Sightseeing in Tokyo
Tokyo should be at the top of any Asian tourism agenda. It presents the mystique of traditional Japanese culture since the 17th century, when the city was born. Its designation as the capital of Japan is fitting. Not only is it the biggest and most populous city in the nation, but it also represents the finest in Japanese heritage.
Imperial Palace (Photo by Steve)
Shinto is the ancient Japanese religion, and it is no surprise that an understanding of Japanese culture includes a visit to its temples. Meiji Jingu (1 – 1 Yoyogi-Kamizono-cho, Shibuya-ku, Tokyo 151-8857, +81 3 3320 5700, website) is the perfect spot to begin. Located in a man-made forest in the heart of modern Tokyo, this site is dedicated to the memory of Emperor Meiji and Empress Shoken, who slowly began opening up the traditionally closed conservative Japanese society. It was opened in 1920, and for almost a hundred years, it has been a shrine to them and to the Shinto tradition. It is a prime example of Shinto architecture, and a visit exposes the tourist to ancient Japanese customs and is a must for the curious traveler.
Meiji Jingu (Photo by Yasuyuki Hirata)
The Imperial Palace
The Japanese people revere their imperial family, and a visit to the Imperial Palace (1-1 Chiyoda, Chiyoda-ku, Tokyo, Japan 100-8111, +81 3 3213 1111, website) shows how much the family is respected. Protocols are strictly followed, and only a tour arranged by the Imperial Household Agency can give a tourist access to many of the palace’s areas. This tour offers a glimpse of one of the most revered institutions in Japanese life.
Honoring the dead
The Yasukuni Shrine (3-1-1 Kudankita Chiyoda-ku, Tokyo 102-8246, +81 3 3261 8326, website) has long been an issue of controversy for the international community, but it is actually a monument to honor those who perished in the many wars in which Japan was involved. The Emperor Meiji built this shrine in 1869 to honor the memory of the soldiers who died in the Boshin War. Since that time, the Yasukuni Shrine has been a place of tribute for more than 2 million soldiers involved in the succeeding Russo-Japanese War and the two World Wars. This venue also includes the Yushukan Museum, which includes the relics and wills of some of these soldiers. More than 5 million tourists visit each year not only to honor the dead, but to see the splendid architectural design of this 6.25-hectare shrine to the fallen.
Yasukuni Shrine (Photo by Yasuyuki Hirata)
Nature at its finest
Nature lovers will want to trek the 58-hectare Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden (11 Naito-cho, Shinjuku-ku, Tokyo 160-0014, +81 3 3350 0151, website). It was originally intended as a garden for the imperial family when it was finished in 1906, but it was later turned into a national park. Its long history stretches back at least 200 years. This excellent location is the perfect site for picnics. Springtime is especially attractive in this mixture of French, English, and Japanese garden styles, but the scenery is still splendid no matter what the season is.
Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden (Photo by St-Stev)
Ueno-koen (5-20 Ueno-koen Taito-ku, Tokyo, +81 3 3828 5644) is another great place to marvel at the beauty of nature. Japan’s first public park opened in 1874 amidst more than a thousand cherry blossom trees, which are its main attraction. Its beauty during the cherry blossom season is unparalleled, and access to the park is virtually unlimited.
A bird’s-eye view
A panoramic view of the city can be found at the Tokyo Tower (4-2-8 Shiba-koen Minato, Tokyo Prefecture 105-0011, +81 3 5425 2100, website), Japan’s own version of the Eiffel Tower. However, it is a bit taller than the famed tower in Paris, measuring at 333 meters. It offers an exhilarating view of Tokyo from its observatories. The Tokyo Tower also provides its guests some entertainment with its Club 333 at the Main Observatory. The experience of this tower is indeed something out of the ordinary.
Tokyo Tower (Photo by Nicholas & Debra Jewell)
Any tourist to Tokyo will certainly benefit from the Tourist Information Center (10/F Tokyo Kotsu Kaikan Building, 2-10-1 Yurakucho, Chiyoda-ku, Tokyo 100-0006, +81 3 3201 3331, website). The TIC provides valuable information on destinations, transportation, and hotel reservations. In fact, reservations can be made online on its website.
The many sights and sounds of imperial Tokyo beckon the traveler to see more. It is not only a glimpse of Japan’s glorious past, but also an effort to preserve some of the things that made Japan a great nation. The ancient Japanese traditions and culture are featured in this ultra-modern city, and a visit is well worth the trip.
- Address: 1-1 Yoyogi-Kamizono-cho, Shibuya-ku, Tokyo 151-8857
- Tel: +81 3 3320 5700
- Opening hours: Daily from sunrise to sunset
- Address: 1-1 Chiyoda, Chiyoda-ku, Tokyo, Japan 100-8111
- Tel: +81 3 3213 1111
- Tours: September 1st to July 20th—Monday to Friday 10 a.m. and 1:30 p.m.; July 21st to August 31st—Monday to Friday 10 a.m. only; application through telephone or website
- No tours during Saturdays, Sundays, national holidays, and December 28th to January 4th
- Address: 3-1-1 Kudankita Chiyoda-ku, Tokyo 102-8246
- Tel: +81 3 3261 8326
- Opening hours (Yushukan): Daily from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
- Cost (Yushukan): Adults–¥800; University students–¥500; Junior high school and high school students–¥300; Elementary and middle-school students–¥100
Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden
- Address: 11 Naito-cho, Shinjuku-ku, Tokyo 160-0014
- Tel: +81 3 3350 0151
- Opening hours: Tuesday to Sunday 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.
- Closed Monday and December 29th to January 3rd
- Cost: Adults–¥200; Junior high school and elementary students–¥50; Free for children under 6 years old
- Address: 5-20 Ueno-koen Taito-ku, Tokyo
- Tel: +81 3 3828 5644
- Opening hours: 24 hour access
- Address: 4-2-8 Shiba-koen Minato, Tokyo Prefecture 105-0011
- Tel: +81 3 5425 2100
- Opening hours: Daily 9 a.m. to 10 p.m.
- Cost: Main observatory—Adults, ¥820; Junior high school and primary students, ¥460; Children above four years old, ¥310
- Cost: Special observatory—Adults, ¥600; Junior high school and primary students, ¥400; Children above four years old, ¥350
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