Tokyo, Japan

The list of things to see in the largest metropolitan area on earth seems endless … from an Imperial Palace founded as a 12th century fortification to an observation deck on the world’s tallest tower. Plus gorgeous parks, historic shrines and endless shopping. This Travel Guide of Tokyo is just the beginning.

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1 Introduction to Tokyo, Japan

Welcome to Japan’s capital and the world’s most populated metropolitan area with about 38,000 million people across its 23 special wards. Its list of accolades seems endless: first in global economic power; home to the most Fortune Global 500 companies; most livable city; number one in safety; and first in shopping, nightlife, cleanliness plus overall experience. While gazing over this cityscape, you would expect the street level to be crowded and chaotic. Just the opposite. You will find the Japanese to be serene, friendly, helpful and justifiably proud as you explore their countless landmarks and attractions.

2 Chome-8-1 Nishishinjuku, Shinjuku, Tokyo 163-8001, Japan
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2 Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building in Tokyo, Japan

Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building is a popular attraction because each of its 797 foot towers offer an observation deck on the 45 floor for spectacular, panoramic views of Tokyo. Less known by tourists is the origin of the Tochō complex. The three buildings were designed by Kenzō Tange, Japan’s most celebrated and accomplished architect of the 20th century and winner of the Pritzker Architecture Prize.

2 Chome-8-1 Nishishinjuku, Shinjuku, Tokyo 163-8001, Japan
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3 Tokyo Metropolitan Assembly in Tokyo, Japan

Located in the shadows of the Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building is the Tokyo Metropolitan Assembly. The building houses the 127 members of the prefectural parliament for the Tokyo Metropolis. In the background (middle and right) are the towers of Keio Plaza Hotel. When built in 1971, Keiō Puraza Hoteru was the first skyscraper in Nishi-Shinjuku and Tokyo’s tallest building. On the left is the 732 foot Shinjuku Center Building. Shinjuku Sentā Biru is headquarters for the Taisei Corporation. Founded in 1873, Taisei Kensetsu is Japan’s oldest among the five “super general contractors.”

2-8-1 Nishishinjuku, Shinjuku, Tokyo 163-8001 Japan
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4 Waterfall at Shinjuku Central Park in Tokyo, Japan

A haven for workers who are employed at the glass forest of Nishi-Shinjuku (the Skyscraper District) is Shinjuku Central Park. Within the nearly 22 acres are an athletic section, playground, this 100 foot wide waterfall plus walkways for strolling among 80,000 trees. During mid-afternoon, people come here to eat their bento lunch (single portion take out) before heading back to work. On the east side of Shinjuku Ward is the more famous Shinjuku Gyoen National Park.

2 Chome-11 Nishishinjuku, Shinjuku-ku, Tōkyō-to 160-0023, Japan
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5 Peace Carillon at Shinjuku Central Park in Tokyo, Japan

During World War II, many Japanese temple bells were melted down to support the war effort. Ten years later, Chiyoji Nakagawa established the World Peace Bell Association in Tokyo. The WPBA’s goal is to install a newly cast temple bell in every country as a symbolic gesture towards peace. This humanitarian effort has fostered similar artworks around the world such as the Peace Carillon at Shinjuku Central Park.

2 Chome-11 Nishishinjuku, Shinjuku-ku, Tōkyō-to 160-0023, Japan
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6 Kumano Shrine at Shinjuku Central Park in Tokyo, Japan

In the northwest corner of Shinjuku Central Park is Juniso Kumano Jinja. This Kumano shrine originated during the 14th century and is one of 300 in Japan honoring the Kumano mountains: Hongū, Shingū and Nachi. Among its serene compound of humble wooden buildings is this hall of worship called haiden. It is believed Juniso Kumano Jinja is the guardian of Shinjuku.

2-11-2 Nishi-Shinjuku, Shinjuku-ku, Tokyo
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7 Nishi-Shinjuku Skyscrapers in Tokyo, Japan

Tokyo ranks fourth worldwide for having the most buildings above 490 feet. Many of the city’s 140 skyscrapers are located in the Shinjuku special ward in the Nishi-Shinjuku district. In the foreground is the 620 foot Shinjuku I-land Tower. Next to it are the Shinjuku Nomura Building (686 feet) and the Sompo Japan Building (633 feet).

