We recommend making the most of the various, convenient train lines Tokyo has to offer. They can take you pretty much anywhere!
The main train lines in the city are run by JR (Japan Railway) and the Tokyo Metro subway, however there are other above and below-ground lines operated by other companies. We highly recommend buying a Suica train pass, which can be used on nearly all of those lines. It costs 500 yen (a deposit to borrow the card), plus the amount of money you would like to charge to it to use for train travel. Follow the link to learn how to buy, charge, use, and when you leave Japan, return (and refund the deposit on) your card.
Mobile Device Information and Apps to Make Your Life Easier
tokyosubway – Search for train routes and timetables within the Tokyo Metro network.
NariTra – A speech translating application by the makers of Tabimori
Recommended City Observatories
Tokyo Skytree, at 634 meters (2,080 feet) high, is the tallest structure in Japan and the tallest free-standing broadcasting tower in the world. It was finished and opened to the public in 2012. There are two different observatories at the top (an additional fee will be charged for the higher deck), and on a clear day you can catch the very best view of Tokyo. Below Skytree is a brand new shopping area called Solamachi, as well as the Sumida Aquarium. As it’s air conditioned, it’s a great place to beat the heat.
Tokyo Tower is Skytree’s older, more famous cousin, and was completed in 1958. Its 332.9 meter (1,092 ft) height is somewhat dwarfed by the much newer Skytree, but the view from the two observatories is still top-notch (an additional fee will be charged for the higher deck).
TOKYO METROPOLITAN GOVERNMENT BUILDING
The Tokyo Metropolitan Building, aka To-cho, is a government office building in Shinjuku that also happens to boast one of the best views of the city. The two observation decks (North and South) are each 202 meters high. We especially recommend the night view here. Most important of all, it’s absolutely free to enter! Please note: any bags you are carrying will be inspected by security guards before entering the elevators. Just letting you know in advance!
Sightseeing by City District
Click each District’s link for a more comprehensive guide of things to do in the area. The following text is a list of our recommendations for each place.
Yodobashi Camera Akiba – THE place in Tokyo to check out all the latest electronics. You can find yo-yos and other skill toys in the toy section on the 6th Floor.
Kanda Myojin – Kanda Myojin is one of the most revered Shinto Shrines in the area and host to the Kanda Festival (one of Tokyo’s most important festivals, held in May each year). It is very close to the WYYC venue so we recommend checking it out if you have some free time.
Maid Café – Part of Akihabara culture, maid cafes are pretty much everywhere. If you’re interested in visiting one, we recommend @home world as some of their maids speak English. Be careful, there may be a long wait time. Our maid expert recommends the Don Quijote Akihabara store.
2K540 Aki-Oka Artisan shopping area – In between Ueno and Akihabara, and a great place to shop if you’re interested in unique, handmade things.
Check out our Media Partner Around Akiba for more great ideas for things to do in Akihabara!
Shopping around Ueno Station is pretty great in general, but we especially recommend the Ameyoko shopping street. It’s lively and you’re sure to find some good deals while you’re there. Don’t miss yo-yo legend Shingo “Terry” Terada’s St. Marc Café (He’s the manager at the ABAB location across from Mister Donut—also delicious).
Kappabashi – Check out Kappabashi for all your cooking supply needs. It’s even fun to just browse.
Ueno Park – 15-20 minutes walking distance from the WYYC contest venue, it’s the perfect place to get away from it all. The park is quite large, fun to explore, and there are many things to check out, but these two are our favorites:
- Tokyo National Museum – If you’re interested in learning about and seeing real Japanese culture and art, this is the place to go. Their collection is huge and they have the most thorough (though still sometimes lacking) English language guidance.
- Ueno Zoo – If you enjoy animal watching, the Ueno Zoo is an affordable, great place to spend some time. They’re famous for their pandas, but also have a wide range of species from all over the world. (Fair warning: to the western eye, some habitats may seem small for their inhabitants.)
