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No trip to Japan would be complete without a visit to its legendary capital city. Where else can travellers visit the world’s most famous fish auction, pray at a 1,000-year-old temple and eat out on the charmingly named Piss Alley all in one day? These are the 20 things you must do when you’re in Tokyo.
The well-worn neighbourhood of Asakusa and its main attraction, the sacred temple Sensō-ji, are must-visits – there’s nothing else quite like them in Tokyo. The classical temple, with its iconic red lantern and the charming Nakamise shopping street that lines its approach, will transport you to Japan of old. Nearby is Hanayashiki, the oldest amusement park in the country.
Ryogōku is the capital of sumo culture in Tokyo, and the place to go for all things sumo. The district is home to a large number of sumo stables, some of which might let you watch their early-morning practices for free. You can also learn about the history of the sport at the Sumo Museum or eat at the sumo-themed restaurant. But for the ultimate experience, take in a match at the Ryogōku Kokugikan, where thousands of fans gather to watch Japan’s most popular sport.
The nightlife in Shibuya is unrivalled. You can spend an entire evening sipping cocktails 30 floors up or rocking out at an underground DJ bar. Alternatively, why not sip a sake at the traditional Shōwa-era bars by the train tracks, before checking out the area’s clubs and live music venues? Whatever you’re looking for in a night out in Tokyo, you’re sure to find it in Shibuya.
Although Omoide Yokocho translates literally to Memory Lane, this narrow, historic street – one of many yokocho in Tokyo – is better known as Piss Alley. Despite its somewhat off-putting moniker, this bustling, atmospheric collection of small bars and food stalls is a Tokyo favourite for eating and drinking. The main dish you’ll come across is yakitori – skewered meats that pair perfectly with Japanese beer and sake.
The Meguro River lends Nakameguro a special charm. Here, you’ll find cool cafes, restaurants and the odd boutique selling handmade, eco-friendly handicrafts for the modern flower child. While there, it’s also worth popping by its classier neighbour, Daikanyama, which is characterised by winding lanes, one-of-a-kind speciality shops and superb dining.
Shibuya Crossing, also known as the Shibuya Scramble, is the busiest pedestrian crossing in the world in terms of foot traffic. The nearby Hachikō Statue, which immortalises the dog who waited for his owner every day at Shibuya station even after his master’s death, is a popular meeting spot.
The Yomiuri Giants, Japan’s oldest professional baseball team, call the Tokyo Dome home. Catch a game or spend some time browsing the nearby Japanese Baseball Hall of Fame. Baseball arrived in Japan during the Meiji era, and it has swiftly become the most popularly played and supported sport in the country.
Brooke Larsen contributed additional reporting to this article.