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The high-tech heart of modern Japan
The world's most populous city, Tokyo is a breath-taking global hub of industry and innovation. This seemingly endless metropolitan sprawl is home to more than 35 million people, making it a stunning showcase of humanity and invention that can cause sensory overload. Of course Tokyo, the Japanese capital since the 1800s, houses many enchanting historical and cultural sites, but these contrast wonderfully with the city's modern-day delights. Join thousands of locals on the famous "Scramble Crossing" in Shibuya, shop for the latest gear at Akihabara Electric Town, take a ride on a bullet train, or even visit a robot cabaret show! Tokyo is a feast to the senses that never ceases to amaze. In a country that has given the world so many electrical innovations, from the Walkman to LCD TV screens, Tokyo is responsible for transforming the way the world works. And the city is constantly reinventing itself, delivering new surprises to awe-struck visitors from around the world.
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Akihabara Electric Town
Visitors going in search of Tokyo's contemporary culture should head straight to Akihabara, the downtown district that has become famous for its electronics shops and "otaku" (manga and anime) culture. Having undergone a major redevelopment in recent years, Akihabara is now home to even more electronic retailers that sell everything tech-savvy travelers could dream of, from the latest state-of-the-art gear to retro collectables. A series of huge stores are interspersed with smaller retailers, providing something for everyone. The streets of Akihabara are also alive with manga and anime culture, including comic book shops, themed cafes and even costumed actors who promote their goods, creating a lively and colorful vibe.
The world's biggest fish market, Tsukiji is a clattering, captivating site that encapsulates the intensity and industry of Tokyo. A staggering 2,000 tonnes of seafood worth approximately JPY1.6 billion (US$14 million) are traded daily at Tsukiji, and a single bluefin tuna weighing 212kg sold for a record JPY74 million in 2017. Visitors wanting to catch the auction action need to make an early start however; the first sales start at about 5.30am. Guests can also visit a series of restaurants and food stalls which, naturally, specialize in the freshest seafood. Plans are in place to move Tsukiji to a new site, but this relocation has now been delayed until 2018.
The city's newest and biggest attraction, the 634-meter-high Tokyo Skytree opened in 2012, becoming the tallest structure in Japan. It remains the second tallest tower on the planet, after Dubai's Burj Khalifa, and provides the best place from which to enjoy spectacular 360-degree views of the Tokyo skyline. While its primary use is as a TV and radio tower, the Tokyo Skytree also features an array of excellent tourist facilities, including a "sky restaurant" and two observation decks, at 350 meters and 450 meters above street level. At the base of the tree lie a huge shopping mall, more restaurants, a large aquarium and a planetarium.
No visit to Tokyo would be complete without a walk across the Shibuya Crossing. While it is, essentially, just a series of zebra crossings on a busy intersection, the Shibuya Crossing is a global icon - a landmark of Tokyo and a symbol of human industry and endeavor. More than 1,000 people use Shibuya's "scramble crossings" at peak times, including many tourists who flock to the area's many shops, restaurants and bars. Shibuya Station is one of Tokyo's busiest rail terminals, which further intensifies the human traffic, and a huge new skyscraper is under construction as part of a major redevelopment of the station area.
Take a bullet train to Mount Fuji
The Shinkansen and Mount Fuji are two of Japan's most iconic symbols, so there can be few better Japanese experiences than to travel from Tokyo to the country's tallest mountain by bullet train. On a clear day, Mount Fuji can be seen by Shinkansen passengers traveling on the main route from Tokyo to Nagoya, Osaka or Kyoto (pick a seat on the right hand side of the train), while those who want to explore the volcano more closely can take a bullet train to Odawara Station, which is the gateway to Fuji-Hakone-Izu National Park. Mount Fuji is located about 100km southwest of Tokyo.
Guests wanting to explore Tokyo's rich history should head to Asakusa, where the city's ancient culture survives - and even thrives - amid the modernism. Asakusa literally means "low city", which is extremely appropriate when you contrast the area's traditional temples and buildings with the high-rise glass and steel towers that typify 21st Century Tokyo. Asakusa's main attraction is Senso-ji, an ancient temple that dates back to the 7th Century. The temple's famous red Kaminari Gate is reached via a busy shopping street, which is a good place to stock up on souvenirs. The Asakusa Shrine's popular Sanja Matsuri festival is held every May.
Imperial Palace and Gardens
Tokyo's Imperial Palace is located within a large park in the heart of the city, surrounded by moats and huge stone walls. While the original structure was destroyed in World War II it has been reconstructed in the same style and remains a symbol of the country. The palace gardens are divided into several parts, including the East Garden, which also houses the Tokagakudo Music Hall and Museum of the Imperial Collections, and Kitanomaru Park, which is home to the Nippon Budokan Hall. While not all of areas of the site are open to visitors, the vast gardens are ideal for visitors seeking a break from Tokyo's bustling streets.
Tokyo National Museum
Established in 1872, Tokyo National Museum is the oldest and largest museum in Japan, and one of the biggest art museums in the world. Located in Ueno Park, the museum houses a vast collection of more than 110,000 objects, including almost 100 artifacts that have been classified as "National Treasures" by the Japanese government. The main focus is on Japanese and Asian art; the museum conserves a comprehensive collection of artworks and archaeological items from across the region, including works from the ancient Silk Road and an extensive selection of Buddhist art. Several other museums and Ueno Zoo are located nearby.
One of Tokyo's most famous districts, Ginza is shopper's paradise with designer retail outlets, high-end malls and department stores. The area's name reflects its commercial history; Ginza literally means "silver mint" in Japanese, as it was originally the place where coins were minted. Nowadays Ginza is a global upmarket retail hub, home to major international brands and designer boutiques. It is also a vibrant nightlife area, with a multitude of restaurants, bars, cafes and clubs. On weekends, the main street of Chuo Dori is closed to traffic, making it a pleasant place to stroll and indulge in a spot of retail therapy.
Major sporting events
Sports fans will flock to Tokyo in the coming years, as the Japanese capital hosts two of the world’s biggest sporting events: the Rugby World Cup and Summer Olympics. Having beaten South Africa at the last Rugby World Cup, Japan will be hoping for further success when it hosts the tournament for the first time in 2019. The opening match will be played in Tokyo. The following summer, Tokyo will welcome the world's athletes for the 2020 Summer Olympics and Paralympics. Events will be held all across the city, including cycling through the Imperial Palace Gardens, as Japan’s capital showcases a summer festival of sport.
Things to do in Tokyo
Neighborhoods to Explore
- Ueno, home to museums and Ueno Zoo
- Shinjuku, the heart of downtown
- Urayasu, for Tokyo Disneyland
- Roppongi, the lively entertainment hub
Top Things to Do In Tokyo
- Join the crowds on the Shibuya Crossing
- Explore Japan’s “otaku” culture in Akihabara
- Shop till you drop in Ginza
- Enjoy spectacular views from the Tokyo Skytree’s observation deck
- Take a stroll around the Imperial Palace Gardens
- Spend a day at Japan’s most popular theme park, Tokyo Disneyland
- Take a rickshaw ride around historic Asakusa
- Get tickets to a baseball game
- Experience a robot cabaret show
- Take a walking tour of Tokyo’s traditional food outlets