Tokyo, Japan’s busy capital, mixes the ultramodern and the traditional, from neon-lit skyscrapers to historic temples. Tokyo is a world unto itself, and it’s an absolute must-see for any travel lover. Soak in the traditional Japanese culture, learn about modern life in the city, and people-watch until your head spins!Tokyo has it all: from hole-in-the-wall gyoza joints to high-end Michelin sushi bars. If you’re going to Tokyo, plan on trying all the amazing food. Food notwithstanding, Tokyo is a crazy and amazing city. You can watch the tuna auction at the Tsukiji fish market in the morning, wander around the Imperial Palace in the afternoon, and sing karaoke with the locals in the evening.This is a modern, fast-paced city that still embraces its traditional roots. Even though the city is large, there’s a sense of cleanliness and order about Tokyo that makes it extremely accessible to visitors, and keeps it consistently rated by Conde Nast as one of the best cities in the world.
Without a doubt, the hardest part of being in Tokyo is the language barrier. Suddenly you find yourself transported to a crowded city of 12.5 million people, where you can neither speak nor read the language. To make matters worse, many Japanese cannot speak English, and signs, menus, and shop names are often in Japanese only.Realizing the difficulties foreigners have with the language, the Japan National Tourism Organization (JNTO) puts out a nifty booklet called The Tourist's Language Handbook, with sentences in English and their Japanese equivalents for almost every activity, from asking directions to shopping, to ordering in a restaurant, to staying in a Japanese inn. If you need to ask directions in Tokyo, your best bet is to ask younger people. They have all studied English in school and are most likely to be able to help you.
Japanese yen (¥) is the currency used in Tokyo.
Credit Cards in Tokyo: Your credit card provides you with the absolute best exchange rate for purchases in the Tokyo area. Please check beforehand with your bank for additional fees before you decide to use your credit card. Major credit cards including Visa and Mastercard are widely accepted in Tokyo area establishments.
ATM in Tokyo: ATMs in Japan allow cash withdrawal in local Japanese Yen ¥. These ATMs allow international credit cards like Visa/Plus and Mastercard/Cirrus. However, most places charge surcharge for cash withdrawal (usually a 400-yen surcharge per withdrawal). Please check with your bank for any additional fees for using your ATM card in a foreign country.
Tips for Currency in Japan
- Japan is still a cash society.
- Many places including small shops and restaurants in Japan requires payment in Cash only.
- Please keep cash (local currency) on hand all times.
In Tokyo, nearly all high-end and medium-range hotels offer various categories of rooms at varying rates, with names such as premium, superior, etc., visit our website for more booking and hotel options.
Tokyo is a huge sprawling city but it's served by one of the world's best public transport systems. Here, I'll give you all the details on getting around Tokyo easily.The best way to understand Tokyo is to think of it as several cities connected by a great public transport system. Each urban node like Shinjuku, Shibuya or Roppongi is like its own city. And if you jump on the subway or train, you can be in a completely different "city" in a few minutes.
- Tokyo Trains and Subways. Trains and subways are the best way to get around Tokyo.Tokyo’s subways and trains are the best way to get around Tokyo. Stops are frequent, and the vast majority of tourist sites can be accessed via these systems. Rides typically cost a few dollars, but will vary by distance. Here is a map of the stations serviced. Don’t worry about scheduling your trip too much, though — Tokyo’s rail system is typically on time and stops are frequent. Please refer to HyperDia for operating hours.
- While you can buy individual tickets, the easiest and best way to use Tokyo’s subways and train is with a Pasmo or Suica card. These can be bought at many train/subways stations or convenience stores. You simply swipe the card over the reader when entering and leaving the system. The fare will automatically be deducted from your card, and the machine will show the remaining balance. It’s also easy to top up your balance at the automated kiosks.
- Tokyo Buses: Tokyo's buses are extensive and efficient, but they're not ideal for tourists.
- Tokyo Taxis: Tokyo's taxis are an excellent way to get around the city, especially outside of rush hour or if you have to go to a place not close to a train or subway station.
