Things to Do in Kanto
At Zoorasia, a zoo in Yokohama with minimal fencing, animals live in an environment as close to nature as possible. The zoo is divided into seven different geographic and climatic zones, including Asian Tropical Forest, Japanese Countryside, and Subarctic Forest, that house animals belonging to more than 100 species.
As Japan's highest mountain, the legendary Mt. Fuji (Fuji-san) stands 12,388 feet (3,776 meters) tall. Travelers from around the world head to Hakone National Park to see the mountain, and over 1 million of them hike all the way to the top each year for the 360-degree views of Lake Ashi, the Hakone mountains, and the Owakudani Valley.
Home to Japan’s Emperor, the Tokyo Imperial Palace occupies the site of the original Edo Castle (Edo-jō), the Tokugawa shogunate's castle, which was once the largest fortress in the world. Located in the center of Tokyo, the palace is surrounded by moats and serene gardens.
The must-see Senso-ji Temple (also known as Asakusa Temple or Asakusa Kannon Temple) combines architecture, centers of worship, Japanese gardens, and traditional markets to offer visitors a modern-day look at Japan’s rich history and culture. Erected in AD 645 in what was once an old fishing village, Senso-ji Temple was dedicated to Kannon, the Buddhist goddess of mercy. Stone statues of Fujin (the Shinto wind god) and Raijin (the Shinto thunder god) guard the entrance, known as Kaminarimon or the Thunder Gate. Next is Hozomon Gate, which leads to Nakamise’s shopping streets, filled with vendors selling handicrafts and Japanese snacks. Don’t miss the Asakusa Shrine or Kannon-do Hall.
At 1,092 feet (333 meters) tall, Tokyo Tower is an impressive Japanese landmark offering 360-degree views of the city from its two observation decks. Built in 1958 from red and white latticed steel, the Eiffel Tower-inspired structure houses a wax museum, a Shinto Shrine, an aquarium, restaurants, and other entertainment spots.
The area surrounding Shibuya Station—famous for its busy streets, flashing neon advertisements, trendy boutiques, and teeming malls—ranks among Tokyo’s most energetic neighborhoods. Shibuya Crossing, one of the world’s busiest pedestrian intersections, has become somewhat of a tourist attraction in its own right.
The Tsukiji Fish Market is the largest seafood market in the world, handling more than 2,000 tons of marine products a day. Although the market wasn't originally intended to be a major tourist attraction when it opened in 1935, Tsukiji now regularly shows up on visitors’ lists of must-see destinations in Tokyo. Witnessing the fresh tuna auction before the sun rises is the primary draw.
The Meiji Shrine (Meiji Jingu) is the most important and popular Shinto shrine in Tokyo. Dedicated to the Emperor Meiji and his wife, Empress Shōken, in 1926, the shrine comprises buildings of worship, gardens, and a forest where each tree was planted by a different citizen of Japan wanting to pay respects to the emperor. A highlight of the shrine is the Meiji Memorial Hall, where visitors find more than 80 murals dedicated to the emperor.
Since opening in 2012, the Tokyo Skytree has taken the title of Japan’s tallest building—and one of the tallest in the world—measuring an incredible 2,080 feet (634 meters) high. In addition to serving as a TV and radio broadcast tower, it has two observation decks affording spectacular views across Tokyo and the distant Mount Fuji.
One of the largest parks in Tokyo, Yoyogi Park(Yoyogi Koen) is a convenient place to relax before or after a stop at top city attractions, and it's got plenty of space for kids to run around. Unwind on the walking paths, or watch weekend street performers and cos-play performances at Yoyogi Park in the Japanese capital.
More Things to Do in Kanto
The dense Aokigahara Forest lies at the northwestern base of Mount Fuji, the iconic, near-symmetrical cone-shaped mountain that rises in eastern Japan. It holds the grim distinction of being the second-most popular destination for people intent on dying by suicide. Despite this, it’s a peaceful place to hike and enjoy nature.
Known for its impressive botanical garden, intricate Iemitsu mausoleum, and ornate Toshogu Shrine (a UNESCO World Heritage site), Nikko National Park is an area of incredible natural beauty with plenty to see and do. In addition to shrines and temples, the park is home to numerous lakes, elaborate bridges, excellent hiking trails, and two stunning waterfalls—all set against a backdrop of dramatic mountain scenery.
At 7,546 feet (2,300 meters), Mt. Fuji’s 5th Station affords incredible views over Fuji Five Lakes and Hakone National Park. Easily accessible by road, 5th Station lies at the midpoint of the Yoshida Trail to Mount Fuji’s summit; many hikers begin their ascent here.
