We’ve been busy compiling our Fotolia local guides to world cities – Paris, London, Berlin, New York, Madrid, Seoul, and Rome – but now we’re tackling a city which inspires awe and wonder amongst even the most seasoned travelers – Tokyo!
Anyone lucky enough to have visited Tokyo – or who lives there (and a lot of people do, it being the world’s most populous city!) – already knows what an astonishing place it is. So, of course, we spoke to our Japanese Fotolia team in Tokyo, asking them to share some of the city’s best-kept secrets and recommend must-see destinations for tourists and residents alike.
*Please note, this article is best read with a plate of sushi and some hot sake*
Fotolia: For anyone who’s never visited Tokyo, can you recommend some must-see places?
Tokyo: Asakusa, a district of Tokyo is representative of more traditional Japanese culture and home to one of Tokyo’s most famous landmarks, the Buddhist temple, Sensō-ji. The five-storied structure is Japan’s oldest, completed over one thousand years ago. Viewed at night it’s even more spectacular.
And as is very common in Tokyo, you’re never far from a shopping mecca: Nakamise-dōri is perfect for picking up a souvenir and for sampling some local cuisine. If you’ve trekked the city and your feet need a bit of a break then hop aboard a rickshaw to explore with a local guide.
Akihabara is fondly nicknamed ‘Geek City’ and this area really represents the typical view of what Tokyo is like – the electronics and tech hub of the world. And in Akihabara they are correct.
It is an ‘Electronic Town’ and everything here screams it, from the lighting – which drapes every building – to the manga and anime icons that line the streets. The area’s layout has even been designed to reflect the Otaku culture that many super fans live and breathe. You can experience this unique culture further by visiting a ‘Maid Café’ in which the waitresses dress up in manga and anime costumes.
Japanese gardens are famous worldwide and Tokyo has one of the finest examples, Shinjuku Garden. Try to visit in Spring when it’s one of the best places to see the cherry blossom in full bloom. The park is vast and has an array of different landscapes, from large ponds with islands and bridges, a formal French and English garden, and a tropical greenhouse filled to the brim with exotic flowers.
The Imperial Palace is a huge enclave that contains the residency of the current Emperor of Japan, as well as a massive park, impressively surrounded by moats and the dwellings of the Imperial family.
Although not all the Palace grounds are accessible to the public there are still areas you can visit, including the large plaza that forms an entrance to the palace grounds which is prominently marked by two imposing bridges, and the grounds themselves.
Fo: Where can you go to see the city from a different viewpoint?
Tok: Tokyo’s panorama is best marvelled at from a height, and there are two stunning places to view it from.
The Tokyo Tower is the second tallest. Built in 1958, it is a magnificent structure based on the Eiffel Tower (evident to see from the metal lattice architecture, although this time in a jaunty red). Peaking at 1,093 feet, it has two observatory decks, although it was originally built for the purpose of broadcasting signals for radio and television. The skyline from here is beyond breathtaking.
But if you really want to touch the sky then a visit to Tokyo Sky Tree is in order. A whopping 2,080 feet high, this structure towers over the city – you may even be able to glimpse a site of Mount Fuji on a clear day. Only the Burj Khalifa in Dubai reigns taller.
Its design represents both Japan’s traditional grace and its futuristic beauty. Not only does the building provide fantastic views over the city but its sheer presence, (especially at night time with the addition of the LED display) is simply astounding.
Fo: Where do you recommend to get a taste for the ‘real’ Tokyo?
Tok: Tsukiji Fish Market is the world’s largest, the epicentre for thousands upon thousands of fish to be traded to restaurants all over the country. The atmosphere is truly electric and believe it or not, to get a real sense of the frenetic energy and buzz you need to visit for the tuna auction, which you can watch from 5am.
Now, you may be familiar with the concept of water parks but Tokyo has it’s own unique version – a public bathhouse amusement park, Ōedo Onsen Monogatari. This truly rare Japanese experience sees baths filled with hot spring water fresh from the depths of Tokyo Bay. You can chose between 14 variations including indoor and outdoor, hot stone, or even hot sand baths to invigorate and revitalize you from the exhaustion of sight seeing.
The Meiji Shrine is perfect if you want a little serenity within the hustle and bustle of Tokyo. It was built in 1920 and is located in a vast forest covering around 175 acres. The huge variety of tree species it contains were donated by Japanese people from all over the country.
Located within the forest is the Shrine itself, comprising two areas: The Naien, an inner precinct, now a museum housing beautiful artefacts from the first Emperor of Japan, Emperor Meiji, and his wife, Empress Shoken, who the Shrine was originally built for.
The Gaien hosts the Meiji Memorial Picture Gallery, containing 80 large murals which depict the history and courage of the Emperor and the people who lived within that era.
Fo: Thanks, guys- and sayonara for now!
Tokyo – it’s a city like no other, so to whet your appetite a little further check out our dedicated Tokyo gallery, catering for all things Tokyo.