Walk through Kaminari (lightning and thunder) Gate and down the Nakamise shopping street for a unique Japanese experience (though be wary that, since this is a very touristy area, some souvenirs may be more expensive on this street than in other parts of the city). At the end of the street is Sensoji, Tokyo’s oldest Buddhist temple, which is free to enter, so be sure to visit.
Try some interesting Japanese street food in the area!
A short distance by train from Asakusa are…
Skytree (see above)!
- Solamachi – A great shopping mall in the ground surrounding Skytree.
- Sumida Aquarium – http://www.sumida-aquarium.com/en/index.html
Tokyo Station is the main rail terminal in Tokyo and is home to one of the most stunning station buildings in Japan (a carefully detailed replica of the original, on the Marunouchi side). The inside of the station can be very crowded and is somewhat of a maze, so try not to get lost. 😉 The Imperial Palace is a short walk from the station.
Tsukiji is Tokyo’s fish market and one of the largest of its kind in the world. Come by early (6-8 a.m.) to see the market action, get some shopping done, and have the freshest sushi breakfast you’ll ever experience. Mind the safety warnings. Their official website has a good walkthrough of what to expect while you’re there.
Kabukiza Theater – Interested in both theater and Japanese culture? Why not go see a Kabuki play? Some shows offer headset guidance in several languages, but even if you don’t understand what’s going on, seeing a play here is an unforgettable experience. Note: Kabukiza is walking distance from both Ginza and Tsukiji.
Shopping – Ginza is one of the most famous shopping areas in Tokyo. From high-end department stores to international brand flagships, Ginza shines. Check out their UNIQLO store for the best selection from this Japanese clothing favorite.
Shibuya Crossing – Exit Shibuya Station at the “Hachiko Exit” and see the world famous dog statue and the busiest intersection in the world.
Shibuya is also great for shopping, whether you’re interested in seeing the latest Japanese trends (try Shibuya 109) or want to pick up some necessary clothing that you forgot at home (H&M, Forever 21). Tokyu Hands is a great one-stop spot for pretty much anything you could ever need. It’s also a good place to pick up higher quality, unique Japan souvenirs. Their Shibuya location is very spacious, but you could also visit any of their other locations for a similar experience.
Meiji Shrine – The Meiji Shrine is probably the single most peaceful place to visit in all of Tokyo. Free to enter, the entrance is right across from Harajuku Station. Walk through the giant torii gates and feel a wave of relaxation wash over you as the city sounds fade away and nature takes over. The shrine itself is further in. If you’re lucky, you might spot a wedding ceremony taking place. Do not miss it!
Yoyogi Park – Come wander here for a much needed dose of nature. There are many park benches and open grassy areas so it’s a great place for a picnic (please take any trash you may have home with you), or even just a nice stroll. Right next to Meiji Shrine.
Takeshita Shopping Street – Harajuku is most famous for young, street fashion. Takeshita Street is where all of the current, wild trends are happening. It’s also home to a ton of great used/vintage clothing stores. If you’re looking for a snack, pick up a delicious crepe at one of the stalls in the area.
Shinjuku is home to our Official Capsule Hotel. The area is especially great for shopping and dining. Here are some of our suggestions.
Takashimaya Times Square – Located at the New South Exit of Shinjuku Station, Takashimaya Times Square has everything. There’s a huge Kinokuniya (book store) with a whole English floor, their Tokyu Hands is one of the best in the city, and the Takashimaya department store is impressive.
Tokyo Metropolitan Building Observatory Towers – It can be reached from the Shinjuku West Exit or from Tochomae Station (see above for more details).
Sunshine City – A great shopping mall in Ikebukuro
・Sunshine 60 Observatory
A great article on Yanaka.
The Yanaka neighborhood of Tokyo is old-fashioned (authentic!) and extremely charming. Go here to explore the shopping streets, trying fresh treats from food stands, bakeries, and cafes here and there. See how many cats you can spot, as they happen to be everywhere! Warning, the shops in the area seem to open and close fairly early, so don’t wait too long into the afternoon or evening to visit.