Things to Do in Tokyo - page 3
Toshogu Shrine (Nikko Toshogu) was built in 1617 to honor Tokugawa Ieyasu, founder of the dynasty that ruled Japan for more than 250 years. It's one of Japan’s finest and best-preserved Shinto shrines, surrounded by a Japanese cypress forest in the popular but still peaceful town of Nikko.
The best way to find Yurakucho Yakitori Alley is to follow the grill smoke. Tucked away under the train tracks of the JR Yamanote Line, this alley is a place for an open-air dining experience, complete with master yakitori chefs who man small, individual stalls and serve up grilled meats, vegetables and beer. Adventurous eaters can take advantage of menu items that make use of entire animals, with specialties consisting of chicken liver, heart and intestines. The outdoor venue is well known among local businessmen but is a hidden off-the-beaten-path gem for tourists.
Yakitori Alley stretches for nearly half a mile under the train tracks (about 700 meters). The rustic area has seen development in recent years, and with this, more traditional, enclosed restaurants have also opened up alongside the open-air food stalls. The old, gritty atmosphere persists, however. One of the best ways to experience Yakitori Alley is with a group, so you can try as many of the food stalls as possible.
The Chidorigafuchi Moat runs along the outside of the Imperial Palace in Tokyo. It’s always a pretty place for a stroll or a paddleboat ride, but it comes alive during sakura, or cherry blossom, season. The moat is one of the best places in Tokyo to see the pretty pink flowers so famous across Japan and the world.
Rikugien Garden dates back to 1695, and was once the residence of Japan’s feudal leaders. It follows a traditional design, so it’s a delightful place to appreciate Japanese aesthetics while relaxing or strolling in nature. This garden is especially popular during the autumn leaf-viewing season, but is a beautiful destination year-round.
Tokyo’s National Museum of Nature and Science houses an impressive collection of hands-on science and natural history exhibits spread throughout the spacious, multistory complex. The museum collections are separated into two main areas, the Japan Gallery and the Global Gallery.
The Japan Gallery covers the natural history and biological diversity of the Japanese archipelago, including a pavilion dedicated to the archeological and cultural history of the Japanese people. Here you can learn about how the first humans made their way to Japan, cultural practices of Japan’s earliest tribes and rice cultivation in Japan and how it has changes the environment of the nation.
In the Global Gallery, you’ll find a large collection of mounted birds and animals representing the diversity of Earth’s many environments, a physics gallery filled with hands-on puzzles and games, a look at dinosaurs and their extinction and three large-scale video presentation areas. Don’t leave without visiting Theater 360, a spherical movie theater with 360-degree projections with a viewing bridge through the center. Special exhibitions rotate through the museum every few months.
Centered around the busiest railway station in the world, the Tokyo neighborhood of Shinjuku is a thriving district full of shops and department stores, museums, bars, restaurants, and cafes abuzz with people. The neighborhood’s skyscraper district is home to some of the city’s tallest buildings.
Although Shinjuku’s Hanazono Shrine Hanazono Jinja) looks like an unassuming place, it’s a historically important site and hosts a variety of colorful weekly and seasonal events. It contrasts with the bright lights and skyscrapers of other parts of Shinjuku, and provides a great escape from the frenzy of the central city.
Opened in 1940, the incredible Nezu Museum is located in the heart of Tokyo is home to an impressive collection of Japanese, Chinese and Korean art. Hundreds of antiques line the gallery halls—a sample of the even more expansive collection, which is combed through for monthly shifts in public art displays.
In addition to the rich artistic history of these Asian artifacts, travelers can explore the stone paths of the well-manicured grounds outside the galleries, where teahouses, sculptures and a glass-walled café designed by Kuma Kengo round out the museum experience.
Tokyo’s National Museum of Emerging Science and Innovation (Miraikan for short) is a fun spot dedicated to technology and the way it affects our lives. Visit this family-friendly attraction to see robot demonstrations, enjoy interactive exhibits, watch films projected on a domed screen, and participate in talks with scientists.
