Tokyo is usually the starting location for many visitors entering Japan.
It’s quite unlike anywhere else I had been. Big, overwhelming… and amazing!
From the organized and vibrant city life to the gorgeous gardens, tranquil temples, and mouthwatering food options, these are the top reasons why Tokyo needs to be on your travel bucket list.
So, let’s look at why you should visit Tokyo and what you need to know before you go.
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Top Reasons to Visit Tokyo
1. Urban Sprawl Or City Of Beauty?
It is said that the Japanese have a great sense of beauty, but no sense of ugliness.
I pondered this as I took the airport train to Tokyo.
From the window, I could see a hodgepodge of houses, some elegant and well-designed, others less so. There seemed to be no planning oversight, just houses built to individual tastes and specifications.
The result was a massive urban sprawl: concrete blocks with rusty fire escapes, thick ugly cables running separately to each house, and garish adverts pasted to the sides of buildings.
But every so often there was a glimpse of a house with a carefully tended garden, or a graceful pagoda rising above the skyline.
It may be true that Tokyo is a fast-moving modern city full of cars and mismatched buildings.
But you don’t have to look hard to find the careful design, both modern and traditional, that makes it a city of beauty.
2. Beautiful Parks And Gardens to Visit
It’s not long before the other side of Tokyo starts to reveal itself, the side where every effort has been made to please the eye.
This is a city of parks and gardens, with sculpted landscapes of bridges, lakes, and flowering plants.
Even apartment blocks seem to have roof gardens – I spotted one with its own greenhouse!
I walked around Ueno Park at sunset, when trees and other features were festooned with colored lights.
The path was lined with illuminated lanterns, each with an individual design to light the way of passers-by.
Then there was the Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden, which was exactly as I had imagined a traditional Japanese garden.
It’s worth the visit during the cherry blossom season with hundreds of trees bursting in pink and white blossoms.
3. Peaceful Shrines And Temples In Tokyo
Gardens and religious buildings are often interlinked here: you’ll find pagodas in the gardens and the shrines and temples may be set in their parkland.
Here are some of the city’s most impressive religious sites:
- Senso-ji Temple in Asakusa
- Takaosan Yakuoin Temple on Mount Takao summit
4. National Museum Of Modern Art
The National Museum of Modern Art is a must for any art lover.
Here you will find traditional Japanese woodblocks and painted screens with delicate pictures of birds, mountains, and cherry blossoms: timeless expressions of perfection.
But there is also an eclectic selection of modern paintings. In particular, impressionist influences are evident, and 20th-century styles are much more aligned with what was happening across the rest of the world.
I was intrigued to note that some artists had tried to copy the style of Van Gogh – with only black and white prints for inspiration – with a surprising level of success.
5. Food Galore In Tokyo
Food is another part of the Tokyo experience.
Delicately laid out platters of sushi with flowers carved from vegetables, or plates of meat and noodles, each element of the meal carefully positioned to create an aesthetic whole.
And one evening my Kirin beer arrived topped with a sculpted head of granita. You don’t get that anywhere else!
Life Of Doing Editorial Tip: You can also find incredible cheap sushi at conveyor belt sushi places such as Sushiro or Kura Sushi. Read more about these cheap sushi places here.
6. Fun Themed Places and Theme Parks
*Life Of Doing Recommendation*
Tokyo has some of the most fun and unique things to do and places to visit.
From the kawaii (cute in Japanese) clothes and toys on Harajuku’s Takeshita Street to the arcades and claw machines in Akihabara to the themed restaurants and cafes such as Pokemon or pop-up anime cafes, you can check out these places.
Here are the attractions that we’ve visited –
- Sanrio Puroland theme park to see Hello Kitty and friends
- Unko (Poop) Museum in DiverCity Shopping Center for super cute poop exhibits
- TeamLab Borderless (or TeamLab Planets) for the illuminating interactive digital artwork
- Pokémon Poké Lids for the cute manhole covers of your favorite Pokémon characters
If you’re a Disney fan, check out Tokyo Disneyland or Disney Sea theme parks on a day trip.
How To Visit Tokyo: Some Practicalities
There are two airports to consider – Narita International Airport (airport code: NRT) and Haneda International Airport (airport code: HND).
Narita Airport is located in Chiba Prefecture, outside of Tokyo. From Narita to Shinjuku Station, it’s 83 kilometers (51.5 miles) and will take between 1 hour 15 minutes to 2 hours by train.
Haneda Airport is located in Tokyo. From Haneda to Shinjuku Station, it’s 23 kilometers (14 miles) and takes 50 minutes by train.
Trains, buses, and taxis are available as transportation options.
If you plan to use the train, consider buying an IC transportation card.
It’s a debit card that you add money to and can use on trains, buses, and even for purchases at the convenience markets.
In Tokyo, Suica and Pasmo are popular IC cards. Or, if you’re in the Kansai area, then it’ll be an ICOCA card.
The physical card may be difficult to obtain due to a chip shortage, but you can download the Suica or Pasmo app and use your phone as the IC pass.
You can use your IC card throughout Japan. It’s not only for the regional area.
Accommodation options include international hotels, boutique hotels, hostels, and capsule hotels are available based on your budget.
You can also consider Airbnbs for large groups.
A frequent question that visitors ask is, do you need to speak Japanese?
While it’s true that the language can be a bit of a barrier, the city is perfectly navigable without it. I certainly managed to use the metro/train to get everywhere I wanted to go.
However, to make the most of your visit you might want to try one of the many guided tours offered by companies such as GetYourGuide, Klook, or Viator.
One area where I might have appreciated some assistance was in choosing restaurants and making reservations. ByFood offers a restaurant reservation service, acting as an intermediary to enable you to choose and book a restaurant.
Or, you can ask the front desk at your accommodation if he/she can help call the restaurant to make a reservation on your behalf.
Even though Tokyo is crowded with incoming tourists, it’s still one of the best places to start your Japan travels. Hope you are inspired to now visit Tokyo after reading this post.
Happy travels! Follow my travels at WorldWideWriter.
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