Eastern Park of the Imperial Palace
The Imperial Palace is the residence of Japan's Imperial Family and is located in the middle of Tokyo. Most of the palace grounds are closed to the public but guests can visit the Imperial Palace East Gardens (or Kokyo Higashi Gyoen) which is open for public for free all year round. Inside you will see beautiful Japanese-style gardens, historical ruins such as walls and guardhouses from the Edo period. Also located on the same grounds is the Museum of Imperial Collections (or Sannomaru Shozokan) which displays a collection of over 6,700 pieces by Emperor Showa including ancient brush paintings, arts and crafts.
- Opening Hours: 09:00 to 16:30 (until 17:00 from mid April through August; until 16:00 from November through February), closed on Mondays and New Year holidays The Museum of Imperial Collections open March to October 09:15 - 16:15, November to February 09:15 -15:45, closed on Mondays, Fridays and New Years Holiday.
- Location: The East Gardens is a short walk from Otemachi Station on the Chiyoda, Tozai, Marunouchi, Hanzomon and Mita Subway Lines, a10-minute walk from Tokyo Station.
- Tel: Tel: +81 (0) 3-32131111
Ginza Wako - Clock Tower
The Ginza Wako Building is a Neo-Renaissance style building with a clock tower dating back to the 19th century. The building is the landmark for the Ginza shopping district and was first founded in 1881 by Kintaro Hattori, a watch and jewelry specialist. Ginza Wako (or just Wako for short) is one of the relatively few buildings that survived World War II. Nowadays Wako is one of the most well-known retailers in Japan and houses upscale foreign merchandise such as watches, jewelry, dishware and porcelain. The clock tower plays the famous Westminster Chimes.
- Opening Hours: 10:30-18:00, closed on Sundays
- Location: At the northwest corner of the Ginza's centrally located junction of Chuo and Harumi Dori
Hakuhinkan Toy Park
With four floors of toys and games, Hakuhinkan is truly a paradise for every child as well as young-at-heart adults. The store was first opened in 1899 which makes it one of the oldest toy stores in Japan. Hakuhinkan features all sorts of toys, from computer games to board games, jigsaw puzzles, game arcades, magic tricks, wooden toys, Japanese dolls and traditional goods, music boxes, stuffed animals and joke gifts. Hakuhinkan also has a toy clinic, a duty-free counter and child-friendly restaurants.
- Opening Hours: 11:00 – 20:00, Restaurants open from 11:30 – 22:00
- Location: On Chuo Dori Street, near the overhead expressway. Try the JR Yamanote Line to Shimbashi (Ginza exit) or Toei Asakusa Line to Shimbashi (exits 1 and 3)
Ice Cream Museum
When in Ikebukuro, you should check out the Ice Cream Museum inside the Sunshine City Complex. It is located inside the Sunshine Namja Town which is an indoor theme park built in the Edo style. The park lies on the first floor between the two big shopping malls Alpa and Alta. If you’ve never tried ice cream from Japan, Turkey, Italy or Belgium, you will have the chance here. This place holds countless pints of ice cream in just about every flavour under the sun including octopus, squid, beef tongue, snake and Indian curry, to name just a few.
- Opening Hours: Daily, 10:00 - 22:00
- Location: Inside Namja Town on the first floor between Alpa and Alta shopping malls
Traditional Japanese Kabuki performances are one of those things that you either love or hate. People who love it say that just the music, costumes and all the colours on stage alone make the kabuki a must-see for everyone. At the Kabukiza Theatre in Ginza, Kabuki performances are held throughout the year with the option of ‘translation headphones’ for foreign audiences. Typically there are two shows per day, each lasting about three to five hours but each show breaks up into a few acts. Visitors can get tickets for the whole show or just a single act.
- Opening Hours: Daily
- Location: Ginza. Kabukiza Theatre is accessible at the Higashi-Ginza Subway Station stop. Exit 3 leads you out directly in front of the theatre.
