Tokyo Must-See: Top 4 Things to Do in Tokyo

Bjorn Koolen shares his tips on the best things to see and do in Japan's busy capital city.


Sensoji Temple Photo © iStock/magicflute002

Here are the best sights in Tokyo by suburb, to help you make the most of your time.

North-East Tokyo

During the Edo period, Asakusa was one of the most popular entertainment areas in Tokyo. Unlike many of its rivals at the time, none have been rebuilt in the style of that period after Tokyo was largely destroyed in WWII.

The district's charm is centred around Tokyo's oldest temple, Senjoji, which is a must-see. Walking up the street to Sensoji, you'll find lots of traditional small shops and food stalls. These are great for trying local Tokyo street foods and snacks or pick up some handmade Maneki Neko – traditional good luck charms.

North-East Tokyo is also famous for its Sumo schools, which regularly holds sumo-wrestling tournaments. If you're visiting during the off season, you might still be able to catch one of the practice matches. Another option is to visit the Edo Tokyo Museum, which exhibits life in Tokyo, both in the past and present.

Central Tokyo

At the heart of Tokyo lies the Imperial Palace, surrounded by the high-rises of Tokyo's business districts. When Tokyo was still known as Edo, the grounds of the Imperial Palace were the centre of power for the Tokugawa shogunate of Edo Castle, until it was handed over to the Emperor when the shogunate finally fell. Although the palace itself remains closed for most of the year, it opens its gates to the public during the Emperor's New Year's speech and in autumn to view the trees' leaves change colour.

Ginza, in contrast, is a bustling commercial district with many brand stores and, more importantly, the Kabuki-za theatre. Kabuki, which is only performed in select theatres like Kabuki-za, is a classical, stylised form of drama for the masses, and was especially cherished in cities outside Kyoto.

West Tokyo

In western Tokyo, Harajuku draws thousands of visitors every day. After all, it's the hotspot for J-Pop and fashion, while also the home of Meiji Jingu, Tokyo's most important shrine. When walking towards Meiji Jingu, you will find yourself in one of Tokyo's few lush green areas, leaving Tokyo's concrete jungle behind.

Shinjuku, to the north of Harajuku, is the more affordable rival of Ginza. It's a favourite shopping district for locals. In the streets you will find the narrow alley, known as Golden Gai, which is famous for its small restaurants and pubs with excellent food. For an unforgettable night out, Roppongi is packed with clubs – and people – and is definitely the place to go.

Southern Tokyo

A life sized Gundam displayed in front of the DiverCity Tokyo Plaza. Photo credit: iStock/winhorse

For anime and robot enthusiasts, the Odaiba district, with its full-scale Gundam statue, is a must-visit. Make sure to take a seflie in front of the mechanical gaint!

Buyers and sellers at the Tsukiji fish market in Tokyo. Photo credit: iStock/aluxum

The fresh seafood of Tsukiji Fish Market has been the dream destination of chefs and foodies alike. Local restaurants often go at the break of dawn to get the freshest seafood for their customers. Unfortunately, the market may soon move out of its charming location, so make sure you check it out soon.

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