Tokyo, the capital of Japan, is also home to the Imperial Palace and the seat of government and parliament. In the center-east of Honshu, the largest of the main islands in Japan, this densely populated city is worth exploring. One of the most modern cities in the world in terms of infrastructure and design – largely due to the 1923 earthquake and the devastation of World War II – Tokyo also holds the title of the most expensive city to the world where to live; fortunately, it is also one of the easiest to move thanks to its superb rail and metro networks. The cultural side of Tokyo is famous for its many things to do and its main attractions, including museums, festivals, internationally renowned cuisine, and professional sports clubs, including baseball, football, and activities. Traditional Japanese like sumo wrestling. It is also a city rich in music and theater, with many places offering everything from Japanese to modern dramas, symphony orchestras and pop and rock concerts. Discover the best places to visit in the city with our list of the best Tokyo attractions.
1. The Imperial Palace
The main attraction of Tokyo’s Marunouchi district is the Imperial Palace with its magnificent 17th century parks surrounded by walls and moats. Still used by the imperial family, the imperial palace stands on the site where, in 1457, the feudal lord Ota Dokan built the first fortress, the focal point from which the city of Tokyo (or Edo, as it was then) has gradually spread. . As famous as the palace is the Nijubashi bridge leading to its interior, a structure which takes its name (“double bridge”) from its reflection in the water. Other notable features include the two-meter thick wall surrounding the palace and its gates, one of which leads to the East Higashi-Gyoen Garden. Tours of the Imperial Palace are available (pre-registration required) and include the Kikyo-mon gate, Someikan (visitor house), Fujimi-yagura (“Mt. Fuji View” keep), the East gardens and the inner gate, the Seimon – Tetsubashi bridge, and the Imperial Household Agency Building (be sure to plan ahead). Another fortress that can be visited is Edo Castle (Chiyoda Castle), built in 1457 and located in the Chiyoda district of Tokyo.
2. Ginza District: Shop ’til you Drop
Ginza is Tokyo’s busiest shopping area and is as iconic as Times Square in New York, and much older: it has been the country’s commercial center for centuries, and is where only five ancient roads connecting the main cities of Japan have all met. Lined with exclusive boutiques and towering palace shops, the Ginza district is also fun to just stroll around or, better yet, sit in one of its many cafes or restaurants or eateries while watching the world go by. precipitate. At weekends, when everything is open, it is a shopping paradise because traffic is prohibited, making it one of the largest pedestrian areas in the world; at nightfall, gigantic billboards on its many buildings bathe Ginza with bright neon lights. This is also where you will find the famous Kabuki-za theater (see # 12 below), which houses traditional Kabuki performances, as well as the Shinbashi Enbujō theater in which Azuma-odori dances and Bunraku shows are put on stage.
3. The Sensō-ji Temple
In Tokyo’s Asakusa district, the exquisite Sensō-ji Temple – the city’s most famous shrine – is located at the end of a long street market welcoming sellers of masks, sculptures, ebony and wood combs, toys , kimonos, fabrics and precious paper items. Dedicated to Kannon, the Buddhist goddess of compassion, the temple was created in 645 AD and retains its original appearance despite having been rebuilt several times. Highlights include the Kaminari-mon gate with its 3.3 meter high red paper lantern bearing the inscription “Thunder Gate”; the famous and much appreciated Incens Vat, renowned for hunting out ailments (you will see people putting their hands around the smoke and applying it to the part of their body to be treated); and the fascinating doves of the temple, who would be the sacred messengers of Kannon (they also tell fortunes by drawing cards from a game). Next, be sure to explore the rest of the 50-acre temple grounds with its maze of alleys. If you can, revisit the temple at night for a completely different (and much less crowded) illuminated experience.
4. National Museum of Nature and Science
Located in Tokyo’s Ueno Park, the superb National Museum of Nature and Science (Kokuritsu Kagaku Hakubutsukan) opened in 1871 and is one of the oldest museums in the country. Now completely renovated and modernized, the museum houses an extensive collection of materials related to natural history and science, including many fascinating interactive exhibits on space development, nuclear energy and transportation, allowing visitors a unique glimpse the latest scientific and technological advances. The highlights of the Japan Gallery (Nihonkan) include numerous exhibits of prehistoric creatures, the history of the Japanese people, including traditional customs and attire, while the Global Gallery (Chikyūkan) presents many excellent scientific and technological displays , including robotics and vintage vehicles.
