Visit Tokyo 東京
Tokyo Tower at night
Skytree view from Asakusa
Credit: Guilhem Vellut
Tokyo Rainbow Bridge
What to see in Tokyo? Unmissable Activities and Sights
The avant-garde metropolis that is Tokyo spreads out like a hazy dream. More than a city, Tokyo is a fascinating juxtaposition of diverse districts. Skyscrapers, neon signs, unlimited entertainment but also temples, shrines and traditional gardens.
Shibuya at Night
Shibuya crossing Tokyo
Famous image of the Zojo-ji and the Tokyo Tower
The Asakusa district in Tokyo, lined aisles shopping leads to Kaminanimon the Thunder Gate.
THE ESSENTIAL PLACE IN JAPAN: TOKYO, THE HEART OF JAPAN
Furiously contemporary, Tokyo, formerly called Edo, is a constantly changing city. Tokyo means "Capital of the east": it replaced Kyoto as the capital of Japan in 1868, at the start of the Meiji Era. Tokyo constitutes the heart of the country: it houses most of the country's institutions such as the Emperor's residence, the Parliament, ministries and all embassies. It is also the country's economic center and for good reason: the city is immense, with its urbanized area extending over nearly 2,190km2.
Its urbanised area is unsurprisingly the most highly populated in the world, with 42 million people living there. Fortunately the city is organised in such a way that it rarely feels stifling, unlike other capital cities. Walking and travelling around Tokyo remains a pleasure even if you don't know your way around very well...
THE HISTORY OF TOKYO
Edo was originally a fishing village. It later became the residence of the shogun Tokugawa Ieyasu at the end of the 16th century and therefore grew in importance. During the Edo period, between 1603 and 1868, the city expanded greatly, becoming the most populous city in the world at the time. Emperor Meiji made it the official capital in 1868 and the city continued its rapid development.
It was during the 20th century that the capital suffered most: there was a major earthquake in 1923 (which killed more than 100,000 people and devastated the city), and the American bombings during the Second World War set the city alight, but it always knows how to bounce back. Its history is set out in detail at the Edo Tokyo Museum.
After 1945, the city became a world-class metropolis and its population increased tenfold in the space of 50 years. It hosted the Olympic Games in 1964 and will host them again in 2021.
- Read more: 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games
The crossroads of Shibuya is one of the emblematic places of the district.
Credit: Guilhem Vellut
View from Tokyo Skytree
Credit: GINZA SIX
TOKYO A CITY THAT IS ALWAYS CHANGING AND EVOLVING
Its urban landscape is fascinating and disconcerting. Architects will have a field day here. Everyone can do as they choose and there is something for everyone here. A visit to the museum, a getaway to a park or garden, a gourmet visit to the underground levels of a major shop, a wander around the streets with their ever more innovative contemporary architecture, the discovery of a Shinto shrine or a Buddhist temple, the spectacle of noh theatre or a sumo tournament... tourism in Tokyo appears to be unlimited.
To travel around with ease, nothing could be better than the many metro lines and trains, using the Hyperdia application to help you, for instance. There are also plenty of taxis (although they are much more expensive!), even at night.
THE BEST DISTRICTS IN TOKYO
One thing is certain: visiting Tokyo is intense and each district has its own style and customs. The different districts of this fascinating capital tell a pluralist and universal story. Tokyo possesses and builds a unique atmosphere, a human ants nest where safety is guaranteed.
Here, a hint of nature always mixes in with modern life, one of the specificities of a trip to Tokyo that always surprises travelers. An old willow tree stands guard over an alley festooned with electrical wires. The cherry trees are the first to announce springtime with the hanami. Wild grasses find refuge among the gaps in a building, and flower pots stand at the foot of buildings. The ocean spray constitutes a reminder that Tokyo, the "Capital of the East" is a coastal city on the shore of the Pacific Ocean. Tokyo Bay and the river Sumida can be admired with joy at twilight, where the romantic side of Tokyo springs to life...
Credit: Wikimedia Commons
Shibuya 109, the place to find clothes at the Tokyo fashion.
Neon Lights in Shinjuku
Credit: Wikimedia Commons
So, visiting Tokyo is best-done district by district. This is both the most practical way in terms of public transport and the most straightforward way in terms of organization and for immersing yourself in the various atmospheres. The Yamanote metro line is ready-made for the exploration of these different districts due to its circular route.
You should not miss exploring every inch of the famous Shinjuku, Shibuya, Harajuku and Yoyogi districts but also the other major centers of the city such as Ikebukuro, Ueno, Ginza or Akihabara. A youthful shopping atmosphere in Shibuya, the monumental buildings in Shinjuku, luxury in Ginza, a passion for electronics in Akihabara, or traditional cafés and restaurants in Ueno... there is something for everyone.
Do not hesitate to lose yourself in some of the more residential districts, which are further from the center and full of charm to explore daily life in Tokyo. Some areas off the beaten track will provide you with a complete change of scenery, even for those who know the city well. We are specifically thinking of Yanaka, Shimo-kitazawa and Ikenoue, Naka-Meguro, Komagome or Koenji and Nakano.
WHAT TO DO IN TOKYO? THE ESSENTIALS IN TOKYO
Of course, drawing up a complete list of all the things to see in Tokyo is virtually impossible. However, there are some unmissable places, districts or monuments when you are visiting, even for a short time.
THE DISTRICTS OF TOKYO TO VISIT:
Shibuya, its crossing and its stores
Shinjuku and its night district, Kabukicho
Akihabara, the electronics, video games and manga district
Ueno, the zoo and the cherry tree park
Asakusa, the traditional district
Odaiba, entertainment island, its giant Gundam, its big wheel and the view of the Rainbow Bridge
Yoyogi and its huge park
TOKYO MUSEUMS NOT TO BE MISSED:
The Nezu museum and its splendid garden: 6 Chome-5-1 Minamiaoyama, Minato, Tokyo 107-0062
The National Museum Tokyo: 13-9 Ueno-koen, Taito, Tokyo 110-8712
Sumida Hokusai Museum: 2 Chome-7-2 Kamezawa, Sumida, Tokyo 130-0014
THE MOST BEAUTIFUL MONUMENTS, GARDENS AND TEMPLES IN TOKYO:
Meiji-Jingu shrine: 1-1 Yoyogikamizonocho, Shibuya City, Tokyo 151-8557
Senjo-ji temple in Asakusa : 2 Chome-3-1 Asakusa, Taito City, Tokyo 111-0032
Tokyo Tower: 4 Chome-2-8 Shibakoen, Minato City, Tokyo 105-0011
Tokyo Skytree: 1 Chome-1-2 Oshiage, Sumida City, Tokyo 131-0045
Hama-Rikyu Garden: 1-1 Hamarikyuteien, Chuo City, Tokyo 104-0046
Shinjuku Gyoen Park: 11 Naitomachi, Shinjuku City, Tokyo 160-0014
Tokyo does, of course, have a multitude of other exciting places and activities for you to discover and explore. When you visit the capital, it would be unthinkable to leave without trying out the local cuisine or having spent a Tokyo night having a drink in an izakaya or singing along to your favorite song in one of the many karaoke bars in the city.