Kagurazaka is a neighborhood of Tokyo that offers modern shopping and but also a traditional style. It has an older feel than much of Tokyo, with cobblestone streets and original Edo-era (1603–1868) and Meiji-era (1868–1912) buildings still standing. It’s a trendy area, and a good place to shop or just sit quietly and people-watch.
More Things to Do in Tokyo
The National Diet Building is the center of Japanese politics, as it houses both chambers of the Diet, or legislative arm: the House of Representatives, which meets in the left wing, and the House of Councillors, which meets in the right wing. Built in 1936, the building is constructed almost entirely of Japanese materials.
The building is iconic for its pyramid-shaped dome in the center of the complex, which made it the tallest building in Japan at completion. The interior is decorated with cultural artifacts and art pieces, such as bronze statues of the men who are credited with formulating Japan's first modern constitution. The building sits on land once inhabited by feudal lords, giving the spot even more historical significance. It is sometimes referred to as the House of Parliament or the Government building in Tokyo.
The second theme park to open at the Tokyo Disney Resort, Tokyo DisneySea is one of the Japanese capital’s most popular attractions, for adults as well as children. Explore the nautically themed park and visit all seven ports of call, each of which is filled with rides and attractions.
Go on an adventure with Tuffy, Nami, and the rest of the One Piece crew at Tokyo One Piece Tower, the only large-scale One Piece theme park in the world. Located inside iconic Tokyo Tower, the indoor theme park features live performances, life-size figures, and a range of attractions themed around this popular Japanese anime and manga series.
Japan's highest aerial tramway, the Hakone Komagatake Ropeway (Komagatake Ropeway Line) is a popular way to take in some of the most scenic views in Japan and the so-called Nagano Alps. The ropeway runs from the edge of Lake Ashi to the summit of Mount Komagatake, carrying passengers 3,115 feet (950 meters) into the sky.
Japanese and international foodies alike love Tsukishima Monja Street (actually a collection of streets), located on the artificially made Tsukishima Island. Diners usually buy monjayaki as raw batter, then grill it themselves at specially designed tables. Here, dozens of shops sell monjayaki, savory fried pancakes made with cabbage and a variety of other meat or seafood toppings. Other Japanese favorites including yakisoba (fried noodles) can be be enjoyed here as well.
Akasaka Palace—the only neobaroque building in Japan—was built in 1909 as the residence of the Crown Prince of Japan, but in 1975 was turned into the State Guest House. As a result, many very important international guests have stayed here and continue to do so. The central Tokyo palace is open to visitors when dignitaries aren’t in town.
Kitanomaru Park (Kitanomaru Koen) was once the residence of the Tokugawa clan (rulers of Japan between the 17th and 19th centuries) and was part of the grounds of Edo Castle, which burned down in 1873. The park, which opened to the public in 1969, is home to natural woodland as well as a number of museums and galleries.
Tokyo Camii is located right in the heart of Tokyo in the Oyama-cho district of Shibuya. It’s the largest mosque in the city and is adjoined with the Turkish Culture Center, which provides an introduction to Islam and an insight into Turkish culture.
The mosque was originally built in 1938, but in 1986 it was demolished due to structural damage. Construction on a new building began in 1998 using marble shipped in from Turkey, and the new mosque was finally complete in 2000. It’s a huge Ottoman-style construct covering an area of more than 700 square-meters, with its main dome – supported by six pillars – reaching 23 meters tall.
The Turkish Culture Center serves to educate visitors about the mosque, as well as Islamic teachings and rituals. Here, books and pamphlets about Islam and Tokyo Camii are sold alongside souvenirs such as Turkish tiles.
Like much of the Roppongi neighborhood, the National Art Center Tokyo (NACT) is sleek and innovative. The museum, designed by Kisho Kurokawa was designed to look like a melting iceberg with waving blue glass walls.
