Shrines to Shopping - Different Faces of Japanese Culture
Use this list of Tokyo attractions to plan your itinerary to this great city. For many people visiting Japan..... Tokyo is their favoured destination. Usually pictured as the city of colourful florescent lights and packed with people....when you first arrive at Shinjuku station, this is exactly what you will see!
I will not attempt to list every museum, shrine, temple, shopping complex or adventure activity. This is a page for those making a short visit and wanting to see the main Tokyo attractions.
Most people have specific things they want to see in and around the city. For some the night life is a big part.I won’t cover that here.
list the main attractions that I personally recommend you should try and fit into your itinerary.Here are the Tokyo attractions I recommend.....for anyone enjoying a few days in this vibrant, fascinating travel destination!
Asakusa Senso-ji is the temple in this area – This is probably one of the most visited tourist attractions in Tokyo. With the entrance easily picked by the huge lantern, you walk through shops on either side of a pedestrian mall with some interesting wares....food, Japanese souvenirs, sweets, clothing and even shops just for dogs clothing..... all beautifully displayed.
You come to Senso-ji the temple and here the scene changes to traditional Japan. If you don’t know much about Japanese culture....observe what they do and you too can cleanse your hands at the water trough, and catch the smoke from the incense stand.. There will be many Japanese people who come and visit what is for them a very important cultural icon .Enjoy the gardens and views from different areas. There are basic tables and seats you can use to eat your food bought from the many food stands located behind the main mall.
TOKYO IMPERIAL PALACE - EAST GARDENS
The Imperial Palace and East Gardens is open to the public every day, and free to visit. This is a lovely place to picnic and wander the grounds .You can access the gardens from the Otemachi Gate near the Otemachi Train station.
The Palace is only open to the public Jan 2 and December 23rd...but as a foreign tourist you can apply online HERE to join a guided tour of Tokyo Imperial Palace at other times, but you must book in advance.
TSUKIJI FISH MARKETS
The fish markets are well worth slotting into your schedule. You need to go early .....aim for 6.45 to 7.00 am.
Shinjuku is a major train station....and the area is all about the atmosphere and people watching,that make this so interesting. Colourful neon lights,crowds of business men in dark suits rushing across the wide pedestrian crossings, and the unusual and unique fashions of the Japanese girls.Those in really bizarre costumes will also be up at Harajuku where you will see some very strange sights to western eyes! But do go and have a look! It is a unique Tokyo attraction.
Shibuya is the popular shopping area for the fashion conscious. Outside the station you will see the popular Tokyo attraction Hachiko a statue of the legendary dog...who long after his master died would go each day to sit and wait outside the station. You can browse Tokyu Department Store and Tokyu Hands...an arts and crafts store with everything you could possibly imagine in stock. You will see Love Hotels, Fast food stores galore and NHK Broadcasting Plaza. "Studio Park" which has an interactive exhibition and tour of the studios. 200 yen for adults but the under 12's are free. (Open 10:00 am to 6:00pm; closed every second Monday or Tuesday if Monday is a public holiday). Cross NHK Broadcasting Plaza and you'll get to Yoyogi Park then turn right to Harajuku.
This is a huge park....which was once the 1964 Olympic Village which was sited here. It is now popular especially on Sundays for young people to wear their fashion gear, play music, sports and use the cycle track.
Harajuku is where you will find all the kitsch wares....and the girls parade in their intriguing fashions....Little Maid, Lolita, Gothic, Hello Kitty....the outfits are outrageous and amusing. The make up is often equally “out there” suitable to the costume. Sunday is the main day for seeing the gathering of Tokyo’s young would be fashionistas! Omotesando Dori Avenue is frequented by numerous street performers including the Rockerbilly Group.
MEIJI JINGU SHRINE
Very near to Harajuku .....Meiji Jingu Shrine is set in 175 acres of forest and gardens. Originally built in 1920 the shrine was destroyed by fire in World War 2 and rebuilt in 1945. The Meiji Jingu Gardens and Meiji Jingu Treasure Museum are located in the shrine grounds. You may be lucky to see a Japanese wedding in summer.
Hama-rikyu Gardens near Tokyo Bay are easy to reach by train and a beautiful park to wander. While the highrise towers encircle the gardens you still feel a world away from the hustle and bustle of Tokyo city. The different seasons will bring different pleasures with flowering cherries and autumn colours.
