The Imperial Palace
The Imperial Palace in Tokyo is so much more than just the house of the imperial family of Japan. It is also a stunning park and public green space. The park is beautifully juxtaposed with the modern high-tech city that surrounds it. High stone walls, reflective streams, and vibrant plant life are just a few things you can expect. There are generally two days per year that the inner-most grounds of the palace are open to the public (so you have a chance of seeing the imperial family) — those days are January 2nd and February 23rd. There is still plenty to explore throughout the rest of the year, but if your trip to Tokyo happens to coincide with either of those two special days, then you should make the most of it.
The Skytree is Japan’s tallest free-standing structure, and the second tallest free-standing structure in the world. It has many functions, from communication tower to restaurant. Visitors to Tokyo can see the striking silhouette of The Skytree from all over the city, and if you’re willing to purchase a ticket you can see the whole city from the highest of two observation decks on ‘Floor 45o’ of the tower.
Originally dedicated to the deified spirits of Emperor Meiji and Empress Shoken in 1920, Meiji Shrine is a vast forested area amongst the skyscrapers and apartments of the Tokyo metropolis. It is a great way to spend the day in good weather, with plenty of stunning natural views. It’s only a 10-minute walk to the shrine complex from the southern entrance, but if you want to make a day of it, the surrounding parks are great for a stroll or even a picnic.
An intersection may not seem like kind of destination you would normally include on your list of must-see things – but Shibuya Crossing has become an iconic feature of Tokyo’s urban landscape. At peak hours Shibuya Crossing has up to 3000 people crossing at once – it is an excellent example of the efficiency and grace with which Tokyo handles its massive population. Shibuya Crossing is surrounded by beautiful city lights and massive billboards, giving it a Times Square-like ambience. Spectators can head to the rooftop of Mag’s Park (a department store with views over the intersection) to get a good shot. The best times to capture the crowds are on Friday and Saturday evenings.
Ueno Park and Zoo
Ueno Park was originally part of the historic Kaneiji Temple, which was once among the city’s largest and wealthiest temples. Civil war in the late 1800s almost destroyed the temple entirely. After the war, the grounds were reopened as a public park which is now one of Tokyo’s most popular destinations for cherry blossom lovers, picnic goers, and academics. Not only is Ueno park one of the premier spots to walk under cherry blossom trees (with over 1000 trees along the walkways), it is also the home of a cluster of Tokyo’s most prestigious museums including, the Natural Science Museum, Tokyo Museum of Western Art, Tokyo National Museum, and the Tokyo Metropolitan Art Museum. Finally, Ueno park houses Japan’s oldest zoo which opened in 1882 and is still open today.
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