Tokyo City Profile
Tokyo is the largest and most cosmopolitan city in Japan. You can find everything under the sun in Tokyo and have hours of fun exploring the city.
Tokyo is extremely crowded and bustling with people and excitement, so if you crave an incredible urban experience, get ready! If you’re worried about being a lone Westerner amongst a throng of Japanese, Tokyo is the place to be, because it has many foreign residents, especially in its Roppongi, Shinjuku, and Shibuya districts.
Toyko, like most of Japan, experiences considerable seasonal variation in its climate. Summer highs can be in excess of 80° F/26° C although humidity levels are moderate. Cold winds from Siberia keep temperatures only slightly above freezing during the night in the winter months, and snow is not unusual in Toyko, although it rarely stays for long. Toyko has two rainy seasons: late spring and again in September and October.
The shinkansen or bullet trains, all Japan Railway (JR) lines, and express buses leave Tokyo for all of the major destinations in Japan.
Detailed schedule information is available at train stations, airports, and major travel agencies in Japan.
Toyko’s two airports, Narita and Haneda, are hubs for both domestic and international travel. Check the “At the Airport” section in this chapter for more information on travel through these airports.
Transportation options within the city of Toyko include the subway, bus, and taxis. Tokyo is notorious for its heavy traffic, so leave plenty of time to get anywhere. Also, be forewarned that riding a subway in Tokyo during rush hour is like being in a sardine can. You are literally stuffed into the train by gloved “people packers.”
Toyko is a consumer’s paradise, but the high value of the yen makes shopping a challenge for the budget conscious traveler. The Akihabara section of Toyko is known as the electronics capitol of Tokyo. Reasonably-priced clothing stores cans be found on the east side of Shinjuku while Harajuku, Omote-sando and Takeshita-dori cater to the youth market. The Ginza is a good place to look for photographic equipment and children’s toys. Department stores offer a wide selection of souvenirs and other goods, but may be overpriced. Toyko’s many flea markets are great sources for bar-gains and for picking up unusual souvenirs and gifts.
The variety of nightlife available in Toyko is almost endless and is almost always exciting but can also be very expensive. If your tastes run to live music, the Shibuya, Shinjuku, Harajuku, the Bay Area (also known as Shibaura), and Roppongi districts are good bets. The Ginza also offers many entertainment options, but prices can be out of sight. Check with the Tourist Information Center for show times and venues if you are interested in more traditional forms of Japanese entertainment such as Kabuki or No (both are forms of Japanese theatre), Bunrako (puppet theater), or sumo wrestling. Toyko also has many theaters that feature American movies.
Places of Interest
Toyko is filled with many fascinating sites and more museums than anywhere else in the country. The Imperial Palace is a fine example of Japanese architecture and one of the most beautiful buildings in Toyko. The largest and most eclectic collections of Japanese art in the world is on display at the Toyko Kokuritsu Hakubustukan Museum. For breathtaking views of the city, the landmark Toyko Tower should not be missed. Rebuilt after World War II, the Sensoji Temple, the oldest in Japan, is another favorite destination. Other popular attractions include the Ginza, the Tsukiji Fish Market, the Kokuritsu Kagaku Hakubutsukan science and technology museum, as well as the Asakusa, Harajuku, and Roppongi districts.
Japan does have a low crime rate by North American standards; however, pickpockets can be a problem in Toyko, particularly in districts frequented by tourists, and on the subway.