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.
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.
One floor above Gyoza Stadium in Namjatown, Ice Cream City is full of gelato stands and Turkish men selling orchid-root-thickened ice cream. Cup Ice Museum, a theme park within a theme park, has around 300 flavors including Christmas Island salt, soy chicken, and preserved cherry blossom.
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).
A seven-meter, red-granite pool with an illuminated Jacuzzi is the centerpiece of Nagomi Spa, located at the Grand Hyatt Tokyo in Roppongi Hills. Created by acclaimed design firm Super Potato, the spa blends contemporary style with elements from old-fashioned Japanese bathhouses.
The Tokyo City View observation deck has floor-to-ceiling windows that provide panoramic views of Tokyo Tower, Haneda Airport, Mount Fuji, the island of Odaiba, and the Shibuya and Shinjuku districts.
The museum was designed by Richard Gluckman and houses contemporary Japanese art. The shop is worth the 52-story elevator ride for the colorful textiles.
Tokyo’s most impressive depachika (subterranean gourmet food market), Isetan may be the ultimate foodie destination.
Sugino's creations are baked daily in minuscule quantities, which qualifies them as gentei (limited-edition) and thus extra-desireable.
For a unique night out in the city, attend a performance of Tsugaru shamisen, music with origins in northern Japan, played on a traditional three-stringed instrument called a shamisen. Seating is traditional-style on tatami mats, and a cover charge applies.
A lack of Japanese language skills is no barrier to enjoying this terrific market on the grounds of the Togo Shrine—just bring pad and pen, and negotiate the price on paper.
One of Japan's largest department stores (also one of the world's largest), Tobu is located atop the Ikebukuro subway station, with 15 stories above ground and 4 beneath.
The bakery in the New Otani Hotel specializes in mont blanc desserts.