6-5-1 Nishi-Shinjuku, Shinjuku-ku, Tokyo Japan
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8 Love Sculpture in Tokyo, Japan

In 1964, pop artist Robert Indiana created the stylized word LOVE for the New York Museum of Modern Art’s Christmas card. The popular visual was made into a bright red steel sculpture in 1970 and exhibited at the Indianapolis Museum of Art. Since then, reproductions have been placed in major worldwide cities. You can snap your photo in Tokyo at the base of the Shinjuku I-Land Tower.

6-5-1 Nishi-Shinjuku, Shinjuku-ku, Tokyo Japan
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9 Sompo Japan Building in Tokyo, Japan

Sompo Japan Building’s A-frame design by Yoshikazu Uchida stands 633 feet and was finished in 1976 during the first decade of Nishi-Shinjuku’s skyscraper boom. Architecture fans will recognize its similarity to the Chase Tower in Chicago. Sci-fi movie fans will recognize it from the 1984 movie “Return of Godzilla.” Art lovers will enjoy seeing Vincent van Gogh paintings on the 42nd floor museum. Sompo Japan is the headquarters for Sompo Holding, the country’s second largest property insurance company.

1-26-1 Nishi-Shinjuku, Shinjuku, Tokyo, Japan
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10 Mode Gakuen Cocoon Tower in Tokyo, Japan

The most visually appealing skyscraper in Nishi-Shinjuku is the elliptical, crisscross design of the Mode Gakuen Cocoon Tower. Its namesake is Mode Gakuen, Japan’s largest vocational college. Inside of this unique campus are the Tokyo Mode Gakuen for fashion, Shuto Iko for medical welfare and HAL Tokyo for technology. Approximately 10,000 students attend class among the high-rise’s 50 floors.

1-7-3 Nishi-Shinjuku, Shinjuku, Tokyo, Japan
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11 Odakyu Department Store at Shinjuku Station in Tokyo, Japan

On the right is the 16 floor Odakyu Department Store. On the left is Odakyu HALC, their electronic and sporting goods annex. They are massive shopping complexes. How do they justify so much retail space? Easy! Below ground and adjacent is the Shinjuku Station. According to Guinness World Records, the 3.6 million passengers a day qualify Shinjuku-eki as the world’s largest transportation hub.

Odakyu Department Store, 1-1-3 Nishi-Shinjuku, Shinjuku-ku, Tokyo
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12 Yodobashi Camera Store in Tokyo, Japan

There are two Japanese retailers with the word “camera” in their name located near Shinjuku Station. One is Bic Camera and the other is Yodobashi Camera. This is the latter’s Multimedia Building also called Yodobashi Shinjuku West. As a photographer, I expected to be bedazzled with displays of photographic equipment. Instead, I was bewildered by every imaginable electronic product ever produced packed together on floor after floor. If you can’t find what you need here, it either doesn’t exist or you just gave up from exhaustion.

1 Chome-11-1 Nishishinjuku, Shinjuku-ku, Tōkyō-to 160-0023, Japan
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13 History of Hama-rikyu Gardens in Tokyo, Japan

The Edo Period in Japan (1603 – 1868) witnessed the rule of the Tokugawa shogunate, a form of generational military government. In 1654, Tsunashige Matsudaira, a brother of the fourth shogun Tokugawa Ietsuna, developed swampland along the bay for his beach mansion. He called it Kofu Hama-yashiki. Successive members of the dynasty expanded the grounds as a seasonal residence from Edo Castle. When the Meiji Period began in 1868, the Imperial Family acquired the property and called it Hama-rikyu. After WWII, Hama-rikyu Gardens was restored and opened to the public in 1946.

1 Hamarikyūteien, Chūō-ku, Tōkyō-to 104-0046, Japan
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14 Tidal Pond and Teahouses at Hama-rikyu Gardens in Tokyo, Japan

Hama-rikyu Gardens is a delightful oasis from Tokyo’s glass towers in Shiodome. Defining the property is Shioiri-no-ike, a seawater pond influenced by the flowing tide. Spanning the peaceful water are footbridges. The O-tsutai-bashi is made from cypress wood and stretches 387 feet. Accenting the garden are three teahouses. Suspended on a platform is the Nakajima-no-ochaya. The other two reproductions are Matsu-no-ochaya (Pine Teahouse) and Tsubame-no-ochaya (Swallow Teahouse).

