Lonely Planet Tokyo by Lonely Planet, Rebecca Milner, and Simon Richmond by Lonely Planet, Rebecca Milner, and Simon Richmond - Read Online

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Tokyo

Contents

Plan Your Trip

Welcome to Tokyo

Tokyo's Top 16

What's New

Need to Know

Top Itineraries

If You Like...

Month By Month

With Kids

Like a Local

For Free

Eating

Drinking & Nightlife

Entertainment

Shopping

Explore

Neighbourhoods at a Glance

Marunouchi & Nihombashi

Sights

Eating

Drinking & Nightlife

Entertainment

Shopping

Sports & Activities

Ginza & Tsukiji

Sights

Eating

Drinking & Nightlife

Entertainment

Shopping

Sports & Activities

Roppongi, Akasaka & Around

Sights

Eating

Drinking & Nightlife

Entertainment

Shopping

Sports & Activities

Ebisu, Meguro & Around

Sights

Eating

Drinking & Nightlife

Entertainment

Shopping

Shibuya & Shimo-Kitazawa

Sights

Eating

Drinking & Nightlife

Entertainment

Shopping

Sports & Activities

Harajuku & Aoyama

Sights

Eating

Drinking & Nightlife

Entertainment

Shopping

Sports & Activities

West Tokyo

Sights

Eating

Drinking & Nightlife

Entertainment

Shopping

Shinjuku & Northwest Tokyo

Sights

Eating

Drinking & Nightlife

Entertainment

Shopping

Sports & Activities

Korakuen & Akihabara

Sights

Eating

Drinking & Nightlife

Entertainment

Shopping

Sports & Activities

Ueno & Yanesen

Sights

Eating

Drinking & Nightlife

Entertainment

Shopping

Activities

Asakusa & Sumida River

Sights

Eating

Drinking & Nightlife

Entertainment

Shopping

Activities

Odaiba & Tokyo Bay

Sights

Eating

Drinking & Nightlife

Shopping

Sports & Activities

Day Trips from Tokyo

Nikko

Hakone

Kamakura

Sleeping

Understand

Understand Tokyo

Tokyo Today

History

Pop Culture

Arts & Architecture

Onsen

Survive

Transport

Arriving in Tokyo

Getting Around Tokyo

Tours

Directory AZ

Discount Cards

Electricity

Embassies

Emergency

Gay & Lesbian Travellers

Health

Internet Access

Legal Matters

Medical Services

Money

Opening Hours

Post

Public Holidays

Safe Travel

Taxes & Refunds

Telephone

Time

Toilets

Tourist Information

Travelers with Disabilities

Visas

Volunteering

Language

Tokyo Maps

Odaiba & Tokyo Bay Area

Marunouchi & Nihombashi

Ginza & Tsukiji

Roppongi, Akasaka & Around

Shibuya & Shimo-Kitazawa

Ebisu & Meguro

Harajuku & Aoyama

Koenji

Kichijoji

Shinjuku & Northwest Tokyo

Korakuen & Around

Akihabara

Ueno & Yanesen

Asakusa

East Sumida

Table of Contents

Behind the Scenes

Our Writers

Welcome to Tokyo

Yoking past and future, Tokyo dazzles with its traditional culture and passion for everything new.

Sci-fi Cityscapes

Tokyo's neon-lit streetscapes still look like a sci-fi film set – and that's a vision of the city from the 1980s. Tokyo has been building ever since, pushing the boundaries of what's possible on densely populated, earthquake-prone land, adding ever taller, sleeker structures. Come see the utopian mega-malls, the edgy designer boutiques from Japan's award-winning architects, and the world's tallest tower – Tokyo Sky Tree – a twisting spire that draws on ancient building techniques. Stand atop one of Tokyo's skyscrapers and look out over the city at night to see it blinking like the control panel of a starship, stretching all the way to the horizon.

The Shogun's City

Tokyo may be forever reaching into the future but you can still see traces of the shogun's capital on the kabuki stage, at a sumo tournament or under the cherry blossoms. It's a modern city built on old patterns, and in the shadows of skyscrapers you can find anachronistic wooden shanty bars and quiet alleys, raucous traditional festivals and lantern-lit yakitori (grilled chicken) stands. In older neighbourhoods you can shop for handicrafts made just as they have been for centuries, or wander down cobblestone lanes where geisha once trod.

