Tokyo Travel Guide
Tokyo is a city of surprises — ancient temples are nestled among modern skyscrapers and you're just as likely to see someone wearing a cosplay costume as you are to see someone dressed in a traditional kimono. And even though Tokyo is the most populated city in the world, the streets can be almost eerily silent. You'll find every modern convenience (and then some), but because Japan was closed off to the rest of the world for many years, tech evolved in a way that reflects the Japanese psyche, English is not widely spoken, and the far-reaching effect of globalization is still minimal. It is a true breath of fresh air among the myriad destinations that lost themselves in their quest to cater to tourists and meet global ideals.
These contradictions and surprises make Tokyo a city that leaves you curious, fascinated, and wanting more. In a single day you can visit a 7th-century temple, order ramen from a vending machine, and watch a sumo match. There is no shortage of things to do, see, and eat in Tokyo, and while its citizens tend to be respectful and accommodating, they too, like to keep you on your toes. Swing by a maid cafe or a Babymetal concert and you'll know what I mean.
Japan Standard Time (GMT+9)
Best Time to Go
The best time to visit Tokyo is in the spring, when the cherry blossoms bloom (typically March to April) and in the autumn, when the weather cools and the fall colors pop (between September and November). That being said, the weather in Tokyo is fairly temperate — even in the winter — although it can be hot and humid from late June to the end of August.
Things to Know
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I don't speak Japanese: Watashi wa nihongo o hanasemasen
I'm lost: Michinimayoimashita
I would like…: O onegaishimasu…
Calling Code: +81
Capital City: Tokyo
How to Get Around
Trains: It's not shocking that trains are the preferred method of transportation around Tokyo. In fact, the city is so big the train system is divided into two companies: the Tokyo Metro and the Toei Subway. Between the two, there's nowhere in Tokyo you can't access. Just keep in mind that because of Tokyo's sheer size (and amazing train coverage) the metro and subway map can be confusing —make sure to download the Tokyo Subway Navigation for Tourists app before you set out.
Buses: Because the train system is so easy and comprehensive, most people skip the bus. But, it does exist. The Toei Bus runs throughout Tokyo and to neighboring suburbs.
Things to Do
Neighborhoods to Know
Harajuku: It doesn't get much more hip than Harajuku, a neighborhood known for youth fashion, cool vintage and cosplay shops, and colorful street art. When you've had your fill of people watching on Takeshita Street, head to Omotesando Avenue for a dose of more traditional (and high-end) boutiques.
Asakusa: Tokyo may be a bright, modern city, but certain neighborhoods retain a sense of old-world charm. Asakusa, home to Sensō-ji temple and Nakamise Street, which is lined with traditional street food and craft shops, still gives off the feel of ancient Tokyo. In addition to drawing tourists, the area hosts events and festivals along the river and has a bustling dining scene.
Shimokitazawa: Shimokitazawa may be a bit more of a trip, but it's worth every second. The neighborhood is packed with stylish stores selling everything from vintage clothing to records. When you've had your fill of shopping (and people watching) you can swing by one of the many cafes and restaurants.
Shinjuku Golden Gai: The neighborhood of Shinjuku has just about everything you could ever need or want, but one corner of the area is particularly special — the Golden Gai is a network of narrow alleys and passageways filled with uber tiny bars that only seat a few people.Shibuya City: Chances are you'll make it to Shibuya at some point during your journey, and while the neighborhood is most known for the Shibuya Crossing, it also houses two of the busiest railway stations in the world and has excellent shopping.
Spring: It's hard to top spring in Tokyo, especially if you happen to catch the annual cherry blossom bloom. The weather tends to hover between the early 40s and mid 70s (the latter being in May) and averages around 5 inches of rain a month.
Summer: Summer in Tokyo can be warm — with temperatures reaching the high 80s — but air conditioning is everywhere and there are plenty of tree-laden parks for escaping the heat.
Fall: After the spring cherry blossom season, fall is easily the best time to visit Tokyo. The temperature is comfortable and the autumn foliage can be vibrant against the modern cityscape.Winter: It doesn't get frigid in Tokyo temperature wise (it usually floats between 35 and 54-degrees), but because the city is on the water, it can feel colder than it is. If you go during the winter months bundle up and plan out plenty of indoor activities.