Heading to Japan? Do you need a travel guide? There’s so much to do and see in Tokyo that you’ll need at least a month to do them all! However, if you’ve only got a few days, then we’ve gathered a list of some must do things. These, in our opinions, cannot be missed.
Japan Travel Guide
The Meiji Shrine is Tokyo’s most famous Shinto shrine. The shrine is dedicated to the deified spirits of Emperor Meiji (the first emperor of modern Japan) and his wife, Empress Shōken.
Before entering the shrine, stop at the cleansing station where you’re suppose to purify your hands and mouth before entering. Also, you can write wishes on little pieces of paper, place them in an envelope, along with a donation and drop them in a box. You can also do as the locals do — toss some yen into the offering box (it’s near the enormous taiko drum), bow your head twice, clap twice, and bow once more.
Don’t worry if you forget what to do once you’re there since they have written instructions in both English and Japanese.
Unlike other, more “touristy” shrines, the Meiji Shrine was peaceful and calm.
It’s open from sunrise to sunset everyday and admission is free.
Just adjacent to the Meiji Shrine is Tokyo’s largest park, Yoyogi Park with wide open areas, ponds and forested areas (our favorite section). It’s a surprise and a nice relief from the hustle and bustle of the city.
Yoyogi Park is open from dawn to dusk everyday and admission is also free.
Harajuku is the area around Tokyo’s Harajuku Station (the same station you would exit to get to Meiji Shrine and Yoyogi Park). It’s a pedestrian shopping street and is known as the hub for Japanese pop culture. The focal point in this area is Takeshita Street where you’ll find trendy shops and fashion boutiques, along with endless food outlets.
Even with the vast number of people, it was nice to experience and see this part of Tokyo with all it’s pop culture shops and tasty treats such as Japanese crepes (which was devoured too quickly to get a pic). 😛
Shibuya Pedestrian Crossing
Did you really visit Tokyo if you didn’t snap a picture at the iconic Shibuya’s pedestrian crossing?
Just one station stop away from Harajuku Station (Takeshita St) or about a 15-20 minutes walk, you’ll find Shibuya Crossing.
Tip: Head to Starbucks’ 2nd floor and you’ll get a great view of the crossing (above pic was taken there). Starbucks is located at the end of the intersection at Shibuya, Tsutaya. I’ve also heard that the Hikarie building has great views of the whole intersection on the 11th fl.
Shinjuku at Night
Shinjuku is the main hub of Tokyo. It is the world’s busiest railway station (Shinjuku Station) serving more than 2 million passengers per day. 😯
We can attest to this since when we exited the station we were completed lost (Google map was of no help) and walked past the same exit at the station twice. Guess the good thing was that we knew where we were the second time around.
As well, it is Tokyo’s entertainment district, business district and shopping area. Shinjuku is known for it’s skyscrapers, hence why you need to visit during the night when it’s all lit up. Here you’ll find Kabukicho on the northeast side of the station. It’s Japan’s largest red light district featuring restaurants, bars, nightclubs, pachinko parlors (Japan’s alternative to slot machines), and love hotels (yup, available for rent by the hour…apparently).
Omoide Yokocho, steps from the west exit of Shinjuku Station, is a stark contrast from the big city lights of Shinjuku. It consists of a maze of narrow lane ways that are lined with bars and eateries that seats 10 people (at most) without room to stretch your arms out. You’ll see mostly men in suits having a beer and yakitori (bbq meats) chatting it up after work.
Tip: go early before the workers from Shinjuku get off work or you’ll never find a seat. Also, we believe that (after sampling a variety of yakitoris) most locals probably don’t go there for the food but more for the conversations and connections made over a few pitchers of beer.
Conveyer Belt Sushi
Since conveyer belt sushi is common in Japan and have been popping up in North America, it obviously is a must try when you’re in Japan. It’s basically a self serve restaurant where the food (not only sushi, but there’s soups, desserts, onion rings, fries, etc.) are on a rotating conveyer belt that winds through the restaurant. Each person is billed based on the number and type of plates they consume.
We tried the famous Genki Sushi which was our very first time trying conveyer belt sushi. These restaurants are known more for a quick meal and most do not offer top quality sushi. Genki Sushi is known for average quality but good price. Their “ok quality” sushi was pretty darn good compared to a lot of the sushi restaurants we’ve tried in Toronto. They have two locations and both are located in the Shibuya area.
Tokyo’s Skytree, a landmark of Tokyo, is the tallest structure in Japan and the tallest tower in the world. The two stations that will take you there are Oshiage Station and Tokyo Skytree Station. Not only can you go to the observation deck to check out the amazing views of Tokyo, but there’s also a large shopping complex, an aquarium and loads of restaurants and cafes.
Nakamise Shopping St
Ok, if you visited the above places in the order presented and thought that it wasn’t all that “touristy” since there wasn’t a whole lot of people (except in the rail/subway system), you’re in for a shocker here. Nakamise Street is insane with tourists!
In the Asakusa district, you’ll find the most popular tourist attraction. But first in order to get there, you’ll visit the shopping street – Nakamise Street. Here’s you’ll find traditional shops filled with souvenirs, along with must try street foods and snacks.
Senso-Ji Buddhist Temple
Now for Tokyo’s main attraction, the Sensoji Temple. It’s Tokyo’s most popular Buddhist Temple and the oldest (founded in 645 AD).
Tip: you’ll see people wafting the burning incense over their body. This is said to cure any pain or ailments that you may have. So join in and let us know if it worked.
Sensoji Temple’s hours of operation:
- 6:00-17:00 Mon-Sun (Apr-Sep)
- 6:30-17:00 Mon-Sun (Oct-Mar)
Admission is free!
In our opinion, Tokyo has it all; there’s the huge modern part of the city filled with skyscrapers, shining their bright neon lights. And then there’s the old world where you can still experience the traditional culture.
We hope this travel guide will help you with your itinerary on your visit to Tokyo.
For more travel tips on Japan, check out the following post here.
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