Eat Your Heart Out

Yes, Tokyo has more Michelin stars than any other city. Yes, Japanese cuisine has been added to the Unesco Intangible Cultural Heritage list. But that's not what makes dining in Tokyo such an amazing experience. What really counts is the city's long-standing artisan culture. You can splash out on the best sushi of your life, made by one of the city's legendary chefs using the freshest, seasonal market ingredients. You can also spend ¥800 on a bowl of noodles made with the same care and exacting attention to detail, from a recipe honed through decades of experience.

Fashion & Pop Culture

From giant robots to saucer-eyed schoolgirls to a certain, ubiquitous kitty, Japanese pop culture is a phenomenon that has reached far around the world. Tokyo is the country's pop-culture laboratory, where new trends grow legs. Come see the latest looks bubbling out of the backstreets of Harajuku, the hottest pop stars projected on the giant video screens in Shibuya, or the newest anime and manga flying off the shelves in Akihabara. Gawk at the giant statues of Godzilla; shop for your favourite character goods; or pick up some style inspiration just walking down the street.

Omoide-yokochō yakitori stalls | URAIWONS / SHUTTERSTOCK ©

Why I Love Tokyo

By Rebecca Milner, Writer

I’ve lived in Tokyo for 15 years now and am continuously surprised – sometimes on a daily basis – by something new. Such is the joy of living in a city that prides itself on constant renewal and reinvention; it seriously never gets old. Tokyo has everything you can ask of a city, and has it in spades: a rich, cosmopolitan dining scene, more cafes and bars than you could visit in a lifetime, fantastic public transport and grassy parks – plus it's clean and safe. Really, what's not to love?

Tokyo's Top 16

Shinjuku Nightlife

1Shinjuku is the biggest, brashest nightlife district in the land of the rising neon sun. There is truly something for everyone here, from the anachronistic shanty bars of Golden Gai , a favourite haunt of writers and artists, to the camp dance bars of Tokyo's gay quarter, Shinjuku-nichōme, and the more risqué cabarets of Kabukichō. There are sky-high lounges, all-night karaoke parlours, jazz dens and izakaya (Japanese pub-eateries) stacked several storeys high. The options are dizzying, the lights spellbinding and the whole show continues past dawn.

Kabukichō | SEAN PAVONE / SHUTTERSTOCK ©

Tokyo's Top 16

Tsukiji Market

2Don't mourn Tsukiji yet: while the seafood market may very well move, the lively outer market isn't going anywhere. And it's here that you can wander the stalls snacking on treats from producers that sell tamago (rolled omelettes) and kamaboko (steamed fish paste) to top Tokyo restaurants; shop for professional quality kitchen tools, such as hand-forged knives and bamboo steamer baskets; listen to the banter of the merchants and their regular customers; and bask in the energy of a storied, old-style, open-air market.

YE CHOH WAH / SHUTTERSTOCK ©

Tokyo's Top 16

Meiji-jingū

3Tokyo’s largest and most famous Shintō shrine feels a world away from the city. It’s reached via a long, rambling forest path marked by towering torii (gates). The grounds are vast, enveloping the classic wooden shrine buildings and a landscaped garden in a thick coat of green. Meiji-jingū is a place of worship and a memorial to Emperor Meiji, but it’s also a place for traditional festivals and rituals. If you’re lucky you may even catch a wedding procession, with the bride and groom in traditional dress.

COWARDLION / SHUTTERSTOCK ©

Tokyo's Top 16

Dining Out

4When it comes to Tokyo superlatives, the city's eating scene takes the cake. Wherever you are, you're rarely 500m from a good, if not great, restaurant. It's a scene that careens gracefully between the highs and lows: it's not odd for a top-class sushi restaurant to share the same block as an oil-spattered noodle joint (and the latter might be no less fawned over). Tokyoites love dining out; join them, and delight in the sheer variety of flavours the city has to offer.

