Any traveller who wishes to tick Japan off their bucket list should not give its capital a pass. Tokyo is a dazzling mix of cultures old and new, entertainment, dining, and technology.
This bustling metropolis was reported by the Huffington Post as the most livable city of 2015 and the quality of life is made consistent by easy access to transportation, a wide range of opportunities, healthcare, and safety among many other considerations.
The city of 13 million inhabitants has something for all kinds of visitors and here are ten things to do in Tokyo that make it an unmissable destination.
10 Things to Do When in Tokyo
#1. Visit the home of the Emperor.
You can start your adventure by walking around the Imperial Palace. Japan is a constitutional monarchy which means the government runs the country and Emperor Akihito’s power is symbolic.
The Japanese Empire dates back to 600 BC, which gives any admirer of history a long line to track down within the stone structures of the Imperial Palace.
#2. Walk around the Meiji Shrine.
One of Japan’s more touristy destinations is the shrine dedicated to Empress Shōken and Emperor Meiji, leader of the Meiji Restoration, which History.com says brought meaningful change in the country.
The late emperor’s influence in the political and social structures of Japan echoes even today and his legacy is preserved in this green and religious space.
#3. Take in the youth culture.
While Harajuku is the prime destination for the younger generation, there is also a local arts scene that you can enjoy without the slew of hyperactive teens.
You could rummage through thrift stores, listen to vintage records, or quietly jot down journal entries in trendy cafes which line up the streets of the small town of Shimokitazawa.
The neighboring village of Koenji is more reminiscent of the retro to punk eras, but has the same general activities as its more hipster counterpart.
#4. Watch Tokyo pulsate from above.
It might sound unappealing, but the Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building is actually the place to go for stunning panoramic views of Japan’s capital.
The observation decks are free of charge and in good weather, Mount Fuji can even be seen, as well as popular skyscrapers like the Tokyo Skytree which boasts the more popular but crowded decks.
It’s best to visit at night in order to get a sense of how vibrant Tokyo just really is while enjoying a light dinner in one of the cafes.
#5. Brave the Shibuya Crossing.
No other intersection in the world is probably more photographed than the Shibuya Crossing especially at night when the neon-lit city becomes more alive.
A ballpark figure of 2,500 pedestrians was indicated by LA Times during what is aptly known as ‘The Scramble’, where one might expect a struggle during the busiest hour.
What’s remarkable is that crossing Shibuya doesn’t really require any bravery at all because order is maintained. With the politeness and efficiency of pedestrians headed off in different directions, Shibuya Crossing is truly a mirror to the way of the Japanese.
#6. Haggle in the Tsukiji Market — for fish.
Who would have thought that tuna auction is an actual thing? Well, in the Tsukiji Market, it is. It was never intended to be an attraction, but somehow, tourists come from all over the world to witness seafood being sold to the highest bidder at 3 in the morning.
Although they also sell produce and other goods, the smell of fish emanates through the air. So take note: it’s not for the queasy-stomached.
#7. Succumb to food coma.
You haven’t really been to Tokyo if you didn’t wolf down an overwhelming amount of food. In a list of essential restaurants to try, one helpful approach recommended by Eateris to munch your way around a particular district.
Whether you have a sophisticated palate or you’re on a mission to find the best hole-in-the-wall eats, Tokyo will cater—literally—to every kind of diner.
#8 Sleep in a capsule hotel.
Leesa recommends experiencing Japan’s capsule hotels which shows that Tokyo really knows how to economize in terms of space without sacrificing quirkiness.
Their earlier reputation for being dingy and cheap is long gone, because upscale versions are popping up everywhere. Thankfully, there’s more than enough to do in Tokyo that all you really need to do in a hotel is sleep.
#9. Shop till you drop at Ginza.
Tourists come and go, but they never leave Japan without doing a little bit of shopping.
Here on La Vacanza we stated how shopping in Hong Kong is a way of life and the same can be said about Tokyo’s Ginza district, which may even take up an entire day of your stay.
#10. Pick up a book or two at Book Town.
Lastly, if book shopping is more your taste and you want a more relaxed afternoon, Jimbocho is worth a visit for those looking for obscure or popular titles. Either way, you’re not leaving Tokyo without additional baggage.
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