1 Hamarikyūteien, Chūō-ku, Tōkyō-to 104-0046, Japan
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15 God of War Statue at Hama-rikyu Gardens in Tokyo, Japan

According to Shintō beliefs, Nigihayahinomikoto bequeathed to his son the Ten Sacred Auspicious Treasures. One of them was the Kusanagi Sword. This bronze statue of Umashimadenomikoto shows him holding the weapon in his role as god of war. The sculpture was created by Akira Sano and stands in the Hama-rikyu Gardens.

1 Hamarikyūteien, Chūō-ku, Tōkyō-to 104-0046, Japan
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16 300-Year Pine at Hama-rikyu Gardens in Tokyo, Japan

The cube-shaped Hama-rikyu Gardens are defined on three sides by water: Shidome River, Tokyo Bay and Tsukiji River. Within its serene 62 acres are a peony garden and a flower garden. They are especially beautiful in springtime during the cherry blossom season. Anchoring them is the 300-year Pine. The black pine was planted in 1709 and survived the 1923 Great Kantō Earthquake (7.9 on the Richter scale), the firebombing air raids during WWII and the extensive urban development nearby.

1 Hamarikyūteien, Chūō-ku, Tōkyō-to 104-0046, Japan
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17 Tsukijishijo Station Mural in Tokyo, Japan

A subway station is an unlikely place for gorgeous public artwork. The Tsukijishijo Station serving the Tsukiji Fish Market is a delightful exception. This image of a geisha girl – with her characteristic white makeup and red lips – is part of a large mural representing ukiyo-e woodblock painting. This art is part of the Oedo Line’s extensive effort to reflect the local culture in their stations.

5 Chome-3 Tsukiji, Chūō-ku, Tōkyō-to 104-0045, Japan
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18 Octopus Displayed at Tsukiji Fish Market in Tokyo, Japan

Tsukiji Fish Market is the world’s largest wholesale seafood operation. The inner market (jōnai-shijō) has over 900 vendors. Among the chaos and darting forklifts are displays of everything imaginable from the water such as this boiled octopus (tako). Set your alarm extra early and arrive by 5:00 a.m. to witness the auction. The highest bid on record was $632,000 for a 466 pound bluefin tuna. By 11:00 in the morning, most stalls are closing down. Unfortunately, this historic market will be moved in 2018 in preparation for the 2020 Olympics.

5 Chome-2-1 Tsukiji, Chuo, Tokyo 104-0045, Japan
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19 Shiodome City Center in Tokyo, Japan

13 skyscrapers define the skyline of Shiodome district. Known as Minato City, this area serves as corporate headquarters for some of Japan’s most famous companies. In 2003, the 708 foot Shiodome City Center was added. It serves as the main offices for Fujitsu and All Nippon Airways. For a culinary treat served with a bird’s-eye view of Tokyo, splurge on dinner in one of eight restaurants on the 41st and 42nd floors.

1-5-2 Higashi Shimbashi, Minato-ku, Tokyo, Japan
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20 Introduction to the Ginza in Tokyo, Japan

If you are serious about shopping, then you must visit Ginza. It is always listed among the top ten retail districts in the world. Squeezed into eight blocks are every major luxury brand plus plenty of department stores and boutiques. You will also find an array of restaurants – ranging from cheap to extravagant – plus night clubs for social insomniacs. The main street is Chuo-dori and the heart is this Ginza 4-chome Intersection. Just watch for the flashing neon sign atop the famous glass cylinder of the San-ai Building. The word “Ginza” means “seat of silver.” Its origin is when a coin mint was built here in 1612 during the Edo period (1603 – 1868).

Chuo Street & Harumi Street, Tokyo, Japan
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21 Wako Department Store at Ginza in Tokyo, Japan

The Kintarō Hattori watch and jewelry store was founded in 1881. In 1947, it became the Wako department store. Fifteen years before, architect Jin Watanabe designed their flagship store, now a Ginza landmark. The name Seiko on the clock tower is more than an advertisement. The famous Japanese watch manufacturer is the parent company of Wako.