This center is unique among Tokyo art museums in that, instead of maintaining a permanent collection, it is a revolving door venue for art exhibitions from around the world. It has the largest exhibition space of any museum in Japan and can hold up to ten exhibitions at a time although it's usually not completely full.
While some of the shows require admission there are usually a few free exhibitions at any given time. The building itself is worth exploring for its sleek architecture, public spaces and restaurants perched high on wooden pedestals. Check their website for a rundown of what's currently showing.
Located on the former site of the Ministry of Defense in Roppongi, Tokyo Midtown opened in 2007 as a multi-use entertainment district complete with apartments, office space, restaurants, shops, museums and park space. Tokyo Midtown comprises six different towers. The luxurious Ritz Carlton Tokyo occupies the top floors of Midtown Tower, while the Galleria building houses a four-floor shopping complex and the Suntory Museum of Art. The complex is also notably home to 21_21 Design Sight, a design gallery and workshop space created by architect Tadao Ando and designer Issey Miyake.
Tokyo Midtown also features two green spaces. Hinokicho Park, a former Edo-era private garden, is now a Japanese-style garden open to the public. Neighboring Midtown Garden is a popular picnicking spot, especially in late March and early April when its cherry blossoms are in bloom.
Combine art and sightseeing with a visit to Mori Art Museum (Mori Bijutsukan), a prestigious Tokyo contemporary art museum. Beyond the art, take advantage of the museum's location—on the 53rd floor of Mori Tower—and its access to Tokyo City View, an indoor observation deck offering near 360-degree views of Tokyo.
Kasai Rinkai Park, Tokyo’s largest park, opened in 1989 on Tokyo Bay, a beautiful area that overlooks the water and the city beyond. Built on reclaimed land, the park was developed with conservation and preservation in mind.
The Diamond and Flowers Ferris Wheel is by far the park’s most famous site, an iconic behemoth that sits 383 feet (117 meters) tall. Any trip to the park is incomplete without the 17-minute ride on the famous structure, as the views from the top encompass all of Tokyo and the surrounding areas, including Mt Fuji on a clear day.
Also on site is the Tokyo Sealife Aquarium, which features an all-glass dome that transports visitors straight into the sea with fish and other aquatic life swimming above, around and below them. There is also the Sea Bird Sanctuary, an outdoor preserve that takes up nearly one-third of the park. Bird and nature lovers, as well as photographers, flock to the sanctuary to see local birds, and visitors are free to walk around and explore the whole area other than the protected marshes.
In a city with many high buildings and observation decks, the Tokyo City View Observation Deck (Tokyo Sky Deck) is one of the best. It’s located on the 52nd floor of the Mori Tower, a sleek mixed-use skyscraper in Roppongi. There are three galleries with views towards different landmarks, as well as an open-air deck.
Disneyland is to Mickey Mouse what Sanrio Puroland is to Hello Kitty. The indoor theme park on the western edge of Tokyo attracts 1.5 million visitors a year with its attractions, themed rides, restaurants and musicals based around the Sanrio company’s characters. Westerners may only be familiar with Hello Kitty, but Sanrio also came up with Jewelpet, My Melody and Cinnamoroll among others.
Sanrio Puroland opened in 1990 to mixed reviews, but with a boom in Hello Kitty’s popularity, it’s now one of the most popular attractions in Japan. The park’s hypercute highlights include a life-size version of Kitty’s house, a boat ride filled with Sanrio characters and three theaters with daily live stage productions. Most attractions are aimed at a decidedly young demographic, so if you’re traveling with teenagers, you might be better off at Tokyo Disneyland and DisneySea.
That said, if you’re a Kitty fan or merely want a closer look at a facet of Japanese culture that’s create a worldwide phenomenon, an afternoon at Sanrio Puroland might be in order.
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