Tokyo Destination guide
Why You Need To Visit Tokyo
With a population of over 37 million people, Tokyo is the capital and most visited city in Japan. Our Tokyo guide breaks down the very best things to do and see so that you can make the most of your Tokyo visit.
Table of contents:
Introduction to Tokyo city
Tokyo is simply a city like no other. Whether this is your first overseas trip or your fortieth, a Tokyo visit is guaranteed to be a completely unique experience which undoubtedly leaves an imprint on you. Perhaps it’s the piercing neon lights which can be seen from outer space or the weird and wonderful buzz of the city. Tokyo is so alive, you can almost hear her breath.
However, the early days of Tokyo looked very different. The world's largest metropolis actually started as a small fishing village known as Edo. For more than 250 years it was home to the Tokugawa shogunate, the military dictators of Japan. The city established itself as the cultural and economic hub of Japan and by the 1720’s had become one of the largest cities in the world.
Through earthquakes, natural disasters and air raids of World War II, Tokyo has not only survived, but it has thrived. Today, Tokyo is divided into 23 different wards, known as ku. The city is expansive and intricate; an exciting labyrinth of opportunities to explore. The world-class metro system, which ferries more than 8.7 million commuters per day, is your gateway to discovering the different districts. Tokyo tourism is easily accessible by the fantastic public transport system which is both cost-effective and impeccably efficient.
You could spend a lifetime exploring Tokyo and still not see, hear, taste and experience all that the city has to offer. It’s atmosphere gets under your skin and once you leave, the insatiable urge to return will always be near.
Tokyo Travel Tips
When you are planning things to do in Tokyo, it’s best to figure out which districts are of interest to you and then map your route from there. If you plan to be in Japan for at least 7 days, the JR Pass often works out to be the most convenient and efficient way to travel.
To ensure that you make the most of your Tokyo travel, we have divided the Tokyo highlights by North, East or Central, West, South and Greater Tokyo. Following this Tokyo travel advice will ensure you create your perfect Tokyo itinerary.
A trip to Northern Tokyo is a fascinating insight to Japan’s past. Old and new seamlessly combine in a stream of shrines, markets and shopping arcades.
Wandering through the Edo-style architecture in Asakusa is like taking a step back in time. The streets are a treasure trove of shrines, temples and museums which will satisfy the history lover in you. Don’t miss Tokyo’s oldest buddhist temple, Sensoji Temple which looks especially spectacular at night.
If you’re lucky enough to visit Japan during the Sakura period, Ueno park is a favourite spot for Hanami (cherry blossom viewing). Whether you come to relax in Ueno park itself or make the most of the fantastic shopping or museums nearby, it’s well worth spending an afternoon here.
Just a twenty minute walk from Asakusa is the iconic landmark of Tokyo, the Tokyo Skytree. With a height of 634m it is the tallest structure in Japan and the second tallest structure in the world. Enjoy the panoramic views from the top or indulge in a delicious meal at Sky Restaurant 634.
If you’re interested in a deeper glimpse into Tokyo’s past, the Edo-Tokyo Museum delves into the architecture, culture, and political climate through vivid exhibitions. The museum showcases impressive display models and real-life recreated artifacts to provide an authentic experience.
Central / Eastern Tokyo
A visit to Central / Eastern Tokyo has something for everyone. From unforgettable Tokyo sightseeing to unique cultural experiences, this area is a fantastic place to spend a few days exploring.
In the very heart of Tokyo is the modern and prestigious district of Marunouchi, located in one of the most centrally-located districts of Chiyoda. You’ll find this bustling business area located between the Imperial Palace and Tokyo station. With over 900 shops and restaurants in Marunouchi, avid shoppers should add this to their Tokyo itinerary.
Imperial Palace and Garden
A short walk from Tokyo Station, you’ll find the current Imperial Palace which is built on the former site of Edo Castle. The palace was completely destroyed during World War II and has since been rebuilt. Surrounded by a moat, you can explore the massive walls, bridges and gardens of the palace. Guided tours are also available.
Akihabara is the undisputed king of electronics. Known as the ‘electric’ district, bright lights at every turn dazzle and inspire. This is truly paradise on earth for lovers of anime, manga or gaming. For a one-of-a-kind cultural experience, make sure to check out one of the maid cafes.
Tsukiji Outer Market
Once upon a time, Tsukiji was the largest wholesale fish and seafood market in the world. If you have an interest in sushi, seafood or cooking then a visit to Tsukiji and its 300+ shops and restaurants is definitely worth a visit. The narrow maze-like alleyways and slightly chaotic running of business is what makes visiting Tsukiji an experience in and of itself.
Ginza is one of the most ritzy, expensive areas in Tokyo. Located in Chūō, it is famous for its luxurious shopping and fantastic restaurants.
Tokyo is a city of contrasts and Western Tokyo is a testament to this. Serene nature parks mixed within bustling urban jungles, this area of Tokyo will certainly keep you on your toes!
No trip to Tokyo is complete without a visit to the iconic Shibuya. A district that hums with the buzz of youthful energy, Shubuya is considered the centre of mainstream youth culture and fashion in Tokyo. Just outside Shibuya station, you can cross the busiest pedestrian crossing in the world, with around 2,500 other people crossing at the same time!
