range from budget-friendly to upscale, you’ll find big-name retailers and loads of specialty stores selling everything from kimonos to incense and chopsticks. After you’ve given your credit card a workout, relax at one of the tea shops, explore the nearby art galleries, or watch a traditional kabuki performance at the famous Kabuki-za Theatre. Nightfall is a perfect time to soak up one of Japan’s most iconic neon light landscapes, showcasing its vibrant array of exclusive shops and advertising panels.
Get lost in the greenery of Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden
Showcasing its beautiful seasonal foliage throughout the year, Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden is one of Tokyo’s largest and most popular parks. Boasting expansive green spaces and meandering walking paths, its tranquil scenery is a pleasant escape from the hustle and bustle of the city. The Japanese landscape garden features tranquil ponds and bridges, while the French garden and English garden are noted for their blooming cherry trees. Visit from late March to early April to see these beauties on full display, while its 144 acres of green space can be enjoyed on a picnic any time of year.
Browse the electronics in Akihabara
Considered a mecca for techies, Akihabara is Tokyo’s premier electronics district. You’ll find all types of gadgets here, found in boths along the side streets and inside the mega department stores. The perfect place to purchase a souvenir, the shelves here are packed with the latest technology. You can spend hours exploring Yodobashi department store, one of the largest electronic stores in the world, or meandering down the neighborhood’s main street Chuo Dori. Gaming arcades and stores selling comics and character figurines are also popular, with many of its patrons fully dressed up in character.