Tokyo is one of the coolest cities in the world. From skyscraper filled with neon lights to serene parks, the capital of Japan truly has it all. With all the high rises, the subway and streams of people moving around the city reminded me of NYC, but a lot larger. Tokyo, to me, is like 20 Manhattans combined.
As much as metropoles resemble each other, Tokyo is a truly unique combination of Western and Japanese, modern and traditional and in one word: cool.
In such a large city, there is no lack of things to do and see, but here are five of my favorite things to do in Tokyo:
See the Imperial Garden & Palace
Since 1868, Tokyo has been the seat of the Japanese Emperor. The Imperial Palace sits in the grand Imperial Park, a spacious garden in the middle of Tokyo. Surrounded by high rises, it’s reminiscent of Central Park.
The Imperial Park is surrounded by a moat and houses a lovely Iris pond, an orchard, several structures and a large field. On a sunny day, you find plenty of people lounging on the grass or strolling around.
The east part of the park is open to the public and entrance is free, but the inner Imperial Gardens are open to the public twice a year and the palace can only be visited as part of a tour.
Visit the Temples and Shrines
Spirituality is a big part of Japanese culture, even in a modern city like Tokyo. Tokyo doesn’t have as many temples and shrines as Kyoto, but you can still visit a few beautiful places of worship here.
The most famous is Senso-Ji, an ancient Buddhist temple that dates back all the way to 6358 AD. It also incorporates a Shinto shrine. Senso-Ji is a very impressive place, with beautiful gate like structures. It’s also located in a really fun part of the city: the quiet and authentic Taito district. There is a market with lots of great food stalls and restaurants right around the corner from the temple.
Stroll through Shinjuku & Harajuku
Shinjuku is a world of its own, with everything you could possibly want or need and had become the place to be in Tokyo. The area around the train station is filled with shops, restaurants, malls, cinema’s, bars and nightclubs.
It truly comes alive after dark when the neon signs light up the street advertising everything from clothes to karaoke. Walking around Shinjuku is an experience on its own, but if you want to have a crazy night out in Tokyo try stepping inside some of the wild establishments.
Possibly the most famous part of Tokyo, Harajuku is best known for its expressive street style. Right at the end of Omotesando, the ‘Champs-Elysees of Tokyo’, a high-end designer street begins Harajuku, but the two could not be more different.
Although it has become more touristic, Harajuku is still hip and edgy. Harajuku is filled with vintage shops and hipster cafe’s and on a Sunday you might spot some girls is the signature Harajuku style.
Go museum hopping
Japanese art and culture are so distinct and unique that no trip to Tokyo is complete without a museum visit. First and foremost, the Tokyo National Museum. This celebrated museum houses a large collection of Japanese art, antiquities and artifacts.
The Edo-Tokyo Tatemono En is an open-air museum, showcasing traditional Japanese life in the Edo period.
My personal favorite is the Sumida Hokusai Museum, a small museum dedicated to the work of Sumida Hokusai most famous for his painting ‘The Great Wave’.
Keep in mind that most museums in Japan are closed on Mondays.
Take a day trip to Mt. Fuji
One of my favorite things I did in Japan was a trip to Mt. Fuji. You can easily visit this world-famous vulcano as a day trip from Tokyo. Mt. Fuji is absolutely beautiful and even more majestic in real life than in pictures.
There are buses and trains that go to Kawaguchiko and Mt. Fuji Station several times a day and take only a few hours. If you leave early in the morning you can come back to Tokyo in the evening. You can also stay overnight near Mt. Fuji, but the hotels there are (understandably) pretty pricey).
The small town of Kawaguchiko is a fun place to stroll around for a day. The viewpoint there also gives you amazing views of Mt. Fuji and there are tons of cute restaurants and shops. Avid hikers can do a two-day guided hike up Mt. Fuji, but only during certain times of the year.
Tokyo is a city like no other. It’s always buzzing and never sleeps. From the bright neon lights of Shinjuku to the quiet refuge of the Imperial Gardens, there is something to do in Tokyo for everyone.
What is your favorite activity or sight in Tokyo? Leave a comment with your Tokyo tips.
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