Tostzilla's Top Ten List of Sights in Tokyo

Just today, a recently retired friend of mine asked me if I could recommend a few of the best things to see in Tokyo on a one week trip.  I pointed him to this blog and said that I was jealous of his jet-setting lifestyle.  Still, he asked for some recommendations so I'm putting the top 10 list of things to see that are a blend of traditional culture and the modern for a non-anime fan.  If you're going to see all of these sights, get a PASMO or SUICA card for riding the trains/subway (no counting change this way) and a good pair of walking shoes!  BTW, arriving at Narita and taking the NEX Express Train into Tokyo Station or Shinagawa Station is extremely convenient as there are no transfers and if your hotel is nearby, it can buy you an extra half day of sightseeing.
Tokyo Skytree!
My Top 10 Sights
  1. Ultra-Modern - The Tokyo Skytree.
    This is an amazing tower with fantastic views of the city and for us Canadians - look - it's taller than the CN Tower...  The tower dwarfs the old Tokyo Tower (which you can see for nostalgia - but this tower tops it).  All of the architecture for this new tower with its upper and lower observation galleries is pretty snazzy.  Expect lineups and you may have to go into one line to get a time to come back and buy tickets to go up.  Millions have gone to visit this recently opened tower.  The Solomachi Mall underneath it is a pretty fantastic little mall that sells all manner of traditional and modern merchandise.  For anime fans who can only see a few things - there is a Hello Kitty Store, a very fancy Ghibli Store with giant catbus and Totoro included.  The restaurants and food courts here are also top notch.
    Shameless Blurb - chapter one from my Neo Ace novel with the Tokyo World Tree - available from Amazon in the near future.
  2. Modern - Shinjuku at Night.
    Shinjuku is a bustling business hub in Tokyo.  Most cities have a downtown.  Well, Tokyo has many downtowns such as Shinjuku, Shibuya, Marunouchi, Shiodome, etc.  These are all centered on major train stations.  Shinjuku is the busiest train station on the planet and the amazing architecture of Tokyo Metropolitan City Hall is here (with free observation deck) along with famous sculptures and other buildings such as the Gakuen Cocoon Tower.  Also in the area Piss Alley for its little pubs/bars/food, Kabuchiko the red light district, the entertainment district on the east side of the station, and the amazingly lit up street of  Yasukuni Dori (shown at the beginning of Lost in Translation - also happens to border Kabuchiko).
  3. Modern - Shibuya Crossing. 
    One of the busiest pedestrian crossings on Earth.  A sea of people at rush hour.  Watch it from the Starbucks on the second floor of the Q Front building.  It is also a shoppers paradise around here with Shibuya 109 building for women, and many, many stores in the area.  The famous statue of Hachiko the dog is also here.
  4. Modern - Roppongi Hills Megaplex (Mori Tower)
    This is epitomized by the Mori Tower, an amazing building with a very nice observation deck that also houses the Mori Museum.  The famous spider statue "Maman" is here and the building lights up at night too!  Amazing, enormous, modern architecture, a world class museum, shopping, make it one of my favourite sights.  Tokyo Midtown, the National Gallery, and more are within walking distance of here.
  5. Modern - Harajuku / Omotesando or Ginza
    This one is a split. Pick one of the two.  Harajuku with trendy alternative culture on Takeshita Street (Daiso 100 yen store, Evangelion Store) , Omotesando with very nice shopping (Omotesando Hills Mall, Kiddyland, Prada Store, etc.), or Ginza for high-end shopping (Cartier, etc.) and department stores (also amazingly lit up at night).  All of it is great to experience.
  6. Traditional - Shin-Yokohama Ramen Museum.
    This is a road trip to Yokohama, but it can be done in half a day.  Eat amazingly tasty ramen from across Japan and also see a recreation of 1950s Showa Era Japan which older Japanese remember with great fondness.  Restaurants and theme park in one.
  7. Traditional - Sensoji Shrine.
    The one temple you should visit in Tokyo, have your fortune told and to shop for traditional souveniers on Nakamise Street leading up to the temple.  Also near Kappenbashi Street or Kitchen Town (you can get food models here).
  8. Traditional - Ueno Park.
    For a walk along the lake, a visit to the many museums in the area (including the National Museum), the many smaller temples, and a wonderful little Shitimachi museum at the south end of the park.  Can also visit the very lively open air market street of Ameyoko.
  9. Traditional - National Museum or Tokyo / Edo Museum.
    Again, pick either amazing cultural artifacts (I especially like the dogu and haniwa), or the rich history of Tokyo.
  10. Traditional - Meiji Shrine.
    A large traditional shrine in a park setting.  Near Harajuku / Omotesando.  Amazingly large Tori Gates and walls of saki barrel offerings.
Giant Gundam in Odaiba
For Fans of Anime / Manga / Gundam
  1. Akihabara.
  2. Ikebukuro
  3. Nakano Broadway
  4. Odaiba Gundam Front / Giant Gundam
  5. Ghibli Museum
  6. Pokemon Center
  7. Kiddy Land and Yamashiroya Toy Stores
Sensoji Temple Thunder Gate

Japanese Conveniences To Be Experienced
  1. Conveyor belt sushi restaurant.  Also, most big department stores / malls have restaurant floors with good restaurants (Takeshima Times Square in Shinjuku for example).
  2. A good sized 100 Yen Store like a Daiso
  3. Don Quixote department store (just nuts for the cramped space and tons of oddball merchandise).
  4. Japanese konbini (convenience stores)
  5. The train system and the amazing train stations at Shinjuku, Shibuya, Ikebukero, Tokyo Station.  The famous Yamanote Line that circles central Tokyo every hour.
  6. Onsen / traditional hot springs inn / tea ceremony
  7. Maid cafes or themed restaurants (if you're into that sort of thing)
  8. Great Japanese food That is B-Cuisine (aka for normal folk)
    Food like beef bowls (gyudon, curry with rice, tempura, tonkatsu cutlets, ramen, okonomiyaki, traditional Japanese breakfast)
  9. Amazing toy stores that can make the most jaded person want to buy something.  See Kiddyland or Yamashiroya.
  10. Japanese department stores or Depachika (some have amazing food floors in the basement that you have to see)
  11. Giant electronics stores that are like having 5 Best Buys stacked on top of each other.  E.g. Yodobashi Camera, Bic Camera. 
  12. Really, really good Japanese bakeries with their pastries. They also have really good Japanese coffee shops (but it could be smokey). Great for breakfast, but I'm also partial to the well run McDonald's for breakfast too.  You might also want to experience the craziness of the American / Japanese Fast Food chains over here too.  For Japanese style fast food, try  Denny's, MOS Burger, Sukiya, Yoshinoya, etc.
There are also many other great things to see like the Ghibli Clock in the Shiodome, The Tsukiji Fish Market, Tokyo Disneysea, and more, but this is just my top 10.  Check out the Highlights link at the top for more to see.  Finally, hit this link for souvenir suggestions.  I hope my friend and everyone else finds this mini-guide useful.  Leave a comment if you liked it please!  Now I must go and do the dishes...

Introductory guide ebook for the price of a latte at Amazon.
 Follow me on Twitter a @Tostzilla or my feedburner for this blog.

Popular Posts