If you are coming to Japan, chances are you are going to make a stop in Tokyo. This mega city has a population of over 35 million including the metro, and is the capital of the country. With its massive population and lengthy history comes a multitude of incredible attractions, both modern and old, and a great deal of reasons to come and visit. If you are looking for temples and shrines, you may want to check out Kyoto, but if you are looking for a little bit of everything Tokyo is for you. If you would like a detailed guide to take you through the city while visiting Tokyo, check out our Complete Guide to Tokyo on the Apple Store.
Brief History of Tokyo
Tokyo is often viewed as a city, but is more accurately defined as a metropolitan prefecture. The area has 23 special wards that all operate as unique cities. For centuries the area of Tokyo was known as Edo and was the center of politics and culture of the day. It was not until 1869 when Emperor Meiji moved his residence to Edo that it became the actual capital of the country, and with this official change came the name change to Tokyo.
How to Get to Tokyo
Tourist often will fly into Narita International Airport thinking they are in Tokyo, but unfortunately this is not the case. From Narita to Tokyo Station there is an express train that will cost roughly 2,700 Yen and take about an hour. There are other methods of transportation including a bus, but the train might be ideal if you are planning on using the rail pass.
The other airport, Haneda, is actually located in Tokyo and is fairly convenient for domestic flights. The airport is only a 30 minute train ride away from Tokyo Station and will only cost 620 Yen.
Other methods of getting to Tokyo would include by either bus or train. We recommend the Shinkansen, Bullet Train, and here are the costs and times from major areas across Japan.
From Osaka: (13,850 Yen)
Get on a Tokyo bound Shinkansen (156 Minutes)
From Kyoto (13,320 Yen)
Get on a Tokyo bound Shinkansen (137 Minutes)
From Sendai (10,390 Yen)Get on a Tokyo bound Shinkansen (116 Minutes)
*Prices are without the JR Rail Pass
Check times and prices here.
Being the capital of Japan and one of the world’s most modern cities, Tokyo has a multitude of fantastic towers and observations decks that offer some of the most spectacular views in all of Asia. The newest of these towers is the Tokyo Sky Tree, which is not only the tallest tower in Japan, but also the world. There is also the iconic Tokyo Tower, designed to resemble Paris’ Eiffel Tower, that is often a tourist favorite. If you are looking for a breath, but not money, taking view check out the MGB Towers in Shinjuku. The view is phenomenal and it is completely free. Each of these towers offer wonderful and yet different views of Tokyo. If you have the time and money, we highly recommend checking them all out.
There are times where you just need to get out of the city and be in a more peaceful and natural setting, and there is no better place to do this than a traditional Japanese Garden. Tokyo’s got heaps of fantastic gardens that are some of the nation’s best and very worthy of your visit. Of these famous gardens, our favorites are Koishikawa Korakuen and the Imperial Gardens. The Imperial Gardens are not always open to the public, but when they are they are quite relaxing.
Tokyo’s Shrines and Temples
The city has had a long and interesting history, and with the history came a wealth of historical landmarks. Of these landmarks, we here at Travel Panda like the shrines best. One of our favorites is the famous Meiji Shrine which is surrounded by a dense wooded area. Another famous, albeit infamous, shrine is the Yasukuni Shrine that pays respect to those who died in battle for Japan. Both of these shrines are interesting in their own right and are must sees while in Tokyo. Once you’ve seen the shrines, be sure to visit the iconic Sensoji temple in Asakusa. This beauty is one of the most visited attractions in all of Japan, but what most people don’t know is that it is even more glorious at night.
Tokyo has a great deal of phenomenal museums that are fit for all ages. From museums that cover the history of Sumo to the history of Japanese Wars, Tokyo has got it all. Of particular interest to most will be the Ghibli Museum which brings its movies’ characters to life. There is even a new exclusive short that is played every day as well as a spectacular cafe that serves products based off the films. It is certainly a magical time. Ueno Park also contains numerous historical museums that can easily take days to fully explore. All in all Tokyo has tons of museums for any history or science buff to appreciate.
Side Trips out of Tokyo
If you are feeling tired of the city and need to get out of Tokyo, you can easily hope on a train and get out to one of the many nearby attractions. One of our favorites is Nikko National Park. This park has a great deal of beautiful nature that is wonderfully mixed with some historic temples and shrines. The park is the perfect getaway for someone who wants to see a more traditional Japan. There is also Fuji-Hakone-Izu National Park which includes the famous Mt. Fuji. Either will get you some spectacular hiking and is sure to be a wonderful time.
Being the capital and largest city, Tokyo has a plethora of options to satisfy any hunger. Whether you are craving a specialty of a certain prefecture or of a different country all together, you are bound to be able to find what you are looking for. Seeing how you can get anything and everything here, the more important question should be, “What Omiyage do I buy in Tokyo?” Here are our recommendations.
Tokyo Banana: Perhaps the most famous and commonly bought of all the Tokyo Omiyage, Tokyo Banana is a cream filled pastry in the shape and flavor of a banana. It is quite delicious, but almost everyone gets it.
Shiroi Koibito: Thin wafers with white chocolate on the inside. Can be found in most Omiyage shops.
Yoku Moku Cigars: Thin butter cookies rolled into a long crispy cigar shape.
Tokyo has hotels and hostels than you can even imagine. It is incredibly simple to just show up in Tokyo and walk into a hotel and have a fine stay. The issue is more of cost. If money is not an issue, than by all mean get yourself checked into one of the many interesting hotels Tokyo has to offer. If you want to save a bit of cash, we highly recommend K’s House Tokyo. K’s House has hostels throughout Japan and all of them are quite nice. They even have one several awards for being in the top hostels across the world. Be sure to check them out.