Welcome to Tokyo, Japan, the world's most populous metropolitan area, and the third "command center" for the world economy. Tokyo is reportedly the most expensive as well as the third "most livable megapolis," and one of the first cities awash in the morning sun. The "East Capital" of Japan as it's called is a bustling hot-spot of office complexes and business centers, shops, restaurants, dance clubs, art galleries, shopping malls, and eateries – fitted everywhere from the wind-buffeted skyscrapers to the underground avenues.
Landmarks and Attractions in Tokyo, Japan
For lightning speed through the city and some fun people-watching, get to Tokyo Station and hop on the bullet-fast Orient Express. Stop by the Imperial Palace and Gardens, home to the royal family and the ultimate showpiece of gardens, bridges, and courtyards (inner grounds open Dec. 23 and Jan. 2). Be sure to also enjoy the beauty and tranquility of the 150-acre National Gardens at Shinjuku-ku. Discover Japan's first public cinema and photography studio in Asakusa, an old part of town rich in street fairs and festivals. Make your way to the Kokugikan arena to watch the infamous Sumo wrestling matches, or explore Tokyo's historical legacy in the Edo-Tokyo Museum. And don't forget the city's most famous cultural jewel: Sensohi, a 17th-centure Buddhist temple, which you may tour via rickshaw. Get spectacular vistas of the city atop the 333m Tokyo Tower. Other historical or artsy landmarks include the lovely Japan Calligraphy Museum, the sobering Tokyo Earthquake Memorial, and the central Rainbow Bridge.
Tokyo, Japan Family Fun and Nightlife
The Kabuki-Za Theater features long delightful performances, complex and encouraging audience participation. Kids may also enjoy the Wax Museum and aquarium at Tokyo Tower, Tokyo Disneyland, Ueno Zoo, National Children's Castle, and Kidzania (a unique role-playing venue). Another much-loved spot is Kodomo no kuni (translated as "children's country), with its petting zoo, pony rides, dairy farm, and boating lake. In the Spring, visit Ueno Park for a breathtaking experience of full-bloom cherry blossoms. When the sun sets, head over for a musical night at Karaoke-Kan (in English), or dance till dawn at the world-famous club Womb (a scene for the movie Babel), and savor a social "sake bomb" (rice wine) or beers at the bars.
Off the Beaten Path Travel Areas in Tokyo
Catch a show at the Seiwa Bunraku Puppet Theater, or watch a beautiful Kagura Dance performance in Aso City. Find a punk rock or ska club. Go to the world's only Meguro Museum of Parasitology. Spend the night (with good company!) at a love hotel. Take the train to Mt. Aso's Caldera to discover the thousands of locals who live in the world's largest crater (though you might need to wear a mask) and visit the Volcano Museum.
Shopping and Restaurants in Tokyo
Browse through Tokyo's famous shopping district Shibuya, the popular Odaiba, or the trendy Harajuku. Another big retail area is Ikebukuro, which includes the world's second-largest department store Tobu. Shinjuku is also a busy bustling commercial and business center. Or visit Koenji and its many record and vintage clothing stores.
Tokyo is also the paradise of seafood and sushi, with cloud nine certainly being the Tsukiji Market, the largest fish market in the country (also offers great souvenirs). Another spectacular gourmet adventure awaits in Gyoza Stadium, a food theme park where you can sample delicious minipastry pies by master chefs. While in Tokyo, be sure to try all the local favorites: be brave and sample the karashi renkon (fried lotus), ramen (boiled-bone soup), shachu (rice liquor), and basashi (horse meat with ginger/garlic/soy sauce). You might also delight in the serenity of one of the many charming neko cafés (cat cafés) – as long as you aren't allergic to cats, of course.
Photos by: ratamahatta and aaron.michels