Very few places win me over the second I step foot off the plane. Tokyo, Japan is one of those exceptions. Never have I fallen in love instantly with a city than I have with Tokyo. For being a city of over 9 million people, you would never know it by it’s clean and up kept trains and streets, the quiet and polite people and the interesting and unique finds at every corner. Here are my top nine places to go in Tokyo that every person needs to see and experience.
Nestled in a quiet pocket of the city, Meiji Jingu is an old Shinto Shrine that was built for Emperor Meiji and his wife Empress Shoken. The original building was destroyed in the Tokyo air raids in World War II but was rebuilt in 1958. It is a quiet refuge in a busy city and a great place to spend an afternoon in reflection and appreciation.
During your visit to Meiji Jingu, you can purchase wooden plaques called Ema and write your wishes and prayers on them. They are then hung around a large Cypress tree in the inner courtyard of the shrine. These plaques are written in various languages, you will see Japenese, German, English, Italian etc. The Ema plaques are a beautiful reminder of humanity and that though we may come from different corners of the world we all generally hope for the same things.
The Ginza District is where you can find the most expensive real estate in the world. The Ginza District is comparable to Times Square in New York City. Here you will find large department stores, high fashion designers, and just about everything else you can think of. We highly recommend a visit at night when it is lit up and a carnival for the eyes. Ginza is the perfect spot for shopping, dinner or just an evening walk.
Small Side-streets and Alleys
One thing we loved and appreciated about Tokyo was the sense of community. Very few spaces in this city will go to waste. Under the train bridges and down small alleys, you’ll find local shops and markets. These quickly became our favorite places to visit. In many, you can sit down and relax in a small restaurant with a savory bowl of ramen or easily order a platter of fresh sushi to go.
The city of Tokyo may be busy and bustling but everything is neat, clean and orderly. The Japanese people take pride in their cities and litter is nowhere to be found. Never in my life have I seen such clean garbage truck and the floors of subway cars sparkle and shine. These colorful bikes all neatly and orderly lined up by a train station are a good example of this Japenese phenomenon.
You would think that one would feel claustrophobic in a city this expansive and with every nook and cranny filled, but that is just not the case. It is actually awe-inspiring to see a community and people who value family relationships and cultural camaraderie. Tourists can enjoy visiting different parts of the city and experiencing various architecture styles each pocket of the city has to offer.
No matter where you go in Tokyo, there is one thing you can be sure of. You will always be able to find a vending machine with cold drinks. Even in the middle of nowhere, you will likely spot a few vending machines. They’re hidden in random alleys, by every train station and outside stores. You couldn’t walk 500 feet without finding one. If you happen to visit in the summertime when it is hot and humid you will be so grateful and understanding every time you spot one.
The Electric Town of Akihabara is a place in Tokyo where you can find pretty much any electronic your heart desires. It’s a unique and exciting area of Tokyo that is usually brimming with tourists. Here, you can find electronics that are not sold anywhere in the United States and arcades that will blow your mind. If you have a technology buff in your family it will be the highlight of their trip.
Great Buddha of Kamakura
The Great Buddha of Kamakura is the second tallest bronze Buddha statue in all of Japan. It was made in 1252 and originally sat in a temple. The temple was destroyed in the 14th and 15th centuries from typhoons and tidal waves and now the Buddha sits out in the open air for all to enjoy. Visiting Kamakura is one of the most popular day trips out of Tokyo. It takes about 57 minutes by train. Peace and tranquility are enjoyed by all who make the visit to pay their respects to The Great Buddha and enjoy the beautiful gardens surrounding it.
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