- How big is Tokyo?
- A city of over 2,000 square kilometres, Tokyo is one of the largest cities in the world. It's also the capital of Japan.
- How many people inhabit it?
- Around 12 million people live in Tokyo. It's also a popular destination with domestic and international tourists and receives huge numbers of visitors each year.
- What are the language and the currency?
- Tokyo's official language is Japanese and the currency in use is the Japanese Yen.
- The bright lights of downtown Shinjuku
Things to see in Tokyo
- Tell me about one of Tokyo's main attractions?
- Sure. One of the most popular places to visit in Tokyo is the Meiji Jingu Shrine. It was completed in 1920 to honour the Emperor Meiji. Entrance to the shrine itself is free and for a small fee you can also walk through the gardens.
- Anything else which shouldn't be missed?
- The western suburb of Kichijoji is home to Inokashia Park. Stroll through the park, take a look at the large numbers cherry and maple trees or visit the Ghibli Museum. It celebrates the Studio Ghibli films, including successful movies like Spirited Away and Howl's Moving Castle. To visit the museum, you must pre-buy your ticket from a Lawson convenience store. A visit to the government offices in the Shinjuku district is a really good idea, as the 45th floor observation decks offer fantastic views of the city. And best of all, they're free!
- What about museums? What are the best ones to visit?
- Well, four of the most important national museums are in Ueno Park. The Tokyo National Museum is the country's largest museum and houses a huge selection of Japanese art. You'll also find the National Museum of Western Art, the National Museum of Modern Art, and the National Museum of Science. There's a zoo in this park too. Another of Tokyo's main museums is the Sumo Museum. It's free to get in and a good choice if you haven't been able to make a sumo tournament while in the city. Here you'll see all kinds of interesting sumo memorabilia.
- What about shopping? Where I should I go to sample Tokyo's stores?
- One of the main shopping areas in Tokyo, Shibuya is filled with stores, restaurants, and a riot of colourful billboards and giant TV screens. Center Gai is filled with clothes and music shops, as well as arcades. For high fashion, the Ginza district is the place to go. Filled to the brim with upmarket stores and restaurants, this area is a haven for shopaholics. Akihabara is also known as Tokyo's 'Electric Town' and is a must-see for the technologically inclined. There are a huge number of shops here, selling everything from computers to video games to complicated gadgetry. It's also a good spot to find manga and anime.
- Where can you find Tokyo's finest architecture?
- You won't find a lot of older buildings in Tokyo and the city's architecture is generally done in modern or contemporary styles. Many of the older buildings were destroyed during events such as the massive 1923 earthquake and the fire bombings during WW2.
- Anything else I need to know?
- One neighbourhood you shouldn't miss when visiting Tokyo is Harajuku, which is especially intriguing on Sundays. Here you'll see Japanese youth culture in all its glory, including the famous 'Harajuku girls'. It's also a great place for shopping throughout the week, with lots of clothes shops, music stores, cafés, and more. Yoyogi Park is the place where people hang out at the weekend and here you can check out street performers of all kinds.
Going out in Tokyo
- Where are most of the bars found?
- With a city as vast as Tokyo and one that has so many districts, it's hard to point out one area in particular. However, some of the most vibrant nightlife can be found in the Roppongi and Shibuya districts.
- Any bars you'd recommend?
- There are some crazy bars in Tokyo. Like Geronimo, which is known mostly as the place to go for shots. If you can down 15 in a row, they'll put your name on a plaque and stick it up on the wall. Another place to check out is Gas Panic. There are three of these bars in Tokyo and all have a reputation for providing a wild night out. Which might have something to do with the bar signs proclaiming things like 'you must be holding a drink at all times'. If you don't want to miss any of the big games while you're away, check out Legend and Hobgoblins. International sporting events are regularly shown on the many TVs in these bars.
- Do I need to carry my ID with me when going out?
- The legal drinking age in Japan is 20 and, as with most major cities, it's a good idea to carry some form if ID with you when you go out.
- I hear karaoke is popular here. Should I be practicing my Do-Re-Mis?
- Could be a plan. There are a huge number of karaoke bars all across the city and inside you can choose from a wide range of classic karaoke tunes to wow your adoring public. Alternatively, if you're a little shy you can book a private booth and belt out your favourites to your heart's content without having to worry about the critics.
Eating Out in Tokyo
- Any restaurants you'd recommend?
- For somewhere with a bit of story attached to it, check out Gonpachi. Apparently, this place inspired one of the most famous scenes in Kill Bill Vol 1. From noodle dishes to sushi, this restaurant offers up a good range of different dishes. If you want to try a traditional Japanese hotpot, Tajimaya is a good place to go. It's located in the Yodo-Bashi Centre. During these meals, you cook your meat and veg in your very own pot of boiling water.
- What times do restaurants close?
- Lots of places that serve food stay open until the early hours of the morning.
- So is there a really popular dish I should check out?
- Even if you don't think raw fish will be quite your thing, you should try and give sushi a chance when you're in Tokyo. This dish is probably Japan's most famous food and is made of vinegared rice and different types of seafood.
- Anything else I need to know?
- If you want to see where some of the fish used in the city's sushi dishes starts out, you could have a wander around the Tsukiji Fish Market in the Chuo district. It's open from 5am-10am and is a favourite among visitors to the city. Here you can catch a glimpse of all kinds of strange sea creatures on their way to the pot. From a designated area, you can also watch the famous tuna auctions. Unsurprisingly, there are lots of popular sushi places around here too.
Transport in Tokyo
- How many different modes of public transport are there in Tokyo?
- Subway is by far the best way to get around Tokyo, even though the extensive network might seem a little overwhelming at first. There are a lot of different lines covering pretty much everywhere you'll want to go in Tokyo. Services are frequent and run from 5am until midnight. One way tickets cost around Y160-Y220.
- Will I need to use public transport at all?
- As Tokyo's a pretty huge city, you will have to use public transport during your stay. Walking around some the specific districts can be a good idea too though, as it'll give you a real feel for the district.
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