Sensoji (Kannon Temple)
Sensoji (also known as Asakusa Kannon Temple) is a Buddhist temple located in Asakusa. Perhaps the most famous and photographed of Tokyo's temples, it is the oldest Buddhist temple in the capital, and the five-story pagoda, trails of incense and vast eaves will take you back to a Tokyo of time gone by.
The legend says that in the year 628, two brothers fished a statue of Kannon, the goddess of mercy, out of the Sumida River, and even though they put the statue back into the river, it always returned to them. Consequently, Sensoji was built nearby for the goddess of Kannon. The temple was completed in 645, making it Tokyo's oldest temple.
Visit the Meiji Shrine in Harajuku, the foremost Shinto shrine in Tokyo. Originally built in 1920, it was destroyed in World War II and rebuilt in 1958. The shrine is dedicated to Emperor Meiji and his wife, Empress Shoken, who ruled from 1868 to 1912, presiding over Japan’s transition from centuries of shogun rule to imperial power. On weekends, Japanese couples getting married, often in traditional attire, are a common sight.
Toyosu & Tsukiji Markets
Visit Toyosu Fish market, where the famous Tsukiji Fish market recently located. Daily auctions are held featuring over 450 types of seafood, a unique experience that offers insight into a country obsessed with the freshest possible ingredients for its seafood-centric cuisine. Although the fish market relocated, the outer market selling produce and kitchenware still stands at the old Tsukiji site and is still worth a visit.
Tokyo Imperial Palace
Visit the perimeter of the Imperial Palace and its surrounding gardens. (Tours of the actual palace interiors are limited to highly regulated group tours at set times, so we don't recommend this.) Instead, view the palace from popular points like the Nijubashi bridge (or “double bridge”) over the southern moat and the East Gardens. During cherry blossom season, this is a popular spot for both locals and visitors alike to take in the blooms.
Harajuku & Omotesando
The Harajuku neighborhood and its main artery, Omotesando Boulevard, are a haven for shoppers. Here, tidy alleyways filled with cafes and boutiques lend a European feel. Sunday afternoons are when the famed Harajuku girls (and boys) come here to strut their stuff, exchanging the strictures of weekday conformity (the ubiquitous navy-blue school uniforms) for outrageously dressed alter egos. Their bold attire are badges of individuality, and you can’t help but admire what Gwen Stefani dubbed their "wicked style."
Discover the famous “Akihabara scene,” a mind-boggling alternative universe that includes Japan’s unique “maid cafés”, electronics emporiums, high-tech video game parlors, pachinko parlors, and the vibrant world of the Japanese anime (cartoons) and manga (comic books). Akihabara is a fascinating window into the parallel universe of Japan’s geek-youth culture called otaku, a catch-all for young people (most often men) with obsessions for the above diversions.
If your visit to Japan aligns, attend an afternoon of a Grand Sumo Tournament for a quintessential Japanese experience. Sumo is a serious sport that combines weight, speed, intellect, technique, and guile, with matches preceded by such ritual elements as purifying the ring with salt. Matches can last from a few seconds to a couple minutes, and bigger isn't always better; smaller wrestlers often defeat larger opponents. In recent years, the top-ranked yokozuna have actually been Mongolian, while wrestlers from South Korea, Russia, Georgia, Bulgaria, and Estonia have also joined the league, using adopted Japanese names.
Shinjuku’s Memory Lane
Memory Lane in Tokyo is a name which pops up in pretty much any Tokyo itinerary guide. Some, refer to it as the Piss Alley, which will inevitably make you avoid it. Who in the right mind would want to visit such place right in the heart of Tokyo? A trip down the Memory Lane in Tokyo is most certainly not what it seems. A narrow street, home to around 60 small bars is a place where locals continue to go to. Memory Lane in Tokyo is not a dirty, dodgy street in some forgotten neighbourhood, but it's a charming little place, full of history right in the heart of Shinjuku. And as with everything Japanese, there is a story awaiting to be told, of how Piss Alley has become one of the best things to do in Tokyo.