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What to do in Tokyo

Culture guide

Tokyo's nightlife and entertainment options run the full gamut, from grand Kabuki theatres and cinemas to broom-cupboard bars and live music venues (known as "live houses"). The distinction between restaurants, bars and clubs in the city's sakariba (lively places), such as Ginza, Shibuya or Shinjuku, is a hazy one, with many places offering a range of entertainment depending on the evening or customers' spirits.

Tokyo has a vast array of sights, but the first items on the agenda of most visitors are the temples of Asakusa, the gardens of the Imperial Palace (in Chiyoda) and the Meiji Shrine (in Harajuku).
If you're looking for a viewing platform, the Tokyo Tower is the best known choice. It costs money to go up, however. A much better choice - while not quite as high - is the Tokyo Metropolitan Government building (in effect, Tokyo's City Hall) in Shinjuku. Its twin towers have viewing platforms that are absolutely free, and still offer a great view over Tokyo. A recent addition to the viewing platforms around Tokyo is Tokyo City View in Roppongi Hills, Roppongi -- admission is a steep ¥1500, but includes admission to the Mori Art Museum. Another good option especially at night is the Rainbow Bridge at Odaiba, whose pedestrian walkways are free.
The city is dotted with museums, large and small, which center on every possible interest from pens to antique clocks to traditional and modern arts. At ¥500 to ¥1,000 or more, entrance fees can add up quickly. Many of the largest museums are clustered around Ueno.

On the cultural side, you can sample all Japan's major performance arts in Tokyo, from stately No , the oldest in its theatrical repertoire, to Buto , the country's unique contribution to contemporary dance. However, if you only have the energy, or budget, for one such cultural experience, then save it for Kabuki , with its larger-than-life heroes, flamboyant costumes and dramatic finales. Information about these and other performances is available in the English-language press, notably Tokyo Journal , and from Tokyo TIC . Alternatively, ring Teletourist (tel 03/3201-2911; 24hr) for recorded details of what's on. Tickets are available from theatres and ticket agencies .

• Take a boat ride on the Sumida River.
• Enjoy a soak in a local "sento" or public bath. Or one of the onsen theme parks such as LaQua at the Tokyo Dome (Taito) or Oedo Onsen Monogatari in Odaiba.
• Go to an amusement park such as Tokyo Disneyland or the more Japanese Sanrio Puroland (in Tama), home to more Hello Kittys than you can imagine.
• Check out the hip and young crowd at Harajuku's Takeshita-Dori (Takeshita Street) or the more grown up Omotesando.
• In the spring, take a boatride in Kichijoji's lovely Inogashira Park, and afterwards visit the Ghibli Studios Museum (well-known for their amazing movies, like Spirited Away, and Princess Mononoke), but you will need to buy tickets for these in advance at a Lawson convenience store.
• Sing karaoke at any karaoke box in town!

Meiji-jingu, the city's premier Shinto shrine, is a haven of tranquillity - particularly the Empress's iris garden.

Parading down Omotesando, lined with cutting-edge designer boutiques, is Tokyo's equivalent of cruising the Champs-Élysées.

Park Hyatt Tokyo
Nothing beats the glittering night view of the city from the cocktail bar of Shinjuku's most luxurious hotel.

Tea in Happoen
On weekends at Happoen garden, wedding parties in full regale parade by as you sip tea in an authentic teahouse.

Rainbow Bridge
The forty-minute walk across the 918-metre long Rainbow Bridge, with a pedestrian promenade linking observation rooms, affords sweeping views across the bay to Mount Fuji.

Tokyo Central Wholesale Market
An early morning visit to Tsukiji's frenetic fish and vegetable market is guaranteed to jump-start all the senses and is best topped off with a fresh-from-the-sea sushi breakfast.

The towering worship hall of Senso-ji Buddhist temple lies at the heart of Tokyo's most traditional quarter. The streets nearby are packed with a mix of old and new, from gaudy souvenir stalls and fast-food joints to exquisite crafts shops.

Edo-Tokyo Museum
The Edo-Tokyo Museum brings the city's history to life with its full-scale architectural replicas, cut-away models and holograms, in addition to evocative screen-paintings and images of the city's infamous pleasure quarters.

Mitsukoshi Department Store
At Mitsukoshi's Nihombashi flagship store, the first in Japan to sell imports, you can spend a day browsing your way up from the basement food stalls to the rooftop garden.

Sanja Matsuri
Of Tokyo's many festivals, the biggest and best is Sanja Matsuri, in which one hundred gilded mikoshi (portable shrines) are paraded round the streets of Asakusa by a seething, jubilant crowd.

Find a nice and affortable, luxurious hotel in Tokyo with our hotels guide. Find the right places to eat and drink nice and inexpensive in Tokyo. Restaurant guide How do I get around in Tokyo? Read all about it in our Tokyo access guide.