Things to Do in Tokyo - page 4
Disneyland is to Mickey Mouse what Sanrio Puroland is to Hello Kitty. The indoor theme park on the western edge of Tokyo attracts 1.5 million visitors a year with its attractions, themed rides, restaurants and musicals based around the Sanrio company’s characters. Westerners may only be familiar with Hello Kitty, but Sanrio also came up with Jewelpet, My Melody and Cinnamoroll among others.
Sanrio Puroland opened in 1990 to mixed reviews, but with a boom in Hello Kitty’s popularity, it’s now one of the most popular attractions in Japan. The park’s hypercute highlights include a life-size version of Kitty’s house, a boat ride filled with Sanrio characters and three theaters with daily live stage productions. Most attractions are aimed at a decidedly young demographic, so if you’re traveling with teenagers, you might be better off at Tokyo Disneyland and DisneySea.
That said, if you’re a Kitty fan or merely want a closer look at a facet of Japanese culture that’s create a worldwide phenomenon, an afternoon at Sanrio Puroland might be in order.
Founded in 1873, Shiba Park (Shiba Koen) is Japan’s oldest public park. It’s best known for the distinctive red and white Tokyo Tower that looms over it. The park provides much-needed open space in the crowded central city, and it’s a great place to take a walk while in this part of Tokyo. Visitors can also admire the ancient trees in the park, as well as the temple at its center.
The pond within Inokashira Park was the first water source for the city of Edo—which today is Tokyo. One of the city’s most utilized green spaces, the park is particularly lovely during prime cherry-blossom viewing (hanami) and leaf peeping (momijigari) times. Inokashira also houses the famous Ghibli Museum, dedicated to Japanese anime.
Step back in time to the Edo period (1603-1857), one of Japan's most intriguing eras, at Edo Wonderland (Nikko Edomura). This theme park recreates history in impressive and accurate detail with a replica Edo-period town, complete with actors in period costumes, ninja demonstrations, period-appropriate architecture and theater performances featuring courtesans and feudal lords. Visitors can eat at restaurants selling Edo-style food, rent and purchase costumes to wear in the town and buy souvenirs related to the time period.
Some of the most popular attractions in town include the Haunted Temple, decorated with spirits and demons found in Japanese folklore, and the House of Illusions, filled with trick mirrors. Kids and adults alike enjoy the Ninja Trick Maze, a challenging labyrinth, Edo Wonderland is entertaining as it is a history lesson on an era that came to define Japan.
Tokyo Dome City is a massive entertainment complex in the Bunkyo district of Tokyo. The complex is home to a baseball stadium, an amusement park, an arena for boxing and martial arts, a 43-storey hotel, a bowling alley, hundreds of shops and restaurants, and a spa complex.
Happo-en means "beautiful from every angle." When visiting the Happo-en Garden in Tokyo, you’ll see that the name doesn’t even begin to describe this Japanese garden and teahouse.
Take a stroll through tree-lined paths of century old bonsai, cherry, and maple trees. Take in the lush gardens and budding flowers surrounding a tranquil pond. Enjoy a traditional tea-ceremony served by women in elaborate kimonos. Then, enjoy a romantic dinner at Enju or Thrush, one of the two restaurants overlooking the lovely gardens.
The Tokyo Daijingu Shrine is one of the most important Shinto shrines in Tokyo. Worshippers come here to pray for love and a happy marriage. The shrine is dedicated to two Shinto sun goddesses and three gods of creation and growth. It was built in 1880, and is famous for being the first place to hold a traditional Shinto wedding ceremony.
It's not the biggest or most modern baseball stadium in Tokyo, but Meiji Jingu Stadium in Shinjuku is worth visiting for its unique atmosphere and history. Opened in 1926, it's one of the few stadiums still in existence where Babe Ruth played (along with Lou Gehrig on a 1934, 22-game tour of Japan).
Today it's home to the Tokyo Yakult Swallows, as well as a popular host of many college match-ups. If you have time, it's an excellent place to watch a game. Because it is rather small nearly every seat is close to the field. Unlike in the US, Japanese baseball is a very rowdy interactive game for fans with organized chants, dancing and cheerleaders. The traditional way fans cheer for the Swallows is to open their umbrellas and sing a song, so be sure to come prepared!
Architecture and design enthusiasts will love the Edo-Tokyo Open Air Architecture Museum. Set within Koganei Park in western Tokyo, the traditional buildings on display were moved or reconstructed here in an effort to preserve Japanese architectural history. Walk around and see how people once lived in Japan.
Get up close and strike a pose with famous and popular names in film, television, music, sports, history, politics, and more at Madame Tussauds Tokyo. Located at Decks Tokyo Beach in Odaiba, the Tokyo branch of the world-renowned Madame Tussauds features more than 60 life-size wax figures from around the world.
More Things to Do in Tokyo
LEGOLAND® Discovery Center is an indoor amusement park located in Tokyo’s waterfront Odaiba district. The center houses more than three million LEGO® bricks, as well as attractions including a Miniland Tokyo—a dioramic cityscape filled with mini reconstructions of some of Tokyo’s most famous landmarks—a 4-D cinema, and themed rides.