OKONOMIYAKI (SAVOURY PANCAKES) | GCONNER PHOTO / SHUTTERSTOCK ©

Tokyo's Top 16

Tokyo Cityscape

5There's nothing quite like gazing out over the Tokyo cityscape from a few hundred metres in the air. From this vantage point, the city is endless, stretching all the way to the horizon (where, if you're lucky, you might spot Mt Fuji). By night, Tokyo appears truly beautiful, as if the sky were inverted, with the glittering stars below. Take in the view from a stylish hotel lounge, atop one of the city's towers or from the (free!) observatories at the Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building .

SHIGEMI OKANO / SHUTTERSTOCK ©

Tokyo's Top 16

Shopping in Harajuku

6Harajuku is the gathering point for Tokyo's eccentric fashion tribes. The tightly packed pedestrian alley Takeshita-dōri is a beacon for teens in kooky, colourful outfits. Omote-sandō, a broad boulevard with wide pavements and high-end designer boutiques, draws polished divas. The backstreets of Harajuku (known as Ura-Hara) form Tokyo's street fashion laboratory; here's where you'll find the trendsetters, the peacocks and the style photographers who chronicle it all – plus inspiration by the truckload. Simply put: for shopping (and people-watching) there's no better spot in Tokyo than Harajuku.

CARL FORBES / SHUTTERSTOCK ©

Tokyo's Top 16

Roppongi Art Triangle

7The opening of three high-profile art museums since 2003 has turned Roppongi , once known exclusively for its bawdy nightlife, into a polished gem. The area nicknamed 'Roppongi Art Triangle' includes the Mori Art Museum, a showcase for contemporary art perched atop a skyscraper; the minimalist Suntory Museum of Art, dedicated to the decorative arts; and the National Art Center Tokyo, which hosts blockbuster shows inside a curving glass structure. Within the triangle there are several smaller museums and galleries too.

Suntory Museum of Art | TK KURIKAWA / SHUTTERSTOCK ©

Tokyo's Top 16

Sensō-ji

8The spiritual home of Tokyo's ancestors, this Buddhist temple was founded over one thousand years before the city got its start. Today it retains an alluring, lively atmosphere redolent of Edo (old Tokyo) and the merchant quarters of yesteryear. The colourful Nakamise-dōri arcade approaching the temple complex overflows with vendors selling snacks and souvenirs. The main plaza holds a newly renovated five-storey pagoda and a smoking cauldron of incense. Altogether, Sensō-ji is a heady mix of secular and sacred, and one of Tokyo's most iconic sights.

B. TANAKA / GETTY IMAGES ©

Tokyo's Top 16

Sumo in Ryōgoku

9The purifying salt sails into the air. The two giants leap up and crash into each other. A flurry of slapping and heaving ensues. Who will shove the other out of the sacred ring and move up in the ranks? From the ancient rituals to the thrill of the quick bouts, sumo is a fascinating spectacle. Tournaments take place in Tokyo three times a year; outside of tournament season you can catch an early morning practice session at one of the stables where wrestlers live and train.

J. HENNING BUCHHOLZ / SHUTTERSTOCK ©

Tokyo's Top 16

Cherry Blossoms in Yoyogi-kōen

10 Come spring, thousands of cherry trees around the city burst into white and pink flowers. If Tokyoites have one moment to let their hair down en masse, this is it. They gather in parks and along river banks for sake-fuelled cherry-blossom-viewing parties called hanami . Grassy Yoyogi-kōen , one of the city's largest parks, is where you'll find some of the most spirited and elaborate bacchanals – complete with barbecues and turntables. Many revellers stay long past dark for yozakura (night-time cherry blossoms).

Blossom viewing, Yoyogi-kōen | WILLIAM ALLUM / SHUTTERSTOCK ©

Tokyo's Top 16

Ghibli Museum

11 Even those unfamiliar with the magical world of master animator Miyazaki Hayao – creator of anime (Japanese animation) classics including Princess Mononoke and Spirited Away – will find this museum enchanting. Fans won't want to leave. Miyazaki designed the space himself and, like his films, it's filled with whirring steampunk-esque machines and fairy-tale structures. And while you won't see staff cosplaying (costume playing) any characters, many of the animated characters have been cleverly worked into the designs.

