Travel to Tokyo (Guide)
No trip to Japan would be complete without a visit to its legendary capital city. Where else can travellers visit the world’s most famous fish auction, pray at a 1,000-year-old temple and eat down the charmingly named Piss Alley all in one day? Here are 20 things you must do when you’re in Tokyo.
Tokyo is famous for its superb sushi, and one of the best places to get your hands on some is the Toyosu Fish Market. In 2018, the world-famous Tsukiji Fish Market relocated to Toyosu, and the latter is now the place to enjoy the renowned daily tuna auction. You can still visit Tsukiji, though, where the historic outer market’s food stalls and restaurants remain in business.
The well-worn neighbourhood of Asakusa and its main attraction, the sacred temple Sensō-ji, are a must-visit – there’s nothing else quite like them in Tokyo. The classical temple and its iconic red lantern, along with the Nakamise shopping street set up along the approach, will take you back to old Japan. Nearby is Hanayashiki, the oldest amusement park in the country.
Strut your stuff in stylish Harajuku, Omotesandō and Aoyama
Visitors can explore the fashionable Harajuku, Omotesandō and Aoyama in a single day. Harajuku and the Takeshita-dōri are the places to go for offbeat fashions (think Lolita style). Admire the stunning architecture and shop high-end brands in Omotesandō. Finish up in the art galleries and cafés of cultured Aoyama.
Snap up anime films and collectables at Akihabara
Tokyo’s Electric Town wows visitors with its sheer volume of anime, manga and gaming paraphernalia available. You can find anything you need to complete your collection – comics, DVDs, detailed figurines, trading and playing cards, costumes, magazines and an endless supply of knick-knacks. It’s also the place to check out Tokyo’s quirky maid cafés.
Take in old-fashioned Yanaka Ginza Shitamachi
Historically, the shitamachi (low city) was where the less affluent worked and lived. Today, few places remain in Tokyo where you can experience the old world, but with its ramshackle, frozen-in-time atmosphere, Yanaka Ginza shopping district is one of them. The Yuyake Dandan staircase (which has been featured on TV and in movies) is a good place to snap a few photos to capture the vibes. There’s also a sizeable population of adorable stray cats in the area.
Ryogōku is the capital of sumo culture in Tokyo. Take in a match at the Ryogōku Kokugikan, learn the history of the sport at the Sumo Museum or eat at the sumo-themed restaurant. The district is home to a large number of sumo stables, some of which might let you watch the early-morning practices for free.
While away a day in Ueno Park
You can easily spend an entire day at Ueno Park, Tokyo’s largest. It’s here where you’ll find the Tokyo National Museum, the city’s most popular art museum, along with The National Museum of Western Art, the Tokyo Metropolitan Art Museum and the underrated Shitamachi Museum, among others. Spend an afternoon museum-hopping, and finish up with a picnic surrounded by gorgeous foliage.
Take a wee stroll down Piss Alley
Although Omoide Yokocho translates literally to Memory Lane, this narrow, historic street – one of many yokocho in Tokyo – is better known as Piss Alley. Despite that off-putting moniker, this bustling, atmospheric nook is a local favourite for eating and drinking. The main dish you’ll come across is yakitori – skewered meats that go great with Japanese beer and sake.
Nose around Nakameguro and Daikanyama
The Meguro River lends Nakameguro a special charm. Here, you’ll find cool cafés, restaurants and the odd boutique selling goods for the modern flower child. Its classier neighbour Daikanyama is characterised by winding lanes, one-of-a-kind speciality shops and superb dining.
Witness traditional dance dramas at Kabuki-za
Kabuki is a traditional Japanese dance drama that has wowed audiences for hundreds of years with its elaborate costumes, make-up and sets. The recently rebuilt Kabuki-za is the chief kabuki theatre in the region and still retains its traditional charms.
Stroll the Imperial Palace and gardens
The Japanese royal family – the longest-running hereditary monarchy in the world – makes its home at this beautiful castle complex in Central Tokyo. Bookings must be made for tours of the Imperial Palace grounds, but the Imperial Palace East Garden is open to visitors year-round. On the other side of the moat, Chidori-ga-fuchi is a popular cherry-blossom spot.
Join the scramble at Shibuya Crossing
Shibuya Crossing, also known as the Shibuya Scramble, is the busiest pedestrian crossing in the world in terms of foot traffic. The nearby Hachikō Statue, which immortalises the dog who waited for his owner every day at Shibuya station even after his master’s death, is a popular meeting spot.