The capital of Japan and the most populous metropolis in the world, Tokyo is a true mega-city if ever there was one, where ancient oriental traditions clash with progressive technology and all the modern comforts you will ever need. Fashionable districts with hi-tech shopping malls lie close to narrow streets, while different ideologies and religions seem to coexist in perfect harmony – encapsulated by the Buddhist and Shinto Temples standing alongside the business district’s gleaming, ultra-modern skyscrapers.
One of the biggest financial centers in the world, Tokyo is also the center of contemporary Japan’s culture, with more than 400 museums and art galleries open to visitors. The biggest and best is the National Museum of Tokyo, which displays an interesting mix of both scientific and cultural exhibits. Following closely behind on the to-do list is the National Modern Art Museum, full of fascinating drawings, paintings and examples of calligraphy from some of Japan’s greatest artists, and the Museum of Japan Folk Art, where visitors can take in dance and musical performances of Japan’s golden age.
Tradition, Tradition, a World of Special Tradition
Situated in the very heart of Tokyo, the Imperial Palace, home to the Japanese Emperor, is a magnificent building protected by broad moats and high stone walls and well worth a visit if it’s open, while the Sensoji Temple, the city’s oldest Buddhist center is equally unmissable.
If Shinto is more your thing, check out the Meiji-Jingu Shrine, an atmospheric place that is also one of the finest examples of classic Japanese architecture, tucked away in a cool, dark forest – an oasis of calm and serenity in one of the world’s most fast-paced cities. Tokyo is really one of the few places on Earth where the legend is no more beautiful than the reality. Parts of this city’s tradition and masterful architecture, are truly magical.
And Loads of Contemporary Functionality
Shopaholics will easily satisfy themselves in Tokyo (though bear in mind Japan is expensive!). Check out the stylish Ginza district – full of glitzy department stores, chic galleries, boutiques and more. For clothes and accessories, head to the trendy Shibuya district, or the Harajuku “youth mecca” if you have teenagers in your group, while those hunting electrical goods can check out the vast selection of the world’s most advanced technological innovations at Akihabara.
For a night out to remember, head to the Gaijin-friendly Roppongi district, known throughout the world for its legendary night scene (and also its sleazier side). While the naughtier places are easily apparent (in your face would be a better description), they are also easily avoided; Roponggi’s lively bars and restaurants easily outnumber its more suspect karaoke establishments, while night clubs such as Alife and SECO are as flash and exclusive as any you’ll see (dress up nice!).
Tokyo is everything you saw in the movies, everything you read about on and offline, and everything your dreamed of. A week in Tokyo is not enough time to do more than smell the lotus blossoms, but then, even that is enough to remember for a lifetime.
Main attractions: Shiodome City Center, Ryōgoku Kokugikan, Tokyo Dome, Mount Fuji, Tokyo Imperial Palace, Sakura, the Tokyo National Museum, Tsukiji Fish Market, and literally hundreds more.
Budget for one week: More than €1000
Taxes and gratuity: Tips are a must
Official languages: Japanese, English
Area: 2,187.08 km2 (844.4 sq mi)
Population: 35,676,000 (metro)
- Voltage: 220-240 Volts (U.S./Canada are 110-120 Volts)
- Primary Socket Type: Indian
- Multi-voltage appliances (laptops, etc.)
- 110-120V electronics: Plug adapter + step-down transformer
- Hair dryers, curling irons, etc.: Plug adapter + voltage converter
Other places to see: Fuji-Hakone-Izu National Park, Meiji no Mori Takao Quasi-National Park, the Bank of Japan, Mitsubishi Corporation Headquarters, University of Tokyo, Fuji TV, the Tokyo Stock Exchange, Hama Rikyu Garden, Edo-Tokyo Museum, Panasonic Center, Tokyo Disneyland & Tokyo DisneySea, and many, many, more attractions.