Harajuku is the home of Kawaii, the culture of ‘cuteness’ in Japan. An awesomely overwhelming assault on the sense, Harajuku is an eclectic mix of wild, funky, bold and bright. In terms of fashion, anything goes here and the vibe of the pop culture capital means that the more weird an outfit, the more wonderful it is!
Insider tip: Between Shibuya and Harajuku you’ll find one of the most beautiful streets in Tokyo, Omotesando. No Tokyo sightseeing is complete without a visit to the luxurious street stocking high-end brand stores.
Shinjuku is a city unto itself and is the definition of shopping, eating and partying. The neon skyscrapers of Shinjuku make for the perfect photo and offer some of Tokyo’s most vibrant night views.
Tokyo is the city of surprises. Just a short walk away from the energy of Harajuku awaits one of Tokyo’s most beautiful parks. Lush, expansive green lawns and bright gardens offer such a tranquil paradise, you almost forget that you're in a city at all.
Nakano Broadway is a massive emporium for all things anime, manga, collectibles and tech. Famous for it’s Disney collectibles, used anime, video games and nostalgic items, Nakano Broadway is a great alternative to Akihabara.
Be greeted by tree-lined streets with a background of futuristic towers when you take a trip to South Tokyo. A few of the highlights include:
Step into the future in the uber-modern area of Odaiba, located on Tokyo Bay. The man-made island was originally created to protect Tokyo from Marine attacks. Today it is a futuristic business hub filled with skyscrapers, shopping and amusement centres. The teamLab Borderless is an incredible art museum where you feel like you’ve become part of the exhibit. An experience that's’ not to be missed!
Home to a large expat community and a number of museums, Michelin-starred restaurants and luxury shopping. On the other hand, Roppongi is also known for its wild party and nightclub scene. In true Tokyo fashion, two different worlds blend effortlessly into each other.
At 333 metres tall, Tokyo tower is an imposing structure that has been an icon of the Tokyo skyline since 1958. The design was based on the Eiffel Tower and at the time, was the tallest tower in the world. Take the elevator to the top or if you’re feeling fit, the 600 steps stairway will also get you to the main observatory deck where fantastic views of Tokyo await.
For super high quality sushi, the pristine quality of Toyosu is the market for you. Have yourself an aerial view of the famous tuna auction, but with only 120 people allowed to watch each day, make sure that you pre-book here.
The temple memorializes the graves of 47 samurai of Lord Ako, better known as the 47 Ronin, in an avenging story of loyalty. It is one of the most important Buddhist temples in Japan and is a short walk from Sengakuji Station.
Even though you could spend years exploring the treasure trove this incredible city, Tokyo highlights don’t end at the city borders. Many more wonders await just a few short hours away, all of which can be accessed with the JR Rail Pass
Less than an hour South of Tokyo lies the ancient city of Kamakura, where mountains, history, culture and the sea live in harmony. Apart from checking out the city and nature walks, you can also see the Great Buddha of Kamakura. The statue is an impressive 11.4 metres high and is the second tallest bronze Buddha in Japan.
Famed for its natural beauty, Nikko is a peaceful respite from the hustle and bustle of the busy city. Pristine forests guard over the UNESCO World Heritage Site, temples and lavishly decorated shrines (Toshogu Shrine). The nearby Nikko national park offers spectacular natural wonders such as mountains, hot springs, waterfalls and lakes.
Mount Takao is the perfect day trip from Tokyo offering stunning mountainous views, alkaline hot springs and great hiking trails. Just an hour by train from the city, Mount Takao is one of the most accessible hiking spots from the city.
For big and small kids alike (we’re looking at you Mum and Dad!), Tokyo Disneyland and Disneysea is the ultimate way to spend a few days. Disney’s twin theme parks where you’ll have a plethora of rides, games, Disney characters and great food at your fingertips!
Literally meaning ‘saw-toothed mountain’ because of its jagged profile, the 330-meter tall mountain on the Boso Peninsula makes for an awesome day trip. With breathtaking views of the coastal areas and a giant carved Buddha, it’s a fantastic place to spend a day.
A landmark which needs little introduction, Mt Fuji takes the prize for the tallest mountain in Japan. Still considered an active volcano (although the last eruption was over 300 years ago) the awe-inspiring views of Mt Fuji are sure to remain ingrained in your memory forever. For the adventurous travellers looking for a once in a lifetime opportunity, you can also climb Mt Fuji.
No matter the time of year you decide to visit Tokyo, an adventure like no other awaits. The unparalleled energy alongside the rich and unique culture means that your Tokyo visit will be one that you will never forget.
Kyoto Destination Guide
Kyoto was historically the capital and cultural centre of Japan, and boasts a rich history of culture and tradition. Learn about the best things to do, see and experience in Kyoto.
Nikko Destination Guide
Known as a centre of Shinto and Buddhist mountain worship for many centuries, Nikko National Park offers scenic, mountainous landscapes, lakes, waterfalls, hot springs, wild monkeys and hiking trails
Mt Fuji Destination Guide
Mt Fuji is an unmistakable symbol of Japan. More than just a pretty view, the solitary mountain contributes to Japan’s physical, cultural and spiritual geography.
Sapporo Destination Guide
Known as one of the youngest cities in Japan, Sapporo is most famous for its beer, ramen, crabs, skiing and the annual Sapporo Snow Festival featuring enormous ice sculptures.