Tokyo is one of the biggest cities in the world. There are so many things to see and do in Tokyo that you’d probably not get around them all in one trip. At least, not unless you’re staying for 2 weeks or more!
We think that what makes Tokyo so special is the variety and contrast. One minute you’re at the world’s busiest crossing (reportedly)……
…….the next you’re in the serenity of one of the most stunning temples in the world (well, in our opinion).
The city is split into a number of different districts. We knew it would be impossible to get around them all in the time we would have. And so it proved.
Before we went we made a priority list of the things we wanted to see and do. We then worked out the best way to combine at least a couple of these on each day. Once we’d done that we looked at the best way to get to and from those places and back to the hotel. It worked quite well. This guide really helped. We will admit that it made for some long days and sometimes it did feel a bit like a military operation. Having said that, we did manage to get around all the places we wanted to see and things we wanted to do.
We loved Odaiba. Off the beaten track it was well worth the effort. It was easy to get there by rail on the Rinkai Line from Shin-kiba. There is a free (hop on hop off) shuttle bus stopping at all the main sights when you get there. There was so much to do there that we couldn’t do everything we wanted to. Even visiting on 2 separate days. Our first visit was on our first night in Tokyo and even though we were a bit jet-lagged we still enjoyed it. It made a good start to the trip.
It gave us the opportunity to see the Statue of Liberty (yes! Really) and the Rainbow Bridge. Both of these are free.
There are lots of shops and restaurants in this area right on the water in Tokyo Bay. It is actually an artificial Island where everything is illuminated at night. There are two shopping malls – Decks and Aqua City which open from 11:00 to 21:00 and some restaurants open until 23:00.
Our second visit was during the day. We had decided we would visit Miraikan – The National Museum of Emerging Science and Innovation. On our way there we discovered The Mega Web, an interactive car theme park with a History Garage (free), Toyota City Showcase (free) and Ride Studio (charges apply)
Some of us took advantage of the driving instruction on offer and successfully passed the driving tests!
We stumbled across go-karting at the Motorsport Japan 2018 festival in Odaiba where, again, admission was free. The distinctive engine noise and our inquisitive natures drew us in and we really enjoyed what we saw. Something completely unexpected and perhaps an example of the reasons why we did some pretty long days exploring Tokyo. At the time that was tough. But, we don’t go to Japan very often and wanted to maximise our experience. Besides, we did manage to sleep on the flight home! There were also lots of shopping and eating opportunities here.
On our way to the museum we walked through this very quiet sculptured garden made from carbon fibre. Yet another example of free things to do in Tokyo.
The National Musuem of Emerging Science and Innovation was well worth a visit. The highlights for us were seeing ASIMO (a human-like robot by Honda), part of the ISS and taking part in some of the experiments.
This is an area we would definitely visit again.
Home to the famous crossing. Apparently the busiest in the world. This was the main focus of our visit on our first full day in Tokyo. When we walked up the steps from the subway we could feel the busyness even before we saw it. This could be partly because Shibuya station is one of the busiest in the world. Don’t let this put you off. It was busy without feeling crowded and we never felt swamped or in danger of being trampled underfoot! This could be down to local people being some of the nicest and most polite in the world.
We’d read that one of the best views of the crossing is from the overlooking Starbucks. That was not wrong. It took a while to get a seat but it really was worth it. You can sit here and watch for as long as you want. We found it fascinating and the coffee was very reasonably priced!
From here we walked to:
Our journey took us past the Yoyogi National Gymnasium. This will feature in the upcoming Tokyo 2020 Olympics
Harajuku is a bustling shopping area home to Takeshita Street. A famous teen-fashion bazaar. It can therefore get busy. The main reason for travelling here was to visit the:
Meiji Jingu Shrine is one of the main shrines in Tokyo. It is dedicated to Emperor Meiji and Empress Shokenand. The First Torii Gate leading to the to the Meiji Shrine complex is located close to Meiji Jingu Harajuku station. Again, entry here is free.
After passing through the gate you walk down a very pleasant forest road. We soon came to these Barrels of Sake and Burgundy donated by France.