When you are in need of a rest you can take a break in the Japanese tea house over looking lake Shiori-no-ike, and enjoy some traditional 'matcha,' green tea and nato cakes, either inside sitting on tatami mats or outside sitting at wooden tables.
Built during the Edo period and once the home of the Shogun Tokugawa family until it became a public garden in 1946 there are fascinating relics from the earlier days
( You can see more detail and photos on my blog site Yen for Travel
NITTERE OHDOKEI CLOCK
Incorporate a visit to Hama-rikyu Gardens with a visit to see the truly unique Nittere Ohdokei Clock which is on the front of the Nippon TV Tower. This amazing but strange looking masterpiece sculpted in what looks like copper, is the largest animated clock in the world. Well known anime maker Hayao Miyazaki designed it and it was crafted by Shachimaru Kunio.
With little scenes of various working characters based on Miyazaki’s movie "Howl’s Moving Castle" this intriguing clock will have you enthralled. Especially if you can arrive in time to watch it in action.
Times for Animation Display
Monday to Friday: 12:00, 15:00, 18:00, 20:00 Saturday and Sunday: 10:00, 12:00, 15:00, 18:00, 20:00
EDO ARCHITECTURAL MUSEUM of TOKYO
A visit to Edo Architectural Museum of Tokyo will give you a great lesson in the history of Tokyo – formerly known as Edo until the Meiji period in 1868 when it became Tokyo. With very detailed models both miniature and life sized, including the large wooden replica Nihonbashi Bridge and Nakamura Theater where you can see live shows. There are interactive displays, old transportation you can sit in or on, and a whole level is devoted to Edo Castle.
You need to allow a good three hours or more to see the whole museum. You can organize for English speaking guides at the desk where you pay to come in. I can recommend this as it really makes the tour more interesting and informative.
Take the boat for river views of the city architecture. Tokyo Bay has a nice beach ( all artificially made) and a beautiful Edo period garden Hama Rikyu... lovely for picnics and walks.The mall buildings have fun shopping, fun parlours and activities, cafes and restaurants.
TOKYO TOWER or TOKYO METROPOLITAN GOVERNMENT BUILDING
You may like to go up Tokyo tower to get views of the city...but our son who lives in Tokyo advised it was disappointing. It is certainly not a “must do” Tokyo attraction.
The Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building is a better viewing place with a viewing platform. It is also free.... so a preferred option for seeing the city views.
Ueno Park will keep you entertained for a day with severalTokyo attractions ....museums, temples and shrines within its grounds. It is also very popular with local Japanese for viewing the cherry blossoms in spring.
I haven’t been here....but it is certainly a Tokyo attraction for the family to enjoy....especially if you haven’t been to Disneyland any where else.
This is traditional Japanese theatre and worth experiencing as a truly Japanese art form.
KAMAKURA Kamakura is a wonderful day trip I highly recommend. Stop at Tsukiji Fish Market en route and then take the train on to Kamakura...home of the big Buddha. With lovely gardens , the beach and many walks you will fill the day.
Catch the bus or train to Kawaguchi and Fuji-go-ko - Fuji Five Lakes...it is only an hour and a half and just beautiful .......located at the base of Mt Fuji. Highland Fun Park is near by and the bus stops right outside. They have some very big roller coaster rides my family tell me! There is much more to see in this area. Make it a day or overnight trip. It could be en route to Kyoto as you can connect with the shinkansen easily.
Ginza is the famous Tokyo shopping area with department stores stocking all the top enduring label designer wares. Gucci, Prada, Chanel, Louis Vuitton have their own stores. You can buy everything from handbags, jewellery and clothing, to kitchen ware, electrical goods and anything else you can think of!
Akihabara is the place to go for electrical goods. Here you will find every possible electrical toy, house hold appliances, and all the technology items you could wish for. You will also find manga and animation goods here.
Getting Around Tokyo
Getting around Tokyo is not as difficult as one might imagine. It is a good idea to have done some pre planning so you don't have to spend too much time organising your days.
Plan to visit two or three Tokyo attractions near each other...even within walking distance.
The Tokyo trains are easy to use and the bus stations are usually located right outside the train station.
More Interesting Japan Information
Tsukiji Fish Markets
12 Tips on how the Tokyo Train System works
Kamakura Day Trip
Fuji-Go-Ko ( Fuji Five Lakes)
Japan Rail Pass
Japanese Lessons and Ipod Phrasebook
Tokyo Attractions to Fascinating Travel Destinations - Home
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