- Tel: +81 (0) 3-35413131
Nakamise is not just a typical shopping street in Tokyo; its history can be traced back several centuries. With an Japanese traditional atmosphere, souvenirs are sold along both sides of the 200-metre pedestrian street which is made up of close to100 small shops. Items for sale here include traditional yukata dresses, Japanese masks, dolls, folding fans, T-Shirts and more. Other must-try goods are popular local snacks such as Japanese senbei (rice crackers), ningyoyaki cakes (small cakes with sweet azuki bean filling), dango (sweet dumplings) and kaminari-okoshi (a traditional Japanese crunchy and colourful sweet snack).
- Opening Hours: Daily, 09:00 – 18:30
- Location: In the heart of Asakusa near the Sensoji Temple, Tokyo
National Museum of Modern Art
This museum houses many works of Japanese artists from the Meiji period to the present as well as some by foreign artists such as Paul Klee, Alexander Rodchenko, Wassily Kandinsky, Francis Bacon, Jean Dubuffet and Bertrand Lavier.
- Opening Hours: 10:00 to 17:00, Friday 10:00 to 20:00, closed on Mondays
- Location: inside Ueno Park (A few steps from Takebashi Subway Station)
- Tel: +81 (0) 3-57778600
- Price Range: 420 yen, free the first Sunday of every month
National Science Museum
Here, exhibitions are presented in sections i.e. the Earth Pavilion and the Japan Pavilion which shows the origins of Japan since prehistoric times until the present day. Other numerous exhibits include the physical sciences, and hands-on exhibits for children to teach them the basics of science and technology. Look out for the giant blue whale and steam engine on the grounds of the museum. They are particularly popular. Of all the museums inside Ueno Park, this one was the first to open.
- Opening Hours: Tuesday – Thursday 09:00 – 17:00, Friday 09:00 – 20:00 and Saturday & Sunday – 09:00 – 18:00
- Location: Inside Ueno Park
- Tel: +81 (0) 3-57778600
- Price Range: 600 yen – further charges may apply for special exhibitions
Roppongi Hills is a mega complex that features residential apartments, extensive shopping, dining, art galleries, office space, TV studios, gardens and parks and many entertainment options such as movie theaters and museums. The highlight here is the Mori Tower and its observation deck, the Tokyo City View. The idea of the developer is to have a town within a town where people can live and work and enjoy an optimum lifestyle without having to travel. The idea and concept took about 17 years to become reality and eventually opened in April 2003.
- Opening Hours: Daily
- Location: In Roppongi
- Subway: Tokyo Metro Hibiya Line or Toei Subway Oedo Line Roppongi Station
When in Asakusa, visit the popular Buddhist temple, Sensoji (aka Asakusa Kannon Temple), the oldest in Tokyo. Many tourists associate it with the large red lantern hanging at one of its gates with engraved characters saying ‘Kaminari-mon’ or ‘Thundergate’.
Legend has it that Sensoji was built in 645 for the goddess of Kannon. The whole temple Read More...
- Opening Hours: 06:00-17:00 from April-September and 06:30-17:00 from October-March
- Location: In Asakusa. The temple can be accessed via the Nakamise shopping street.
This charming little museum shows the daily life of Japanese people during the Edo period. The museum has English-speaking tour guides explaining traditional street scene replications complete with a merchant's house, shops and a tenement building as well as a display of period toys on the second floor where you are allowed to try out many items. Visitors can have a close look at how a traditional living room, bedroom and kitchen looked like in the old days. It is a must-visit place if you are in the area.
- Opening Hours: 09:30 to 16:30 closed on Mondays
- Location: In Ueno Park, next to the Shinobazu Pond
The Sony building is another large edifice housing showrooms, shops, cafés and restaurants. It was built in 1966 and was inspired by New York's Guggenheim Museum. One of its most talked- about units is the Sony Showroom where there is a high-vision theatre and broadcasting studio showing visitors how its technology works. It is quite amazing. If you are impressed by any products you see in the Sony Showroom you can buy them at a special shop at duty-free prices. While in the Sony Building you might as well want to explore the Plaza Ginza. It is the best place to shop for interior products, snacks, cosmetics and much more.
