Tokyo Travel Guide

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Tokyo is really, really big, and depending on who you talk to, the largest city in the world. It consists of 23 different inner cities (ku), 26 suburban ones (shi), five towns (chō), eight villages (mura), over 300 islands, two major island chains, and various other bits, each with their own special attractions. Since it doesn't make too much sense to tell about all of these different cities as if they were one city, we have subdivided Tokyo in the following way.

Tokyo has been the capital of Japan since 1868 when it replaced the old capital of Kyoto (just north of Osaka, the 2nd largest city in Japan). Tokyo was previously called Edo before it became the capitol.

Greater Tokyo is 239 square miles (618 square km) and is home to more than 17 Million people in the day time and 12 Million at night... which means that 5 Million people commute to and from work from the outer bedtown cities daily.

Akasaka is the posh high class district which is home to over 3725 companies (as of Jul 2006). There are plenty of reasonable establishments in the area, but some of them can cost you an arm and a leg, so check the menu(s) out before you walk inside.

If you see no prices posted outside and only Visa, MasterCard and a few other credit card companies stickers on the wall next to the entrance... expect to pay an enormous amount for what ever it is they offer.

Akihabara has the largest concentration of electronics shops in the world. There are good deals to be found. Most shops have English speaking staff.  Foreign visitors can get refunds for taxes paid.  Remember to bring your passport as proof of foreign residency.  The big shops also have locations in Shinjuku West Exit with prices being about the same but Akihabara specializes in the foreign market.

Asakusa is famous for its temples and pagoda.  Across the river you can see the Asahi Beer building.  It's the cube-shaped black building with the gold *thingy* on top.  If you don't know what is supposed to represent.... don't feel bad.  The gold worm like thing is commonly refered to as the 'turd'.  Enjoy the veiw but if you want to drink down some suds and eat some food the restaurant on the ground floor of that building can accomodate any hunger or thirst.

Ginza has fabulous shopping opportunities for equally fabulous prices. It is an extremely busy place. Apple's first retail outlet is located in Ginza.  The Mac Store has English speaking staff & 4 floors of that computer cult culture for all to enjoy.

Harajuku Takeshita-dori is a high school girl's dream street.  With cheap fashions abounding and sickly sweet crepes made Japanese style guaranteed to rot your teeth and add buxom to your fashion vocabulary.  On the other side of the spectrum, continue to Omotesando, the fashion avenue, with names like Armani, DKNY, Jean-Paul Gaultier, and Christian Dior to name a few, fashion is everywhere!  How much you want to spend is up to you!

Ikebukuro was once a rather seedy area but has been moving upscale. The massive station contains plenty of shops, and the Sunshine 60 tower. West and northwest of the station is an area of bars and restaurants. Rikkyo University, a major private university with pleasant, ivy-covered, old, red, brick buildings, is in the area and contributes to the youth and liveliness.

Marunouchi is the area around the huge Imperial Palace. The newly renovated Marunouchi Building is filled with spectacular dining opportunities.

Roppongi is the place to go to for foreigner-centric nightlife. Filled at night with energy, people from around the world walk the streets in search of fun and excitement. This part of Tokyo never sleeps. Adult entertainment, a play ground of sorts is yours for the enjoyment.

Shibuya is north of the center and has shrines and trendy shops.  With its neon, traffic, and huge tv screens, it resembles New York City's Times Square. This is the center of youth fashion for the affluent Japanese teenager.  Styles change weekly with hip designers along side more established names in the big *deppato*  Be sure to visit *centa-gai* the main street just across the scramble crossing in Shibuya (the world's busiest pedestrian crossing).  Great food awaits visitors who venture into mid-range Izakaya.  Traditional Japanese food is very healthy, light and nutritious!

Shinagawa is a stop on the Tokaido Shinkansen amongst other train lines. It is less frantic than more central parts of Tokyo, but is well connected via the JR Yamanote line, the Tokaido line, the Keihin Tohoku line, the Keihin Kyuko line and the Yokosuka line. It is a good base to use to visit Japan, with a quieter location, and many international hotels right across the street. There is also an Outbacks restaurant just up the street too. Shinagawa has recently become a large business base with all of the new high rise buildings that have sprung up over the past several years.

Shinjuku offers good shopping facilities and high skyscrapers. Famous for the movie-famed hotel in "Lost in Translation" and Takashimaya Department store's flagship location TIMES SQUARE.  Shinjuku station is the busiest in the world. 

Ueno has a beautiful park, some good museums and temples. Ueno station used to be the entry point to Tokyo for the folks from the northern provinces. You can visit nearby Ameyoko (American Alley) that attracted many Japanese looking for novel goods in the post-war years, and is still vivrant with hundreds of discount shops of abundant varieties. 

To get from one end to the other, the best thing to do is to use the metro system. Although it takes some time to get used to it, it is by far the fastest and cheapest way to get around. For more info see Getting Around. With the new *foreigner friendly* revision (April 2004) even the most novice of traveller can get from 'Shimokitazawa' to 'Kokuritsu Kyougijou Tokyo-to taiiku kan mae' with no problem.  All the lines have a designated letter, and all the stations have a number.  Navigating the 'Tokyo Metro' has never been easier!

Among the highlights of Tokyo no one can afford to miss are: the Sony building in Ginza, the Imperial Palace, the temples of Asakusa, Shinjuku Gyoen park in Shinjuku, Meiji Shrine, Korakuen Garden, the sight of the sacred mountain of Fuji in early morning (mainly visible during winter. A good spot is from top of Government Building in Shinjuku "the To cho"  long vowels). If you can, try to see a Kabuki performance as well. The Tsukiji Fish Market is worth seeing but you have to be there by 7:00 am at the latest to see merchants buying tuna by auction to be served in restaurants later that day. Also children enjoy spending a day at Toyko Disneyland.

Banks are open from 09:00am to 03:00 pm Monday to Friday (closed on Sat, Sun and national holidays). There are Citibank locations in the largers centers for those people using the *PLUS* system but be warned, the Japanese banking system is not always as advanced as other industrialized countries.

Part or or all of this text stems from the original article at:


July 02, 2006 change by wbenton (2 points)

December 06, 2006 change by waterfalls (2 points)

May 13, 2008 change by shimaxim (1 point)

October 14, 2008 change by el_glick

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