Of all the Tokyo attractions, Mt. Fuji has to be among the top. (Photo: Sean Pavone / Alamy)
Tokyo’s energy is electric. As the most populous metropolitan area in the world, the capital of Japan is flooded with culture, tradition, and history. The city’s ubiquitous restaurants, street food stalls, markets, shrines, and shopping centers make it a haven for intrepid travelers. If the sea of towering high rises and hordes of people leave you craving a nature fix, visit nearby wonders like Mt. Fuji and its hot springs.
When you’re in the Land of the Rising Sun, check out these five must-dos.
1. Try Different Japanese Street Foods
It’s practically criminal to visit Tokyo and miss out on the street food stands dotting the city’s roads. Be adventures and join the throngs of locals nibbling these small snacks sold at tiny shops with side-street seats. Of course, many stalls are standing room only. Some of the favorites are:
- Takoyaki – pancake balls often with pieces of octopus in the middle
- Yakitori – grilled meat on skewers, best with beer or sake
- Taiyaki – fish-shaped waffles usually filled with custard, sweet potato, or red azuki beans
2. Stroll the Streets of Ginza and Eat Sushi
A trip to Japan without eating sushi? Major sin. Wander the streets of Tokyo, especially in Ginza, and try not to be overwhelmed by the volume of restaurants serving sushi.
What’s the trick in deciding which sushi places to try? Check out the line. If there are lots of people queuing for that restaurant, it’s safe to say there’s a reason for that.
3. Watch the Live Tuna Auctions at Tsukiji Fish Market
Set your alarm for the wee hours of the morning and make a trip to the iconic Tsukiji Fish Market. You’ll find yourself in one of the biggest and busiest fish markets in the world. As you walk through the gigantic market, keep an eye out for the live tuna auctions. The experience is authentic Japan.
Always check to make sure public viewings of the tuna auctions are being held the day you plan to visit. Viewings are on a first-come basis, with a maximum of 120 people, 60 at a time. Arrive before 4:30 am, to register for the auction. Also, there’s been talk of the famed market moving to Tokyo Bay, so go before it leaves its central Tokyo location.
4. Visit the Holy Place of Meiji Shrine
Unlike other places of worship in Asia that are filled with flashy ornaments and crowds of people, the Meiji Shrine of Tokyo is a serene destination imbued with history, tradition, and culture. The dramatic entrance of this 200-acre park is a looming Torii gate carved from ancient cypress. The shrine is dedicated to the spirits of Emperor Meiji and his wife, Empress Shoken.
After entering the shrine, common practice is to wash one’s hands and mouth in the communal water tank, before offering a prayer. The locals often throw in some yen in an offering box, bow their head twice, clap twice, and bow their heads again, after saying a prayer. Tourists visiting the Meiji Shrine can also write their wishes and prayers on little pieces of paper and place them on the prayer wall.
5. Marvel at the Beauty of Mt. Fuji
Mt. Fuji is one of the most easily recognized mountains in the world, and an iconic image of Japan. A trek to this natural beauty is a must-do for any visitor to Tokyo. This symmetrically shaped volcano is snow-capped most of the year, and considered a sacred mountain and religious site for Shinto and Buddhist worshippers.
Climbing the mountain is permitted, but be prepared. The trek is only recommended for professional and experienced mountain climbers because the route to the top is steep.Looking for more relaxing activities? Visit the Fuji Five Lakes at the northern side of the mountain and soothe your muscles at the Hakone Hot Springs. Schedule your trip to this magnificent mountain during the climbing season—July to August, when the weather is excellent. For those who want to catch cherry blossoms in full bloom, visit between March and May.