Things to do in Tokyo
Tokyo is an enormous city filled with ancient temples and palaces. The Temple of Senso-ji honors Kannon, the Buddhist goddess of mercy. While the statue is not on public display, the beauty of the temple itself makes the trip worthwhile. Senso-ji, meanwhile, is right across from Nakamise-dori, a street lined with craftspeople selling their wares.
Another Tokyo icon is the grand Imperial Palace. It's in the very center of the city and was actually built to replace the original, which was destroyed during World War II. The emperor of Japan and his family still live there and so it is only open to the public on January 2nd and December 23rd (the emperor's birthday). Book ahead to tour the spectacular imperial grounds.
But one of the greatest pleasures here is simply exploring the city on foot, not only wandering into Buddhist temples but also into funky boutiques, noodle shops, and farther-flung residential neighborhoods. Fashion is a huge part of the culture here and you can find some of the more cutting-edge getups on Harajuku's Takeshita Street where people play dress up to a delightful extreme.
Often called the "Japanese Gap," Uniqlo is a fashion retailer specializing in casual, affordable clothing for men, women, and children. While the company has more than 700 stores in Japan (and others worldwide), this flagship Ginza location is its biggest and flashiest.
With everything from hardware to hobby, craft, and office supplies, even sushi-making supplies and lunch boxes, Tokyu Hands is a uniquely Japanese shopping experience and a glimpse into the country's culture.
The bold structure of undulating glass walls designed by Kisho Kurokawa is Tokyo's largest art venue.
Feel the beat of the music as omikoshi (portable shrines) mounted on palanquins are paraded through the streets of Tokyo’s Asakusa neighborhood the third weekend in May. The Shinto festival honors the founders of the Asakusa Shrine and Sensoji Temple.
Most tourists come to Kappabashi (Tokyo’s “Kitchen Town”) to pick up plastic sushi key chains and refrigerator magnets, but the real find is the wooden black-and-red lacquerware at Tanaka.
There are 70 kinds of salt at the depachika (department store basement food hall). The vinegar sommelier holds tastings and sells "infuse-your-own-vinegar" kits.
Among the most popular toy stores in the city, Kiddy Land is a national chain with more than 80 locations throughout Japan.
Occupying the 45th and 47th floors of the Park Hyatt Tokyo, the Club on the Park is a full-service spa open exclusively to hotel guests and private members.
On New Year's Day, eat osechi (a special feast of seafood and vegetables) and join the happy crowds huddling outside the Meiji- Jingu Shrine to get good tidings.
Housed in a modern Japanese building designed by architect Kengo Kuma, the Suntory Musuem of Art is a striking white structure with vertical louvers that run the length of the exterior.
If you are lucky enough to be in Tokyo for a sumo match, get a ticket at the Ryogoku Kokugikan, Tokyo’s main sumo arena. The pomp and circumstance of the prefighting rituals alone is worth the price of the ticket.
Sprinkled throughout the city are “antenna shops,” which stock hard-to-find jizake (regional sake), regional food and crafts, and literature on travel to the region (the shops, each representing different prefectures of Japan, also act as PR offices).