- Opening Hours: All sections open daily from 11:00 - 19:00 except the restaurants which stay open until 21:00. Entrance is free
- Location: Next to the Sukiyabashi crossing
Every spring, many people come to admire the beautiful light-pink cherry blossoms along both sides of the Sumida River. The strikingly vivid trees are said to be planted by the eighth Tokugawa Shogun Yoshimune. The scenic spot attracts both tourist and local picnickers who sit and enjoy their drink/food under the amazing cherry trees. After the sun goes down, the park’s avenues are lit with beautiful lanterns which makes the night out even more enjoyable. Some people prefer to take a boat tour down the river, all the better to view the blossoms, and others prefer the scene at night as it presents a whole different perspective. The weather can be a little cool at night time, so bring along a small blanket and heavy clothing if you plan to stay for a while.
- Opening Hours: year round but more popular in springtime for the cherry blossoms
- Location: Along Sumida River in Asakusa (try Tokyo Subway Asakusa Station No. 5 Exit)
Sumo wrestling is a popular traditional sport and has been part of Japanese culture since ancient times. It is said that in the distant past people used sumo wrestling to entertain the Shinto gods. Visitors can enjoy traditional sumo wrestling tournaments in Tokyo at the Kokugikan Stadium in Ryogoku in the month of January, May and September. There are many fights in the course of one day and each fight lasts only a few seconds, or on rare occasions, for about a minute.
In the old days, all the wresting participants were Japanese nationals but things have changed. There are now quite a few élite wrestlers who are Mongolian, Bulgarian and even Hawaiian. And like many other sports, spectators can enjoy drinks and food and talking to friends while watching sumo. If you stay until the final match, it is considered good manners and very important from a cultural point of view to stay on until the ending ceremony is complete. It is a short ceremony which is in fact quite interesting to witness. English-language commentary via audio headphones is available throughout the proceedings.
If you miss the chance to see sumo wrestling, make sure that you visit the sumo museum located next door to the stadium. The exhibitions will help you appreciate and understand more of the art of sumo wrestling. It displays many vintage objects of sumo-related items from the Edo period to the present. Free admission.
- Opening Hours: On the tournament day, it usually starts off around 10:00 but the major wrestlers do not start until 16:00. Sumo Wrestling Museum open 10:00 - 16:30, closed on Sat and Sun and on Japanese holidays.
- Location: Ryogoku
Sunshine City is a four-building complex in Ikebukuro that features several large shopping malls, a theme park, an observation deck, an aquarium, a museum, a convention centre, a theatre as well as large offices. It offers lively shopping opportunities such as exclusive designer shops, ladies fashion wear, household goods shops and a big Toys R Us stall. When it comes to dining, the choices are unlimited, from fast-food to European cuisine and many Japanese restaurants, which are not necessary cheap.
- Opening Hours: Sunshine 60 Observation Deck on the top floor of the Sunshine 60 skyscraper. 10:00 - 21:30 daily. Sunshine Namja Town Theme Park open 10:00 - 22:00 daily. Shopping section open 10:00 – 20:00 daily. Restaurant and dining section open 11:00 – 22:00 daily.
- Location: In Ikebukuro, Tokyo (about 15 minutes walk to the east of Ikebukuro Station.)
The National Museum of Western Art
The National Museum of Western Art (NMWA) was based on the Matsukata Collection of 370 works (many of which are impressionist paintings) and was previously under the care of the French government. The museum has expanded its collection since opening in 1959 by purchasing more works of art every year. Their collection now features pre-18th century and 19th to early 20th century paintings, including works by Ritzos, Van Cleve, Veronese, Rubens, Van Ruysdae,l Ribera, Delacroix, Courbet, Manet, Renoir, Monet and Van Gogh. Visitors will also find the famous sculptures ‘The Thinker’ and ‘The Gate to Hell’ by Auguste Rodin in the museum’s garden. NMWA is the only Japanese museum devoted to western art.