5. Ueno Park and Zoo
An oasis of green paradise in the heart of the bustling city of Tokyo, Ueno Park is the largest green space in the city and one of its most popular tourist attractions. In addition to its beautiful gardens, the park is also home to many temples and museums to explore. Crossed by pleasant gravel paths, this 212-acre park includes highlights such as a small boat excursion on Shinobazu pond lined with reeds, around a small island with its Bentendo temple; visit the 17th century Toshogu Shrine, with its 256 bronze and stone lanterns; or stroll through Ueno Park Zoo. Opened in 1882, it is the oldest zoo in Japan, famous for the pandas presented by the People’s Republic of China. The Aqua Zoo, one of the largest aquariums in Asia, is also worth a visit, especially if you are traveling with children.
6. Tokyo National Museum
The Tokyo National Museum houses more than 100,000 important works of Japanese, Chinese and Indian art, including more than 100 national treasures. Opened in 1938, the museum includes highlights such as numerous Buddhist sculptures from Japan and China dating from the 6th century to the present day; collections of old textiles, historic weapons and military equipment; historic Japanese clothing; and Asian ceramics and pottery. Important works of art include Japanese paintings from the 7th to the 14th century; magnificent Japanese and Chinese masterpieces of lacquer from different centuries, including examples of lacquer, gold lacquer and lacquer with mother-of-pearl; and many beautiful examples of calligraphy. Guided tours in English are available. The museum’s traditional Japanese landscaped garden is also worth a visit with its three pavilions, including the Tein tea room (Rokuso-an) from the 17th century, and the neighboring museum of Oriental Asian art with its 15 exhibition galleries.
7. National Museum of Western Art
In Ueno Park, just a three-minute walk from Ueno Station, the National Museum of Western Art (Kokuritsu Seiyō Bijutsukan) was built in 1959 to the plans of the famous Swiss architect Le Corbusier. The exhibitions, largely composed of works by important French artists, come mainly from the collections of Japanese businessman and art collector Kojiro Matsukata, purchased during visits to Europe at the beginning of the 20th century. In the courtyard are works by the French sculptor Auguste Rodin, while inside are paintings by the impressionists Paul Cézanne, Claude Monet, Edouard Manet and Edgar Degas. The museum also has an excellent restaurant with breathtaking views of the courtyard.
8. The Meiji Shrine
Dedicated to Emperor Meiji and his wife, Empress Shōken, construction of the magnificent Meiji Shrine began in 1915 and was completed in 1926. Although the original structure was destroyed during the Second World War, it was rebuilt in 1958 and remains one of the most important religious sites in Tokyo. Surrounded by 175-acre evergreen forest that houses some 120,000 trees representing species found across Japan (as well as the interesting “wish tree”, on which visitors can write and hang their deepest wishes), the highlights of the sanctuary include its inner enclosure (Naien) with its museum containing royal treasures, and the outer enclosure (Gaien), which houses the Meiji Memorial Picture Gallery with its superb collection of murals relating to the life of the emperor and empress. Do not forget to also visit the interior garden of the adjacent Meiji shrine (Yoyogi Gyoen), a pretty public garden with a tea room, an iris garden and a pleasant arbor.
9. The Miraikan and Edo-Tokyo Museums
One of Tokyo’s newest museums, the impressive National Museum of Emerging Science and Innovation (Nippon Kagaku Mirai-kan) – usually simply called Miraikan – offers a fascinating glimpse of Japan’s leading role in the field of technology. Created by the Japan Science and Technology Agency, this specially designed, state-of-the-art installation includes numerous hands-on interactive exhibits covering everything from earthquakes to weather conditions, as well as renewable energy and robotics. Highlights include a number of displays related to modern transportation such as a superb Maglev train model, as well as a robotics exhibit. The Edo-Tokyo Museum, which was completed in 1993 and which deals with the region’s rich past, present and future, is also worth a visit. The replica of a bridge leading to a model of dwellings in the original old town of Edo is particularly interesting.
10. The Tokyo Skytree
It’s hard to miss the Tokyo Skytree (Tōkyō Sukaitsurī), a 634-meter-high communications and observation tower that rises from the Sumida district of Minato in the city like a huge rocket ship. The tallest structure in the country (and the tallest free-standing tower in the world), the Tokyo Skytree opened in 2012 and quickly became one of the city’s most visited tourist attractions thanks to the incredible panoramic views from its restaurant and its observation decks. With a base designed as a massive tripod, the tower includes a number of cylindrical viewing levels, one at the 350-meter mark and another at the 450-meter point, which includes a glass walkway unique spiral to a higher point of view with glass floors for those with a strong stomach. Be sure to also visit the Tokyo Tower, which is smaller and much older, built in 1958 and once the tallest structure in the city.
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