4 Chome-5 Ginza,Tokyo 104-8105, Japan
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22 Ginza Place at Ginza in Tokyo, Japan

Ginza never seems to rest on its famous laurels. Instead, it keeps blending new splendor among its famous landmarks. In 2016, Ginza Plaza was added to the Ginza 4-chome Intersection. The fascinating façade covering 11 floors consists of over 5,300 aluminum panels accented with diamond-shaped windows of decreasing size. Inside is a spectacular Nissan showroom plus a multi-floor Sony store. Foodies will enjoy the view and meal from a gourmet restaurant in the center.

5 Chome-8 Ginza, Chūō-ku, Tōkyō-to 104-0061, Japan
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23 Ambushing Cupid Statue at Ginza in Tokyo, Japan

Whoever wrote the words, “Love strikes when you least expect it” was maybe a victim of this ambushing cupid. The life-size bronze statue of the Greek god of desire is poised with a bow and arrow while peering around the corner. Clearly he is drumming up business for the attached Ginza jewelry store named Tenshodo.

4 Chome-4, Ginza, Chuo, Tokyo 104-0061, Japan
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24 Sukiyabashi Crossing at Ginza in Tokyo, Japan

Ginza is in the Chuo Ward. Its name means center of the city. At Harumi & Sotobori Streets is one of its famous intersections: Sukiyabashi Crossing. This reflects when a stone bridge of the same name was built here in 1629 to span an outer moat of Edo Castle.

Harumi Street & Sotobori Street, Tokyo, Japan
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25 Police Station at Sukiyabashi Crossing at Ginza in Tokyo, Japan

Another photo of Sukiyabashi Crossing deserves to be shown for its gorgeous architecture across the street. Seemingly out of place is the small red brick building at left. This is a kōban, one of many local police stations scattered throughout Tokyo. Notice the decoration atop the pyramid-shaped roof. According to urban legend, in 1982, architect Yamashita Kazumasa used a pushpin to secure the roof on a paper model of his design. He never intended it to be a permanent feature of Sukiyabashi Koban.

Harumi Street & Sotobori Street, Tokyo, Japan
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26 Tokyu Plaza Ginza at Sukiyabashi Crossing at Ginza in Tokyo, Japan

If more is better, than still more must be best, at least when it comes to shopping at the Ginza. Apparently that is why a new shopping mall opened in 2016 at Sukiyabashi Crossing. Behind the façade resembling Edo Kiriko cut glass are over 125 retailers including two floors of duty-free shops. A great place to relax is the Kiriko Lounge with its serene view of the frantic traffic and shoppers below.

5 Chome-2 Ginza, Chūō-ku, Tōkyō-to 104-0061, Japan
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27 Seimon Ishibashi Bridge at Imperial Palace in Tokyo, Japan

Tokyo’s most iconic site is the Imperial Palace viewed from Kyuden Plaza. The bridge leading to the main gate is Seimon Ishibashi. It is commonly called Nijūbashi. A nickname is Meganebashi meaning Eyeglasses Bridge because of its stone-arch design. In the foreground is Nijubashi-moat. This is one of several defensive waterways around the 1.3 square miles of the palace grounds. In the upper right corner is the main palace. The Kyūden is reserved for official ceremonies.

1 Chiyoda, Chiyoda-ku, Tōkyō-to 100-0001, Japan
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28 Guarding Main Gate of Imperial Palace in Tokyo, Japan

Judging from the parking lot full of sightseeing buses, you could assume the Imperial Palace is only a tourist attraction. Actually, it is the heavily guarded residence for the Emperor of Japan and the Imperial Family. This role has a long history. Jimmu was the first Emperor of Japan in 660 BC. It wasn’t until the 5th century when the emperor ruled the entire country. Shoguns assumed power in 1192 before it transferred back to the emperor in 1868 at the start of the Meiji Restoration. After WWII, Japan was forced to adopt a new constitution creating a parliamentary system of government. Since then, the Emperor position as head of state is mostly symbolic.

