Tokyo is the city that holds something for every tourist. From skyscrapers and modern institutions to shrines and temples, from high-end shopping malls to colorful street markets and from a fast paced modern life to traditional mannerisms, the city offers many contrasts to the visitors. From the variety of experiences that one can have in the city that is bursting at its seams with people, here are the top five tourist attractions.
1. Shibuya – Iconic Japanese Fashion Street
If you are young and looking for entertainment, Shibuya is the place to visit. If you are over 35 and still looking for some psychedelic fun on holiday, Shibuya is still the right place to explore. This district is mostly known as a shopping district and is one of the busiest areas in Tokyo. A hub for street fashion and nightlife, Shibuya offers an insight to the curious into the cultural trends of the younger generation in Japan. With more than 100 boutiques lined across, large shopping malls, electronic goods’ outlets, film and stage theaters and a lot of systematized chaos, this place must be experienced when visiting Tokyo.
Other things to see within this area are some unique museums that include the Tobacco and Salt Museum and the TEPCO Electric Energy Museum. Needless to say, don’t forget to go with a wad of cash or some usable plastic money for a good deal of shopping!
2. Shinjuku – One of Tokyo’s largest shopping and entertainment districts
After surviving and savoring Shibuya, if you still have the wish to have a crowded and overwhelming experience, then tag Shinjuku as your next ‘must-see’ place in Tokyo. Shinjuku is one of the largest shopping and entertainment districts of Tokyo known for its red light district, never-ending stream of some of the tallest buildings, malls, department stores and electronic shops. It is a fine representation of business combined with pleasure, peppered with some wildness.
The Skyscraper district holds many leading hotels whereas Kabukicho (the red light district) has many restaurants, nightclubs, small hotels and things of interest to people with different sexual proclivities. Besides the red light area, the Golden Gai is another district that offers nightlife that is more regular in nature. Bars frequented by tourists are Square, Asyl, Albatross G, Bar Plastic Model and Tachibana Shinsatsushitsu. If you are the morbid-adventurer kind, something tells me you are going to love Tachibana Shinsatsushitsu – with drinks called “Kanchou” (Enema) and “Chounai Senjou (Colonic Irrigation) this place is for the crazy in you! With many shopping and eating facilities, the place also has other attractions for tourists, including the Japanese sword museum and a couple of expansive parks.
3. Edo-Tokyo Museum (Edo-Tokyo Hakubutsukan)
If you like your holidays to be more than just a whirlwind of sightseeing, eating and shopping then you must visit the Edo-Tokyo Museum. It has impressive documents, preserves and presents Tokyo’s journey from being Edo, a small fishing village to the modern metropolitan city. Life-size replicas of the city across centuries are awe-inspiring and take visitors through the history, culture, art, calamities, commerce, architecture and evolution of the city. The museum attracts many foreign tourists and offers information and services in English free of charge for their convenience.
The museum also hosts a library with around 140,000 books and various kinds of publications about the culture and history of Edo-Tokyo. You need about two to two and a half hours to really explore the place and get your ¥600 worth.
4. Sensoji Temple
For tourists interested in getting a glimpse of religious customs and manifestations, Sensoji Temple is a popular and historical site to visit. Sensoji is an ancient Buddhist temple, nestled in Asakusa in Tokyo’s downtown. Originally built in the 7th century, the temple was made in veneration of Kannon, the goddess of mercy. It was gutted in World War II and was restored and reconstructed with the help of alms and donations by the public.
One of the most significantly known symbols of this place is the Thunder Gate (Kaminarimon), through which visitors enter to approach the temple. After entering the gate one passes through Nakamise, a popular street and one of Tokyo’s busiest markets. It’s lined with shops selling food, offerings, souvenirs and other trinkets. However remember, you can get anything from green-tea flavored ice cream to sweet buns but there are no places that offer full meals. The temple hosts many events throughout the year. The biggest of these is the annual event of Sanja Matsuri that takes place in May, but the most well known is the Shinto festival that spans 3-4 days and takes place in spring. Plan your holiday around one of these colorful, enchanting festivals to get the most of your travel.
5. Tsukiji Fish Market
An unlikely place that has developed as a popular tourist spot is the Tsukiji Fish market in central Tokyo. It is one of the largest wholesale markets for fresh fish and is a busy business center. For those interested in getting a closer look, the day must start by 4:30 am when you can get access to the renowned tuna fish auction taking place in the inner market area. The number of visitors allowed is limited and one has to apply to get permit. This is a relatively restricted area and visitors must take care to follow the rules and not intervene with the daily business activities.
To experience the sights and sounds of the fish market, the wholesale area is open for visitors after 9am. The large hall is crowded with people buying and selling fish and one has to steer through narrow lanes bustling with carts and trucks.
It is commonly advised to explore the outer area of the market, which is more tourist friendly. A sushi breakfast should not be missed in one of the local restaurants in this part of the market. Here one can purchase fresh fish in smaller portions.
Whether you choose to spend your holiday in Tokyo exploring the modern and traditional architecture or you end up spending most of it shopping in commercial districts, wishing you ‘gokoūn o inorimasu’ in Japanese-Good Luck