A Foreign's Guide to Japan, by Fly.com's Michelle Erickson
One of the largest and most populated cities in the world, Tokyo, Japan is considered an epicenter of culture and modern development. Its rich history dates back to the 1400’s when it was a small village on the eastern side of the main island of Honshu. Over time, the economic and political activities became centralized here and Tokyo was named the de facto capital of Japan.
Locals and visitors in Tokyo travel largely on an extensive mass transit system that provides access to nearly all corners of the city. A train map of Tokyo is a must, but many locals speak English to a certain extent and are willing to assist travelers in navigating this intense metropolis. Neighborhoods can be walked easily with some of the most interesting sights and sounds being located on the narrowest streets.
Tokyo is very diverse and offers something for everyone. Those interested in learning more about the rich culture of Japan can visit one of the many museums, temples or shrines. Foodies will find that some of the most internationally acclaimed restaurants are located here. Tokyo is home to a large array of sports clubs, including baseball, soccer and, of course, sumo wrestling. The city also plays host to a number of festivals featuring fireworks and parades.
Tokyo fashion has become famous the world over for being unique and outrageous. A visit to Harajuku showcases this with streets lined with outlandish boutiques. There is no shortage of shopping in Tokyo with many of the most well-known international designers having flagship stores here. Traditional department stores carry a huge variety of goods, including clothing, house wares, souvenirs and gifts.
When to Go
The weather in Tokyo consists of hot humid summers and fairly mild winters. Rain throughout the year is very common, but tends to be more intense during the summer months. Many of the city’s festivals occur during the spring months, including cherry blossom festivals, making it a great time to visit.
How to Get There
Nearly all international flights to/from Tokyo use Narita International Airport, located outside the city. The easiest way to reach the airport from Tokyo is by rail. Bus service is available, but tends to be slower due to traffic congestion and taxis can be very expensive.
There are a few essential sights on any trip to Tokyo. The Tokyo Imperial Palace is the main residence of the Emperor of Japan. Tours of the main grounds are available, but must be reserved in advance. Tokyo at night can best be experienced in Shibuya at the giant crosswalk lit up like Times Square. The Tokyo National Museum houses more than 100,000 pieces of Japanese, Chinese and Indian art along with over 100 of Japan's National Treasures. Lastly, Ginza is Tokyo's most famous shopping center. Near the shopping street lies the Kabuki-za Theater in which Kabuki performances take place.