1 Chiyoda, Chiyoda-ku, Tōkyō-to 100-0001, Japan
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29 Sakashita-mon Gate at Imperial Palace in Tokyo, Japan

Edo Castle was enormous. Historians debate whether it encompassed six or up to ten miles. It was divided into a labyrinth of six wards defended by 60 foot stone ramparts (walls), wide moats and 38 gates. The Imperial Palace is considerably smaller. This is Sakashita-mon Gate leading to the former castle’s West Citadel. It is now the entrance to the Imperial Household Agency. As its name implies, Kunai-chō is responsible for managing the state activities of the Emperor and the Imperial Family.

1 Chiyoda, Chiyoda-ku, Tōkyō-to 100-0001, Japan
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30 History of Imperial Palace in Tokyo, Japan

In the late 12th century, warrior Edo Shigetsugu was the first to build a fortification on the current Imperial Palace grounds. In 1457, the last of the Edo clan surrendered to Ōta Dōkan, a Japanese samurai (military noble). He then built the huge Edo Castle (Edo-jo) encircled by a system of moats. One of the few remnants of his construction is pictured on the left along Hamaguri Moat overlooking Kikyo-mon Gate. On the right is a watchtower (keep) named Tatsumi-yagura. During the Edo Period (1603 – 1867), Tukugawa shoguns occupied the castle while the surrounding city of Edo became the world’s largest. In 1868, when Meiji the Great became emperor, he renamed the city Tokyo (meaning eastern capital) and converted Edo Castle into the Imperial Palace.

1 Chiyoda, Chiyoda-ku, Tōkyō-to 100-0001, Japan
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31 East Gardens at Imperial Palace in Tokyo, Japan

These people are walking towards the Ote-mon Gate to visit the East Gardens of the Imperial Palace. Admission is free but controlled to prevent overcrowding. In 1968, three sections of the former Edo Castle were converted into 52 acres of greenspace. There are several sites worth visiting. The Museum of the Imperial Collections (Sannomaru Shozokan) showcases artwork belonging to the Imperial Family. Toukagaku-do is a music hall and Shoryobu manages archives. You will also see the ruins of the castle tower (Tenshudai Donjon) built in 1638. And among the moats and stone walls are sculpted trees, a water lily pond and, of course, traditional Japanese gardens.

1 Chiyoda, Chiyoda-ku, Tōkyō-to 100-0001, Japan
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32 Kokyo Gaien National Gardens in Tokyo, Japan

The Imperial Palace is located in Chiyoda, the historic epicenter of Tokyo. Ironically, in a city of nearly 38 million people, this special ward has the lowest density with a population of about 60,000. The reason is all of the parks. One of the best examples is Kokyo Gaien National Gardens. At Garden Plaza, face west for a view of the Imperial Palace. The east boundary is defined by Ginza high rises. In between is an immaculate lawn with 2,000 Japanese black pines. This property, originally called Nishinomarushita, is where the chief servants of Edo Castle lived.

2 Kōkyogaien, Chiyoda-ku, Tōkyō-to 100-0002, Japan
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33 National Archives of Japan in Tokyo, Japan

Prior to 1971, Japan did not have a central depository for collecting, cataloging and retrieving historical government documents. The National Archives of Japan in Tokyo now has that mission. Most of the materials are from the start of the Meiji Period (1868) to the present. However, their collection includes the library of Tokugawa Ieyasu. He founded Japan’s ruling Tokugawa shogunate in 1600. Researchers do not have to go to this building at Kitanomaru Park to access records. An extensive digital library is available online.

3-2 Kitanomaru Koen, Chiyoda-ku, Tokyo 102-0091
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34 National Museum of Modern Art’s Crafts Gallery in Tokyo, Japan

The National Museum of Modern Art, located just north of Imperial Palace in Kitanomaru Park, exhibits a collection of 13,000 pieces of 20th century art including ukiyo-e. These are traditional woodblock prints and paintings. In 1977, the museum purchased this nearby building, the former headquarters of the Imperial Guard of the Japanese Army. It was converted into the Crafts Gallery featuring artistic ceramics, glassware, metals and woods from the Meiji period (1868 – 1912) though the present.

