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Tokyo is one of the most vibrant cities in the world, offering a unique blend of traditional culture and modern life. With its neon-lit streets, world-class cuisine, and abundant attractions, it's no wonder it is one of the most popular destinations for tourists and business travelers.
If you're planning a trip to Tokyo, this travel guide will provide you with all the information you need to make the most of your stay. From the best places to visit the top restaurants to try, this guide will help you plan the perfect trip to Tokyo.
Tokyo was originally a small fishing community called Edo. Tokyo's importance grew when Tokugawa Ieyasu, the shogunate of Japan, moved the seat from Kyoto to Edo. Between 1603 and 1868, Japan was ruled by the Tokugawa Shogunate. As a result, Edo experienced rapid growth during this period, making it a center for culture and commerce.
However, Edo was not the capital during the shogunate. Instead, this honor went to Kyoto. This is because Kyoto was the thousand years" capital and the seat for the Emperor. In 1853, the American Commander Matthew C. Perry and his "black vessels" forced the reopening of Japan's ports. This led to drastic changes in Japan's economy.
Japan, already closed to outside influence and trade by the Tokugawa Shogunate for more than 200 years, was shocked by American military technology. As a result, the feudal rulers viewed the shogunate as weak and were outclassed vastly by a Western power.
Also, in 1868, the alliance of Satsuma and Choshu overthrew the Tokugawa Shogunate, historically anti-Tokugawa. After centuries of complete control, the age of the Shogun ended. Edo was then renamed Tokyo.
It is best to visit between March and April, September and November, and then again in October and November. Autumn brings beautiful autumn foliage and mild temperatures. Spring brings cherry blossom trees fully blooming. Besides, summer is the peak tourist season. However, try to avoid summer. It's hot, humid, and expensive. The opposite is winter, which is cold but still manageable.
Our list of top places and things to do in Tokyo will help you explore the city.
Here, you can walk through one of Tokyo's most historic pieces of land. During the Edo Period, the Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden was once home to the Naito Family. Afterward, they transferred to the Imperial Family. It is now a National Garden. This is one of Japan's most beautiful areas.
It combines three traditional gardens: English Landscape, Japanese traditional, and French Formal.
This is one of the most beautiful places in Tokyo. It is also one of the best places in Tokyo to view cherry blossoms. The garden contains approximately 1,500 cherry trees. The garden also has Himalayan cedars as well as cypresses and tulip trees. Autumn is a popular time to visit the garden, as the leaves turn crimson-gold.
Ueno Park is Tokyo's largest green area. It is a tranquil oasis of green. It is also one of the most popular tourist attractions. You can also explore the many museums and temples within the park's beautiful grounds.
Gravel paths crisscross the park's 212 acres. It also includes highlights like a trip aboard a small boat around the Shinobazu pond. This boat will take you to an island with its Bentendo Temple. Also, make sure you visit the Toshogu Shrine. It features 256 stone and bronze lanterns.
Ueno Zoo, also known as Onshi Ueno Dobutsuen, is another highlight. It was established in 1882. It is Japan's oldest zoo and is well-known for its pandas in the People's Republic of China.
Ginza is Tokyo's busiest shopping center. It is just as famous as Times Square in New York. This is because it has been Japan's central commercial hub for centuries. Besides, this is where five ancient roads link Japan's major cities. There, you will find exclusive shops and more, plus it's fun to stroll around. Or, you can sit in one of the restaurants or tea and coffee shops and enjoy the rush of the world passing by. On weekends, everything is open, and it is a shopping paradise.
Tokyo's Marunouchi District is home to the Imperial Palace. It has stunning 17th-century parks surrounded by walls and moats. However, the Imperial Palace is still being used by the Imperial family. It stands on the same site where Ota Dokan, Feudal Lord Ota, constructed his first fortress. From this point, Tokyo (or Edo) began to grow.
The magnificent National Museum of Nature and Science is in Tokyo's Ueno Park. It was inaugurated in 1871. It is also one of Japan's oldest museums.
Here, there are many interactive displays about space development. Besides, nuclear energy and transportation offer visitors unique insights into recent scientific and technological developments.
The remarkable curved-glass building houses the National Art Center in Tokyo's Roppongi district. It is another top-notch museum. This noteworthy facility opened in 2007. But, it gained a reputation due to its excellent permanent collection of 600 paintings, many dating back to the 20th Century. This includes essential pieces of modern art as well as regular visiting exhibitions.
Tokyo's Japanese culture celebrates the mix of the ancient and the modern. Ancient temples meet modern skyscrapers. And while there is a lot of consumerism on the streets today, people must keep a strict code of conduct private.
Most people have heard of the Japanese custom of bowing in greeting. While it's easy for travelers to get lost in the rules, they don't expect tourists to be very well-versed. In social situations, a simple tilt of your head is enough. Besides, take a Japanese person's handshake as an indication that there's no need to bow when they reach out for your hand.
Japan's native language is Japanese. However, most Tokyo residents can speak English. But be patient when you approach locals on the streets. They may not understand what you are saying. Taking off your shoes is a good idea if you're invited to a Japanese home or enter traditional accommodations or restaurants. Suppose you are unsure whether or not to take off your shoes; check the shoe rack before you go. If you see one, it's your cue.
