Best Tokyo attractions from Tokyo Tower to Shofukuji Temple

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

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

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.

Tokyo Tower

Tokyo Tower

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

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

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.

Sony Building

sony building tokyo
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

Shofukuji Temple
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

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

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

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.

A Guide to Tokyo Nightclubs

The Japanese are renowned for working incredibly hard during the daylight hours and as payback they party – hard. When the sun has done its duties and dips behind the last gleaming tower, the artificial neon lights take over, streaking anything stationary in violent pinks, blues and yellows. An energy begins to pulse down the packed streets and office workers discard their monochrome uniforms for something a little more risqué…

tokyo clubsTokyo maybe an expensive place to sip saucy-named cocktails – there are high cover charges for most clubs, and drinks are pricy too – but no where else will you find such an appreciation of the sound quality, music and aesthetics that the nightclubs in Tokyo provide.

Roppongi is the most famous nightlife district, where bars and restaurants jostle for space with exotic-sounding clubs. Friday is the most popular night to go out, for obvious reasons, so head off the main roads down the narrow side streets to discover where the locals gulp their liquid of choice.

Ginza also offers a good range of entertainment as does Kabuki-cho in Shinjuku, although you should be warned that this is the seedier end of town where the sex industry generates its enormous profits, It is also home to one of the biggest Japanese sex toy stores in the area, where you can find all sort of stuff like Ben Wa balls and other Japanese dolls.

Many clubs have restaurants attached to the dance floors so you can have the complete going-out experience under one roof. Alife, 1-7-2 Nishi-Azabu, Minato-ku  is one such place where punters slurp soups and nosh noodles before working off their excess weight by shimmering on the dance floor.

‘Shot Bars’ tend to be wacky-themed dance clubs where anything goes – the more outrageous the outfit the better and you’ll always look staid in comparison to the looks the Tokyo teens don. Many bars and clubs are absolutely tiny – maybe it’s a safe haven in such a crowded city – so be prepared to flex those stomach muscles and slide past the masses to get to the bar. Drinking in general is popular, so much so that even the vending machines sell beer, and there are literally hundreds of bars and pubs that are both western influenced or traditionally Japanese like the nomi-ya pubs.

Of course that Japanese institution karaoke can be found all over the city, just follow the tortured bat shrieking, and professional live music is enormously popular, usually performed in miniscule bars and basements where the acoustics are fantastic.

The Liquid Room, 1-20-1 Kabuki-cho, admission ¥3000-5000, is one of the city’s longest running live music venues which is staffed by DJ’s when the hot talent steps off the stage. There isn’t much seating so you’ll have to dance instead.

Beware of ‘table charges’ that maybe slapped onto your bill at the end of the night. What may look like an innocent snack in the centre of the table can cost ¥300-500 before you even start. You can also be charged for arriving after a certain time or if you don’t order food.

In more upmarket venues a 10 per cent to 20 per cent service charged will be enforced and don’t forget the five per cent consumption tax slapped on by the government!

For comprehensive nightlife listings then pick up a free copy of the weekly Metropolis Guide. Alternatively both the Japan Times and Daily Yomuin newspapers have good pull-out sections.

Here, we suggest some of the most popular clubs for your perusal.

Club Complex Code

Club Complex Code
1-19-2 Kabukichou, Shinjuku-ku
Telephone – 3209 0702
Opening times – 8pm-late

One of Tokyo’s largest clubs, there are various different spaces offering bars, dance floors and chill-out rooms. If you miss Friday night, then there are Sunday and Monday afternoon clubbing sessions too.

Milk

1-13-3 Ebisu Nishi
Telephone – 5458 2828
Opening times – 8-9pm-4-5am
Admission – ¥2500-3000 (includes a drink)

A split-level dance club that offers rock and alternative music plus live bands from Thursday to Saturday at the often-packed What the Dicken’s! Expat bar that’s found in the same building.