The Museum of Contemporary Art Tokyo (MOT) opened in 1995 with the goal of researching, collecting, preserving, and displaying contemporary art from Japan and around the world. It’s the largest modern and contemporary art museum in Japan, with three floors showing temporary exhibits and two featuring artworks from the permanent collection.
In the centuries before the Edo Period, the land now occupied by Hotel Chinzanso Tokyo was known as Tsubakiyama, or Mountain of Camellias. In the beginning of the Edo Period, famous Haiku poet Matsuo Basho made his residence overlooking the property, and during the Meiji Era, former Prime Minister of Japan Aritomo Yamagata took ownership of the land and built a mansion there, which he named Chinzanso, or House of Camellias.
Today, the 710,000-square-foot (66,000-square-meter) garden sits on the grounds of the Hotel Chinzanso Tokyo. Over a dozen historical artifacts are scattered throughout, including a three-level pagoda thought to date back as early as the fourteenth century. Each season brings new sights and colors to the well-manicured garden: azaleas, cherry blossoms and irises in spring; hydrangea, crape-myrtle and fireflies in summer; migrating birds and colorful fall foliage in autumn; and in winter, plum blossoms and the famous camellias the garden is named for.
The Seaside Top Observatory is the observation deck of the World Trade Center Tokyo, a towering 40-story building. The Hamamatsu-cho subway station exits directly into the building making it easy to exit, pay the ¥620 fee and hop in the elevator.
At the top you'll find a unique view of Tokyo Bay, other skyscrapers like the Tokyo Tower and Tokyo Sky Tree and even Mount Fuji on a good day. Display screens with light up buttons help you to determine exactly what you're looking at. The deck is usually not crowded so you can linger and enjoy the 360 degree views. The night view is considered particularly romantic, but keep in mind that the deck closes at 8:30.
Since its completion in 2011, the Tokyo Skytree, the world’s second tallest building, has become the most visible landmark in Tokyo. At its base, you’ll find Tokyo Solamachi, the largest shopping, dining and entertainment venue in the city with more than 300 shops and restaurants.
If you want to visit the viewing gallery on the building’s 450th floor, you’ll have to book your tickets ahead of time. Once you’re back at the bottom, take some time to shop at the Solamachi mall. The shops sell a huge variety of wares, including local crafts, Japanese housewares, souvenir shops and an entire floor of cartoon and character shops.
Come hungry, because the complex has a large market, a food court and four floors of restaurants serving Japanese and global cuisine. If you’ve had enough shopping but you still need to kill some time, check out the onsite aquarium and planetariums.
Founded in 1924, Toyo Bunko is one of the five largest Asian studies research libraries in the world, and it's the oldest and the largest institution in Japan. The museum was opened to spark interest in the region's history and culture and has contributed to Asian studies through the acquisition of books and other materials.
The National Museum of Western Art in Tokyo is one of the best places in the country to see Western art. The museum building, designed by modernist architect Le Corbusier, is also a draw in and of itself. Visit to see world-renowned work of art from the 14th to the 20th centuries.
Soaking in a hot spring bath, or onsen, is a popular pastime in Japan, and Oedo Onsen Monogatari is a whole theme park dedicated to onsen. Modeled on Edo-period Tokyo (17th–19th centuries), with old-style architecture and games, the park offers amenities like gift shops and eateries as well as baths and saunas.
Shinagawa is smaller than some of the aquariums in Tokyo, but it's full of interesting exhibits and is a great way to spend a few hours.
There are over 300 species of sea life divided into sea-surface and sea-floor exhibits. The centerpiece of the aquarium is a domed tunnel that winds through a massive tank, letting visitors experience full immersion while staying completely dry. The sheer amount and variety of fish is mind boggling.
Some of the best parts of the aquarium are the aquatic mammal exhibits. It's delightful to watch the animals play in the spotted seal observation building. There are also dolphin and sea lion shoes daily where you can watch the mammals jump and do tricks. Be careful though- the front rows will get soaked! If you're brave enough to sit up close you can buy a poncho to keep you dry.
Spread out over 129 acres, Tama Zoological Park features animals free to roam in spacious, naturalistic habitats. The park, located one hour outside of Tokyo, allows travelers to observe native Japanese animals such as macaques, Sika deer and Yezo brown bears, as well as more exotic species from around the world.
The zoo is split into four major sections: the Asiatic Garden, African Garden, Australian Garden and Insectarium. Tokyo has a special relationship with its international twin area of New South Wales, so the Australia section is particularly well outfitted with koalas, kangaroos and more. Other highlights include a successful elephant breeding program and a lion bus, which allows visitors to view the lions in a safari setting.
Sunshine 60 is a skyscraper with a 60th-floor observatory deck with a difference. The views of the surrounding city from 787 feet (240 meters) high are spectacular, and full sensory virtual-reality experiences add an extra dimension to a visit. This is an especially fun place to come with kids, or with friends.
Tokyo SEA LIFE® Park is the largest aquarium in the city. Housed in a glass dome in Kasai Rinkai Park, it sits across the bay from Tokyo Disneyland. As it’s government-run, the exhibits lean toward educational rather than “flashy,” but it's an affordable family-friendly attraction in the busy, often expensive capital of Japan.
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