- Opening Hours: 09:30 - 17:00, Fridays 09:30 - 20:00, close on Mondays
- Location: Inside Ueno Park
- Tel: +81 (0)3-38285131
Tokyo Disneyland was the first Disneyland to be built outside of the USA and has been open since 1983. It is still a very popular destination for families and people of all ages and the park is divided into six areas: Adventureland, Westernland, Critter Country, Fantasyland, Toontown and Tomorrowland.
This place is purpose built for lots of fun, with big balloons in the shape of Disney characters as well as Mickey, Daisy and Pluto & Co strolling around the park, giving visitors a chance to take pictures with and of them. The entrance to Disneyland is full of Victorian-style theme shops, restaurants and cafés and at one end of the main street is the elegant Cinderella Castle, visible throughout the park. There are also a number of parade routes with colourful floats and characters such as Snow White and Beauty and the Beast.
You night not notice that several dressed-up visitors are not even members of the park staff. They are just folks who are really into Disneyworld and are not afraid to show it. And they are happy if you take photos of them, too, just like real Disney characters! (see also Disney’s Magic Kingdom in Orlando)
- Opening Hours: Daily
- Location: In Urayasu City, outside Tokyo. The best way to go there from Tokyo is by train and the nearest station is Maihama Station
Tokyo National Museum
The National Museum was founded in 1872 and is one of the most important museums in Japan. Made up of five exhibition buildings, the museum’s collections are quite impressive. It features items from the Jumon period and traditional Japan arts and crafts such as samurai swords, armour and kimono dress as well as arts, crafts, and archaeological findings from other Asian countries. The museum also houses special exhibitions from time to time. Call to check their schedule.
- Opening Hours: 09:30 - 17:00 (last admission at 16:30) closed on Mondays
- Location: Inside Ueno Park
- Tel: +81(0) 3-54058686
The Tokyo Tower is a Tokyo icon and a famous tourist landmark. Based on the Eiffel Tower (it’s actually 13 metres higher than its French mentor), it was completed in 1958 when a large broadcasting tower was needed in the Kanto area. It is pretty much still active, broadcasting Japanese media outlets including NHK, TBS and Fuji TV. There are two observatories in the building at 150m and 250m high and other facilities include the Aquarium Gallery that features 50,000 ornamental fish, souvenir shops, a game corner, restaurants and fast food outlets, an amusement park (with a good number of vintage toys among other things). For fans of jazz, R&B, and Bossa Nova, check out the live music every Wednesday and Thursday at Club 333 on the first floor main observatory. There is no extra charge for the music, just pay the regular observatory fee. The Special Observatory at 250 m may be closed or its operating hours changed during to stormy weather.
- Opening Hours: Main Observatory (150 m) open daily 09:00-22:00 (Last admission 21:45) Special Observatory (250 m) open daily from 9:00-22:00 (Last admission 21:30) Wax Museum, Space Wax and Guinness World Records Museum Tokyo open daily from 10:00-21:00 (Last admission: 20:30)
- Location: Minato. Not far from Roppongi
A visit to Toshogu Shrine inside Ueno Park is an unforgettable experience. Founded in 1627, it was dedicated to Tokugawa Ieyasu, the founder of the Edo Shogunate which ruled Japan from (1603 to 1867). The architecture of the shrine seen today went under major renovations with rebuilding and a redesign 24 years after it was built. Here, you'll find a beautiful 170-metre-long wooden wall that surrounds the Haiden (the main structure and the hall of worship) and 50 large copper lanterns that are used in religious ceremonies. The shrine has a rich interior with many original artifacts such as a shogun’s armour and sword, as well as maps dating back to the era. The Toshogu Shrine was declared a National Treasure in 1907.
