Tokyo is a complex city that can keep any tourist busy for weeks. We thought we would break the city’s attractions down in a simple to follow formula, and what could be simpler than the ABC’s. Now some of our choices are a bit of a stretch, but bear with us, Q’s and X’s are not the easiest to fill.
A is for Asakusa
Asakusa is one of the more popular tourist districts in Tokyo and contains the famous Sensoji Temple and Nakamise Dori. Here you can knock off most of your souvenir shopping while taking in one of the city’s oldest and most impressive temples. Before entering into the temple, we recommend hitting up the Asakusa Information Center. The center has a combination cafe and observatory on the 8th floor, which offers a tremendous view as well as some delicious cheese cake. The temple is lit up at night which only adds to its travel value.
B is for the Bayside
Tokyo may be well known for its towers, cosplay, an otaku, but what about its bay area? One of our favorite views of Tokyo can be found in Odaiba where the beach offers a spectacular view of the water, Rainbow Bridge, and the the Tokyo skyline. Definitely one of the more romantic scenes in all of Tokyo.
C is for Cafes
Cafes may not rank very high on your to do list for a normal vacation, but if you are planning a trip to Tokyo, you may want to make some time for a coffee break. We’re not talking about the typical Starbucks, but rather some of the more unique cafes that Tokyo brings to the table. Here you can sip coffee while an owl perches on your shoulder, while you play with kitties, or even while you hang out with giant two story Gundam Mobile Suit statues. Don’t miss out on these awesome cafes.
D is for Disney
M-I-C-K-E-Y M-O-U-S-E! That’s right. While visiting Tokyo, you can hang with Mickey himself. The shows may be less enjoyable if you do not speak Japanese, but hey, you don’t need to understand the language to enjoy the rides. Here you will find all of your favorite rides and characters that you would expect from a Disney theme park. If you are traveling with kids, you might want to consider making a day trip out to Disney and get your Mickey on.
E is for Edo Castle
Edo castle may have been torn down over a century ago, but the remains are still pretty spectacular. Here you will find a rather expansive garden, the castle base, and several different castle buildings that will almost make you forget that you are in the 21st century. The area is beautiful and absolutely free. Just make sure it is open before you go.
F is for the Fish Market
Oh Tsukiji Fish Market. How can one attraction be so awesome yet awful at the same time? The Tsukiji Fish Market is one of the largest fish markets in the world, and has been in operation for centuries. It is an important piece of culture that should be on your to do list, however, you have to get up at an ungodly hour to catch a glimpse of these fish. Only the first 120 visitors are able to watch the auctions, so you are going to want to get there pretty darn early. When we say early, we do mean EARLY. Try to get there by 4 AM. But hey, after the auction you can treat yourself to one of the best sushi breakfasts you will ever have. So worth it, right?
G is for the Ghibli Museum
If you like anime, chances are you’ve at least heard of Studio Ghibli. It is the art studio behind Totoro, Prince Mononoke, Spirited Away, and so much more. Well Ghibli has a museum dedicated to the characters from its movies just a short train ride out of Tokyo, and it is every bit as magical as you would expect. The entire museum is something straight out of a dream. It is the perfect side trip for any fan, but what is the cherry a top this already dream like sundae of a museum is its theater which plays unreleased shorts. Easily our favorite museum in all of Japan.
H is for Hama Rikyu
We are going to talk about parks later on in this alphabet run through Tokyo, but Hama Rikyu is so good it deserves its own letter. The park can be found near Tokyo’s bay area and has a major focus on both the lake and the ocean. In the middle of the park you will find a massive lake that is fed sea water from the bay. In the middle of the lake though, you will see a rather large tea house where you can enjoy the art of tea while you take in the gorgeous mixture of natural and man made beauty. One of the most peaceful settings in all of Tokyo.
I is for Imperial Palace
You may or may not realize this, but Japan does have an Imperial family and although they do not hold any real power, they are very popular amongst the Japanese. The palace where they live is typically closed off to the public, but you can sign up for a tour.
J is for J-Pop
Like J-Pop? Well Tokyo is the perfect place for you. The city is filled with CD shops, live performances, and possibly the best place to find used CDs. Even if you are not into J-Pop, we highly recommend picking up a random used CD or two just to get a taste of the culture.
K is for Kamakura
Once again, not technically in Tokyo, but Kamakura is the perfect day trip from the city. Here you will find loads of temples, shrines, beaches, and the famous Daibutsu statue. If you are looking for a bit of traditional Japan, or even the chance to leave the city, Kamakura is where you want to go.
L is for Lights
Tokyo gets pretty after dark. The streets are illuminated by large, bright, neon signs on both sides of the street. The city even lights up some of its more popular attractions like Senso Ji in Asakusa. If you are just looking for a nice night time stroll, check out Shibuya or Akihabara.
