Welcome to Tokyo!
Known as the capital of the land of the rising sun, Tokyo, Japan, has tons to offer. There is so much to see and do that it’s impossible to capture the entire experience in one trip. It’s a place of mystery, but somewhere that often feels so familiar, even to foreigners. Luckily, the locals know the hot spots and take it from us, Tokyo has plenty.
Enjoy this guide to all of the top attractions (not including Tokyo Disneyland!) and by the end of your visit, you’ll be a worldwide local.
Despite the country’s ancient history, Tokyo has only served as Japan’s capital since the nineteenth century. Tokyo is also the world’s most populated city by metropolitan area. Suffice it to say, Tokyo is a huge city, full of people everywhere you turn. This eastern city offers an eclectic mix of the modern era and a time long ago, seamlessly blended together to make Tokyo an amazing and unique city to experience. From neon lights to ancient temples, this city offers a bit of something for everyone.
Where to Begin
After you land in Tokyo Airport after a long plane ride, you may feel a bit jet-lagged. If that’s the case, why not grab a little pick-me-up at one of Tokyo’s animal cafes. Tokyo is the home of the “cat cafe,” and you might already be familiar with the concept of heading to a cafe, enjoying a snack or latte, and petting the cute cats who roam the cafe grounds. While this is certainly a quintessential Tokyo thing to do, there are also a myriad of other “Animal Cafes.” Everything from hedgehog to bunny cafes can be found all around the city.
Worldwide Local Tip: Try checking out an owl cafe. They are generally less busy than the cat variety and offer an opportunity to hang out with some seldom-seen feathery friends. It’s just one of the unique things to do in Tokyo!
Because of Tokyo’s sheer size, sometimes it is best to think of it as a bunch of little cities interconnected through its public transport system, which is one of the best in the world. The best way to get around the city and experience every neighborhood is to take the trains and/or subways. Taxis and buses are, of course, available as well, but for a first time visitor, taking the metro is the best option, and ensures that you will have the easiest time in Tokyo.
You can load up a prepaid card, like a Pasmo or Suica, beforehand, so you are able to just hop on and off the subway or train during your time in the city. As an added bonus, those prepaid cards can be used and reloaded at most convenient stores. So, if you’re in need of a quick snack, you can simply just use your card.
Worldwide Local Tip: Cards can be bought online before your trip and picked up at the airport when you land. This way, you can save time by retrieving your card(s) when you land and you’ll be set to go.
Shopping in Tokyo
Tokyo has some amazing shopping opportunities and if you’re traveling a long distance, don’t miss out on some of Japan’s coolest brands. The Harajuku area of Tokyo is considered pretty tourist-centric, but that shouldn’t deter you from exploring this part of town. There are loads of shopping malls, like TOKYU Plaza and PARCO, that offer a multitude of stores selling both brand name international clothes and also some Japanese-made favorites.
Worldwide Local Tip: Just wandering around the street, enjoying the Tokyo weather, will tempt you to stop in every store and check out the unique things you won’t find elsewhere. If this interests you, then ditch your map and get lost in the enjoyment of browsing the interesting items Tokyo has to offer.
Yanesen: A Must-Visit Neighborhood
Hundreds of thousands of people from all over the world come to visit Tokyo every year, promoting its reputation as a city with a densely packed population. Sometimes it can make for an enjoyable experience to wander off of the beaten path. One of the more peaceful neighborhoods, away from the flocks of other tourists, is the Yanesen area. Yanesen is an opportunity for people who want to see an authentic part of Tokyo. The neighborhood is filled with old buildings, temples, shrines, local hangouts, and small cafes. The shopping street of Yanaka has a lot of little shops and a few restaurants that aren’t often frequented by tourists. This provides an opportunity to see more of an authentically Japanese area as a worldwide local. You can hang out at a cafe and watch the lives of Tokyoites as they go through their day.
Worldwide Local Tip: Head to nearby Ueno Park, centralized in Tokyo, a short walk away from many other attractions, where you’ll enjoy some time in nature and have a picnic.
Enjoy Your Visit!
Tokyo is an amazing city that is truly unique in both its fast-paced modernity and old traditions. You’ll want to make sure you explore every little nook and cranny possible to take in as much of the culture as possible. Get your passport ready and pack your bags to go explore this awesome city as only a worldwide local can!