1 Kitanomarukōen, Chiyoda-ku, Tōkyō-to 102-0091, Japan
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35 Moats and Parks Encircling Imperial Palace in Tokyo, Japan

Although most of the historic moats of Edo Castle are gone, a dozen still encircle Imperial Palace. Collectively they define the Outer Gardens. They are a haven of scenic tranquility. Two of the most popular are Kitanomaru Park in the north and next to it is Chidorigafuchi Park. There is a 2,300 foot promenade – Chidorigafuchi Pedestrian Path – stretching alongside the Chidorigafuchi Moat and this one, Hanzo Moat. In the springtime, rent a row boat to be bedazzled by the beauty and fragrance of 260 cherry trees.

1 Chiyoda, Chiyoda-ku, Tōkyō-to 100-0001, Japan
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36 Foreign Embassies in Tokyo, Japan

Given Japan’s global importance, it is logical the capital city would welcome diplomatic missions from countries around the world. In fact, there are 152 foreign embassies in Tokyo. An example is the British Embassy located across the moat from the Imperial Place.

No 1 Ichiban-cho, Chiyoda-ku, Tokyo, Japan
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37 National Theatre of Japan in Tokyo, Japan

Since 1966, the National Theatre of Japan has been a major performing arts venue in Tokyo. Attending a show at Kokuritsu Gekijō is a great way to experience an aspect of Japanese culture. A popular option is kabuki. This form of singing and dancing started in 1603 and evolved into drama characterized by elaborate stages, costumes and storylines. The Large Theatre also offers buyō. This combines pantomime with dance. The Small Theatre features concerts of traditional Japanese music (hogaku) and puppet shows called bunraku. Earphones are available in English to enhance your understanding and enjoyment.

4-1 Hayabusa-chō, Chiyoda-ku, Tokyo, Japan
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38 National Diet Building in Tokyo, Japan

Japan’s government is a constitutional monarchy. This means the emperor has limited powers. Instead, three branches – Executive, Legislative and Judicial – manage the country lead by the Prime Minister. The National Diet Building serves the Cabinet, the 242 members of the House of Councilors (Sangiin) and the 465 members of the House of Representatives (Shūgiin). The pyramid-shaped central tower is 215 feet and was Tokyo’s tallest building from 1936 until 1964.

1 Chome-7-1 Nagatacho, Chiyoda, Tokyo 100-0014, Japan
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39 Hibiya Public Hall in Hibiya Park inTokyo, Japan

South of Imperial Palace and defining the southwestern edge of Ginza is Hibiya Park. The 40 acre greenspace was once owned by the Mōri clan, a powerful dynasty from the 13th century until 1868. The land was also used by the army before becoming a western-style park in 1903 designed by Dr. Honda Seiroku. Surrounding it are a few Tokyo landmarks. One of them is Shisei Kaikan. The terracotta building was constructed in 1929 as the headquarters for the Dōmei News Agency. Two other news companies occupied it after the war. This terracotta building became infamous in 1960 when Inejiro Asanuma, Chairman of the Japan Socialist Party, was assassinated here with a traditional Japanese sword (yoroi-dōshi) during a televised debate. Today, Hibiya Public Hall hosts cultural events plus offices Tokyo Institute of Municipal Research.

1-3 Hibiyakoen, Chiyoda, Tokyo 100-0012, Japan
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40 Description of Sensō-ji in Tokyo, Japan

According to legend, in 628 AD, two brothers netted a golden statue while fishing. A local chieftain, Haji no Nakatomo, recognized the image as Kannon – deity of mercy and an assistant to Amida Buddha – and built a temple for the treasure. Warlords helped to grow Sensoji Temple during the 10th and 11th centuries. After the third Tokugawa shogun, Tokugawa Iemitsu, significantly expanded the temple while ruling Japan (1623 – 1651) and then abandoned it in 1625, the populace increasingly embraced Sensō-ji during the Edo Period (1603 – 1868). Now the city’s oldest temple is a pilgrimage for believers and a major attraction for curious tourists. Adjacent to it is the Asakusa-jinja shrine.

