Visiting Tokyo – A City Guide
Tokyo is one of the world’s great megacities, a historic and futuristic metropolis, sprawling inland from the Pacific Ocean and across the Kanto Plain. Neon-lit skyscrapers, tranquil Zen gardens, ultra-modern theme parks and atmospheric Shinto shrines give the visitor an impression of endless mystery and variety.
Tokyo: city layout and top attractions
Modern Tokyo expands outward from historic Edo Castle, now occupied by Tokyo Imperial Palace and its surrounding gardens. Many main attractions and hotels in Tokyo can be found in the central ward, Minato-ku.
The Sumida River cuts through the oldest neighbourhoods of Asakusa and Ueno, and the southeast limit of the city curves around Tokyo Bay. Ultra-modern landmarks like the Rainbow Bridge and man-made entertainment hub Odaiba Island light up the waterfront.
Iconic Mount Fuji can be seen on clear days from high-rise Tokyo hotels and the observation decks of Tokyo Tower or Tokyo Skytree. The city’s buzzing neon nightlife attracts crowds to central districts Shinjuku, Roppongi and Shibuya, with its famously busy pedestrian crossing. Each is packed with karaoke rooms, jazz bars, pubs and nightclubs, sometimes in the same building.
Harajuku is the home of Tokyo youth culture and street fashion, peaceful Meiji Jingu Shrine and high-end shopping avenue Omotesando.
The concierge recommends…
Eating Out in Tokyo
Tokyo is a major foodie destination, with an abundance of Michelin-starred restaurants and an international dining scene that extends to upscale French and Italian cuisine. Japanese food is the first choice for most visitors. The city is packed with noodle shops, sushi bars and high-end restaurants serving multi-course kaiseki meals.
You can eat well for very little in Tokyo, especially in areas like Omoide Yokocho, behind Shinjuku Station. It’s a lively alley lined with stalls serving grilled meat skewers, and izakaya pubs serving cold beer and small, tapas-style dishes.
Akasaka is good for traditional restaurants where chefs have mastered sushi, tempura and other Japanese culinary arts. Ginza has the city’s highest concentration of stylish, modern fine-dining venues.
The chef recommends…
Shopping in Tokyo
Modern Tokyo is a giant network of commercial districts, high-rise department stores and vast malls seamlessly connected to major transport hubs like Tokyo, Shibuya and Shinjuku stations. Roppongi Hills and the newer Tokyo Solamachi are among the best-known of its massive shopping complexes.
Certain neighbourhoods are known for particular retail specialities. Akihabara is nicknamed Electric Town because of its many electronics stores. It’s also a hub for Japanese comic book and video game culture.
Ginza is known for luxury brands and designer boutiques. Its main shopping street, Chuo-dori, closes to vehicle traffic on Sundays.
Nearby Nihonbashi is the city’s historic merchant quarter, with older shops selling traditional Japanese sweets, teas, kimonos and art supplies.
Best things to buy in Tokyo
Culture & Nightlife in Tokyo
Tokyo’s cultural scene was founded on traditional Japanese performance arts, which can still be seen on dedicated stages at the Kabukiza Theatre and National Noh Theatre.
Sumo wrestling remains vital to the culture, and the best wrestlers go belly-to-belly during three main tournaments held in January, May and September at Ryōgoku Kokugikan arena.
Today, Tokyo is also a world capital of cutting-edge contemporary art. Three separate venues – the Mori Art Museum, Suntory Museum of Art and National Art Centre, Tokyo – form a central gallery cluster known as Art Triangle Roppongi. There’s reduced-price entry if you’re visiting more than one.
Roppongi is a major stop on the city’s nightlife circuit, with pubs and clubs geared to a younger, English-speaking crowd. Harajuku has hyper-stylised nightspots decked out like speakeasies, space stations, or old Spanish villas.
Tokyo Bay attracts international DJs and huge audiences to waterfront superclubs like ageHa.
Tokyo temples and shrines
Leisure in Tokyo
Tokyo resembles a futuristic theme park in places, especially around the waterfront, where the elevated Yurikamome railway glides over Tokyo Bay to Odaiba Island. You can sunbathe on the island’s artificial beach and meet Asimo the robot at Miraikan museum of emerging science.
Also in the bay area is Tokyo Disney Resort, which includes the water-based Tokyo Disney Sea complex.
Though famous for its urban sprawl, the city has lots of green spaces. There’s even an urban wilderness to explore at Shirokanedai National Park, a protected beauty spot with woods and marshlands.
Tokyo parks and gardens