In terms of size, Tokyo is a vast metropolis, spreading out across the Kanto Plain from Tokyo Bay. Each of the 23 districts contains individual highlights, from gushing waterfalls spilling over blacked rocks to museums filled with historical artifacts.
The JR Yamanote Line is likely to be your most useful transport option as it loops around the city with most attractions within walking distance of the stations.
Shinjuku is considered the very heart of the metropolis, filled with blazing lights, towering steel blocks, shops and all sorts of entertainments come the midnight hours.
Ikebukuro is renowned for its retail space, particularly as the area has not one, but two of the world’s largest department stores and Akihabara is the cyber-friendly electronic superstore of Japan. However, it is the world-famous Ginza district that boasts the headiest shopping experience with shops, boutiques and stores galore twinkling at you from the pavements.
Heading downtown to the older parts of the city, you can find the Imperial Palace and the fascinating areas of Asakusa and Ueno, the museums district. You can just about see the flickering shadows of the past with creaking structures lining the streets where colourful shopkeepers sell their wears. Best explored on foot, you will find yourself wondering the narrow alleys on many a quiet afternoon.
Tokyo’s attractions are spread throughout the city and here we give you some information about the most popular.
Imperial Palace and Gardens
Gardens are open 9am-4pm Tues-Thur, Sat & Sun. Admission is free.
Constructed on the site of the original building that was destroyed during WWII and home of the Japanese Emperor and his family, you can’t actually enter the Palace but you can wonder around the beautiful gardens that cover the ground where the heart of the old castle once stood.
Koishikawa Botanical Gardens
Opening hours – 9am-4.30pm Tues-Sun.
Escape from the frenetic streets by wondering through the thousands of fine and delicately fragranced plants that form part of the Faculty of Science at the University of Tokyo. One of the country’s oldest and most beautiful gardens, the ¥330 you pay on entry is well worth the tranquillity.
Opening hours – 9am-10pm daily.
Even taller than its Parisian twin, this Japanese Eiffel Tower was opened in 1958 and has a fantastic café where you can see Tokyo laid out before your Cappuccino. Admission is ¥820.
Tsukiji Fish Market
Opening hours – 5am-11am (auctions start at 5.30am)
At 3am the boats start to arrive from across the world bearing great loads of seafood to be sold at one of the largest markets of its kind. Wholesalers stride up and down the aisles that are resplendent with glistening fish, choosing the freshest critters to buy anf haggle over. You can enjoy the fruits of the brine at the many sushi restaurants in the building. Entry into the Market is free.
The Tokyo Metropolitan Government Offices Observatory
Opening hours – 9.30am-11pm (North Observatory), 9.30am-5.30pm (South Observatory).
North Observatory is closed the second and fourth Monday of every month and the South Observatory is closed every first and third Tuesday.
Standing at 202 metres, escape the lung-clogging fumes in the land of mere mortals and you could just be in heaven gazing at the cityscape below, particularly in winter when on clear days you can glimpse the mighty Mount Fuji.
Opening hours -11am-7pm
Experience heady retail heights at this 6-floor electronics bonza complete with amusements, restaurants, shops and showrooms all demonstrating the latest Sony releases.
Shofukuji Temple and the Sentai Jizodo
Open all year
A designated ‘National Treasure’, the Sentai is a simple structure influenced by Zen-style architecture that resides in the grounds of the Shofukuji Temple. Peaceful and tranquil, a small collection of Jizo statues that were worshipped during the Edo Period can be found in the Sentai itself.
Meiji Jingu Shrine
This green-copper roof shrine is fiercely guarded by two enormous gates. With a stunning Iris garden that blooms in May and June and shady tree-lined paths, this is also the place to see in the New Year – along with the rest of Tokyo.
Tokyo Disneyland and Tokyo Disneysea
Opening hours – 8am-10pm (summer), 10am-7pm (winter)
Like or loathe it, you can never escape the clutches of the Disney cartoon creatures, particularly if you have kids. The Tokyo theme park is one of the better offshoots of the Disney franchise and all the usual favourites can be found here plus Toon World, Pirates of the Caribbean and various marine-themed rides. Tickets cost ¥5,500 per day for adults and ¥3,700 for children.
Sunshine International Aquarium
Opening hours – 10am-6pm Mon-Sat, 10am-6.30 Sun & public holidays
And if the fish market and Tokyo Disneysea hasn’t quenched your thirst for all things brine-coated, then visit the ‘World’s highest aquarium’. Over 20,000 fish and marine creatures including dolphins and sea otters frolic about above sea level. Admission costs ¥1600 for adults, ¥800 for children.