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.
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).
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
The bakery in the New Otani Hotel specializes in mont blanc desserts.
Operating here since 1935, the world’s largest fish market is a sight to be seen and experienced. The jonai (inner market) area for wholesale fish merchants is closed to the general public, but the jogai (outer market) is open to everyone.
Japanese pastry chef Sadaharu Aoki established a reputation in Paris before opening his all-white, ultra-modern Marunouchi shop, where exquisite pastries are displayed like works of art.
Floor-to-ceiling windows and a 52nd-floor location give the New York Bar some of the best views in the city. You might recognize the slick, expansive space with live jazz from the movie Lost in Translation.
The first Disney resort to be built outside the US, Tokyo Disney Resort receives more annual visitors than any of Disney's other international locations.
The Tokyo National Museum in Ueno Park is the largest repository of Japanese art and artifacts in the world, with collections spanning thousands of years and ranging from textiles and ceramics to armor, painting, sculpture, and calligraphy.