In the shadow of Mount Fuji, Lake Ashi (Ashi-no-ko), is a scenic spot in Hakone National Park. Considered sacred by the Japanese, it is home to the famous Hakone Shinto shrine. Visitors come to see the shrine, take a boat out on the lake, or enjoy the many hiking trails in the area.
Akihabara, also commonly known as “Electric Town,” is the go-to district in Tokyo for electronics—and a popular spot to immerse in anime and manga culture. The area’s hundreds of stores sell everything from computer parts to home goods, and north of Akihabara Station, you’ll also find video games and popular manga-related items.
Of all the rail stations in Japan’s capital, Tokyo Station (Tokyo Eki) is the most elegant—the neoclassical design of the station’s red-brick facade is said to have been inspired by Amsterdam Central Station. The station sits near the Imperial Palace grounds in Chiyoda Ward’s Marunouchi business district.
In Shinjuku's Kabukicho district (entertainment and red light district), the surreal Robot Restaurant may be unlike anything you've ever seen. Its sci-fi Japanese cabaret show starring giant robots is loud and proud, both visually and audibly—taiko drums and techno music accompany flashing lights, multiple mirrors, and huge video screens. A sensorial extravaganza, the restaurant is no quiet night out.
Disneyland is to Mickey Mouse what Sanrio Puroland is to Hello Kitty. The indoor theme park on the western edge of Tokyo attracts 1.5 million visitors a year with its attractions, themed rides, restaurants and musicals based around the Sanrio company’s characters. Westerners may only be familiar with Hello Kitty, but Sanrio also came up with Jewelpet, My Melody and Cinnamoroll among others.
Sanrio Puroland opened in 1990 to mixed reviews, but with a boom in Hello Kitty’s popularity, it’s now one of the most popular attractions in Japan. The park’s hypercute highlights include a life-size version of Kitty’s house, a boat ride filled with Sanrio characters and three theaters with daily live stage productions. Most attractions are aimed at a decidedly young demographic, so if you’re traveling with teenagers, you might be better off at Tokyo Disneyland and DisneySea.
That said, if you’re a Kitty fan or merely want a closer look at a facet of Japanese culture that’s create a worldwide phenomenon, an afternoon at Sanrio Puroland might be in order.
Tokyo’s Harajuku district is known the world over for the youthful crowds that gather there to flaunt their wild fashions. This is where you can spot local teens dressed up in colorful and outlandish punk, goth, and anime costumes. But there’s even more to Harajuku than over-the-top street style.
Set on the banks of Tokyo Bay, with great views of the city skyline, Odaiba Seaside Park is a man-made landscaped park and beach. It’s popular with locals and tourists who come to paddleboard, picnic, and relax in the peaceful surroundings.
The National Diet Building is the center of Japanese politics, as it houses both chambers of the Diet, or legislative arm: the House of Representatives, which meets in the left wing, and the House of Councillors, which meets in the right wing. Built in 1936, the building is constructed almost entirely of Japanese materials.
The building is iconic for its pyramid-shaped dome in the center of the complex, which made it the tallest building in Japan at completion. The interior is decorated with cultural artifacts and art pieces, such as bronze statues of the men who are credited with formulating Japan's first modern constitution. The building sits on land once inhabited by feudal lords, giving the spot even more historical significance. It is sometimes referred to as the House of Parliament or the Government building in Tokyo.
The Edo-Tokyo Museum chronicles the development of Japan’s capital city, from its early days as a sleepy fishing village through the years of expansion and foreign trade wars to its transformation into a major metropolis. The museum building itself also draws visitors as a fine example of postmodern architecture.
The well-curated Japanese Sword Museum (Token Hakubutsukan) showcases the ancient art of sword making and is home to more than 150 artifacts. Swords, mountings, armor and metal work are beautifully displayed in this tiny Tokyo destination.
The four-story structure houses a gallery and bookstore, where items are available for purchase in a variety of languages. Displays offer visitors English translations with details on the design and use of swords, including some that date back more than 900 years.
In Japan’s Edo period, Kawagoe was a prosperous castle town and due to it escaping damage during World War II, the city still has many of its old streets still in tact. Kawagoe Ichibangai Shopping Street is lined with traditional buildings on both sides, making it full of character — the ideal place to learn about the history of the area while enjoying a spot of shopping.
This small street is around 400 meters long and is situated less than a kilometer north of Hon-Kawagoe Station. The style of the buildings are that of traditional Japanese warehouses (kura), that were specifically designed to be fireproof after a large fire ripped through the area in 1893. These days, many of the buildings are either shops or restaurants catering for a burgeoning tourist crowd.
Ichibangai Street is best explored on foot as part of a Kawagoe walking tour that also takes in the old city’s other attractions, such as Dream Street, Spatiotemporal Bell, Snack Street, and Kawagoe Hikawa Shrine.
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