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Tokyo, Japan


Great Destination:


Value for Money:


Total Stars:


Personality Types that Like it Best

Best liked by Mid-Venturers and Centric-Venturers, in that order, and many Venturers

Did You Know … ?

  • Tokyo’s population is three times as dense as that of Mumbai, India.
  • Tokyo Disneyland and Disney Sea are among the world’s five top theme parks.
  • Men play all the roles in Kabuki theater.
  • The name Tokyo means eastern capital.
  • The innards of the poisonous puffer fish are treated as hazardous waste.

Kimonos and baseball

Tokyo is a tourist destination harboring a raft of unique Japanese cultural traditions and a major business center for companies with an eye on the Asian market.

For tourists, it offers many examples of what visitors regard as particularly Japanese: flowers and gardens, geisha, Japanese art, Kabuki and other theater, karaoke, kimonos, ryokan inns, sake and sushi, Shinto temples, sumo wrestling and tea ceremonies. Visitors expect to be greeted with bows occasionally, and to bow in return. They may attend a baseball game, too.

Although Kyoto remained the official capital of Japan until 1868, Tokyo was the political capital from 1603. Tokyo (then called Edo) grew to more than a million people by the early 1800s. Unfortunately, architecture from that era is mostly gone. In 1923, an earthquake destroyed much of central Tokyo and, during World War II, American bombers destroyed about a third of the city. After that, the demands of a crowded city doomed most of the remaining traditional buildings.

Therefore, visitors find a huge metropolis that looks familiar while, under that veneer, they find rich layers of Japanese tradition, which is a key motivator for vacationing or extending a business trip in Tokyo.

Numerous festivals and ceremonies date back hundreds of years; visitors may witness some of these events in the city’s gardens and at Shinto shrines and Buddhist temples. Some artists still create traditional paintings on silk or woodblock prints. Kabuki theater and other typical stage arts remain popular. Visitors can watch judo exhibitions or sumo wrestling matches. The geisha survive although in reduced numbers, and the kimono usually appears only on special occasions such as at a tea ceremony.

Tokyo is a foodie’s adventureland, too, the place to taste sake and eat sushi and sukiyaki as well as sample Japanese specialties that have not crossed the ocean.

Tokyo’s visitors find friendly hosts in a safe and clean city. All Japanese study English, so the language is widely spoken; signage in tourist areas is in English as well as Japanese. Weather is comparatively moderate, but in summer the city can be hit by typhoons. Tokyo also grapples with heavy traffic.

Things to do for Venturers

  • Drop by at a tachinomiya, or standing bar, for a drink and snacks at reasonable prices. As the name suggests, you will stand, but you will share space with others and may make new friends. Also, check out the karaoke scene.
  • Sample one or the other of these traditional entertainments — No plays and Kyogen, which are short comedies.
  • Attend professional sumo wrestling tournaments (January, May or September) at Tokyo’s Ryogoku Kokugikan. Also, squeeze in a baseball game.
  • Eat sushi or tempura and drink sake in the land where they come from. You also can have a meal called kaiseki ryori, which refers to a type of multicourse meal first devised for use by samurai warriors when they entertained guests. It consists of one soup and three dishes (sashimi, a grilled food item and a stewed food). It can include other dishes, too, such as an appetizer, a fried food and a steamed item.  Be more daring: Eat the puffer fish, which is poisonous unless cooked properly.
  • Make a furin, or wind bell, using glass-blowing techniques. Shinohara Furin Hompo, a studio where the Edo-style furin is produced, offers visitors the option to make their own.
  • Observe one of numerous traditional local festivities. One example is the August Appreciation Day for Summer Insect Songs (Mushikiki-no-kai) held in a historic garden called Mukojima Hyakka-en. Features include a display of summer singing insects and the releasing of insects.

Things to do for Centrics

  • See the most popular of Japanese traditional performing arts, the Kabuki theater. Tokyo’s Kabuki-za Theater helps out with explanations in English.
  • Attend a tea ceremony and take tea lessons at one of a handful of establishments that offer such options for English speakers. Or, attend a tea ceremony in one of the hotels offering the sessions for foreigners.
  • Take a flower-arranging class. There are programs in English meant for the visiting foreigner.  Also, learn to make origami paper decorations at the Edo-Tokyo Open Air Architectural Museum located in Koganei Park. Slated for the last weekend of June, the class is included in your entry fee.
  • Attend the Healthy Festa Aloe and Ashitaba on Hachijo Island. The annual event (late December through much of January), in Okoshi Aloe Garden, features aloe and a wild celery called ashitaba, both of which are known as natural health foods. You can test foods made with these ingredients.
  • Eat kaiten-zushi, which refers to a casual style of sushi restaurant. Another casual choice is called teishoku, a set menu that includes a main dish of meat or fish with a side dish, rice, miso soup and pickled vegetables.
  • Make a morning of it (starting early) at the Tsukiji Market, one of the world’s four  largest markets and called the kitchen of Tokyo. Survey the goods on offer, then  — head for Akihabara, the electronics quarter, where you can buy things to take home.

Things to do for Authentics

  • Depending on the season, view cherry blossoms or fall colors. Tokyo’s Ueno Park is particularly noted for outstanding cherry blossoms — as well as for its lotus blossoms in summer.
  • Lunch at a restaurant specializing in ramen noodles. A typical bowl of ramen includes boiled thin noodles, broth, bean sprouts, green onions and Chinese-style barbecued pork. (Ramen noodles originated in China, but are very popular in Japan.)
  • Shop for Japanese textiles, especially the silks. Also, spend some time strolling around the fashionable boutiques in the Ginza area.
  • Experience Zazen (seated meditation).
  • Retreat to any of a number of this big city’s gardens beginning with the outer gardens of the Imperial Palace (Kokyo Gaien) and the Imperial Palace East Garden. Other choices are Korakuen and Rikugien gardens, two of the oldest and best-known, north of the palace.
  • Relax at an onsen, which is a spa experience Japanese style. Onsens are public baths where the Japanese soak away their aches and pains in natural hot springs water. For a real retreat, have that onsen experience at Oshima Hot Springs Motomachi Hamanoyu on the Tokyo island called Oshima.

Additional Resources

For more information, consult the Tokyo Convention and Visitors Bureau at and select your language.