Tokyo is known for everything from its historical depth to its modern skyscrapers. The capital of Japan is bustling, busy, and always vibrant. Traveling here can seem intimidating for the average person, but knowing what to expect can help ease your fears.
From where to stay to how to navigate the currency or what food to try, we've got the travel guide you need to enjoy and fully immerse yourself in Tokyo.
It's also worth noting that Tokyo technically isn't a city, but it's often referred to as such. You'll also find plenty of cities named as residing within Tokyo, as it's formally known as a metropolitan prefecture.
Here's everything you need to know while planning your trip to Tokyo, Japan.
Things You Must Do In Tokyo, Japan
Because the Imperial Palace is the main attraction in Tokyo, it's a huge tourist draw. The famous Sensō-ji Temple is another frequently visited destination, and its 50-acre precinct is so vast you can spend all day there.
Another highlight is the Hanayashiki Amusement Park, in Asakusa, Taito. It's been open since 1853 and features carnival attractions in a relatively small space. It's a short walk from the metro station, making it easy to get to no matter what area of Tokyo you're staying in.
Of course, plenty of people want to travel to Japan because of the role the country played in spreading anime all over the globe. If anime is your thing, there's a long list of places you'll want to visit, says Mipon.
For example, Akihabara AKA "Anime Heaven," tops the list; it's an area with tons of shops, arcades, restaurants, and more all with an anime theme, plus Odaiba (with real-life locations from Digimon), Nakano Broadway (an indoor anime district), and Pokémon Cafe and Pokémon Center (needs no explanation!).
Also, Tokyo Skytree—the tallest tower in the world—is a definite tourist attraction. It's 634 meters tall and is located in Sumida, Tokyo.
Of course, no trip to Japan would be complete without a trip to Disney. You can check out Tokyo Disneyland in Urayasu, Chiba Prefecture, near Tokyo. Bring your mouse ears!
Tokyo Is Best Traveled To In Spring Or Fall
As US News explains, the best times to visit Tokyo are in spring (March to April) and September to November. Fall involves moderate temperatures and fewer tourists than summer. It can also get scorching hot in Tokyo during the summer months, though there's also rain in June and July.
If you want to be sure to spot the cherry blossoms Tokyo is so well-known for, make sure to visit in the spring!
Here Are The Top Hotels In Tokyo
Looking for luxury accommodations for your Tokyo trip? Check out the Mandarin Oriental, Tokyo, located in Ryokan. It offers epic views of the skyline, luxury accommodations, and ultra-modern amenities like top-floor dining. Enjoy: it will cost you over $1,200 per night!
More reasonable accommodations can be found at Grand Nikko Tokyo Daiba, which is ranked the number two best value on TripAdvisor for luxury hotels in Tokyo.
Of course, if you're on a budget, the central location of Asakusa (more on that below) may be ideal, since you can find a room for around $120 per night at places like Hotel Arca Torre Roppongi or APA Hotel Nishi Azabu.
Choose Your Home Base In Tokyo Based On Interests
Chances are, if you've heard of Tokyo, you know a bit about Harajuku. Of course, Gwen Stefani made it popular in the states when she brought Harajuku style to her band. Anyway, one of the neighborhoods in Tokyo is called Harajuku, so named for the colorful fashion and quirky stores there.
The area of Shimokitazawa, in contrast, is a more "hip" spot with "old-Tokyo" vibes, says Wikipedia. You'll find lots of vintage stores and "inventive" foods on the streets.
Asakusa has everything from traditional shops and the ancient Sensō-ji temple to the Hanayashiki amusement park, making it another excellent spot to explore from.
Must-Try Authentic Dishes Available In Tokyo
If you've been eating ramen from a packet your whole life, prepare to have your tastebuds blown. Tokyo offers up steaming bowls of authentic ramen that will put the prepackaged versions to shame.
Other popular dishes include Japanese sushi, tempura (fried seafood), and miso soup. Even for breakfast, you'll find steamed rice as a staple, and grilled fish and veggies are popular, too.