2-3-1 Asakusa, Taitō-ku, Tokyo
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41 Hozōmon at Sensō-ji in Tokyo, Japan

Hozōmon is the second and most elaborate entrance at Sensoji Temple. Originally constructed in 942, Treasure-House Gate was rebuilt in 1636 and 1964. At the sides of this southern façade are fierce looking Niō statues. Also called Kongōrikishi, they are Buddha’s guardians. In the center is a red, 12 foot tall chōchin lantern. Flanking it are two cast from copper. Inside of the Hozōmon is a copy the sacred Lotus Sutra manuscript, considered to be a Japanese National Treasure.

2-3-1 Asakusa, Taitō-ku, Tokyo
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42 Amida Buddha Statue at Sensō-ji in Tokyo, Japan

In Japanese Buddhism, Amida is the Buddha of infinite light and life. This is the main deity of the Pure Land sect. Notice the position of the hands. This is the Mida no Jōin Mediation Mudra. The lotus leaves symbolize rising from muddy waters to achieve fortune, purification and faithfulness. This swastika at the base is a common Buddhist symbol signifying good fortune. This statue is in the Sensoji Temple garden which was constructed during the 17th century.

2-3-1 Asakusa, Taitō-ku, Tokyo
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43 Five-storied Pagoda at Sensō-ji in Tokyo, Japan

The original Five-storied Pagoda at Sensoji Temple was built by Taira no Kinmasa in 942 AD. He was the same military commander who constructed the shrine’s two gates: Kaminarimon (Thunder Gate) and Hōzōmon (Treasure-House Gate). The pagoda stands 175 feet. Its levels represent the five elements of Japanese Buddhism: earth (chi), water (sui), fire (ka), wind (fū) and void or heaven (kū). Goju-no-to was destroyed during the war and rebuilt in 1973.

2-3-1 Asakusa, Taitō-ku, Tokyo
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44 Shopping Streets near Sensō-ji in Tokyo, Japan

Leading up to Sensoji Temple is Nakamise-dori, Tokyo’s historic shopping street dating back to the 17th century. The 820 foot, pedestrian-only walkway is jammed with 90 stalls displaying an endless array of souvenirs plus delicious street food. If that doesn’t give your wallet a sufficient workout, then explore Shin-Nakamise shopping street. This 380 foot arcade runs parallel with an additional 100 stores.

1 Chome Asakusa, Taitō-ku, Tōkyō-to 111-0032, Japan
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45 Tokyo Skytree and Golden Turd in Tokyo, Japan

At 2,080 feet, Tokyo Skytree is almost 2.5 times higher than Tokyo’s biggest skyscraper and is also the world’s tallest tower. It was built in 2012 to support digital broadcasting, a function the older Tokyo Tower could not adequately handle. There are two observation decks. One is on the 350th floor and the other is 100 levels higher. On the right is not a gilded carrot. Instead, the 300 ton sculpture was meant to be foam rising from the glass-shaped Asahi Breweries headquarters building. But locals call the “Asahi Flame” the “Golden Turd.” As bad as that sounds, kin no unko (golden poo) is actually a Japanese symbol for good luck.

1 Chome-1-1 Hanakawado, Taitō-ku, Tōkyō-to 111-0033, Japan
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46 Sumida River Sightseeing Cruise in Tokyo, Japan

After your visit to Sensoji Temple, treat yourself to a one-hour sightseeing trip along the Sumida River. After leaving Asakusa, your water bus will float below more than a dozen bridges while you enjoy viewing Tokyo’s passing shoreline. Then hop off at the Hinode Pier or go on to the islands of Odaiba or Ariake. The most popular boats are operated by the Tokyo Cruise Ship Company but other lines are available. This is the Umaya-bashi Bridge. It was built in 1929 and has a 500 foot span over the river.

1-1-1 Hanakawado, Daitou-ku, Tokyo
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47 Tokyo Tower in Tokyo, Japan

Tokyo Tower was built in 1958 to support radio and television antennas. Clearly patterned after the Eiffel Tower, the orange and white, steel lattice structure stands 1,092 feet, 43 feet taller than the Paris landmark. Although its broadcasting role diminished when Tokyo Skytree opened in 2012, the Tokyo Tower remains a popular tourist attraction. Three million people a year ride elevators to the Main Observatory (490 feet) or the Special Observatory (819 feet). At the base is FootTown housing shops, restaurants, an amusement park and the Guinness World Records Museum.

