After an academic exchange of six months in Tokyo, I share with you my tips for the perfect visit of the Land of the Rising Sun capital city.
Three major buildings
First and foremost, you must know that there are three major buildings open to tourists and offering you a breathtaking view of the city. My advice is to select only one building if you are busy or to visit two of them if you are more relaxed. Starting from that statement, my recommendation would be to visit the SkyTree by day to observe Tokyo from above and Tokyo Tower by night to be surrounded by skyscrapers lights.
Inspired by the Paris Eiffel Tower but higher than more than 7 meters (332,6 m in total), the Tokyo Tower is less windy than its cousin thanks to protective windows and offers a unique experience in the heart of Tokyo with a light show every evening.
From its 634 meters high, SkyTree is one of the highest buildings in the world (almost two times the Eiffel Tower). It offers a truly spectacular view and eventually a little dizziness if you have vertigo. If you chose to go there, my recommendation is to take a drink at its top to fully enjoy the view. Located close to Asakusa, you can visit both the district and this tower at the same time.
Roppongi Hills, Mori Tower
Located in the Roppongi district, a landmark of expatriates, this skyscraper is less exotic than the two others, at least at first sight. However, its strength is the open roof from which you have a perfect view of the Tokyo Tower and other buildings located in Tokyo city center. The Mori Museum is also offering a nice experience at the top of the Mori Tower.
The districts you must see!
Asakusa district is one of the most touristic districts of Tokyo, nevertheless, it is not a reason to miss it. It is the right place to buy souvenirs, take pictures and observe Japanese women and men wearing traditional kimonos. Located close to SkyTree, you can visit both this district and the tower at the same time.
Rent a Kimono
As many Japanese rent a kimono to visit Asakusa, tourists can live this experience as well. My recommendation is to take advantage of this unique opportunity to live the Japanese kimono experience even when being a “gaijin” (foreigner). Do not be ashamed, you won’t be alone as more and more people are convinced by the experience. The price is around 5980¥ for a woman and 5680¥ for a man. For this price you will be hair-styled and have the possibility to chose your kimono. More information on the following page.
If there is one place to visit in Tokyo, it is Shibuya and its well-known crossing, Shibuya Crossing. Often compared to Times Square in New York City or Piccadilly Circus in London, you will be blown away by the atmosphere, the lights, the crowd and the overall energy coming out of Shibuya. Lose yourself in this district, you might taste the most memorable ramen’s of your life, buy a souvenir in one of the many shops disseminated along the streets or sing in a karaoke until you lose your voice. You may have already seen the crossing in a movie or a commercial but seeing the lights turning green for pedestrians and everyone crossing in all directions will still be a surprising experience.
You should also observe the statue of Hachiko, the dog who waited 10 years for his master’s return from office outside of Shibuya station before finally dying. This story is well-known in Japan and represents the love between a dog and its master, it even helped to save the Akita race who were on the brink of extinction. Read more about this story if you have some time or watch the American movie based on it and called “Hatchi” with Richard Gere.
Enter in a Pachinko
A Pachinko is the name of a typical Japanese slot machine, often located in a very noisy and crowded place. To find one, you may go to Shinjuku, Shibuya but there is plenty all over the country. If you are brave enough, you might even try to play.
Shop in Mega Don Quijote
While strolling in Shibuya, make a stop at Mega Don Quijote (28-6 Udagawacho, Shibuya City, Tokyo 154-0042, Japan), it is the biggest of Japan. A huge shopping mall divided by floors where you will be able to find all you ever dreamed about, and even more, from toothpaste to Halloween costumes. It is open 24/7 so do not forget to go back to real life afterward.
Other districts to visit :
If Shinjuku is known as a business district, it is also a nice place to go for Game Centers (as well as Shibuya). It is composed of a huge building with several floors, a different atmosphere on each floor and a different craziness at every corner. A must-see in Tokyo!
If you are interested in video games, make a stop in Akihabara, the gaming place of Tokyo. Enter in one of the many buildings along the way and rediscover your favorites games, discover new ones or buy figurines of your favorite manga character.
The « romantic » district of Tokyo with its big wheel, its shops, its ferries, and its Liberty Statue.
Kabuki-za Theatre of Ginza
If you walk by the rich district of Ginza, have a stop in front of the Kabuzi-za Theatre, observe it from outside or even let you tempted by a play.
A bit further from Tokyo city center:
Yokohoma in its whole is a place to visit if you have some time but if you want to have a taste of China in Japan, have a look to Yokohama Chinatown and lose yourself in the Middle Kingdom for a while before going back to the Land of the Rising Sun.
Gotoku-ji Temple (Maneki-Neko)
Last but not least, the Gotoku-ji Temple. In Asia and even more in Japan, you will see these Maneki-Neko (literaly “beckoning cat”) statues and goodies all around the shops. You may guess that it is a lucky charm supposed to bring fortune to its owner but do you know that a temple is specifically dedicated to it? If the story of these little cats does get your attention, have a look to the thousands of statues disseminated by people from Japan and all over the globe for years in that unique place.
It is already the end of my Tokyo guide, other Tokyo places such as the Edo castle, Meiji-Jingu or Tokyo Dome could have been included but I think you could already have a glance to Tokyo’s atmosphere with these recommendations. All the pictures from that article were taken by me, I hope it will help you to fully enjoy Tokyo.
Please do feel free to comment and share your experience of Tokyo in the comments and give me your opinion. I would be delighted to hear about your experience and find out more interesting places in this shining capital.