- Opening Hours: Daily from 09:00 – 17:00
- Location: Inside Ueno Park, just in front of Ueno Station
Tsukiji Fish Market
Asia’s biggest fish market is located in Ginza, Japan busiest business district (and most expensive location too). Though it is not at all aimed at the tourist market, its lively reputation has attracted outsiders and slowly but surely visitors have started to go to observe this fascinating scene which starts as early as 05:00 and is over by mid afternoon.
The famous tuna auctions take place between 05:15 and 06:00 behind an opaque curtain but you can still see and hear the action. Besides seeing various types of seafood, as well as large and expensive tuna (usually over 100kg each) being cut up at the spot, visitors should also try having breakfast at the market. Many small shops there serve a food setup that consists of sushi, miso soup and tea.
There is an English-language map provided at the main gate also. Since the market is very busy with trucks, forklifts, and small vehicles rushing about, visitors are asked to be especially careful and vigilant when they visit. Photography is allowed as long as your flash is turned off.
- Opening Hours: The market is open everyday except Sundays and public holidays. Best time to go is before 08:00
- Location: Ginza
For a city zoo, Ueno Zoo does a fine job and features 500 different species spread over 35.2 acres. Founded in 1882, it is the oldest zoo in Japan. A few historical buildings are dotted around the zoo’s grounds such as a five-storey pagoda which was originally built in 1631 and a historic tea-ceremony house, built to entertain shoguns in 17th century.
This zoo is divided into the East Garden and the West Garden and takes about two to three hours to explore the entire place. Ling Ling, the world-famous celebrity panda died here at age 22. Still, there are many other interesting animals to see, including Asian elephants, snow monkeys and other exotic animals, as well as African hoofed animals such as giraffes, hippopotami and zebras. Don’t miss the Children’s Zoo where kidscan come into contact with free-ranging domesticated animals. Other facilities include gift shops, snack bars and restaurants. Uneo Park is a big site therefore there are lot of table and chairs at which to relax.
- Opening Hours: 09:30 – 17:00 (Admission tickets sold until 16:00), Closed on Mondays
- Location: The Ueno Zoo is located on the west side of Ueno Park
- Tel: +81 (0) 3-38285171
- Price Range: Adult (16 upward) 600 yen, children (age 13-15) 200 yen, Kids under 12 are free
Where to See Sumo Training
If you are interesting in seeing some sumo training, you can visit several sumo stables where the wrestlers live and train together under strict regimes. Practice is usually quite early in the day from around 06:00 until 11:00. Advance inquiry is a must.
Tamanoi-beya: A 10-minute walk from Nippori Toneri Liner Nishiarai Taishinishi Station (Contact: email@example.com)
Chiganoura-beya: Five minutes by car from Tokyo subway or Tobu Line Asakusa Stations (Tel: +81 (0) 3-38742663)
Arashio-beya: A one-minute walk from Tokyo Subway Hamacho Station (Tel: +81 (0) 3-36667646)
Yebisu Beer Museum
Japan had its first taste of beer in the Meiji Period and since then the country has been producing many popular beers. Yebisu Beer was created in 1890 at this very location even before the town of Ebisu and the surrounding area was established. Yebisu Beer is still being produced and is now owned by the famous Sapporo Beer Company. At the museum, visitors will see many interesting beer- related items and objects displayed such as old equipment and old beer advertisements. There is a tasting lounge where one can try various Yebisu beers at a reasonable price, which makes the museum even more attractive to visit. Free entrance to the museum.
- Opening Hours: 10:00 – 18:00, closed on Mondays and during the New Year holidays
- Location: In Shibuya, near a commercial complex called Yebisu Garden Place
- Tel: +81 (0) 3-54237255
Nikko National Park
The 1,407sqkm Nikko National Park is one of the most beautiful and most visited regions in Japan. It features wide moorland, waterfalls and lakes, forests that reach back in time as well as impressive mountains such as Mount Okushirane (2,578m), Mount Nantai, Mount Nasu, and Mount Hiuchi. The park has a number of spas that feature Read More...
- Location: 140 km north of Tokyo