Photo of people going inside the palace
Top 10 places to visit:
Tokyo, the capital city of Japan, is also home to the Imperial Palace and the seat of Government and Parliament. In East-Central Honshu, the largest of Japan's main islands, this heavily populated city is well worth exploring. One of the world's most modern cities in terms of its infrastructure and design - due largely to the 1923 earthquake and the devastation of WWII - Tokyo also holds the title of the world's most expensive city in which to live; fortunately, it's also one of the easiest to get around thanks to its superb rail and subway networks. The cultural side of Tokyo is famous for its numerous things to do and top attractions, including museums, festivals, internationally noted cuisine, and professional sports clubs, including baseball, football, along with traditional Japanese pursuits like sumo wrestling. It's also a city rich in music and theater, with numerous venues featuring everything from Japanese to modern dramas, symphony orchestras, and pop and rock concerts. Discover the best places to visit in the city with our list of the top attractions in Tokyo.
- The Imperial Palace: The chief attraction of Tokyo's Marunouchi district is the Imperial Palace with its beautiful 17th-century parks surrounded by walls and moats. Still in use by the Imperial family, the Imperial Palace stands on the site where, in 1457, the Feudal Lord Ota Dokan built the first fortress, the focal point from which the city of Tokyo (or Edo, as it was then) gradually spread. As famous as the palace is the Nijubashi Bridge leading to its interior, a structure that takes its name ("double bridge") from its reflection in the water. Other notable features include the two-meter-thick wall surrounding the palace and its gates, one of which leads to the East Higashi-Gyoen Garden.
- Ginza District: Ginza is Tokyo's busiest shopping area and is as iconic as Times Square in New York, and much older: it's been the commercial center of the country for centuries, and is where five ancient roads connecting Japan's major cities all met. Lined by exclusive shops and imposing palatial stores, the Ginza district is also fun to simply wander around or, better still, sit in one of its many tea and coffee shops or restaurants while watching the world rush past. It's also where you'll find the famous Kabuki-za Theatre (see #12 below), home to traditional Kabuki performances, as well as the Shinbashi Enbujō Theatre in which Azuma-odori dances and Bunraku performances are staged.
- The Sensō-ji Temple: In the Asakusa district of Tokyo, the exquisite Sensō-ji Temple - the city's most famous shrine - stands at the end of a long street market hosting vendors selling masks, carvings, combs made of ebony and wood, toys, kimonos, fabrics, and precious paper goods. Dedicated to Kannon, the Buddhist goddess of compassion, the temple was established in AD 645 and retains its original appearance despite having been rebuilt numerous times. Highlights include the Kaminari-mon Gate with its 3.3-meter-high red paper lantern bearing the inscription "Thunder Gate;" the famous and much-loved Incense Vat, reputed to drive away ailments (you'll see people cupping their hands around the smoke and applying it to the part of their body needing healing); and the fascinating temple doves, said to be Kannon's sacred messengers (they also tell fortunes by pulling cards from a deck).
- National Museum of Nature and Science: Located in Tokyo's Ueno Park, the superb National Museum of Nature and Science (Kokuritsu Kagaku Hakubutsukan) opened in 1871 and is one of the country's oldest museums.Now completely renovated and modernized, the museum houses a vast collection of materials related to natural history and science, including many fascinating interactive displays on space development, nuclear energy, and transportation, allowing visitors a unique insight into the latest scientific and technological advances. Highlights of the Japan Gallery (Nihonkan) include numerous exhibits of prehistoric creatures, the history of the Japanese people, including traditional customs and outfits, while the Global Gallery (Chikyūkan) features many excellent scientific and technology displays, including robotics and vintage vehicles.
- Ueno Park and Zoo: A paradise-like oasis of green in the heart of busy Tokyo, Ueno Park is the city's largest green space and one of its most popular tourist attractions. In addition to its lovely grounds, the park also boasts numerous temples and museums to explore. Criss-crossed by pleasant gravel paths, this 212-acre park includes highlights such as a trip on a small boat on the reed-fringed Shinobazu pond, around a little island with its Bentendo Temple; visiting the 17th-century Toshogu Shrine, with its 256 bronze and stone lanterns; or strolling around Ueno Park Zoo. Opened in 1882, it is Japan's oldest zoo, famous for the pandas presented by the People's Republic of China. The Aqua-Zoo, one of the largest aquariums in Asia, is also worth a visit, especially if you're traveling with kids.
