The Senso-ji Temple was built in 628 and is considered the oldest and holiest temple in the city. The buildings were destroyed in World War II but were rebuilt true to the original. The Senso-ji is also known as Asakusa-Kannon Temple. The temple is one of Tokyo's top attractions. According to the legend, two fishermen pulled a golden statue of Kannon (Goddess of Mercy) from the Sumida River. The first shrine was built for this statue, from which this large Buddhist temple complex developed.
You enter the sacred area of Sonso-ji via the Kaminarimon (Thunder Gate) in which the two wooden figures Fujin and Raijin guard the entrance to the temple. Behind the gate, the Nakamise-dori shopping street begins, with numerous small shops selling traditional products, incense and tourist trinkets. The actual temple area begins after the Hozo-mon, a large red gatehouse with a giant paper lantern in the middle. To the left of the Hozo-mon sits the Nade Botokesan Buddha, who has been rubbed bare by believers who hope for good luck and health. In front of the lantern are hordes of Chinese women wearing kimonos who take very persistent selfies. We continue towards the incense burner, here you can fan the smoke to protect yourself from illness. Then you stand in front of the main hall of the Senso-ji. A short steep flight of stairs leads up to the great hall where the golden shrine is located. There are famous paintings by Domoto Insho on the ceiling. If you leave the Asakusa Temple in the direction of the five-story pagoda, you will come to the entertainment district of Yoshiwara with many cafes and restaurants.
In 1612 the mint (Japanese Ginza) was built here. The proximity to money attracted banks and department stores. In 1872 the district was destroyed by fire and rebuilt according to western urbanism. Ginza is the old, venerable business center of Tokyo. The large department stores are located here and almost all luxury brands in the world operate a branch around the Yon-chome intersection. The round San-ai Dream Center by Nikken Sekkei architects from 1963 is the landmark of Ginza. There is a café on the first floor overlooking the famous intersection. From here you can watch the hustle and bustle very relaxed.
In Japan there are two traditional forms of theater, the No theater and Kabuki theater. The Kabuki theater is a drama with dance and music in which the performers wear heavy make-up and elaborate colorful costumes. The Kabuki theater is part of the intangible cultural heritage of the UNESCO. The kabuki is a big spectacle that lasts about 3 hours. Since you don't understand anything as a foreigner, one act is probably enough. There are extra Tickets for one act only. There are also earplugs with explanations about the play for foreigners. The theater is located in Ginza, between the San-ai Dream Center and Tsukiji Market. The building was erected in 1889, combining western construction technology with Far Eastern facade design.
On the website of the Kabuki-za Theater you can find more information and book tickets (see link).
If you want to see what kind of sea animals inhabit the Japanese waters and if you like to eat fish, you should not miss the visit to the famous Tsukiji fish market. The Tokyo fish market has moved to the outskirts, but the Tsukiji market with many small stalls has been preserved. There are countless sushi restaurants, but other specialties are also available on the market. The Tsukiji market consists of several sales streets that subdivide a larger city block. The market is mainly for tourists, but if you are one, that's okay. There is a lot to see and try out. You shouldn't come here with a full stomach.
The construction of the "Imperial Palace" started in 1590 by Shogun Ieyasu. The following rulers enhanced the palace complex. Many buildings have been destroyed during WW2 and were only partially rebuilt later. The Emperor still lives in the palace, you can only visit the western part of the complex from the outside. The photo shows the "Nijubashi bridge" with the palace in the background.
Shibuya is the largest entertainment district in Tokyo. Illuminated signs and giant screens make the night shine bright. In front of Shibuya station there is the famous crossroads, which is flooded by pedestrians. Shibuya is the shopping and entertainment district of the young people with countless restaurants and bars.
The Mori Tower is 238 m, the tallest building in 2003 Roppongi Hills complex opened. The Roppongi district is famous for its bars and nightclubs. In addition to shops, offices and cultural facilities, such as the Mori Museum, the tower's observation deck is a worthwhile destination for visitors. Because Roppongi is located between Shinjuku and Ginza, the Mori Tower is one of the most beautiful vantage points of Tokyo.
