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.
The Japanese fascination with patisseries is best expressed in the fruit tarts from Qu’il Fait Bon. These are works of art that must be admired before being cut into.
The dark, designy, one-person deep standing bar sells single servings of sake in little jars to keep the sake fresh.
To the right of the Kaminarimon—the gate opening onto Nakamise Dori, the narrow pedestrian-only shopping street leading to the Sensoji Temple—is this quaint shop specializing in washi, Japanese natural-fiber paper. It has been selling handmade paper and crafts since 1856.
Once the largest toy store in Tokyo, this century-old shop is still home to one of the most impressive toy collections in the city. Opened in 1899, Hakuhinkan is housed in a nine-story building in the Ginza district.
A distilled spirit made from potatoes, rice, wheat, or barley, shochu originated in Kyushu (in southwestern Japan), but is now produced all over the country. The Sho-Chu Authority carries over 3000 varieties of the liquor, which differs from sake in that sake is fermented rather than distilled.
Around the world, the name Mikimoto is synonymous with the highest quality pearl jewelry.
Tokyo’s oldest temple, completed in A.D. 645, is devoted to Kannon, the Buddhist deity of compassion and mercy. Throughout their history, temple structures were repeatedly destroyed by natural disasters, fires, and most recently in World War II air raids.
France's top pasty provocatuer is a household name in Tokyo, with several boutiques and a swank marbled Bar Chocolat created by Wonderwall, the cutting-edge design firm behind Uniqlo stores.
While in Asakusa do not miss this furugi (used clothing) store’s affordable secondhand kimonos. Selection and prices vary widely, and even if you are not looking for a kimono to wear, you can find beautiful material to reuse in quilts, handbags, skirts, and other crafty projects.
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.