- Tokyo National Museum: The National Museum of Tokyo houses more than 100,000 important works of Japanese, Chinese, and Indian art, including more than 100 national treasures. Opened in 1938, the museum includes highlights such as numerous Buddhist sculptures from Japan and China dating from the 6th century to the present; collections of old textiles, historical weapons, and military equipment; historical Japanese clothing; and Asian ceramics and pottery. Important artwork includes Japanese paintings from the 7th to the 14th centuries; exquisite Japanese and Chinese masterpieces of lacquer-work of various centuries, including examples of lacquer-carving, gold lacquer, and lacquer with mother of pearl; and many fine examples of calligraphy. English language guided tours are available.
- National Museum of Western Art: In Ueno Park, just three minutes' walk from Ueno Station, the National Museum of Western Art (Kokuritsu Seiyō Bijutsukan) was built in 1959 to plans by famous Swiss architect Le Corbusier. The exhibits, largely made up of works by important French artists, come mainly from the collections of Japanese businessman and art collector Kojiro Matsukata, bought during visits to Europe early in the 20th century. In the courtyard are works by French sculptor Auguste Rodin, while highlights inside are canvases by Impressionists Paul Cézanne, Claude Monet, Edouard Manet, and Edgar Degas. The museum also boasts an excellent restaurant with great views over the courtyard.
- The Meiji Shrine: Dedicated to Emperor Meiji and his wife, Empress Shōken, construction of the splendid Meiji Shrine began in 1915 and was completed in 1926. Although the original structure was destroyed during WWII, it was rebuilt in 1958 and remains one of Tokyo's most important religious sites. Surrounded by a 175-acre evergreen forest that is home to some 120,000 trees representing species found across Japan (as well as the interesting "wishing tree," on which visitors can write and hang their deepest wishes), the shrine's highlights include its Inner Precinct (Naien) with its museum containing royal treasures, and the Outer Precinct (Gaien), home to the Meiji Memorial Picture Gallery with its superb collection of murals relating to the lives of the emperor and empress. Be sure to also visit the adjacent Meiji Shrine Inner Garden (Yoyogi Gyoen), an attractive public garden complete with a teahouse, iris garden, and a pleasant arbor.
- The Miraikan and Edo-Tokyo Museums: One of Tokyo's newest museums, the impressive National Museum of Emerging Science and Innovation (Nippon Kagaku Mirai-kan) - usually simply referred to as the Miraikan - offers a fascinating insight into Japan's leading role in the field of technology. Created by Japan's Science and Technology Agency, this ultra-modern, purpose-built facility includes many hands-on interactive exhibits dealing with everything from earthquakes to weather, as well as renewable energy and robotics. Highlights include several displays relating to modern transportation such as a superb model of a Maglev train, as well as a robotics exhibition.
- The Tokyo Skytree: It's hard to miss the Tokyo Skytree (Tōkyō Sukaitsurī), a 634-meter-tall communications and observation tower that rises out of the city's Sumida district of Minato like a huge rocket ship. The country's tallest structure (and the world's tallest freestanding tower), the Tokyo Skytree opened in 2012 and has quickly become one of the city's most visited tourist attractions thanks to the incredible panoramic views from its restaurant and observation decks. With a base designed in the form of a massive tripod, the tower includes many cylindrical observation levels, including one at the 350-meter mark, and another at the 450-meter point, which includes a unique glass spiral walkway to an even higher viewpoint with glass floors for those with strong stomachs. Be sure to also check out the smaller and much older Tokyo Tower, built-in 1958 and once the city's tallest structure.