CYBERBIRD / SHUTTERSTOCK ©

Tokyo's Top 16

Shibuya Crossing

12 This is the Tokyo you’ve dreamed about and seen in movies: the frenetic pace, the mind-boggling crowds, the twinkling neon lights and the giant video screens beaming larger-than-life celebrities over the streets. At Shibuya’s famous 'scramble' crossing , all of this comes together every time the light changes. It’s an awesome sight. Come on a Friday or Saturday night and you’ll find the whole scene turned up to 11, when fleets of fashionable Tokyoites embark upon a night out on the town.

ALESSANDRO CRUGNOLA / 500PX ©

Tokyo's Top 16

Tokyo National Museum

13 This is the world's largest collection of Japanese art, home to gorgeous silken kimonos, evocative scroll paintings done in charcoal ink, earthy tea-ceremony pottery and haunting examples of samurai armour and swords. Even better: it's totally manageable in a morning and organised into easy-to-grasp, thoughtful exhibitions. The Tokyo National Museum also includes the enchanting Gallery of Hōryū-ji Treasures, a hall filled with dozens of spot-lit Buddha statues dating from the 7th century, as well as art and artefacts that span the Asian continent.

F11PHOTO / SHUTTERSTOCK ©

Tokyo's Top 16

Kabuki-za

14 Dramatic, intensely visual kabuki is Japan's most recognised art form. Kabuki developed in Tokyo, then known as Edo, during the 18th and 19th centuries, and an afternoon at the theatre has been a favourite local pastime ever since. Descendants of the great actors of the day still grace Tokyo stages, drawing devoted fans. Established in 1889, Kabukiza is Tokyo’s premier kabuki theatre. Renovated in 2013, the new Kuma Kengo design preserved the showy traditional facade and includes a tower in which you’ll find a great teahouse and rooftop garden.

TK KURIKAWA / SHUTTERSTOCK ©

Tokyo's Top 16

Akihabara Pop Culture

15 Venture into the belly of the pop culture beast that is Akihabara , the centre of Tokyo's otaku (geek) subculture. You don't have to obsess about manga or anime to enjoy this quirky neighbourhood: as otaku culture gains more and more influence on the culture at large, 'Akiba' is drawing more visitors who don't fit the stereotype. With its neon-bright electronics stores, retro arcades, cosplay cafes, it's equal parts sensory overload, cultural mind-bender and just plain fun.

SEAN PAVONE / SHUTTERSTOCK©

Tokyo's Top 16

Ōedo Onsen Monogatari

16 Don’t let Tokyo’s slick surface and countless diversions fool you; underneath the city it’s pure, bubbling primordial pleasure. Ōedo Onsen Monogatari pumps natural hot-spring water from 1440m below Tokyo Bay into its many bathing pools, which include both indoor and outdoor baths (called rotemburo ). But it's not just about bathing: Ōedo Onsen Monogatari bills itself as an 'onsen theme park' – a fantastically Japanese concept – and includes a Disneyland-style version of an Edo-era town where guests dressed in yukata (light cotton kimonos) can play old-time carnival games.

JAVIER LARREA / AGE FOTOSTOCK ©

What's New

Build up to 2020

The countdown to the 2020 Summer Olympics is on as Tokyo prepares for the international spotlight. More and more English is popping up, in the form of navigational signs, apps, menus and brochures; more restaurants and shops are hiring English-speaking staff, too. Free city wi-fi, though still clunky, is improving. Some sights (such as Meiji-jingū) are getting touch-ups; others (such as Tokyo Photographic Art Museum) have recently reopened.

Ginza Reboot

Roppongi, Marunouchi and Nihombashi have all had makeovers in the last decade, and now it's Ginza's turn. In spring 2017, the neighbourhood will welcome its newest shopping centre, Ginza Six. Also new: Ginza Sony Park (銀座ソニーパーク MAP GOOGLE MAP bGinza, Hibiya, Marunouchi line to Ginza, exit B9), Ginza Place and Tōkyū Plaza Ginza.

Go-Karting

The latest Tokyo craze is racing around the city streets in go-karts – dressed like your favourite video-game character. Operators include Akiba Kart and Maricar.

