Around 1600 Tokyo (then called Edo) was only a small fishing village where there was little to do. This changed when the new ruler of Japan Ieyasu Tokugawa (1543-1616) chose the Edo as the centre of power. A large castle was built (Edo Castle) and soon the city had 150,000 inhabitants. Nobody could have imagined then that this city would later become one of the largest metropolises in the world.
Most people who make a tour through Japan start in the capital Tokyo. But the capital of Japan is large. It has more than 10 million inhabitants and if we add all the districts together, there are even more than 35 million. 4 days in Tokyo is not enough, choices have to be made. What are the historical sights of this city? And where can you best stay and how do you get there? A short introduction to Tokyo…
Tokyo Travel Guide – Content
- History of Tokyo – A journey through the past
- Accommodation – Where to stay in Tokyo?
- Sights – 10 historical sites in Tokyo
- Transportation – How to get to Tokyo?
History of Tokyo – A journey through the past
In 1868, the Imperial Court moved from Kyoto to Tokyo. This made it the capital of Japan. The flowering period of Tokyo, but also Japan took place around 1900. This unprecedented growth was reversed during the Second World War from 1940 to 1945 when the city was hit hard. Many sights may have been created centuries ago, but many buildings had to be rebuilt in the 1960s. That’s a bit like the story of Tokyo.
Most people start in the capital of Japan. But how many days do you need for this huge city? I stayed 4 days and even that wasn’t enough! Making choices is the motto! Tokyo consists of 23 districts and these consist of different districts. And many districts have interesting sights!
Chiyoda is the center of Tokyo with the Imperial Palace as an important attraction. In the district of Ueno/Asakusa there are many museums and the Sensoji Temple. The island of Odaiba is the technological heart of the city and Shibuya is known for the busiest intersection in the world, but also for its shopping and nightlife. In short, there is plenty to do in Tokyo.
Accommodation – Where to stay in Tokyo?
So many neighborhoods and so big: where can I best stay in Tokyo? After a long consideration I chose Grids Tokyo Akihabara Hotel & Hostel. It lies between the districts of Chiyoda (Imperial Palace), Asakusa (Sensoji Temple) and Ryogoku (Edo-Tokyo Museum). For a bunkbed I paid €15 euro, but this was booked 2 months in advance.
The hostel is clean, the staff is friendly and there is a café downstairs. There is also a kitchen, but the common room upstairs is quite small. Although the hostel/hotel was fine, for a next time I would consider the Asakusa or Shibuya areas. Before Asakusa you are close to Ueno Park and the Sensoji Temple. Shibuya is more for going out and dining.
Sights – 10 historical sites in Tokyo
What’s there to see in Tokyo? Below you’ll find a top 10 of the sights in this great metropolis. About some of the sights I have written an article with tips and background information.
1: The Sensoji Temple
An attraction that hardly anyone misses in Tokyo is the Sensoji Temple. Colourful, but also busy with tourists! It is located in the district Asakusa and there is plenty to see on this complex. And the Sensoji Temple is dominated by a small mysterious statue! Want to know more? Then read the article Sensoji Temple Tokyo? 5 historical facts you should know.
2: The Imperial Palace
The heart of the city, the Imperial Palace in Chiyoda. The Tokugawa family ruled from 1600 A.D. from this place, the former Edo Castle. Although the current Edo Castle no longer exists and it is not possible to visit the residence of the current emperor, there is still plenty to see on this complex! Follow my route along the former Edo Castle.
Read more about the Imperial Palace in Imperial Palace, Tokyo | Follow the road along the former Edo Castle.
3: Meiji Shrine
Another sanctuary in Tokyo is the Meiji Shrine in the Harajuku district. It was built at the beginning of the 20th century in honour of Emperor Meiji and his wife. It is beautifully situated in the quiet Yoyogi park and if you want to escape the busy city you have to be here. Would you like to know more about why Emperor Meiji has been so important to Japan? Read here the article Meiji Shrine, Tokyo | A tribute to Empero Meiji in a beautiful park.
4: Edo-Tokyo Museum
For a detailed account of Tokyo’s history, visit the Edo-Tokyo Museum. The building alone is special to see. Feel free to spend a few hours in front of this interesting museum. It is located in the Ryogoku district east of the Sumida River. For a short history of the city of Tokyo, read more in the article Edo-Tokyo Museum | 400 years of history in a special museum
5: Ueno Park and National Museum
Ueno Park is located in the north of Tokyo. This used to be the site of the Kaneji Temple that had to protect the Tokugawa Shogunate from raids from the north. Ueno Park is surrounded by a number of impressive museums. The most famous is the National Museum of Tokyo. It has a rich collection of Japanese art, but also a large collection of art from cultures along the Silk Road.
6: Shibuya Crossroads and the dog Hachiko
The busiest intersection in the world is in Tokyo! Each time, many hundreds, maybe even thousands of people cross the zebra crossings. Although this is an experience in itself, some tourists forget to visit the statue of Hachiko. And that’s a pity, because Hachiko can perhaps be called the most faithful dog in the world. Why this is the case can be read in the article Shibuya Crossing and Hachiko | The most loyal dog in the world?
7: Odaiba: technique on an island
Odaiba is a special island. It is the place where technology seems to have been invented. Separate buildings, often built in a futuristic form. To get there, take the wheelless monorail from the centre of Tokyo. And don’t forget to visit the Gundam Tokyo Base, if you like robots.
8: Zojoji Temple and Shiba Park
The Zojoji Temple is not the most impressive temple you’ve ever seen in your life. Nevertheless, it is recommended to take a look at it. It is located in Shiba Park next to the Tokyo Tower. In the article Zojoji Temple | Why the most important temple of Tokyo? you can read why this temple is definitely worth a visit.
9: Tsukiji Fish Market
The Tsukiji Fish Market is not only the largest fish market in Tokyo, but in the whole world. For a visit you have to get up early, because then there is plenty of activity. Or you can come a little later and walk through the small streets in search of a nice fish. Tsukiji Fish Market is located in the Chuo district, but the idea of moving the market has been around for years. However, these plans are postponed every time, but could be different in 2019.
10: Tokyo Skytree, Tokyo Tower and the Tokyo Metropolitan Government Buildings
Finally, we look at Tokyo from a height. There are several ways to do that. The Tokyo Skytree and the Tokyo Tower are the most famous sights for a view of the city. But a disadvantage is that they cost money. And fortunately this does not apply to the Tokyo Metropolitan Government Buildings in Shinjuku. A good tip: go when it is clear and there are no clouds hanging around the building…
Transportation – How to get to Tokyo?
Flights: Tokyo has two major airports. In general, most international flights arrive at Narita International Airport. This airport is located 60 kilometers east of the capital. Every half hour there are trains from Narita International Airport to Tokyo Station. This takes about 1 hour (see yellow block below for more information).
International flights also arrive via Haneda International Airport. This airport is located 20 kilometers south of Tokyo and is one of the busiest airports in Asia. The Japanese make more use of the airplane than of the high speed line. And that has everything to do with the price.
Use the Hyperdia website to determine your route through Japan. The website indicates exactly where you have to transfer and the price of the entire trip.
Train/bus: Tokyo has a number of large train stations. The most important and central station is JR Tokyo Station. Next to the station there is also a bus station (JR Expressway Bus Terminal) for long distance buses to Kyoto and Osaka.
Of course there is much more to experience in this large metropolis. Do you have any tips about special places in Tokyo? Then feel free to leave a message below!