Food and drink in Tokyo:
Food in Tokyo may seem simple at first glance – a piece of fish covering asmall pod of rice or noodles swimming in a bowl of broth – but when you start to gather the right ingredients and prepare them, you would understand why it takes years to train a sushi chef or perfect the ultimate umami taste. In Japanese cuisine, every element – from ingredients to process and presentation – is well thought out and carefully executed. Perhaps it is with this keenness that Tokyo has more 3-starred Michelin restaurants than other cities in the world.
- Sushi: Beloved by many around the world, sushi is a ubiquitous feature of Tokyo's many restaurants and food stalls. Whether it is breakfast, lunch, or dinner, someone somewhere will be enjoying sushi in Tokyo at any one point in time. This is because Tokyo is home to the world-famous Tsukiji fish market that sells tasty, fresh fish every day to restaurants and chefs around the city and also across the country. In Tokyo, the likes of nigiri sushi (rice topped with raw or cooked fish that sandwiches a small serving of wasabi paste) and gunkanmaki (rice and fish are wrapped with a strip of seaweed) are the most popular variants and should be sampled during any Tokyo trip. If fish is not your favorite, inarizushi (rice wrapped in a pouch of fried tofu) is a delicious alternative.
- Yakitori: Yakitori is cuts of chicken (or other meats) that are skewered by 'Kushi' (typically a bamboo stick) and grilled over hot charcoal. Considered as a type of 'fast food', yakitori is flavored with a variety of sauces, although our top picks are soy sauce and yuzu kosho.You will find yakitori served just everywhere across Tokyo's food stalls, informal izakaya (Japanese bar), and even in gourmet restaurants. As with sushi, there is a yakitori to suit every price point in Tokyo.
- Monjayaki: Monjayaki is a dish that you are not likely to see beyond Kanto (the region encompassing Tokyo).Comfort food to many, monjayaki (or just monja to the locals), is a type of pan-fried batter with finely chopped or grated ingredients liberally strewn across the batter mix on the griddle.At first sight, it may not look the most appetizing dish, but there is a reason why it is so popular – it is incredibly delicious, and versatile too, as you can top it with all sorts of ingredients, anything from cheese to crispy noodles.
- Soba at Kanda Matsuya: Soba is the traditional noodle in Tokyo, and nowhere is that heritage preserved better than at Kanda Matsuya. Founded 130 years ago and housed in superb wooden premises, it’s a living legend. It’s all about the noodles here, which are rolled and cut by hand in-house by the master’s son. They do have an English menu, so be sure to ask for it when you arrive. The zarusoba and gomasoba are both must-haves!
- Ramen: You can’t visit Tokyo without trying ramen. Originally introduced to Japan by way of Chinese immigrants, ramen is an adaption of Chinese wheat noodles accompanied by roasted pork in a broth. Since the 19th century, ramen has evolved into a distinctly Japanese dish. Today, there are easily a few hundred types of area-based ramen variants in Tokyo.
- Kaisen-donburi (seafood rice bowl): Like ramen, seafood donburi has cheaper variants that make a great meal for those who are traveling around Tokyo on a budget. This dish is also filling and packed full of nutrition.The term 'donburi' essentially translates as a bowl of cooked rice topped with a variety of foods. In kaizen-donburi, you can find seafood such as shrimps, tuna, crab, sea urchin and salmon roe. If you don't like seafood, order one that is topped with beef or pork.
- Okonomiyaki at Sakuratei: Okonomiyaki is a cabbage-based pancake, fried on a hot griddle, and smothered in sauce — it translates to "grill what you like." There are many combinations and styles; at Sakuratei in Harajuku, you can try making your own! After it's grilled, finish off the okonomiyaki with seaweed, mayonnaise, and Bonita flakes found at the table.
- Craft beers: There are many locations around the world where you just have to try the local craft beers and Tokyo is one of those places. The art of craft beer has been steadily growing in Japan over the years and there are plenty of fantastic little bars that offer a social experience and unique vibes.
- Whiskey: While Campbelltown in Scotland was once considered the whiskey capital of the world, one wouldn’t be questioned today if they were to bestow that title on Tokyo. The Japanese people love whiskey and the world loves Japanese whiskey, which only means the whiskey scene in Tokyo is incredibly vibrant.