Meiji Jingu Shrine, dedicated to the deified spirits of Emperor Meiji and his wife, Empress Shoken, was founded in 1920. The Shrine ground covers an area of approximately 700,000 m2 (70 hectares or about 173 acres) with as many as 170,000 trees of over 200 species. Here, visitors can relish the sacred and serene atmosphere, surrounded by abundant nature rarely found in a city center. Traditional Japanese-style weddings are also performed at the Shrine and, if you are lucky, you may encounter a happy bride dressed in a white Kimono with her groom.
After a pleasant stroll around Meiji Jingu Shrine, you can head towards Harajuku district. Omotesando, the former frontal approach to Meiji Jingu Shrine, is today one of the most fashionable streets in Tokyo. At Omotesando Hills, you will enjoy the unique architectual structure of the building as well as many stylish shops, boutiques, cafés and restaurants housed inside.
Along Takeshita Street, running parallel with Omotesando, shops selling casual fashion clothing as well as a multitude of goods are jostling with one another. This is a perfect place for you to look for reasonably-priced souvenirs to take home.
Senso-ji Temple in Asakusa, the oldest temple in Tokyo founded in 628 AD, is visited by about 30 million worshippers a year from different parts of Japan and abroad. Asakusa is the very center of the Edo (former name of Tokyo) culture, and various events – such as Hozuki (ground cherry) Market and Hagoita (traditional badmington racketts) Market – are held here throughout the year from season to season. Kaminari-mon (“Thunder Gate”), with a conspicuously huge lantern, serves as the entrance to the Temple. From this gate to the Temple, the frontal approach called Nakamise is lined both sides with small shops, and stretches for about 250 meters, and is thronged with numerous visitors – both Japanese and foreign – every day.
Not far from the Temple, by the Sumida River, TOKYO SKYTREEⓇ, the world’s highest (634 m-high) free-standing broadcasting tower, shoots into the sky. Take the elevator traveling at 600 m/min. up to the observation deck 350 m above the ground level, and you will be able to enjoy a 360-degree panoramic view of Tokyo. On a clear day, you can see the majestic Mt. Fuji in the distance.
At the foot of TOKYO SKYTREE®, there is a large shopping/dining area called Tokyo Solamachi®. If you wish to purchase a nice Japanese souvenir, this is one of the best places to find one.
Tokyo National Museum (TNM) is the largest museum in Japan holding over 110,000 valuable objects. Its collection includes many items of National Treasure and Important Cultural Property, together with objects from various eras, including the Jomon-period (131st-4th century BC) earthenware, and Ukiyo-e (Japanese woodblock printings) by Hokusai (Ukiyo-e painter, 1760-1849). Experience Japanese history and culture for yourself at this Museum.
Ueno Park, where TNM is located, is a vast and verdant park, home to Ueno Zoo as well as a number of major museums. In springtime, the park is filled with beautiful cherry blossom and is known as one of Japan’s best blossom viewing spots. In autumn, visitors can enjoy the magnificent colors of the autumn leaves.
After a cultural experience at TNM, take a short ride to the nearby Yanaka Ginza shopping street, part of the old Shitamachi area (the old part of town where ordinary people used to live). There are about 70 old established shops on either side of the street approximately 6 m wide and 175 m long, providing the visitors with an ambience of the good old times. Here you may also enjoy sampling Japanese sweets and/or snacks while shopping for souvenirs.
Kabuki was inscribed on the UNESCO’s Intangible Cultural Heritage List in 2009. Kabuki actors’ make-up and costumes as well as the stage settings are very elaborate and spectacular. Particularly, the female costumes are overwhelmingly beautiful. A short way from the Kabukiza Theatre lies the main street of Ginza. Ginza is probably the most refined shopping area in Japan with many long-established shops located there. In addition, there are numerous international brands and shopping malls. Even a window-shopping stroll will be a thoroughly enjoyable experience.
For a memorable lunch, traditional Edo-style Sushi is highly recommended.
After lunch, head out to the Hama Rikyu Gardens. This garden used to be a hawking site for Shogun Tokugawa. The elegant Japanese garden surrounding the Shioiri Pond is very much worth a visit.
Next on the agenda is a river cruise on the Sumida River. The cityscape of Tokyo seen from the river is refreshing to the eye. Your destination is Daiba (also known as Odaiba) where the Rainbow Bridge, another of Tokyo’s well-known landmarks, is located. Here at Daiba, you may wish to visit Madame Tussauds and National Museum of Emerging Science and Innovation. At Madame Tussauds, not only foreign celebrities but also Japanese big names are on display. Try a selfie or two with them while you are there, by all means.
At the National Museum of Emerging Science and Innovation, the Geo-Cosmos – a giant globe-like display realistically depicting our mother earth – is a very popular exhibit. You can also meet the Humanoid Robot, ASIMO. It will be a day for you to enjoy the diverse attractions Tokyo has to offer.
(Please note that this trip takes place away from the city center, in the suburbs of Tokyo.)
Accessible from Tokyo’s city center in just one hour, Mt. Takao has been awarded 3 stars by Michelin Green Guide Japon. Despite its modest height of 599 m above sea level, Mt. Takao offers many hiking courses, and many mountain climbers visit the mountain to enjoy its natural surroundings. Especially, during the autumn leaf season from the middle of November, its beauty is absolutely breathtaking.
When you arrive at Mt. Takao, you should first visit the Takao 599 Museum to get an overview of the attractions the mountain has to offer. After the museum visit, take a cable car to move up higher. Yakuo-in Temple is located halfway up the mountain where you can enjoy lunch. Take your time over lunch and, when you have finished, you may wish to choose a souvenir at one of the shops on the approach the temple. They have incense, sweets associated with the legendary Tengu (a long-nosed goblin) and tea – to name only a few – to attract your interest. Continue climbing to appreciate the magnificent view from the summit. Enjoy the natural spectacle to your heart’s content, until it is time for you toreturn to the city center.