Surrounded by forest, Yoyogi Park is quiet and peaceful, a real contrast to the shops and crossings.
Another Torii gate takes you through to the main courtyard.
We sat here for a while to enjoy the peace and tranquillity. We then moved on by walking to the nearest subway station and making our way to:
Shinjuku is an area of Skyscrapers, department stores and a large electric district with one of the World’s busiest rail stations.
The main purpose of our visit here was the Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building but on the way someone wanted to see the electronics area.
Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building is one of Tokyo’s landmarks with a 45th floor observatory. Admission was free and we timed our visit to take in the spectacular view of Tokyo by day…
….and by night
We will admit that some of us did fall asleep on the comfortable benches here as jet lag got the better of us. It was well worth the wait though. The view of Tokyo by night was special.
Overall this was probably our favourite area of Tokyo. Upmarket and quiet, it was really pleasant here especially on the tree lined Maranouchi Naka-dori Street. Everything felt so relaxed and serene. Almost a million miles away from areas such as Shibuya and Akihabara. We noticed some really nice hotels and restaurants here and have said we’ll stay here for a night or two next time.
We all really liked it here. Some of us because it was so quiet (almost eerily so!), clean and well maintained. Some because of the high-end shops and others because there was a Tiffany’s! As we visited on a Sunday, it was closed! What a shame!
The real reason for our visit was the Imperial Palace but this was a great example of why, sometimes, it’s good to loosen the itinerary and just have a wander.
Tokyo Imperial Palace
The Imperial Palace, the primary residence of the Emperor of Japan, was well worth the visit in our opinion. With so much history, it’s a fascinating place.
The gardens are fantastic and, in April, full of colour.
There were plenty of things to keep us interested. You need a ticket for entry but do not have to pay!
From the Palace we walked to Tokyo Station. A very big and busy, impressive-looking red-bricked building. The station is huge with lots of different fast food options. Apparently chocolate covered pancakes were the order of the day.
From here we took the subway to:
Ginza Shopping district is an area of luxury brands, high-end fashion stores and restaurants. It is considered one of the most expensive/luxurious areas in the world.
We visited the Nissan Crossing to satisfy the petrol heads amongst us. Here, Nissan exhibit luxury, high performance vehicles which some of us had an opportunity to get inside after listening to some interesting talks. Another example of what you may see or do by loosening the itinerary a bit, we found this fascinating. Entry was free.
We hadn’t planned to visit here, we just happened upon it as we were exploring Ginza. We knew we wanted to see Ginza but not what we wanted to do there. Sometimes it’s really enjoyable to not have a plan, and allow yourself just to wander. We’ve discovered some pretty cool things when we have.
The reason we visited Asakusa was to see what was at the top of the list of things to experience on our visit to Tokyo for some of us
Sensoji (also known as Asakusa Kannon Temple) is a Buddhist temple. It is Tokyo’s oldest and most famous temple, just a 5 minute walk from Asakusa Station. Entry is free.
A shopping street of over 200 meters, Nakamise-dori, leads from the outer gate to the temple. It offers a great chance to taste the local food or buy souveniers from about 90 stores.
A huge lantern hangs from its main Gate and most of the buildings
There are huge incense burners outside too which are believed to make body aches feel better
Senso Ji is a truly beautiful place and somewhere we would definately recommend visiting. There were also plenty of things to see and do here and some interesting culinary delights!
From here we took the by subway to:
Being Cherry Blossom season Ueno Park was full of picnickers. It was great to see how the Japanese celebrate this important festival. Entry to the park is free but there is a charge for the Zoo if that’s your thing.
From there we made our way by subway to:
If you have any sort of interest in tech or gaming, like some of us, this will probably be on the top of your to do list. Akihabara is also known as Electric Town due to the quantity of electric stores. Crowds of gamers fill the large 6 story Sega gaming store amongst others.
Another fascinating experience but they can be very busy and noisy inside so we didn’t outstay our welcome here! You can wander the streets or into the arcades for free here but you have to pay for any games you choose to play.