One of Tokyo's highest-rated, traditional Japanese sushi restaurants is Uobei in Shibuya City. It's a casual conveyor-belt-sushi spot with tons of five-star reviews (over four thousand on Google alone!). They're open late nights, too.
Craving some traditional tofu? Check out Tokyo Shiba Toufuya Ukai in Minato City, which offers up a range of tofu options (and more) to rave reviews.
Navigating Tokyo: How To Get Around
Tourists report that the best way to get around Tokyo is either via subway or the train. You can buy a prepaid card that grants you access to both, and these are easily purchased at the airport. Spoiler alert: there are Hello Kitty-themed trains, too!
Taxis are another option, but TrulyTokyo notes that they can be super expensive. Buses can also be tough to navigate for non-natives, so you'll do best sticking with the subway or train.
Multi-lingual signage also helps guide tourists, while in a taxi you might be on your own with someone who doesn't speak your language!
Amazing Landmarks You've Got To See While In Tokyo
Sure, Tokyo's famous temples are one of the primary tourist attractions. But there are other things to see in the bustling city.
Places like Ueno Park and Zoo offer both relief from the busy city vibes but also a glimpse of the famous pandas from China. There's an Aqua-Zoo, too, so you can view some sea life during your trip.
The Meiji Shrine is another highlight. The rebuilt structure (the original was destroyed during WWII) is surrounded by an evergreen forest that showcases Japan's hundreds of different tree species. There's also a "wishing tree," notes Planetware, where tourists can write and hang their "deepest wishes."
How To Handle Yen (And Tipping)
TripAdvisor says you won't need a ton of cash day-to-day in Tokyo. About $40 USD is probably enough, they note. But it's worth specifying that you'll likely need the local currency—yen, denoted as ¥ in Japan—for many transactions.
Bringing along some cash to exchange into yen (the rate is currently $1 USD to 109.47 yen) plus a couple of credit cards is a good practice. Traveler's checks can be a helpful backup, too.
As for tipping, Boutique Japan says there's no tipping required, anywhere. You could offend someone by offering a tip, they note, whether it's in a restaurant, hotel, or taxi cab.
Finding Flight Deals To Tokyo
According to Kayak, the cheapest time to fly to Tokyo is in November. The high season, when the prices peak, spans May, June, and July. From LAX (Los Angeles, California) to Tokyo, flights cost around $700 in November.
Flying out of New York ranges from $700 to $1,000, while a flight from Ontario is about the same as from LAX. Consider scheduling one-way flights both ways, a technique that often saves travelers a bit of cash. Especially if you're flexible with your travel dates, booking separate one-way tickets may net you some awesome deals.
The Capital City Has A Rich History
When it comes to history, there are so many ways to learn about Tokyo. Visiting the palaces and temples is one way. But there are also museums to check out where you can really dive deep into the city's roots.
There's the National Museum of Nature and Science (AKA Kokuritsu Kagaku Hakubutsukan) in Ueno Park, one of the country's oldest museums circa 1870. There's also the National Museum of Tokyo with artwork and national treasures.
Also in Ueno Park is the National Museum of Western Art (Kokuritsu Seiyo Bijutsukan), which mostly showcases French art collected by a Japanese businessman. The Miraikan and Edo-Tokyo Museums are also highlights, and as newer additions to the city, they offer tons of hands-on and modern interactive experiences.
Spare Time? Check Out Tokyo's Beaches
You might not think of Tokyo as a beachy destination, but there are places where you can peer into (or take a dip in) the Pacific. Isshiki Beach is a southern destination with sand and restaurants, while Kasai Beach Park borders Tokyo Bay and offers poppy fields and a Ferris Wheel.
There's also DECKS Tokyo Beach, which offers up a waterfront mall and indoor theme parks.
No matter what your interests—Japanese cuisine, anime, or history—Tokyo is sure to deliver... If only you can drag yourself away from the picturesque photos of the capital long enough to book a flight!