Tourism in Japan has been given a significant lift since Tokyo won its bid to stage the 2020 Olympics. A record 19.7 million vacationers visited the country in 2015, with many spending time in its mystical capital city.
Tokyo was named the world’s most satisfying city for travel in a 2013 poll by Trip Advisor and its popularity is continuing to grow. Here are our top 10 reasons to visit Tokyo as your next tourist destination.
For this list, we’re looking at the reasons to visit Tokyo and why Tokyo should be at the top of your travel bucket list
10. The blend of new and old
Tokyo is a city unlike any other it’s truly one of a kind. Anyone with a passion for neon lights and cutting-edge technology is sure to fall in love with this vibrant metropolis. At night, walking through Tokyo can often feel as if you’ve stepped into a sci-fi film and yet the Japanese capital remains equally committed to honoring its past as you navigate the busy modern city the sheer number of shrines, temples, and other historic structures are astonishing.
There is seemingly a relic from the past and immaculately preserved no less waiting around every corner. You will also encounter tiny hole-in-the-wall restaurants and businesses that similarly feel as if they’ve fallen out of time, the contrast can be jarring at times but it’s woven into the very fabric of Tokyo and is a big part of its appeal.
9. The Transit System
Public transportation might not be the most thrilling aspect of travel but it can make or break your experience in a city. The more a destination has to offer the more crucial it is that you be able to get from one destination to another efficiently and with minimal hassle.
As a general rule, no trip to Tokyo is long enough but the transit system certainly helps you get the most out of your stay, yes it’s speedy and well planned but there’s also a novelty to the Tokyo transit system where else will you encounter white-gloved employees or get up to the second notifications. The cleaning crews at the train and subway stations might just be among the fastest in the world.
This extremely well-managed system earns Tokyo its place among the cities with the best public transportation but because it services such an extensive area it’s worth planning your routes ahead of time to avoid confusion.
8. The Neighborhoods
There are some cities where all the action seems to happen in a 10 block radius, in others like Los Angeles you need to spend time in a wide variety of neighborhoods to get a clear picture of everything the city has to offer.
Tokyo fits squarely into the latter category, a metropolis made up of many unique neighborhoods. Tokyo got a little something for every type of traveler. Akihabara is the place to go for anime, gadgets, and video games, it’s got a chaotic neon aesthetic to match. To the east is Asakusa a neighborhood rooted in traditional values that offers a wealth of insight into the history of the city, If you’re looking for temples and traditional Japanese craftwork and souvenirs this is the spot.
Harajuku and Ginza are the go-to places for fashion and trend spotting while c Shinjuku, Shibuya, and the aforementioned Ginza are the nightlife hubs. Nakameguro, Shimokitazawa, and Kichijoji each offer something distinct and are equally not to be missed.
7. Otaku and Akiba-kei culture
Have you ever been to a major pop culture convention, it can be pretty overwhelming. With all due respect to geek culture in North America, it can’t hold a candle to the world of otaku in Tokyo.
The term was coined in the 1980s and while like geek there’s a stigma attached to the word otaku in Japan. Manga, video game, and anime fans in Tokyo wear their passions proudly. Otaku refers to any intense fandom but Akiba-Kei is the blanket term for the three aforementioned types of media and their fandoms are the city’s most omnipresent.
Otaku is a big business in Japan contributing billions of dollars to the economy. Whether you’re personally into manga, anime, and video games or not the sheer spectacle and intensity of this culture are well worth experiencing.
Britain and Ireland have pubs, Spain has tapas bars and Japan has Izakayas the place to go for after-work drinks and some light snacks. Izakaya culture is a big part of life in Tokyo, there’s no better spot to do some people watching or get lost in the local crowd.
Izakayas vary widely in terms of both size and style, some are small 10-seater sake houses that you’re unlikely to spot unless you know where to look but there are also major chains more reminiscent of western watering holes something you’re unlikely to have encountered back home however are the call buttons common in many of the larger establishments, need a refill just push the button and a server will be right with you.
Beer, whiskey, cocktails, sake, and Shochu you can try it all, and though there are staple menu items like Yoza and Yakitori every Izakaya has its specialties.
5. It can be done on the cheap
When you announce your intentions to visit Tokyo one of the most common responses you’re likely to get is well I hope you’re saving up. Yes, Tokyo is an expensive destination to visit, the cost of living in Tokyo is higher than anywhere else in Asia but just because a destination is expensive doesn’t mean that you can’t still do it on a budget with a bit of planning. You will need to skip many of the Michelin star restaurants and you won’t be staying in charming boutique hotels but that’s a major part of Japan’s appeal.
Most of your best memories in Japan will just be walking around exploring the city and immersing yourself in the culture all of which can be done for free. Street food and little establishments also serve some of the city’s best bites at very reasonable prices.
4. It’s busy but also safe
Traveling to such a hustling and bustling city can often feel a bit overwhelming, many words are commonly used to describe Tokyo but peaceful isn’t one of the first that comes to mind. Well except for in the gardens, parks, and temples which is another major selling point, the greater metropolitan area of Tokyo however is the most populated in the world add to that the fact that Tokyo is a top destination for international arrivals and the Shinjuku crossing can start to feel representative of the city as a whole.
Though Tokyo is incredibly busy the locals also tend to be extremely polite, considerate, and respectful. Crime and population density often go hand in hand but Tokyo consistently ranks among the safest cities on earth if not the safest.
3. The Fashion Trend
What are the cities that come to mind when you think of fashion London, Milan, Paris, Seoul, and Tokyo? Residents are not afraid to try out a new look and as such the Japanese capital has long been considered a fashion capital as well.
The fashion, culture and tradition are enough reasons to visit Tokyo for fashion lovers. From street style to haute couture Tokyo is always on the cutting edge of any trend or starting new ones. People look as if they’ve stepped off the page of a sci-fi Manga and we’re not even referring to the Cosplaying otaku who fall into a fashion culture all of their own.
You might not feel comfortable trying to pull off any of the local looks for yourself but just being in the middle of it all makes for quite an experience, the neighborhoods of Harajuku and Shibuya can often feel like one giant catwalk.
2. The Shopping
Of course, if you do want to take inspiration from the fashionable Tokyo locals you’re in the right place just make sure to budget accordingly. Tokyo is a shopper’s paradise, Ginza is the place to go for custom high-end threads while Aoyama is the spot for vintage Instagram-ready finds, Shibuya is where you’ll find your more conventional apparel and streetwear, and is also the go-to place for electronic gadgets.
You don’t need to be a fashion lover to spend big in Tokyo there are stores here to cater to every taste, if you’re into Otaku culture you’ll love the shops in Akihabara and Ikebukuro, vinyl lovers will want to save plenty of time to dig through the shops in Shimokitazawa while Shinjuku honestly has a little bit of everything.
1. The Food
As you’ve probably gathered there are many reasons to visit Tokyo there’s perhaps no stronger or tantalizing one however than the culinary scene.
Tokyo is a foodie paradise, it has more Michelin stars to its name than any other city on earth. You could eat sushi for lunch and dinner every day of the trip and still fail to make a dent in the list of must-try sushi spots. It is also home to award-winning restaurants that serve international cuisine including some of the best French eateries anywhere outside of Paris.
The great thing about eating in Tokyo is that you can do it well at any price point, a perfect bowl of ramen is seemingly on every corner. Tempura, tonkatsu, Japanese curry, soba, sukiyaki, shabu-shabu, tepanyaki you can savor all the classics without ever breaking the bank.
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