Artsy East Tokyo

Kuramae, near Asakusa, is shaping up to be a hot spot for contemporary artisan studios and boutiques.

Sumida Hokusai Museum

In 2016, east Tokyo neighbourhood Ryōgoku got a striking new museum devoted to hometown artist – and woodblock print master – Hokusai.

More Activities

There's lots to do in Tokyo, including new cooking classes and crafts workshops in English.

Tsukiji Update

The fate of Tsukiji Market is up in the air again, moving at the earliest (if at all) in 2017. Either way, the fantastic Outer Market, now with even more tours and activities taking place, will remain.

Tennōzu Isle Art & Architecture

All of a sudden things are happening in this warehouse district on Tokyo Bay, with recent openings including the fantastic architecture model storage gallery Archi-Depot, the arts supply store Pigment and a gallery complex.

Guesthouses Galore

The stylish hostels and guesthouses just keep coming and, with new openings in neighbourhoods near Marunouchi and Roppongi, they're no longer confined to the east side of town.

Cafes, Cafes, Cafes

The coffee third wave has shown no signs yet of cresting in Tokyo. There's a new cafe belt forming in Kiyosumi, to rival the one established in the Shibuya-Harajuku-Yoyogi corridor.

Need to Know

Currency

Japanese yen (¥)

Language

Japanese

Visas

Visas are generally not required for stays of up to 90 days.

Money

Post offices and most convenience stores have international ATMs. Credit cards are accepted at major establishments, though it’s best to keep cash on hand.

Mobile Phones

Purchase prepaid data-only SIM cards (for unlocked smartphones only) online or at airport kiosks or electronics stores. For voice calls, rent a pay-as-you-go mobile.

Time

Japan Standard Time (GMT/UTC plus nine hours)

Tourist Information

Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building Tourist Information Center ( bŌedo line to Tochōmae, exit A4) offers English-language information and publications. Other branches in Keisei Ueno Station, Haneda Airport and Shinjuku Bus Terminal.

When to Go

Spring and autumn are the best times to visit: spring has cherry blossoms; autumn has arts events. Mid-June to mid-July is the rainy season; August is hot and humid, but is also the month for summer festivals.

Daily Costs

Budget: less than ¥8000

A Dorm bed: ¥3000

A Free sights such as temples and markets

A Bowl of noodles: ¥750

A Happy-hour drink: ¥500

A 24-hour subway pass: ¥600

Midrange: ¥8000–20,000

A Double room at a business hotel: ¥14,000

A Museum entry: ¥1000

A Dinner for two at an izakaya (Japanese pub-eatery): ¥6000

A Live music show: ¥3000

Top End: more than ¥20,000

A Double room in a four-star hotel: ¥35,000

A Sushi-tasting menu: ¥15,000

A Box seat for kabuki: ¥21,000

A Taxi ride back to the hotel: ¥3000

Advance Planning

Three months before Purchase tickets for the Ghibli Museum; book a table at your top splurge restaurant.

One month before Book any tickets for sumo, kabuki and Giants games online, and a spot on the Imperial Palace tour; scan web listings for festivals, events and exhibitions.

As soon as you arrive Look for free copies of Time Out Tokyo and Metropolis magazines at airports and hotels.

Useful Websites

Go Tokyo (www.gotokyo.org) The city’s official website includes information on sights, events and suggested itineraries.

Lonely Planet (www.lonelyplanet.com/tokyo) Destination information, hotel bookings, traveller forum and more.

Time Out Tokyo (www.timeout.jp) Arts and entertainment listings.

Tokyo Food Page (www.bento.com) City-wide restaurant coverage.

Tokyo Cheapo (https://tokyocheapo.com) Hints on how to do Tokyo on the cheap.

Arriving in Tokyo

Narita Airport An express train or highway bus to central Tokyo costs around ¥3000 (one to two hours). Both run frequently from 6am to 10.30pm; pick up tickets at kiosks inside the arrivals hall (no advance reservations required). Taxis start at ¥20,000.

Haneda Airport Frequent trains and buses (¥400 to ¥1200, 30 to 45 minutes) to central Tokyo run frequently from 5.30am to midnight; times and costs depend on your destination in the city. There are only a couple of night buses. For a taxi, budget between ¥5000 and ¥8000.