Also, if you are able, bring a gift to Japan. It may be harder to do this if you have not been invited to a Japanese home before, but gift-giving is essential in Japan. It doesn't matter if you have nothing to offer, but bringing something from home will be appreciated warmly. Furthermore, if you are handed a gift, ensure you receive it with both. Japan uses the Yen.
Do not leave chopsticks in a bowl. Also, it is an offense to play with them. And if your nose gets a little runny from the piping hot noodles, don't blow it out in public.
Please consider Tokyo's considerable number of restaurants and the many prestigious awards it holds for dining (it has the most Michelin-starred restaurant in the world). Now you can see why Tokyo is the culinary capital of the globe. Many Japanese restaurants offer yakitori, tempura, and ramen.
Remember that sushi in Japan is quite different from the one you would find at home. Also, the Japanese term for sushi (or nigiri) refers to sushi made with fish pieces placed on top of rice. Traditional sushi is also rolled with seaweed. However, there are no additional frills other than vinegar and wasabi.
Order some sushi and udon noodles. Also, try miso and ramen. Soba noodle is a traditional Japanese buckwheat pasta. You will also enjoy sakitori, charcoal-grilled chicken strips, and Unagi. This eel has been broiled, steamed, seasoned, and then grilled. Kaiseki is a multicourse dinner with seasonal small plates. Also, pair your food with a beer. Japan is the 7th largest beer consumer worldwide. Asahi Kirin and Sapporo are the most significant domestic beer producers in Japan. For dessert, try something matcha-flavored.
Below are some of the best places to stay in Tokyo as a tourist, for nightlife and shopping, for family, close to the train station, and more. Central Tokyo offers a wide range of boutique hotels in high-rise buildings with floor-to-ceiling windows. All guest rooms are equipped with high tech. Some have views of Mount Fuji, a private garden, or even hot springs.
This is the ideal place to stay in Tokyo. Tokyo's main transport hub is situated on the Yamanote Line. In addition, there are many department stores, electronics shops, restaurants, and Kinokuniya's number-one bookstore. You'll also find many other attractions nearby.
Tokyo Station/Marunouchi is more than just a significant transport hub. It's also a wonderful place to stay. You'll find the essential train station here and the terminal station for the Tokaido Shinkansen line. Besides, within walking distance, you can find all of the city's major department stores, including Nihombashi, Ginza, and Nihombashi,
There are also many restaurants in the vicinity. Moreover, you can find the Imperial Palace and other nearby parks. Best of all, the streets surrounding Marunouchi, especially, are wide and peaceful.
Odaiba (Daiba) is a popular entertainment and leisure district. This artificial island is located in Tokyo Bay, and it's the ideal place to stay if you're traveling with children or friends who want to shop and entertain for the weekend.
Shibuya is another major shopping and transport hub. It is west of the Yamanote line. It's also very similar to Shinjuku. Many rates it the same way as Shinjuku. There are convenient transport connections, many shops, restaurants, and other attractions. It's a little less crowded than Shinjuku but a lot more youth-oriented.
Ueno is an ideal place to stay if you are looking for museums. It's also more affordable to live here than in Shibuya or Harajuku. Ueno Koen Park is a landmark located in Oeno. It is just a short walk from Ueno Station, the central station. Ueno Koen Park is known for hosting spring hanami cherry bloom parties.
The park also contains many excellent museums. Shinobazu Pond is also in Ueno-Koen Park, Ueno Zoo, and the historical Toshogu Shrine.
Roppongi is another excellent area to stay. Moreover, many Tokyoites and frequent visitors may consider it the #1 place to stay. Roppongi is a good choice for those who don't want to move around a lot. It is also worth a visit if you value great food, nightlife, and attractions. This is also the most fashionable and vibrant part of the city. This is where wealthy officials eat and drink.
Shinagawa is the central transport hub at Yamanote Line's southern end. It is close to the loop line and Tokaido Shinkansen, so staying here is very convenient, especially if you plan on taking the shinkansen. Besides, the area has many great hotels.
The subway is the best method to get around Tokyo. The subway network will take you everywhere in Tokyo as fast as possible. In addition, it connects you to Tokyo's two main airports, Haneda Airport (HND) and Narita International Airport (NRT). But, even though it is much more prevalent than the bus, it's also subject to traffic delays.
To fully experience Tokyo's bustle and bustle, you can walk around the city. However, it is too large to cover on foot. Although taxis can be costly, you will need them when the subway is closed at night or early morning. Uber is also available in Tokyo.
Tokyo is relatively safe for a large city. However, there is a risk of picking pockets in Tokyo's public transport system. Taxis pose no risk, but expecting your taxi driver to speak English is not a good idea. On the other hand, bus drivers are generally beneficial.
Also, Japan is so prone to natural catastrophes that the authorities regularly warn the population. Besides, Tokyo is susceptible to tsunamis and earthquakes because it is close to an active volcano.
Furthermore, travelers should avoid these areas at night because of the high crime levels in certain districts (e.g., Roppongi, Kabuki-Cho). They are often victims of credit card fraud, drink-spiking, and robbery. While personal attacks are not common, they can happen.