Holidays in Tokyo offer the best of both worlds, from leading edge tech and modern architecture to historic temples and areas steeped in tradition, all served by a first-rate public transport network.
Discover ancient traditions at the Sensoji Temple. It’s Tokyo's oldest temple and dates back to the 7th century. History lovers will also enjoy a visit to the one hundred year old Meji Shrine. For a complete contrast, take in the Tokyo Skytree, a broadcasting tower which, at a mighty 634 metres, currently stands as the world’s tallest tower.
Nakamise Street, near Asakusa Station, is one of Tokyo’s prime shopping streets. It’s lined with dozens of shops selling traditional souvenirs, snacks, and sweets. Another shopping zone not to miss is the Shibuya shopping district. Expect a busy tangle of shopping malls, crossings and independent stores. Shibuya draws in younger fashionistas, particularly the Shibuya 109 shopping mall, which is packed with the cute and distinctive women’s fashions worn by local trendsetters.
A feast for the senses on Tokyo holidays
The first-time visitor will likely find Tokyo holidays a full-on sensory overload. The busy main roads are thronged with traffic and neon, but there’s always a quiet side street you can escape down to discover some excellent ramen, complete with ancient wooden houses and neatly-trimmed bonsai trees.
You’ll never be stuck for something to do here. Take in a sumo tournament, a fashion show or a kabuki play, pop into a welcoming izakaya for a flask of sake, or buy a quirky gift to take home at a 24-hour vending machine. The choices for your holiday in Tokyo are limited only by your imagination.
Great sample itineraries
Tokyo is perfectly placed to discover most of Japan’s key destinations, all connected by an excellent rail network. Browse our Japan multi-centre holidays for ideas.
Japan Tour Tokyo Kyoto Osaka
Standing 333-metres above the city, Tokyo Tower is the world's tallest steel structure of its kind; even taller than its model, the Eiffel Tower. Constructed in 1958, the Tokyo Tower is a symbol of Japan's post-war rebirth that came with major economic power, and today serves not only as a popular tourist spot but a broadcast antenna too. The tower is home to two sky-high observatories: one at 149-metres high, the other at 248-metres high. The first platform can be reached by elevator or stairs (600 of them to be exact) and thanks to the tower's spectacular, central location you're guaranteed stunning views of the city. It's from the second, 250-metre high tower however that you'll experience the most amazing view: a birds-eye perspective of Tokyo where you'll get to see Mount Fuji in the distance.
The Imperial Palace
Home to the ruling Emperor, this moat circled, turreted, quintessentially Japanese palace was built in 1888 and is mostly off-limits to the public. But you can explore the East Garden, with the remains of old Edo Castle and views of the palace from Nijubashi Bridge.
Dedicated to the spirits of Emperor Meji and his wife Empress Shoken, this Shinto shrine can be found in the centre of Tokyo, close to the Yoyogi Park and Harajuku Station. Despite being destroyed in World War II, the shrine was rebuilt shortly after and is today one of the most sacred places in the city. Enter the shrine's grounds through the huge torii gate and leave the hustle and bustle of Tokyo city behind you as you venture into the tranquil forest. At the time of the shrine's construction, around 100,000 trees were planted, some of which were donated from across Japan, and today make for a lush, thick and dense landscape. Meji Jingu is one of the most popular shrines in the complex, welcoming more than three million people in the first few days of each New Year as they come to pray; the site is also popular with those getting married, with many traditional Shinto weddings taking place here. At the northern end of the Meji complex, you'll find the Meji Jingu Treasure House that was built one year after the shrine was opened. Here, you'll find interesting artefacts and personal belongings of the Emperor and Empress on show
“For an authentic taste of Tokyo dining and drinking, call in at an izakaya. Izakayas are traditional Japanese pubs, where you can drink while you feast on a variety of light bites and fried snacks. You’ll find hundreds of them dotted around the city, where you’ll typically join friendly locals unwinding after their busy working day.”
“It’s well worth setting an early alarm to make it along to the Tsukiji Fish Market. This lively market delivers a fascinating experience for visitors. Watch the fishermen selling their catch of the day, or if you’re really lucky you might even catch one of the giant tuna auctions held here. It’s also the perfect place to enjoy a fresh sushi breakfast.”
Events & Festivals
Festivals and events are wonderful to include during your Tokyo holiday, offering a glimpse into the country’s authentic culture and traditions.
Mt. Takao Fire Walking Festival
Every March at the Takaosan Yakuouin Temple you can witness an incredible spectacle during the Mt. Takao Fire Walking Festival. Experienced firewalkers demonstrate the traditional art of walking on flaming hot coals and embers. Firewalking is considered a sacred act of purification in Japan. You can even participate yourself.
One of Tokyo’s biggest festivals is the Sanno Festival, an annual celebration of the Shinto religion. Held over one week each June, the festival's main attraction is a parade that winds through the city centre. The parade starts at Hie Shrine, celebrating the guardian deity of Tokyo, which is thought to pre-date Tokyo itself.
Tor-no-Ichi Rake Fair
Pick up an authentic gift at Tor-no-Ichi Rake (Torinoichi) Fair. This vibrant celebration has been held in November for hundreds of years. Kumade rakes (ornamental bamboo rakes) are beautiful and intricately decorated. They’re used in hand-clapping ceremonies for sweeping up good fortune for the year to come. After making your purchase, take some time to indulge at some of the dozens of tempting food stalls that serve local specialties.
Get a flavour of the local culture through your palate during your Tokyo holiday. Here are a few of our favourite dishes.
Edomae sushi is largely considered to be the predecessor of modern day ngiri sushi. It generally revolves around simple rice pieces topped with slices of marinated fish, typically eel, tuna and shad. There are around 30 authentic edomae-style restaurants in Tokyo where you can try this 19th century delicacy.
Monjayaki is a pan-fried batter dish and is a big hit among Tokyo diners. Similar to Osaka’s popular okonomiyaki, monjayaki resembles a large, runny pancake, usually combined with an assortment of vegetables and seafood.
There’s no shortage of places serving good ramen in Tokyo - in fact you’ll have some 10,000 to choose from. This inexpensive, fortifying noodle broth comes in a seemingly limitless number of varieties, which range from simple to high end. Go armed with the free Ramen Beast app to navigate the endless options.
The globally-adored Japanese dish of tempura sees a variety of vegetables and seafood fried to perfection in a delicate, crispy and light batter, made with eggs, flour and ice cold water. There are many places in Tokyo which specialise in tempura, including several Michelin-starred restaurants.
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