4-2-8 Shiba-koen, Minato, Tokyo
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48 Skyscrapers Built by Minoru Mori in Tokyo, Japan

Minoru Mori was Japan’s most successful real estate developer. He followed in his father’s footsteps; Taikichiro founded the Mori Building Company in 1959. Pictured are three of Minoru’s skyscrapers in the Minato ward. On the right is Mori Tower (614 feet), a commercial office building. In the middle is residential Forest Tower (516 feet). Both are part of the 3.8 acre Atago Green Hills complex. Most impressive is Toranoman Hills on the left. Although this angle belies its size, Toranomon Hiruzu became the city’s tallest at 838 feet when it opened in 2014. Among its 52 floors are offices, apartments and retailers.

3 Chome-3 Shibakōen, Minato-ku, Tōkyō-to 105-0011, Japan
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49 Yurikamome Transit System in Tokyo, Japan

The most scenic way to visit Odaiba is aboard Yurikamome. The fully automated transit system – meaning it has no driver – provides panoramic views of Tokyo Bay as it travels along the Rainbow Bridge on a suspended track at 37 miles per hour. An alternative to the artificial island is the Rinkai Line.

2 Chome Shinbashi, Minato-ku, Tōkyō-to 105-0004, Japan
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50 Rainbow Bridge Connecting Odaiba with Tokyo, Japan

Odaiba is a series of artificial islands created in the mid-19th century for positioning cannons to protect Tokyo Bay. The area was later converted into a seaport. In 1993, the Rainbow Bridge was constructed to connect the islands with the mainland as part of a major redevelopment project. The suspension bridge has a span of 2,618 feet. Its moniker comes from its nightly display of red, white and green lights powered by solar energy.

Rainbow Bridge, Minato, Tokyo 105-0000, Japan
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51 Fuji Television Headquarters in Tokyo, Japan

Along the waterfront of Minato Ward is the captivating headquarters of Fuji Television. On one side is the Nippon Broadcasting Company and in the other are Fuji TV’s offices. Among the connecting “sky corridors” are studios. The most attention-grabbing feature is the giant silver sphere weighing 1,350 tons. It required 9.5 hours to lift this observation deck into place. Fuji Media Holdings operates three TV channels, a news network plus a conglomerate of nearly 30 local stations across Japan.

2-4-8, Daiba, Minato-ku, 137-8088 Tokyo, Japan
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52 Daikanransha Ferris Wheel at Palette Town in Tokyo, Japan

Palette Town is a major entertainment center located on Odaiba. You will feel transformed to an 18th century European city while strolling through the Venus Fort shopping mall. Enjoy bowling, video arcade games and other amusements 24/7 at Leisureland. Visit the Toyota Mega Web, a car showroom and museum that lets you test drive cars on an elevated track. And soaring 377 feet above them is Daikanransha. It was the world’s largest Ferris wheel when it opened in 2000. At night, its colorful display of rotating colors from 120,000 neon lights can be seen from central Tokyo across the bay.

1 Chome-3-10 Aomi, Kōtō-ku, Tōkyō-to 135-0064, Japan
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53 Ariake Horizon from Odaiba in Tokyo, Japan

From Odaiba you can see the horizon of Ariake, a neighboring man-made island. Alternatively it is called the Rinkai Fukutoshin Area meaning Tokyo Waterfront City. The mushroom-shaped dome in the center is the Ariake Sports Center. The complex features a gym, pool plus basketball and volleyball courts. The tower next to it is not a skyscraper but a former incinerator smokestack. Despite the extensive commercial and public development in these areas since the 1990s, a considerable amount of vacant acreage exists. They have been slated to provide twenty venues for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.

1 Chome-3-10 Aomi, Kōtō-ku, Tōkyō-to 135-0064, Japan
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54 Tokyo Big Sight Convention Center in Tokyo, Japan

The city’s largest convention center is Tokyo Big Sight. Flanking the Conference Tower in the center with its distinctive, inverted pyramid design are two exhibition halls. Collectively, they provide over 1.1 million square feet of space. This facility at Ariake will become the broadcast headquarters for the Tokyo 2020 Olympics.

3 Chome-11-1 Ariake, Kōtō-ku, Tōkyō-to 135-0063, Japan
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