The Japanese capital city was originally named Edo until 1868, when it was renamed Tokyo (meaning Eastern Capital). It is now is home to over 13.5 million people. It’s a city of contrasts, blending the ultra-modern with ancient tradition, where skyscrapers vie with thousand-year-old temples for space. So what do you do if you want to plan a trip to Tokyo?
Best Time to Go to Tokyo
First off, pick when you’d like to go. Tokyo has a temperate climate, rarely dropping below zero at nighttime during the winter and reaching over 35°C during the summer. Summer is also the time when Tokyo experiences the most rainfall. In June and July alone, it rains on average 15 days of the month with an outside chance of seeing a typhoon. Spring and autumn are the best times; the temperature is between and 15 and 23°C with none of the high humidity of the summer months. They are also the most colorful of seasons, from the plum and cherry trees blossoming in spring to the kaleidoscope of brown, red, and golden leaves of autumn.
How to get around Tokyo
Tokyo is a big, sprawling giant of a city. It was rebuilt after World War II, and it is in a constant state of rebuilding. With no grid structure, or in some cases no street names or numbers, even residents of Tokyo admit to getting lost. Get a map from the Tourist Information Centre; this will help greatly.
You can also download a street map and Metro map to your phone to help you navigate the urban maze that is Tokyo. Try and learn a few numbers and characters in Japanese to help you with the Metro and get a Suica Card (a rechargeable Metro ticket). All that said, getting lost in Tokyo is no big thing. The locals are helpful and polite and going off the beaten track can be hugely rewarding, letting you see the sights of Tokyo not on the regular tourist trail.
What to See
Tour the very busy Tsukiji Fish Market to watch the early morning tuna auction and then have possibly the freshest sushi ever in one of the surrounding restaurants. Another amazing experience is going to the Sumo stables in the Ryogoku district, to view a match and see how these skilled giants live and train. If you’re in Tokyo in late March or early April then you will see the spectacular sight of thousands of cherry trees (sakura) blossoming. Japanese media tracks the “cherry blossom front” and thousands flock to the various Tokyo parks to celebrate hanami, the traditional Japanese custom of flower viewing. During the blossoming, some parks are also open at night, just to cater for the huge numbers of visitors, with hanami parties going on late into the night.
There is so much to do and see in Tokyo, take your time; do a little bit of planning but also get lost once in a while and breathe in the unique atmosphere of Tokyo, a city where tradition and modernity collide.