For many holidaymakers around the world, Tokyo offers the ultimate vacation experience. A city that has to be seen to be believed, Tokyo is one of the most exciting capital cities in the world and a great place for adventure-hungry visitors explore. In Tokyo you’ll experience sights, sounds, scents and tastes that are utterly unique. You’ll see the seamless fusion of the traditional and the contemporary. You’ll find the weird and the wonderful happily coexisting like yin and yang. While it may not be for the faint of heart, Tokyo is a once-in-a-lifetime travel destination.
The best way to see Tokyo is by rail
Many tourists and residents alike believe that the best way to see all that Tokyo has to offer is to travel on the city’s iconic elevated Yamanote line which has connected famous neighbourhoods like Shinjuku, Ueno, Akihabara and Shibuya, since 1925.
So grab your Japan Rail pass and prepare yourself for the ultimate Japanese adventure in a city that never sleeps. Heck, it barely even stops to take a breath.
Get to the heart of Tokyo in Ueno park
If you’re looking for the perfect place to start your Tokyo adventure, you could do much worse than spend your first day exploring Ueno Park. Tokyo’s largest park gives visitors a flavour of the city in the same way that Central Park is so quintessentially New York. Like its American counterpart, the park is also home to some important museums.
You’ll find the Tokyo National Museum, the city’s most popular art museum, as well as The National Museum of Western Art, the Tokyo Metropolitan Art Museum and the more understated Shitamachi Museum to name but a few.
Tokyo can get pretty hectic, but a sedate day of strolling in the gorgeous grounds and museum-hopping can get your trip off to the perfect start.
Immerse yourself in Sumo at Ryogōku
You really can’t truly experience Tokyo (or Japan in general for that matter) without experiencing Sumo. Watching sumo events is still one of the nation’s favourite pastimes, although the sport has fallen out of favour with the younger generation in recent years.
While Western sports like baseball and football enjoy great popularity in Japan, there is no sport more intrinsically Japanese than sumo, and the best place to immerse yourself in all things Sumo is Ryogōku. Here you can not only take in a bout but you can also learn all about the history of the sport at the Sumo Museum or eat at the delightful sumo-themed restaurant. The district is also home to many of Japan’s greatest of sumo stables, where you may even be able to see wrestlers undergo their early-morning practice for free.
Find a vending machine for absolutely everything!
Tokyo is famous for its abundance and variety of vending machines for absolutely everything. Whether you’re looking for a souvenir of your trip or simply a budget-friendly lunch, you can find a vending machine that fits the bill.
From soft drinks to toys, soup to earbuds, dumplings to canned beer and even (yes, it’s true) women’s used underwear, there’s very little you can’t find in Tokyo vending machines.
Check out the Golden Gai Ramen vending machines nestled near bustling Shinjuku station for the micro-est of micro-dining and drinking experiences.
Party the night away in Shibuya
For those who live by night, Shibuya offers adventurous travellers all they could want from Tokyo’s vibrant and idiosyncratic nightlife. Framed by a kaleidoscope of light and colour, revellers from all over the world party hearty in whatever way best suits them.
Enjoy a leisurely beer amidst locals at the local people at the Shōwa-era bars down by the train tracks before heading into the neon-lit melange to sample underground DJ bars teeming with sweaty, writhing masses or penthouse-floor cocktails with Tokyo’s young and trendy.
The great thing about the Shibuya nightlife is that there’s something for everyone… Except those who love early nights.
See the candy-coloured sights of Harajuku
Tokyo is one of the most important points on the fashion map and it’s impossible to talk about Tokyo fashion without talking about trendy Harajuku.
Popularised in the west by pop-star Gwen Stefani’s entourage of “Harajuku girls”, Tokyo’s fashion district is a garishly colourful medley of quirky boutique fashion outlets, dedicated cosplay stores, vintage clothing outlets, vibrant street art and chic cafes. For those interested in Tokyo’s youth culture, wandering Harajuku’s streets is the perfect way to experience Tokyo.
Visiting culture vultures will also want to spend some time in the Watari Museum of Contemporary Art before wandering over to Aoyama to explore trendy galleries and stylist coffee shops.
Get your geek on in Akihabara
Geeks, gamers and anime fanatics will undoubtedly find their people in Tokyo. And nowhere are geeks more abundant than in Akihabara (affectionately known as Akiba by locals), arguably Japan’s pop culture Mecca.
Here you’re sure to find geeky nirvana amidst the neon-lit arcades, game shops and quirky stores selling anime DVDs and all manner of cool collectibles. Whether you’re looking for some manga graphic novels for your collection or a giant 14” Ultraman figurine, you’re sure to sate your pop culture thirst in Akihabara.
Finish up your day with a unique dining experience at one of the area’s unique “Maid Cafes” where costumed waitresses will let you feel like the lord of the manor… If only for an hour or two.
Get a dose of Disney by the sea
The US and Paris aren’t the only places where you can get an amazing Disney fix. In fact, Tokyo boasts not one but two Disney themed parks, Disneyland Tokyo and DisneySea. The latter is one of the best and most unique Disney parks in the world. The nautical DisneySea is a theme park with a difference, borrowing as much from real life places and events as the Disney canon and catering to a more mature clientele.
Here you can enjoy a cocktail in a 1920s style speakeasy, visit the Mysterious Island (complete with active volcano) and even take in a Broadway show.
Whatever you’re looking for in a Tokyo trip, a visit to one of these locations will help you find it!