Tokyo Travel Guide
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 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.
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.
Home to more than 200 shops, restaurants, and services, Roppongi Hills is one of Tokyo's premiere shopping destinations, located in the heart of an area that includes residences, a museum, hotels, theaters, and galleries.
Sushi chefs who arrive at the crack of dawn for the finest-grade tuna and yellowtail in the massive, centrally located Tsukiji-Jogai Market head to Sugimoto, sandwiched between other specialty stalls, to have their knives professionally honed.
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.
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.
Sugino's creations are baked daily in minuscule quantities, which qualifies them as gentei (limited-edition) and thus extra-desireable.
To spot the Harajuku girls, stroll along this pereptually crowded, store-lined street.
The Japanese are obsessed with stationery, and Ito-ya is just the place to satisfy the habit, with 11 floors of paper, notebooks, photo albums, pens, pencils, markers, decorative boxes, office supplies, and other things you don’t need but soon find yourself craving.