Xanadu

2-23-12 Dogenzaka
Telephone – 5489 3750
Opening times – 7pm-2am Sun, Wed & Thurs, 7pm-5am Fri & Sat
Admission – ¥500 Sun & Wed-Thurs, ¥1000 Fri-Sat

A basement club home to a young, international crowd shaking their hips to house, trance and hip-hop except on Fridays from 7pm-10pm when its retro 70s and 80s music and all-you-can drink offers.

 

Tokyo Transportation – Train, Metro, Bus, Taxi, Car & Biking Tips

Tokyo Transportation

So long as you avoid the rush hour (travelling anytime between 10am and 4pm lets you miss the worst of the crush) then Tokyo’s public transport is a dream. Speedy, efficient and relatively cheap for an amazing service, you can get to just about anywhere on the trains and metro system that criss-cross the cityscape. The only services you may have some difficulties using are the sbuses, since signs tend to be in character script and the driver’s usually can’t comprehend an English tongue. However, if you get a local to write down the name of your destination before you board then you should be able to navigate the system.

Train (JR Lines)

Train (JR Lines) tokyo

JR English Information line – 34 23 0111, open 10am-6pm Mon-Fri.
Exceptionally fast and good value, the trains run from 6am to midnight. The JR Yamanote line is the most useful line that completes a 35km loop of the city in 60 minutes. A ticket costs ¥130 and it’s a great way to get your bearings when you first arrive in the city.

The Chuo line is another useful route which cuts across the centre, linking the districts of Shinjuku with Akihabara. Tickets are transferable on all lines and the major stations you are likely to visit include Tokyo, Shibuya, Shinjuku, Ikebukuro and Veno. All the platforms are huge with both English and character signage indicating the platforms. When you want to buy a ticket and are unable to work out how much it should cost, find a ticket machine, drop ¥130 into the slot and then push the button on the top left with no figure on it. Then, when you arrive at your destination, you can pay the balance.

A JR ‘Suica’ card is a handy ticket to purchase when spending any length of time in the city as it deducts money from your pre-paid amount (either ¥1000/3000/5000) every time you swipe it through the validation machine. Buy them from the machines marked, albeit randomly, with a watermelon and penguin.

Metro

tokyo metro station

A surprisingly simple method of transport to decipher, there are 12 lines across the city, eight of which are TRTA with the other four being TOEI. Each one is clearly colour coded. Combine this knowledge with one of the metro maps provided for free at the stations and you should be able to find your destination relatively easily. A ticket costs ¥160, but if you want to change lines then it will cost ¥190. You will need a separate ticket when switching from a TRTA line to a TOEI one, and if you are unsure of how much to pay then, like the trains, use the top left hand button on the ticket machine.
The SF Metro Card is just like the JR ‘Suica’ card and deducts money every time you make a trip from your pre-paid reserve.

Alternatively, the Tokyo Combination Ticket lets you make unlimited trips on all public transport for a day and costs ¥1580 from any metro or train station or tourist offices.

Bus

Tokyo bus

Make sure you have your destination scribbled down in character script before you attempt to board a bus otherwise you may end up on the wrong side of the city. The ticket costs ¥200 to any destination and pick up a free TOEI Bus Route Guide from any tourist office or TIC which will help you unscramble the Japanese streets.

Taxi

tokyo Taxi

Eye-wateringly expensive, the rule seems to be that you only take them if you really have to. The very minimum fare you pay is ¥630 which leaps up rapidly when you actually start moving – it even costs you ¥80 for every two minutes you gaze at a right light.

Car

hire car tokyo

The public transport options are so good in Tokyo that there really is no need to hire a car and become tangled in the traffic. If you desperately want your own transport then you will need an international driving license. Dollar, Hertz and all the big car hire firms are represented at the airport.

Bike

biking tokyo

Commonly seen weaving their way through the stationary traffic, copy the locals and rent a bike for some fresh air fun. For ¥1920 a day, you can hire bikes from Eignt Rent, Sumitamo-Seimei Building, 31-16 Sakuragaoka-cho, Shibuya-ku, telephone 334622383.