Tokyo is more than just the capital of Japan. Known for its most punctual and developed railway system, since 1964, riding on Tokyo’s Shinkansen (high-speed trains) has been one of the reasons many visitors get to Tokyo, but Shinkansen is just the icing on the cake.
Here are 10 reasons why you should visit Tokyo:
In Tokyo, you may not find California rolls (sushi rolls that were started in California by the founder of Fukusuke in California), but you’ll get an array of Japanese cuisine that suits all budgets and tastes.
When in Tokyo, try these foods:
Nigiri sushi – hand-molded sushi (rice and raw fish)
Tempura and soba noodles – deep-fried battered vegetables and buckwheat noodles
Ramen – thin noodles served in clear soup with thin slices of pork, egg, and scallion
Kaisen don (sashimi bowl) – raw fish on rice
Unagi – grilled eel
Yakitori – skewered grilled chicken
Udon – thick wheat noodles in clear soup and thinly sliced kamaboko fish cakes or tempura
Mochi – sweet, chewy and sticky rice cakes made from mochigome (glutinous) rice with an assortment of fillings
2. Mt Fuji
Imagine having a meal at a quiet restaurant and admiring an unobstructed view of Mount Fuji, the symbol of Japan. Here are three restaurants that may offer views of Mt Fuji:
- The Sky at New Otani Hotel
- Sushi Sora at The Mandarin Oriental Hotel
- New York Grill & Bar at Park Hyatt Tokyo
Japan’s sacred mountain and national symbol is also the world’s most famous symmetrical stratovolcano. Known to the Japanese as Fujisan and Fujiyama, Mt. Fuji is 12,388 feet (3,776 meters), about 60 miles from Tokyo and is designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
On a clear day, Mt. Fuji is visible from Tokyo Metropolitan Government Office Observatory, Tokyo Skytree Town, Roppongi Hills and Park Hyatt Tokyo. JNTO has a list of places for the best views including ways to get there. Read it at View spots for enjoying diverse expressions of Mt. Fuji.
Sumo is Japan’s national sport that originated from the Shinto tradition. A type of men-only wrestling sport, Sumo started as a performance for the Shinto gods in Japan. Many of the religious traditions have been kept until today. On ordinary days, a sumo wrestler must always wear traditional costume.
Visitors can learn about a sumo wrestlers’ way of life and training by visiting the Ryogoku Kokugikan (Sumo Hall) and or attend a sumo wrestling tournament. Other sumo related attractions are Sumo Museum, Ekoin Temple, and Tomioka Hachimangu Shrine. Try sumo wrestlers’ food or chanko nabe at one of the Chanko Nabe restaurants in Tokyo.
4. Otaku culture
Tokyo’s Akihabara district is the center of Otaku “geek” culture. If you’re a fan of manga, anime, cosplay, and fandom memorabilia, you are considered an otaku. Fans flocked to Akibahara for anime and manga video games, memorabilia, custom clothing and manga cafés (manga kissa).
Some anime and manga cafes to check out: GUNDAM Café, Akihabara LIVE RESTAURANT Heaven’s Gate Maid Café, and Manboo Internet Comic Café.
Tokyo is a haven for trendy fashion, latest electronics, luxury goods, traditional handmade crafts and replica plastic food. Every district in the city has their specialty stores. In Asakusa, you’ll find beautifully made plastic food replicas on Kappabashi Street. For Japanese souvenirs, go to Nakamise Dori at Sensoji Temple Asakusa.
Akibahara is the center for electronics, anime and manga products. For fashion and luxury goods head over to Ginza, Shinjuku, and Shibuya. Don’t miss Dover Street Market in Ginza and Isetan in Shinjuku.
6. Tokyo Disneyland
Disney fans can add another Disney theme park to their list by visiting Tokyo Disneyland. This 115-acres theme park is easily accessible by JR Yamanote Line (Green), JR Keiyo (Red), and JR Musashino (orange) lines from Tokyo. It is just a 15-minute train ride from Tokyo Station.
For more transportation information, check out Tokyo Disneyland.
Hotels like The Grand Nikko Tokyo Daiba, Hilton Tokyo Odaiba and Keio Plaza in Shinjuku offers free transportation to Tokyo Disneyland for guests.
You don’t have to travel far to get to an onsen to experience a traditional Japanese hot spring and bathhouse. Go to Ooedo-Onsen Monogatari near Tokyo Bay. The Oedo Onsen is the first and only natural hot spring theme park in Japan. There are a variety of baths and guests can walk around in rented yukata (summer kimono) and relax and explore the garden, the replica street from the Edo era and the pools. Besides soaking in the baths, you can ask for a massage or a complete spa treatment.
8. Ancient temples and shrines
One of the must-see ancient temples of the world is Sensoji Temple in Asakusa Tokyo. Built in 628, Sensoji is Tokyo’s oldest temple, and locals believe that the temple’s smoke will bring good luck to visitors.
For tranquility and a Japanese spiritual experience head over to the Meiji Shrine. Surrounded by 120,000 trees, this shrine dedicated to Emperor Meiji and his wife Empress Shoken has a 39-foot torii gate, Meiji Jingu Treasure House (houses the late Emperor’s things), and the Inner Garden.
9. Sake tasting
Sake is an alcoholic drink made of rice, koji, and water. There are hundreds of sake varieties in Japan. You can go for sake tasting at Japan Sake and Shochu Information Center in Minato-ku, Tokyo. Or join a sake tasting class with Ninja Food Tours.
Train enthusiasts will enjoy the shinkansen, Japanese high-speed trains, also known as bullet trains. When in Tokyo, the easiest way to experience the shinkansen is to join a bus tour to Hakone and return to Tokyo on a Shinkansen. That was what I did.
Photos and article by Claudia Looi