Navigating the world’s largest metropolis—home to almost 13 million people—can be a daunting prospect for visitors. Tokyo’s maze of neighborhoods seems to offer up every imaginable sight and sound—some of them cacophonous and modern (speeding bullet trains; herds of hurrying, be-suited businessmen; bizarrely futuristic toilets), and some of them ancient (centuries-old shrines and temples; the waddling combat of sumo wrestlers). The trick here is to explore one enclave at a time; for instance, starting in Ginza or Shibuya for shopping, then heading to Shinjuku or Roppongi for nightlife. And if you get lost, just ask for help—Tokyo residents are some of the politest city-dwellers in the world.
- An afternoon wander through the city’s most peaceful oasis, Meiji Jingu in the Shibuya district—where a gorgeous Shinto shrine is surrounded by 175 acres of forest, gardens, and walking paths. (If you’re a morning person, substitute a visit to Tokyo’s oldest shrine, Sensoji, before it fills with crowds.)
- Diving into Tokyo’s unique, fantastical culinary offerings—either by visiting the legendary fish stalls in Tsukiji, tasting local delicacies at Isetan Depachika, sampling libations at a sake seminar, or digging into street-food staples like yakitori and ramen.
- Embracing the city’s wild (sometimes just plain weird) youth culture, from Harajuku’s mod-Goth Lolitas to the manga shops and “maid cafes” of Akihabara.