Tokyo Station Connect from the shinkansen (bullet train) terminal here to the JR Yamanote line or the Marunouchi subway to destinations around central Tokyo.

Getting Around

Efficient, clean and virtually crime-free, Tokyo's public transport system is the envy of the world. Of most use to travellers is the train and subway system, which is easy to navigate thanks to English signage.

A Subway The quickest and easiest way to get around central Tokyo. Runs 5am to midnight.

A Train Japan Rail (JR) Yamanote (loop) and Chūō-Sōbu (central) lines service major stations. Runs from 5am to midnight.

A Taxi The only transport option that runs all night; unless you’re stuck, taxis only make economical sense for groups of four.

A Cycling A fun way to get around, though traffic can be intense. Rentals available; some hostels and ryokan lend bicycles.

A Walking Subway stations are close in the city centre; save cash by walking if you only need to go one stop.

Sleeping

Tokyo's accommodation is expensive, though more attractive budget and midrange options are popping up all the time. Business hotels are an economic option and ryokan (traditional inns with Japanese-style bedding) fill the need for small, character-filled sleeping spaces. The best deals are on the east side of town, in neighbourhoods such as Ueno and Asakusa. Standards of cleanliness and service are generally high everywhere.

Useful Websites

A Jalan ( www.jalan.net/en/japan_hotels_ryokan ) Japanese discount accommodation site.

A Japanican ( www.japanican.com ) Accommodation site for foreign travellers, run by Japan's largest travel agency.

A Lonely Planet ( www.lonelyplanet.com/japan/tokyo/hotels ) Compare prices, check availability and book accommodations.

What to Pack

A Tokyo hotels can be tiny, so bring as small a suitcase as possible.

A You may be taking your shoes on and off a lot, so it helps to have ones that don’t need lacing up.

Top Itineraries

Day One

Harajuku & Aoyama

MStart with a visit to Meiji-jingū, Tokyo’s signature Shintō shrine. Then walk down Omote-sandō to check out the jaw-dropping contemporary architecture along this stylish boulevard. Work (and shop) your way back through the side streets of Ura-Hara, and then up Takeshita-dōri, the famous teen fashion bazaar.

5

Lunch Stop for dumplings at local fave Harajuku Gyōza-rō.

Shibuya & Shimo-Kitazawa

RHead down to Shibuya (you can walk) and continue your schooling in Tokyo pop culture by wandering the lanes of this youthful neighbourhood. Don't miss Shibuya Center-gai, the main drag, and the mural, Myth of Tomorrow, in the train station. Stick around Shibuya until dusk to see Shibuya Crossing all lit up.

5

Dinner Classic izakaya Donjaca or yakitori in Omoide-yokochō.

Shinjuku & Northwest Tokyo

NTake the train to Shinjuku and immerse yourself in the swarming crowds and neon lights of this notorious nightlife district. The Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building observatories stay open until 11pm for free night views. Freshen up at urban onsen Thermae-yu. From around 9pm the shanty bars of Golden Gai come to life; take your pick from the quirky offerings and finish up with a time-honoured Tokyo tradition: a late-night bowl of noodles at Nagi.

Top Itineraries

Day Two

Ginza & Tsukiji

MSkip breakfast and head to Tsukiji Outer Market, where you can cobble together a morning meal from the food vendors here. There are also stalls selling kitchen tools, tea and more. From Tsukiji it's an easy walk to the landscape garden Hama-rikyū Onshi-teien, where you can stop for tea in the teahouse Nakajima no Ochaya. Then walk (or take a taxi) to Ginza, home to department stores, art galleries and luxury boutiques.

5

Lunch Go for broke at Ginza sushi counter Kyūbey; reservations necessary.

Ginza & Tsukiji

RContinue exploring Ginza, walking as far as Hibiya, to see the edge of the Imperial Palace, with its moats and keeps. Then hop on the subway and ride back to Kabukiza (in Higashi-Ginza), to see a single act of kabuki (check the schedule online beforehand).

5

Dinner Night-time noodles at Kagari.

