Tokyo is a city that has something for everyone. Whether you want to watch a sumo match or learn about Tokyo’s izakaya culture, gain a better understanding of Edo’s long history, or see some beautiful art, Tokyo has something for everyone. Here is the ultimate list of the top 15 tourist attractions and places in Tokyo that you should not miss.
1. See the View from the Tokyo Skytree
The Tokyo Skytree, the country’s tallest structure (and the world’s tallest freestanding tower), opened in 2012 and quickly became one of the city’s most popular tourist attractions due to the incredible panoramic views from its restaurant and observation decks.
2. Wander through the Tokyo National Museum
The Tokyo National Museum houses over 100,000 significant works of Japanese, Chinese, and Indian art, including over 100 national treasures. The TNM, as it is commonly known, was opened in 1938 and contains highlights such as numerous Buddhist sculptures from Japan and China dating from the 6th century to the present, as well as fine collections of old textiles, historical weapons, and military equipment.
3. Tour the Imperial Palace
The Imperial Palace, with its beautiful 17th-century parks surrounded by walls and moats, is the main attraction of Tokyo’s Marunouchi district. The Imperial Palace, which is still in use by the Imperial family, stands on the site where the Feudal Lord Ota Dokan built the first fortress, the focal point from which the city of Tokyo (or Edo, as it was then) gradually spread.
4. See a Show at the Kabuki-za Theatre, Ginza
Tokyo has several excellent theatres, none more well-known than the historic Kabuki-za Theatre in the city’s bustling Ginza district, which hosts famous traditional Kabuki performances. The theater’s performances, which are based on a mediaeval, highly skilled, and often burlesque theatrical form that includes song and dance, are as popular with tourists as they are with Japanese-speaking people.
5. Get Lost at Yomiuriland
Sometimes all you want is a day to be a kid again, and Yomiuriland has provided that for Tokyo residents since 1964. This amusement park is located 30 minutes outside of Tokyo and features over 40 attractions and seasonal activities, including roller coasters, rides, light shows, and even a bungee jump.
6. Take a Walk at Shibuya Crossing
If you haven’t seen an image of Shibuya Crossing before, you might want to look it up before you go. Consider Times Square multiplied by a factor of several. This intersection is one of the most well-known in the world, and without a doubt the busiest in Japan, with hundreds of thousands of flashing lights from electronic billboards above.
7. Scope the Fashion in Harajuku
Nothing is too outrageous in Tokyo’s frenetic Harajuku District. The neighbourhood refers to the area surrounding Harajuku Station, which is located between Shinjuku and Shibuya. If you want to break the rules of everything cultural and fashionable, this is the place to be.
8. Enjoy Nature and Art at the Meiji Shrine
The magnificent Meiji Shrine (Meiji Jing), dedicated to Emperor Meiji and his wife, Empress Shken, began construction in 1915 and was completed in 1926. Despite being destroyed during WWII, the original structure was rebuilt in 1958 and remains one of Tokyo’s most important religious sites.
9. Explore the Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden
When you visit the Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden, you will be walking through one of Tokyo’s most historic areas. Previously the Naito family’s residence during the Edo period (17th-19th centuries), it was transferred to the Imperial Family. It is now a national garden that opened in 1949 and is regarded as one of Japan’s most beautiful.
10. Visit the Sensō-ji Temple
The exquisite Sensō-ji Temple, Tokyo’s most famous shrine, stands at the end of a long street market filled with vendors selling masks, carvings, combs made of ebony and wood, toys, kimonos, fabrics, and precious paper goods. The temple was founded in AD 645 and is dedicated to Kannon, the Buddhist goddess of compassion. It has been rebuilt several times but retains its original appearance.
11. Stop in at the National Museum of Nature and Science
The superb National Museum of Nature and Science (Kokuritsu Kagaku Hakubutsukan), located in Tokyo’s Ueno Park, opened in 1871 and is one of the country’s oldest museums. The museum, which has been completely renovated and modernised, also has a reputation as one of the country’s busiest and largest museums, housing a vast collection of approximately 250,000 natural history and science materials.
12. Spend Time at the National Museum of Western Art
The National Museum of Western Art is located in Ueno Park, just three minutes’ walk from Ueno Station. It was built in 1959 according to the plans of the famous Swiss architect Le Corbusier. The exhibits, which are mostly works by important French artists, are mostly from the collections of Japanese businessman and art collector Kojiro Matsukata, who purchased them during early-twentieth-century trips to Europe.
13. Enjoy the Collections at the National Art Center
The excellent National Art Center, another of Tokyo’s world-class museums, is housed in a remarkable curved glass building in the city’s Roppongi district. This magnificent facility, which opened in 2007, has since earned a well-deserved reputation for its fine permanent collection of over 600 paintings, the majority of which are from the twentieth century. These include many significant works of modern art as well as frequent visiting exhibitions.
14. Enjoy Nature at Ueno Park
Ueno Park is the city’s largest green space and one of its most popular tourist attractions. It is a paradise-like oasis of green in the heart of busy Tokyo. In addition to its beautiful grounds, the park has a number of temples and museums to visit.
15. Visit the Miraikan Museum
The impressive National Museum of Emerging Science and Innovation (Nippon Kagaku Mirai-kan) – commonly referred to as the Miraikan – one of Tokyo’s newest museums – provides a fascinating insight into Japan’s leading role in the field of technology. This ultra-modern, purpose-built facility, built by Japan’s Science and Technology Agency, includes many hands-on interactive exhibits dealing with everything from earthquakes to weather, as well as renewable energy and robotics.