The Meiji Shrine (Emperor Shrine) was built by Emperor Mutsuhito in 1920 and is Tokyo's most important Shinto temple. The Meiji Shrine is also the final resting place of the soul of Emperor Mutsuhito and his wife Shoken. The Tenno was buried in Kyoto. The temple complex was destroyed in World War II and rebuilt in 1958. The shrine, which is well worth seeing, is considered a pilgrimage site for right-wing nationalists because war criminals were also buried here and is therefore controversial. Meiji Shrine is absolutely overcrowded on New Year, when millions of Japanese try to buy good luck charms for the New Year. While Meiji Shrine is one of Tokyo's most famous attractions, the temple is also large enough to handle many visitors.
The main entrance is at Harajuku Station. A huge wooden tori welcomes visitors here. A wide gravel path leads after about 800 m through the forest to the Meiji shrine. On the way you go through two more tori until you come to a large courtyard where the imperial shrine is located. The Meiji Shrine has a treasure house with paintings and robes of the emperors and the Meiji Jingu Gyoen Garden, which is well worth seeing and merges into Yoyogi Park.
Omotesando is a boulevard with precisely cut bushes in the median and dense trees on the sidewalks. This is very unusual in Tokyo and a form of luxury in urban planning in the Japanese capital. For the Japanese, the Omotesando is something like the Champs-Élysées for Europeans. Luxury brands line the elegant street, which have hired the best architects in the world for their expensive flagship stores. There are buildings by Tadao Ando, SANAA, Toyo Ito and other well-known architects, for more see Architecture in Tokyo. The Tokyu Plaza by architect Hiroshi Nakamura has developed into an Instagram hotspot. The entrance consists of mirrored triangles that reflect the surroundings (photo) and on the roof there is a garden with a cafe and trees. The Omotesando is located in the Harajuku district, between the Harajuku and Omote-Sando stations.
Takeshita Street in Harajuku district is not far from the elegant Omotesando but here you can find cheap fashion for young people. Everything on Takeshita Street is colorful and cheap. There are rubber masks of famous people, costumes, cosmetics, jewelry, burger restaurants and lots of strange stuff. The narrow street is full of teenagers. How to get there? Exit Harajuku Station to the east and then head north. Takeshita Street is the first turning on the right, about 150 m from the train station.
From the viewing platform of the 333 m high television tower you have a very nice view on the city and Tokyo Bay. The Tokyo Tower is made of red lattice girders and opened in 1958. It's shape is a reminiscent of the Eiffel Tower in Paris. There are three viewing levels, the Special Observatory is the highest. The Tokyo Tower was designed by the architects of Nikken Sekkei and has meanwhile become a symbol of Tokyo. The Tokyo Tower faced great competition with the Tokyo Skytree, which is almost twice as high, and now has to fight for visitors. The big plus is its location, you are much closer to Ginza and the Tokyo Bay. The Tokyo Tower is in the middle of the city.
From the 243 m high town hall towers you can see the Fuji-san in good weather. The Metropolitan Buildings were designed by the famous architect Kenzo Tange and opened in 1991. The Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building is in the Shinjuku district. Since the Tokyo region is not a single city, but an amalgamation of independent cities, the building is actually not a town hall. The upper part of the building consists of two towers, each with a viewing platform that can be visited free of charge. If you want to see Tokyo from above, you get a spectacular view from up here.
Shinjuku is the banking and administrative district of Tokyo. The city's first skyscrapers were built here. The Shinjuku district has two different faces, which are separated by the Yamanote Line. To the west of the Yamanote ring railway is the high-rise district with numerous office towers. Here you will find the Metropolitan Buildings and the Mode Gakuen Tower. In the business district it quickly becomes empty after sunset, then life shifts to East Shinjuku.
When the lights go out in the office towers of West Shinjuku, the streets of East Shinjuku fill up. There are shops and restaurants abound. Among the best known is the department store Isetan, which fills a whole block. In the basement there is a level with the finest food. A few blocks to the north is the Golden Gai. The former red light district has survived the construction boom and is one of the few quarters in which one can still discover the Tokyo of the post-war period. Six narrow streets with two-story houses, that's the Golden Gai. At the Golden Gai there are small bars, with a space of only a few square meters. In many bars only frequent customers are allowed to come in. But don't worry there are plenty of restaurants nearby. Gambling dens and dodgy nightclubs make East Shinjuku a crowded nightlife district.