M is for Maid Cafes
We’ve talked about Tokyo’s abundance of unique cafes earlier in our alphabet, but Maid Cafes are so special they deserve special mention. Here you will be treated as a master, be served cute dishes with special designs, play games with the maids, and even get your picture taken with the maid that serves you. It weird, very Japanese, and a bit of culture you just should not miss while in Tokyo.
N is for Nikko
Another popular side trip out of Tokyo, Nikko is one of Japan’s most historical and important areas. The area’s shrines and temple make up one of the country’s UNESCO World Heritage sites and is just impressive to see. Unfortunately, many of the sites are currently under construction and will remain under a curtain until 2019. However unsightly that curtain may be, the shrines, temples, and waterfalls that you can see make for one unforgettable trip.
O is for Onsen
Long walks through the streets of Tokyo got you feeling fatigued? Why not take a breather at Oedo Onsen Monogatari. Bathing naked in a public bath may seem slightly awkward at first, but the onsen is much more than that. Here you will get the chance to wear a yukata, experience what a traditional Japanese festival would be like, get a massage, take part in the foot bathes, and, if you feel up for it, a dip in the real onsen. The experience is well worth the money.
P is for Parks
Tokyo has enough parks and gardens to keep you busy for weeks. Here you can relax near the ponds, take in the beautiful gardens, listen to the birds, and just forget that you are in the city. Maybe P should be for Peace, because that is exactly what you will get at these parks.
Q is for Quality Sushi
Sushi might just be the best thing to ever come out of Japan, but unfortunately the sushi you get outside of Japan isn’t always the best. Here in Tokyo you can get some grade A fresh slabs of fish. Some of the restaurants here take their sushi so seriously that it has become an art form. Just watch Jiro Dreams of Sushi.
R is for Rickshaw
There are two great ways to see the city. One is from atop a giant tower. The second, and arguably more fun, method is to see Tokyo by rickshaw. Rickshaw tours can be found in Asakusa and if you do decide to hop aboard, you will be treated to a fantastic historical tour of the area as well as a comfy seat. We highly recommend it.
S is for Shrines
What Tokyo lacks in numbers, it more than makes up in the quality of its shrines. This city has some of the more impressive shrines in all of Japan, not least of which is the ever popular Meiji Shrine. To get here you need to walk through a massive forrest that is planted right in the center of the city. You cannot see Tokyo’s skyscrapers. You cannot hear its bustle. All you see, hear, or even feel is its nature and spiritual presence.
T is for Towers
Tokyo is certainly beautiful from the streets, but the city is breathtaking from the sky. There are several wonderful options including the free MGB Tower, the iconic Tokyo Tower, the stylish Roppongi Hills, and the new record breaking Skytree. All of which offer spectacular views, you just need to pick one.
U is for Ueno Park
So ok, we realize that Ueno is the third park on this list. However, Ueno Park does not make our list for the actual park but rather the many museums found within its grounds. Here you can find a history museum, two art museums, and even a science museum to enjoy. You will come to Ueno for its peaceful setting, beautiful lakes, and temples, but stay for the history.
V is for Video Games
Love video games? We know we do, and there is just no better place on Earth to enjoy the history of gaming. In Tokyo’s Akihabara you can find dozens of multi-story arcades that feature a wide range of games. That being said, Tokyo has a lot more to offer gamers than just arcades. Here you can find stores like Super Potato where you can find and buy all of your old favorites. Some of the classics can be a bit expensive, but worth it for any lover of games.
W is for Washitsu
Washitsu? What’s a washitsu you might ask. It’s simple, a washitsu is a traditional Japanese room that features tatami mats for a floor. Why is this special? The floor creates a connection to old Japan that you just don’t get anywhere else. You can find tatami and washitsus in traditional hotels as well as tea houses. If you get the chance, certainly try to visit one.
X is for Shibuya X-walk
Shibuya’s crosswalk, or in this case X-walk, is quite possibly the most famous crosswalk in the entire world. At any given red light, thousands of people walk across this crosswalk on their way to one of the many shopping malls scattered through out the district. Stop in at the Starbucks across from the station for a bird’s eye view of the madness.
Y is for Yasukuni
Often a topic of controversy, Yasukuni is a must see while in Tokyo. This shrine honors the many Japanese who had fallen fighting to protect Japan in battle. Unfortunately, there are several war criminals who are enshrined with the remains of countless soldiers, which is the source of rage for many in both China and South Korea. That aside, Yasukuni also contains a rather interesting museum that covers the Japanese perspective during its wartime history.
Z is for Zojoji Temple
Finally we reach the letter Z which stands for one of the most underrated temples in all of Tokyo. The temple does not have all that much to offer, but the view of the historic temple with the Tokyo Tower backdrop creates a beautiful symbol that displays how wonderfully the city combines the old and new.