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Plan Your Trip to Tokyo: Best of Tokyo Tourism

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PLAN YOUR TRIP
Tokyo
With its futuristic skyscrapers, unrivalled food scene, and wild nightlife, Tokyo is a rush of pure adrenaline. The city is famously cutting-edge, yet its ancient Buddhist temples, vintage teahouses, and peaceful gardens offer a serene escape—and a reminder of its past. Spend the morning in Asakusa, Tokyo’s historical neighbourhood, to see the Sensoji temple, then take a stroll along the Sumida River (in the spring, the cherry blossoms are in full force). Or, make your way to Tsukiji Outer Market for a sushi breakfast—the narrow corridors are packed with tons of spots to choose from (most close around noon so get there early). Turn up the volume—and get a taste for cosplay culture—in Harajuku, or hit Akihabara for video games and anime. In the evening, take a detour down a yokocho—a little side street alleyway—to find laid-back izakayas and chill bars.That’s only scratching the surface—we’ve got more recs, below.

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Essential Tokyo

How to spend 7 days in Tokyo

Temples, art, and—yes—sushi
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The Best Free Things to Do in Tokyo

Friends often ask me what to see in Tokyo, and how they can visit without breaking the bank. After decades of exploring the city and writing about it, I’m happy to say that although Japan can be expensive, many of my Tokyo must-sees happen to not cost a cent. And the best free experience of all? Simply walking around the fascinating neighbourhoods where these attractions are located.
Beth Reiber, Lawrence, KS
  • Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building Observation Decks
    5,504
    Located on the 45th floor of a city office building in Shinjuku, Tokyo’s best no-fee observatory is a great introduction to the city’s never-ending sprawl. On clear winter days, you can even see Mt. Fuji. Make this one of your first stops, not only to get a handle on Tokyo’s layout but also for the Tokyo Tourist Information Centre on the first floor, which has maps and brochures.
  • Tokyo Free Walking Tour
    476
    Led by dedicated and enthusiastic volunteers, I always recommend this nonprofit that offers four free tours conducted in English that take in some of Tokyo’s most iconic sights and neighbourhoods. Highlights include Asakusa, Ueno Park, the East Gardens of the Imperial Palace, and Meiji Shrine and Harajuku. Tours are offered Saturday, Sunday, and some Wednesdays, and last 90 to 120 minutes.
  • The East Gardens of the Imperial Palace (Edo Castle Ruin)
    2,061
    Edo Castle was once the mightiest in the land, surrounded by whirling moats and secured with 29 watchtowers and 38 gates. Today, all that remains are the stone ramparts, tower foundation, and turrets. Although the ruins are fascinating, my favourite part is Ninomaru, a traditional (and free) Japanese garden. It’s particularly beautiful in the spring when azaleas, wisteria, and other flowers are in bloom.
  • Senso-ji Temple
    9,527
    Tokyo’s most famous temple predates the city by 1,300 years. Dedicated to the Buddhist Goddess of Mercy, it attracts some 30 million visitors every year. I love the temple’s festive atmosphere, which extends into the surrounding Asakusa neighbourhood with its shitamachi (old downtown) character. Nakamise, the pedestrian lane leading to the temple, is lined with inexpensive souvenir stalls and is one of Japan’s oldest shopping streets.
  • Meiji Jingu Shrine
    8,313
    Tokyo’s most venerated Shinto shrine is dedicated to Empress Shoken and Emperor Meiji (1852-1912), who oversaw Japan’s transformation from an agrarian feudal society to a modern industrialized nation. Nestled in a dense, sacred forest it has a peaceful atmosphere even though it’s not far from the vibrantly youthful Harajuku neighbourhood. (However, it's an especially popular site to visit around the New Year, so expect crowds if you visit then.)
  • Tsukiji Jogai Market
    1,900
    I was sad to see Tsukiji Fish Market move to a more sterile location in Toyosu, but Tsukiji Jogai (Outer Market) retains its bustling, lively atmosphere. A warren of alleyways lined with stalls and shops, it offers fresh seafood, seasonal produce, cooking utensils, and street food ranging from personal favourites like takoyaki (round octopus cakes) to king crab. It’s free to visit, but to escape the crowds arrive by 9 a.m.
  • Yoyogi Park
    2,340
    This 133-acre free park near Harajuku and Shibuya is one of Tokyo’s largest and most beloved parks, making it a great place to see Tokyoites at play. Families, couples, students, and groups of all nationalities come for weekend picnics on wide, grassy lawns or to play sports ranging from soccer to frisbee. It also has a forested area, bird sanctuary, dog run, rental bikes, and a dedicated cycling course, including one for children.