Ueno Park was a huge temple complex of the Tokugawa dynasty until the Meiji Restoration. It was in this park that the last desperate battle of the samurai who defended the shogun took place. The elite Shogitai soldiers fought against the modern army of the emperor and lost. In revenge for this senseless fight, the imperial troops set fire to the Kanei-ji temple area. Only the Ueno Tosho-gu shrine remained. This makes the shrine one of the few relics of this era in Tokyo.
Tosho-gu Shrine was built in the early 17th century for Ieyasu Tokugawa (1543-1616), the founder of the Tokugawa dynasty. However, he was not buried here but in Nikko. The Tosho-gu is an architectural masterpiece. Ornate carvings and doors clad in gold leaf make the shrine one of the most important buildings in the city. The Ueno Tosho-gu was declared a national work of art.
On the way to the Tosho Shrine you will pass around 200 stone lanterns and the five-story pagoda of the former Kanei Temple.
Akihabara is the electronics district of Tokyo. It is located around Akihabara Station and emerged after World War II when radios and electronics were sold here. Since then, Akihabara has been home to the city's most famous electronics stores. Here you will find the latest computers and consumer electronics made in Japan. The quarter is a Mecca for Otakus the technology and manga freaks of Tokyo. There are huge halls for SEGA video games, computer games and pachinko where you can escape reality for hours. Akihabara has lots of comic book shops selling mangas and anime cinemas. The first Maid Cafe and the first Cosplay restaurants with service girls dressed in Manga costumes opened here. Maid cafes are not brothels, they are cafes in which the waitress is dressed in a fetish costume, it is not allowed to touch the girls.
Akihabara is colorful and flashy, you can see Manga heroes and cute little girls on the house facades. Akihabara Junk Street is the center of the neighborhood. On the side of the road you can see dressed up girls advertising their cafe.
At 634 m, the Skytree is the highest tower in Japan and, after the Burj Khalifa, the second tallest building in the world. The height of 634 meters has a symbolic meaning, since the number in Japanese is read Mu-Sa-Shi, it is also the name of the former province on which the Tokyo Skytree stands today. The steel tower reached its maximum height in 2011, the Skytree was opened in 2012. The Tokyo Skytree replaced the Canton Tower in Guangzhou as the tallest tower in the world, the Burj Khalifa is considered a high-rise and does not count in this cathegory. The Skytree has two viewing levels, the Tembo Deck at 350 meters and the Tembo Galleria at 450 meters. If you want to go to the top, you need the Tembo Deck + the Tembo Galleria Ticket because you have to change on the Tembo Deck. Since the queues in front of the ticket counters are often very long, there is the Fast Skytree ticket (passport required) for international visitors, which saves the waiting time and leads directly to the Tembo Deck. Depending on the ticket, the Skytree costs between 2,060-4,000 yen (2019). The view from the lower Tembo deck is often better than from the top as it is not so hazy up here. The Skytree has become one of the main attractions of Tokyo and the city's new landmark.
How do you get there?
The Skytree has two stations, the Skytree Station and the Oshiage Station. The entrance to the tower is located between these two stations.
Welcome to Tokyo
Tokyo is home to about 30 million people, making it one of the largest cities in the world. How do you find your way around such a mega-city? The Japanese characters can not be read but often there are Latin letters underneath. The metro network is well developed, you can easily get to all the important places. For tourists, the districts Shinjuku, Ginza, Asakusa and Shibuya are the best. Here are the most sights and the Latin signs are almost everywhere. To go out is also the district Roppongi.
The small wooden houses were destroyed in the war, Tokyo is now a modern city with many skyscrapers, city highways and railway lines. The attraction of Tokyo is the chaotic urban landscape with small, narrow houses standing right next to large tall buildings. At no point of the city it is taken into account what happens next door. Everyone builds as they like. Tokyo is the exact opposite of european city planning, where every house has the same height and looks the same. In the Tokyo architecture guide we have put together the most interesting buildings for you.