Marunouchi & Nihombashi

NWalk up Namiki-dōri, home to high-end hostess bars, and pretty, tree-lined Naka-dōri to Marunouchi. In nearby Yūrakuchō, you can stop for sake, beer and small plates of food under the elevated train tracks at Manpuku Shokudō. Or go upscale with cocktails at Peter atop the Peninsula Hotel.

Top Itineraries

Day Three

Ueno & Yanesen

MSpend the morning exploring the many attractions of Ueno-kōen, home to the Tokyo National Museum, centuries-old temples and shrines, and Tokyo's biggest zoo. Then take a stroll through the old-fashioned, open-air market, Ameya-yokochō, and the historical neighbourhood of Yanaka; in the latter you'll find art galleries and studios.

5

Lunch Get a course of seasonal skewers at historic Hantei.

Asakusa & Sumida River

RCatch the subway for Asakusa to visit the temple complex Sensō-ji, the shrine Asakusa-jinja and the maze of old-world alleys that surround these sights. There are lots of shops selling traditional crafts and foodstuffs around here, too. Don't miss the temple complex all lit up from dusk.

5

Dinner Fill up on steaming oden at 100-year-old Otafuku.

Asakusa & Sumida River

NAsakusa has some fun, low-key nightlife, from the historic beer hall Kamiya Bar to the modern Asahi Sky Room (where the view of the illuminated Tokyo Sky Tree and the snaking Sumida-gawa is excellent); you can also catch folk-music shows at Oiwake. Or just take the subway to Ryōgoku for more beer: Popeye boasts Tokyo's largest selection of Japanese craft brews.

Top Itineraries

Day Four

West Tokyo

MTake the train west to the magical Ghibli Museum (reservations necessary; we recommend getting in early at 10am). Afterwards walk through woodsy Inokashira-kōen, stopping at Inokashira Benzaiten, to Kichijōji, home to the old market, Harmonica-yokochō.

5

Lunch Skewers at Tetchan or wagyū (Japanese beef) steak at Satou.

Akihabara & Kōrakuen

RAfter lunch, work your way east on the Sōbu line: your final goal is pop culture centre Akihabara. (But if you get distracted by the vintage clothing shops of Kōenji or the more underground otaku scene in Nakano, that's OK too.) In Akiba you can play retro video games at Super Potato Retro-kan and ride go-karts – while dressed as video-game characters – through the streets with Akiba Kart (reserve ahead; international driving licence necessary).

5

Dinner Get the izakaya experience at Jōmon or Gonpachi.

Roppongi, Akasaka & Around

NHop on the Hibiya line for Roppongi to check out Roppongi Hills, the first of Tokyo's new breed of live-work-and-play megamalls. On the top floor of a tower here is the excellent Mori Art Museum, which stays open until 10pm. Then head out into the wilds of Roppongi's infamous nightlife. Make sure to get in a round of karaoke.

If You Like...

Shintō Shrines

Meiji-jingū Tokyo’s grandest Shintō shrine, set in a wooded grove.

Ueno Tōshō-gū Recently restored, gilded homage to warlord Tokugawa Ieyasu.

Inokashira Benzaiten Ancient sanctuary of the sea goddess, Benzaiten.

Akagi-jinja Centuries-old shrine updated with modern style.

Buddhist Temples

Sensō-ji Tokyo’s oldest and most famous Buddhist temple and the epicentre of old-world Asakusa.

Fukagawa Fudō-dō An active temple of the esoteric Shingon sect, which performs regular fire rituals.

Sengaku-ji This Sōtō Zen temple is the final resting place of the famous 47 rōnin (masterless samurai).

Zōjō-ji The very rare main gate of this Pure Land Buddhist temple dates to 1605.

Museums

Tokyo National Museum Home to the world’s largest collection of Japanese art.

Intermediatheque Experimental museum drawing on the holdings of the University of Tokyo.

Nezu Museum Asian antiques in a striking contemporary building.

Sumida Hokusai Museum New museum dedicated to woodblock artist Hokusai.

Contemporary Art & Design

Mori Art Museum (森美術館 MAP GOOGLE MAP bHibiya line to Roppongi, exit 1) Sky-high galleries that host travelling shows by top Japanese and foreign artists.

21_21 Design Sight Museum devoted entirely to contemporary design.

