Tokyo is a city unlike any other in the world. This wondrous and beautiful place contains aspects of modern-day life right next to historical sites. It is a bustling city full of life and culture, which is why it does not go unnoticed by others. According to Japan’s tourism website, Japan received over 2 million tourists in only the first three months of 2018. With all the modern and natural beauty in Japan, it would be difficult to understand why. But what happens if you visit Tokyo on a business trip or layover? How do you prioritize where to visit if you only have half a day in Tokyo? Here are several places that I believe you must see if you are pressed for time when visiting Tokyo. (They are set in an order that I believe are easiest, but they can be done in whatever order you please.)
Shibuya Pedestrian Crossing
No visit to Tokyo would be complete without crossing this infamous intersection. If you’ve ever seen a TV show or movie set in Japan, you have probably seen this crossing in a scene or two. Every two minutes, the traffic lights change, and people cross from all directions. With thousands of people crossing per hour, it is the busiest pedestrian crossing in the world.
Shibuya is filled with shops. It is one of the busiest shopping centers in Tokyo and has a wide variety of items to be found. There are several brand-name stores you may recognize (H&M, Forever 21, Victoria’s Secret, etc.) as well as smaller, more local market shops. Even if you do not wish to spend money, these shops all stacked on top of each other are a sight for those of us who are used to Western-style shopping malls. Enjoy window shopping and taking pictures along the way.
Find a Place to Eat
Among all the shops, there are also many local restaurants. Just like the shops, the restaurants are also stacked on top of each other. While you may have a problem finding a place to eat in other parts of Tokyo, your only problem here will be not knowing which one to choose. When it comes to food, there is something for everyone in Shibuya – even vegans! Figure out what cuisine you are in the mood for and dive right in!
(If you are vegetarian or vegan, check out Milan Nataraj. It’s a vegetarian Indian restaurant that can make almost everything vegan, too – and they’re delicious!!! Look below for more details!)
Be sure to catch a picture of the dog statue there. Next to Shibuya Crossing, there is a statue of Hachiko – the most loyal dog in the world. The true story starts with a man and his dog. Professor Eizaburo Ueno adopted Hachiko as a puppy. Every day, Hachiko would wait outside the Shibuya train station for his owner, so they could walk home together – until one day, the professor did not show. It turns out that Ueno unexpectedly died at work one day in May 1925. However, that didn’t keep Hachiko from waiting. Ever after his owner’s death, he waited for him at the train station for seven more years until his death. Today, there is a statue adjacent to the train station to commemorate the faithful and loved dog.
Take the train at Shibuya station to Harajuku and walk to Yooyogi Park. Yoyogi Park is one of the liveliest and most beautiful parks I have ever seen. It contains vast amounts of lush greenery and flora. Many people – locals and visitors alike – visit the large forested area of Yoyogi Park, either for serenity and clarity or simply for a neutral place to hang out with friends. The scenery also provides for awe-inspiring photos.
Meiji Shrine’s entrance is located in Yoyogi Park. This is the most famous Shinto shrine in Tokyo, but is less of a tourist trap than the Senso-ji temple. Meiji Shrine is serene and austere, and a trip around the grounds alone can bring one peace. One of my favorite things to do at shrines is filling out wishes. You can purchase wooden votives at the shrine and fill it out with wishes or prayers. I try to fill one out at every temple or shrine I visit, though I never tel anyone what it says. This is a simple and easy way to add your mark and bring yourself peace, if needed.
Visit a Local Thrift Store
Japan loves vintage items right now. The whole “one man’s trash is another man’s treasure” goes a long way in most Asian countries – but Japanese thrift stores are particularly trendy. These locations offer differing styles, but I also love the low prices that are attached to them. These are generally the shops with the lowest prices in Japan and are frequented by many young shoppers. WeGo is a popular one and is one of my personal favorites.
Whether you’re in town for a layover or there to see the 2020 Olympics, Tokyo is not a city that should only be seen in a day or less. However, when that is all the time you have, you should learn to make the most of it.
Have you been to Tokyo? What are your favorite places to visit?
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