Photograph by Michael Yamashita
“All the pungent smells and noisy bustle you could want.”—Wendy Yanagihara, author, Lonely Planet’s Tokyo Encounter guidebook. Street market near Ueno station is a proud throwback; inexpensive clothing and food, plus lots of rabble and fun.
Asakusa Kannon Temple (Sensoji)
Buddhist temple dates back to the seventh century; current buildings are postwar, yet exude Old Edo (original Tokyo) atmosphere. Enter via Kaminarimon (Thunder Gate), and the bustling pedestrian street Nakamise-dori, where snacks and trinkets tempt. 2-3-1 Asakusa, Taito-ku; tel. 81 3 3842 0181.
Yomiuri Giants Baseball
“Buy a bento lunch, have the beer girls pour you drafts from the mini-kegs strapped to their backs, and marvel at the coordinated cheers and fight songs.”—Wendy Yanagihara. The Yomiuri Giants are the kings of Japanese baseball; a game here is a once-in-a-lifetime experience. Ticket prices vary. Tokyo Dome Stadium, 1-3-61 Koraku, Bunkyo-ku; tel. 81 3 5800 9999. www.tokyo-dome.co.jp/e/
Hama Rikyu Gardens
Rambling garden facing Tokyo Bay; former villa of the shogun; great for a relaxing stroll; features distinctive pruned pine trees; make time for ceremonial tea at the teahouse on a pond. 1-1 Hamarkiyu Teien, Chuo-ku; tel. 81 3 3541 0200; fee.
Tokyo’s public bathhouses (separated by gender) are relics of generations when most homes did not have baths; natural hot spring waters bubble tea-brown, against a soaring tile mosaic of mountains and lakes; clean yourself thoroughly before stepping into the hot pools; BYO towel, shampoo, soap, or buy them on the spot. 1-5-22 Azabu Juban, Minato-ku; tel. 81 3 3404 2610.
Tokyo’s grandest Shinto shrine; located in a forest in the middle of the city; a prime spot for traditional weddings. 1-1 Yoyogi, Kamizono-cho, Shibuya-ku; tel. 81 3 3379 5511. www.meijijingu.or.jp
High-fashion boutiques of worldwide brands line this tree-lined boulevard east of Meiji Shrine. Head to the off-streets for more casual, affordable wear; side street Takeshita-dori is only 440 yards long (400 meters long) and packed with young shoppers and low-priced boutiques—a world mecca for trendy teens.
Two-week basho (tournaments) take place at Kokugikan Stadium in January, May, and September. The rest of the year, visit the small sumo museum on-site. Advance tickets from $34, same-day tickets cheaper. 1-3-28 Yokoami, Sumida-ku; tel. 81 3 3623 5111. www.sumo.or.jp/eng
Tsukiji Fish Market (Tokyo Central Wholesale Market)
Tiny trucks needle through acres of auctioneers, wholesalers, and distributors, trading some 450 varieties of fish and seafood; fresh local catches, plus marine products delivered next-day from waters around the globe; arrive by 9 a.m. to witness the frenzied fish mongering; outer market sells produce, prepared foods, and dishware. Closed Sundays and holidays. Located near the Tsukijishijō Station on the Oedo subway line and Tsukiji Station on the Hibiya subway line. www.tsukiji-market.or.jp/tukiji_e.htm
Ueno Park Museums
Cherry blossom-filled park includes Japan's oldest and largest (80,000 items) museums—Tokyo Metropolitan Art Museum, the National Museum of Western Art, National Science Museum, and The Tokyo National Museum—and the world’s best repository of Japanese arts and antiquities. The park also features temples, shrines, pagodas, a pond, and the Ueno Zoo, home to giant pandas. Fees vary.
Cook a pot of linguine, drain it, and turn it out onto a plate. That’s a rough map of Tokyo’s rapid network, comprised of two separate systems—Tokyo Metro and TOEI. Sounds intimidating, but millions of Tokyoites ride daily, and so can you. Save a bundle over taxis and get a real native experience listening to the sounds and watching moms remove their kids’ shoes before they climb up on the seats. Single-ride, daily, and monthly passes. www.tokyometro.jp/global/en/
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