Archi-Depot Repository for architecture models by famous names.

Complex 665 New destination housing three leading galleries.

Crafts

Japan Folk Crafts Museum (日本民藝館; Mingeikan GOOGLE MAP dKeiō Inokashira line to Komaba-Todaimae, west exit) Exhibitions highlighting the beauty of everyday objects.

Crafts Gallery Ceramics, lacquerware and more from Japan's 'living national treasures'.

Suntory Museum of Art Modern setting for changing displays of decorative works.

History

Edo-Tokyo Museum Tells the story of how a fishing village evolved into a sprawling, modern metropolis.

National Shōwa Memorial Museum Learn what life was like for ordinary Tokyoites during WWII.

Shitamachi Museum Recreation of a wooden, Edo-era tenement neighbourhood.

Traditional Gardens

Rikugi-en Tokyo's most beautiful landscape garden, evoking scenes from classical literature.

Hama-rikyū Onshi-teien An ancient shogunate hunting ground, now a vast green space with a traditional teahouse.

Kiyosumi-teien A former villa pleasure garden with sculptural stones from around Japan.

Koishikawa Kōrakuen Built by the Tokugawa clan, a fine example of traditional Japanese garden design.

Parks

Ueno-kōen Tokyo’s oldest park with museums, temples, woodsy paths and water lilies.

Shinjuku-gyoen Home to 1500 cherry trees, vast lawns and a tropical greenhouse.

Yoyogi-kōen A big grassy expanse and a popular weekend gathering spot.

Inokashira-kōen Wooded strolling paths, performance artists and pedal boats.

People Watching

Akihabara See cosplay (costume play) kids on Sundays along Chūō-dōri, or anytime riding go-karts through the neighbourhood.

Yoyogi-kōen With people living in tight quarters, dancers and musicians head to the park to practise.

Omote-sandō The city's de facto catwalk draws fashionistas from all over the world.

Ginza Head out in the twilight hours and catch high-end hostesses in kimonos and elaborate up-dos.

City Views

Tokyo Sky Tree Dizzying views from the lookouts on this 634m tower, the world’s tallest.

Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building The 45th-floor observation decks in this marvel by Tange Kenzō are free.

New York Bar One of many luxury hotel cocktail bars with stunning night views.

Tokyo Bay Take a night cruise and see the shoreline from the bay.

Tokyo at dusk | PHOTOGRAPHY BY ZHANGXUN / GETTY IMAGES ©

Markets

Tsukiji Outer Market A warren of stalls selling kitchen tools and foodstuffs to chefs and home cooks alike.

Ameya-yokochō Tokyo's last open-air market dates to the tumultuous days after WWII.

Harmonica-yokochō Classic low-ceiling, lantern-lit covered market.

Ōedo Antique Market Hunt for undiscovered antique treasures at this twice-monthly gathering.

Month By Month

Top Events

Hatsu-mōde, January

Cherry Blossoms, April

Sanja Matsuri, May

Sumida-gawa Fireworks, July

Kōenji Awa Odori, August

January

Tokyo comes to a halt for O-shōgatsu, the first three days of the new year set aside for family and rest; most places close and many residents return to their home towns.

z Hatsu-mōde

Hatsu-mōde, the first shrine visit of the new year, starts just after midnight on 1 January and continues through O-shōgatsu. Meiji-jingū is the most popular spot in Tokyo; it can get very, very crowded, but that's part of the experience.

z Coming of Age Day

The second Monday of January is seijin-no-hi, the collective birthday for all who have turned 20 (the age of majority) in the past year; young women don gorgeous kimonos for ceremonies at Shintō shrines.

February

February is the coldest month, though it rarely snows. Winter days are crisp and clear – the best time of year to spot Mt Fuji in the distance.

z Setsubun

The first day of spring is 3 February in the traditional lunar calendar, a shift once believed to bode evil. As a precaution, people visit Buddhist temples, toss roasted beans and shout, ‘Oni wa soto! Fuku wa uchi!’ (‘Devil out! Fortune in!’).

z Shimo-Kitazawa Tengu Matsuri

On the weekend nearest to Setsubun (late January or early February), Shimo-Kitazawa hosts