This is the third part of my series on the greatest things to see in Tokyo, with numbers 6 & 7 on my list. Of course these are my opinions, but I think they can’t be missed. Enjoy!
6. Visit Sensoji Temple in Asakusa – The busiest temple in Tokyo is not at all what you’d expect, particularly if you’re following this list in order and you went to the Meiji shrine first. Located in an older part of Tokyo and a wee bit confusing if you don’t follow the signs (even if you follow the signs – thankfully there are very helpful attendants that can point you in the right direction!), Sensoji Temple is the temple most people think of when they speak of Tokyo.
It may seem more like a tourist trap than a place for worship and you wouldn’t be too far off the mark as surrounding the temple grounds is a bustling marketplace, and then within the temple is another market. It’s nuts. This is the place you will want to find your souvenirs if you don’t have a chance to go somewhere less touristy, and while you will see a large number of foreigners here, it’s mainly Japanese citizens making the pilgrimage. Note to sword enthusiasts – the katanas on display are all fake, no matter how expensive they are, and a pain in the butt to ship – resist the urge to buy full sized ones.
If you happen to be unlucky enough to visit Tokyo during some sort of festival (which seems to always be happening), a trip to Sensoji will be very crowded. There is a smaller temple to the right of the main temple and a peaceful koy pond to the left, which are both quite often less crowded than the main one. To get to the temple though, take the Ginza subway line or Tobu line to Asakusa station and follow (or try to) the signs.
When to Visit: All year, but aim for early on weekdays and avoid New Years.
7. Harakuku and Omotesando Window Shopping – Particularly well suited after a trip to Meiji Jingu, wandering into Harajuku can feel like you’re entering another realm and considering you have to pass through a torii, you wouldn’t be far off. Harajuku is the area most associated with crazy Japanese fashion and costumes – you don’t need to buy anything or even walk into the stores to take part in the experience, just walk through the main street (or rather wade – it’s always packed) and observe the madness.
Omotesando is less extreme, more tailored towards expensive designer shops and souvenir boutiques, but just as interesting to take in. In particular is the Omotesando Hills mall which weaves back and forth like 5 or 6 levels of really expensive stores without any stairs – really remarkable just to walk into. While not as upscale as Ginza, Omotesando is a far more attractive walking destination.
The two can be done together quite easily as they run into each other – it’s actually hard to know where one ends and the other begins!