Tokyo Travel Information

Mother Earth Travel > Japan > Tokyo > History

Tokyo
 
To give you an idea where to go in the vast, bewildering metropolis that is Tokyo, here is a quick guide for the visitor. You could say all roads lead to Nihonbashi as all distances to and from Tokyo are measured from here. Nihonbashi (literally, "Japan Bridge") is centuries-old, though the present Western-style structure only dates back to the Meiji Period (1868-1912) and was once a prominent landmark. Nowadays, it is dwarfed by buildings and an overhead expressway. Mitsukoshi (Japan's oldest department store, still on its original site) and Takashimaya, another venerable shopping institution, are worth visiting.

Marunouchi-Otemachi is Tokyo's main business hub, but unless you want to visit Tokyo Station (also from the Meiji Period), renew your visa at the Immigration Center, or observe the Tokyo Stock Exchange, there is nothing much for the visitor here. Head for the Ginza instead. There you will find department stores, boutiques, bookstores, and eating/drinking places for every taste and budget. The Ginza is the nation's showcase. It's what Fifth Avenue is to New York and Oxford Street is to London.

Store prices are uniform throughout Japan, so there's no need to bargain. Just make sure you don't wander into some classy restaurant where you might get a shock from the high prices! Walking down Harumi-dori (one of Tokyo's few named streets) from the Ginza, you'll soon come to Yurakucho-Hibiya. Many airlines have offices here. Check out the quaint yakitori (barbecued chicken) stalls under the raised train tracks. Or enjoy a quiet moment among the flowerbeds in Hibiya Park. The Imperial Hotel, erected along the park by imperial edict, once featured a building designed by Frank Lloyd Wright. You could join the joggers on the 5-kilometer periphery of the Imperial Palace grounds, or stick to a leisurely stroll around the Palace East Garden. Also within walking distance are the Budokan, one of the venues of the 1964 Tokyo Olympics; Chidorigafuchi, a stone-paved walk lined with trees that explode into glorious displays of sakura (cherry blossoms) in spring; Yasukuni Shrine, the controversial memorial to the Japanese war dead; and the imposing Diet (Parliament) building.

A quick subway ride will take you to Roppongi, world-famous for its nightlife. Once a sleepy village, Roppongi is crowded with discos, clubs, bars, pubs and restaurants, including such trendy places as the Hard Rock Café. Tokyo Tower, modeled on the Eiffel but taller, is visible and easily accessible from here. Take the elevator to the observatory - you might catch of a glimpse of Mt. Fuji's perfect cone. Nearby Azabu-Hiroo is where many embassies are located and a number of expatriates (the lucky few who can afford the sky-high rents) live. There is more nightlife at Akasaka-mitsuke (sometimes called "Little Seoul"), but it caters mostly to local yen-loaded patrons.

Young people congregate in three places: Shibuya, Harajuku and Shinjuku. Both Shibuya and Shinjuku are major centers, with the usual mix of department stores, shops and eating/drinking places. A unique monument - Hachiko - by Shibuya Station commemorates a dog's loyalty to its master, and is known by practically every Tokyoite as a common meeting place. Shibuya encompasses Aoyama, a fashionable area dotted with designer boutiques and chic Parisian-style cafes. Shinjuku Station handles some 4,000,000 commuters daily, but don't be alarmed by the jostling crowds. Petty crime is virtually non-existent. In fact, the whole of Tokyo is safe and people are generally helpful and honest. By day or night, Shinjuku is a lively neon-lit place with a bit of the atmosphere of New York's Greenwich Village. A smoke-filled jazz joint? You'll find it here. Along with ramen (noodles) shops, pachinko (the Japanese answer to the slot machine) parlors, and such global brand stores as Virgin Records, Tiffany, and Gucci. There's even Barnys, an entire department store transplanted from New York. You'll also find two new landmarks here: The Tokyo Metropolitan Government Office, with its futuristic twin 48-story towers, and the huge Takashimaya Times Square. Harajuku comes alive on weekends when the young and trendy come to see and be seen. Around the corner from the train station are the National Gymnasium, Meiji Shrine and Yoyogi Park, all Tokyo landmarks.

Already bustling centers in Edo times (1603-1867), Asakusa and Ueno belong to what Tokyoites call shitamachi (literally, "downtown"). A must-visit in Asakusa is Senso-ji, Tokyo's oldest temple, the approach to which is lined by stores featuring colorful displays of traditional crafts. At Ameyoko in Ueno, you can pick up unusual bargains ranging from dried squid to fake designer shirts. Culture buffs should head for the Tokyo National Museum and the National Museum of Western Art in Ueno Park.

Four other areas are worth mentioning: Akihabara, the shoppers' paradise for anything electrical and electronic; Ikebukuro, most often visited for the sweeping view from the top of Sunshine City, one of the first skyscrapers in earthquake-prone Tokyo; Korakuen, site of an amusement park and Tokyo Dome, a modernistic sports (mostly baseball) arena that can accommodate up to 56,000; and Odaiba, an ongoing oceanfront development, served by monorail, that looks like the nucleus of the city of the future.

Weather

  Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec
Avg. High 49° 49° 54° 64° 73° 77° 83° 87° 80° 70° 61° 53°
Avg. Low 34° 35° 39° 50° 58° 65° 72° 75° 68° 57° 48° 39°
Mean 41° 42° 47° 57° 66° 71° 77° 81° 74° 64° 55° 46°
Avg. Precip. 1.8 in 2.4 in 3.9 in 4.9 in 5.4 in 7.3 in 5.0 in 5.8 in 7.1 in 6.5 in 3.5 in 1.8 in

Fahrenheit temperature scale is used.