Tokyo is Japan’s capital and the world’s most populous metropolis. It is also one of Japan’s 47 prefectures, consisting of 23 central city wards and multiple cities, towns and villages west of the city center. The Izu and Ogasawara Islands are also part of Tokyo.
Travel in Tokyo is safe, easy, and efficient, and getting around is relatively inexpensive. The subway and train system is extensive, though transferring between the two different subway systems is more costly than traveling on only one. Transfers are sometimes a bit more complicated between JR lines and private railways. English-language signs abound, and English-language subway and train maps are available at major stations. Tickets are dispensed from vending machines, though there is always an attendant on hand (who usually speaks little if any English). There are many services to aid the foreign traveler, among them the Japan National Tourist Organization.
Today, Tokyo offers a seemingly unlimited choice of shopping, entertainment, culture and dining to its visitors. The city’s history can be appreciated in districts such as Asakusa, and in many excellent museums, historic temples and gardens. Contrary to common perception, Tokyo also offers a number of attractive green spaces in the city center and within relatively short train rides at its outskirts.
Top 5 Attractions in Tokyo:
Tsukiji Fish Market
The world’s largest, busiest fish market has long been a favorite destination for jet-lagged tourists with predawn hours to fill. It’s been said that no visit to Tsukiji is complete without a sushi breakfast. There are plenty of sushi counters here, but to find best ones, you need to wend your way to the restaurant area near the wholesale fruit and vegetable market, just inside the main gate off Shin-ohashi Street.
Akihabara (秋葉原), also called Akiba after a former local shrine, is a district in central Tokyo, that is famous for its many electronics shops.
Hundreds of electronics shops, ranging from tiny one man stalls specializing in a particular electronic component to large electronics retailers, line the main Chuo Dori street and the crowded side streets around Akihabara. They offer everything from the newest computers, cameras, televisions, mobile phones, electronics parts and home appliances to second-hand goods and electronic junk.
A small number of hotels around Akihabara Station and across the district offer the ideal choice for those seeking proximity to Akihabara’s otaku culture. Its location along the Yamanote Line makes Akihabara also a convenient base to explore the rest of Tokyo.
Koishikawa Korakuen (小石川後楽園, Koishikawa Kōrakuen) is one of Tokyo’s oldest and best Japanese gardens. It was built by close relatives of the Tokugawa Shogun in the early Edo Period. Koishikawa Korakuen is attractive during all seasons of the year, but particularly so in the second half of November, when the fall colors appear, during the plum festival in late February and when the beautiful weeping cherry tree near the garden’s entrance is in full bloom.
Koishikawa Korakuen is a 5-10 minute walk from Iidabashi Station (various JR and subway lines) or a 10 minute walk from Korakuen Station on the Marunouchi and Nanboku Subway Line
Hama Rikyu (浜離宮, Hama Rikyū), the garden of a feudal lord’s residence during the Edo Period (1603-1867), is one of Tokyo’s most attractive landscape gardens. It is located alongside Tokyo Bay, next to the futuristic Shiodome district.
Seawater ponds, which change water level with the tides, former duck hunting grounds, forested areas and a teahouse are some of the park’s attractions. Furthermore, the contrast between the traditional gardens with Shiodome’s skyscrapers in the background is spectacular.
Hama Rikyu can be accessed by Tokyo Water Bus from Asakusa and Odaiba. Alternatively, it is a 10-15 minute walk from JR Shimbashi Station or Shiodome Station on the Oedo Subway Line and Yurikamome elevated train.
The current Imperial Palace (皇居, Kōkyo) is located on the former site of Edo Castle, a large park area surrounded by moats and massive stone walls in the center of Tokyo, a short walk from Tokyo Station. It is the residence of Japan’s Imperial Family.
From Kokyo Gaien, the large plaza in front of the Imperial Palace, visitors can view the Nijubashi, two bridges that form an entrance to the inner palace grounds. The stone bridge in front is called Meganebashi (Eyeglass Bridge) for its looks. The bridge in the back was formerly a wooden bridge with two levels, from which the name Nijubashi (Double Bridge) is derived.
The Imperial Palace East Gardens are open to the public throughout the year except on Mondays, Fridays and special occasions. More information is available on the East Gardens page.