Tokyo, the capital of Japan, is situated in the Kanto Region on the main island of Honsho. Tokyo’s greater metropolitan area has a population of over 35 million, making it one of the largest and most exciting mega-cities on the planet.
Rocked by earthquakes and scorched by war, this centuries old city has refused to kneel. Just like the sun, Tokyo has continued to rise, blending the old with the new, and the new with tomorrow.
Tokyo is a spectacular matrix of villages, towns and cities, strung together by a subway and train system that never rests. Just like the Japanese pop culture monster Godzilla, Tokyo’s size and energy can intimidate first time visitors.
Yet despite the neon, noise and sheer volume of people, Tokyo’s soul beats with a heart of zen. Tradition, ritual and respect are the hallmarks of Japanese society.
This is a place that cherishes its children, reveres its elderly, and treats visitors like honored guests. Tokyo is a city of multiple personalities;
whenever you pop up from the subway, it can feel as though you’ve arrived in an entirely different city.
Yet Tokyo is an incredibly well-ordered society, everything has its place and purpose, and this is especially true, of its neighborhoods. Begin your Tokyo journey gently, in the ancient temple town of Asakusa.
At the city’s oldest temple, Sensoji, pay your respects to kannon, the Buddhist Goddess of Mercy. The temple was built to house a golden statue
of the goddess, pulled from the nearby river by two fishermen in the 7th century.
Make an offering at the neighboring shrine, built to honor the brothers who found the statue, and you too might receive some heavenly good fortune.
When you’re ready to brave the streets of Tokyo, head to Asakusa’s, Thunder Gate and explore Nakamise Dori, a market street where worshipers have been buying religious charms and snacks for centuries.
After the crowds, re-center yourself in Ueno park, before delving into the cultural treasures of the Tokyo National Museum.
While conformity and tradition are two of the glues that bind Japanese society, Tokyo’s youth love to express themselves too. And nowhere is this more evident than the suburb of Harajuku, renowned throughout the world as a center of youth culture and fashion.
Harajuku is also home to one of Tokyo’s largest green spaces, Yoyogi Park. On Sunday’s, locals gather to relax, rehearse and just hang out, making it the happiest 134 acres in Tokyo.
Just to the north of Yoyogi Park, pass beneath a towering Torii gate and into a forest of 100 000 trees, originally sent here as saplings from all over Japan. and finally, pass through the main gates to Meiji Shrine.
Here, millions come each year to pay their respects to Emperor Meiji, the beloved 19th century ruler who helped Japan throw off its feudal cloak and grow into to the dynamic country it is today.
Just south of Yoyogi Park is Shibuya, home to one of the busiest pedestrian crossings in the world. Every area of Tokyo dances to it’s own distinctive beat,…in Shubuya the beat, is shopping.
In nearby Ginza, huge department stores like the historic Wako Store await. On Saturday and Sunday afternoons, the main street is closed to traffic giving Ginza a relaxed, and slightly surreal atmosphere.
Ginza has a grittier side too. Be sure to check out the tiny yakitori joints and beer halls tucked away beneath the railway arches around Yurakucho Station.
For a change of pace, explore the downtown business district of Marunouchi, whose wide tree-lined avenues and boutique stores lend Tokyo a certain, New York touch. If you’re into anime, manga, or gaming, you’ll feel right at home in Akihabara Electric Town.
As its name suggests, this area really lights up after dark. As the sky glows in blaze of neon, head to the restaurants and pubs in Shinjuku, one of the city’s main dining and entertainment areas.
Stay up late, and let the magical lights of Tokyo’s nights, melt into your memory,…forever. After exploring Tokyo’s neon forests, greet the new day at the Shinjuku Gyoen National Gardens.