What Is Tokyo, Japan Known For?
Tokyo, Japan, has a rich background, stretching over 400 years. By the mid-1700s, Tokyo—then known as “Edo”—already housed over a million people. Thanks to its thousands of notable attractions, this bustling megacity is best known as one of the world’s most beautiful and popular tourist destinations.
Tokyo, the world’s largest metropolis, is known for top-rated restaurants, the Shibuya Crossing, Imperial Palace, cherry blossoms, markets, and more. The shopping scene includes the Harajuku and Akihabara districts. Tokyo is also famous for its vending machines, cat cafes, museums, and sacred sites.
If you ask someone what Tokyo is famous for, chances are, you’ll get over a dozen answers. In this article, we’ve compiled some of Tokyo, Japan’s most famous attractions, destinations, and historical sites. Read on to learn more about world-famous Tokyo.
Tokyo’s the Largest Metropolitan Area in the World
Today, Tokyo has more than 36 million people, making it the largest metropolitan area on the globe. The population growth started even from 1880 to the early 1900s. The city grew so rapidly that geographical expansion was a must.
Tokyo merged with surrounding cities to become the Tokyo Metropolitan Area. The sheer amount of people in Tokyo is hard to miss—it’s evident by the bustling city life, rush-hour trains, and busy intersections—so if crowds are your thing, then Tokyo is the city for you. When sightseeing in this crowded metropolis, you’ll likely bump shoulders with someone.
Tokyo’s population is so dense that over ten percent of Japan’s population resides there, and it’s projected to continue growing. Despite Japan as a whole experiencing population decline, by 2030, it’s expected that Tokyo will reach the world’s highest population density.
Tokyo is known for it’s Cuisine
It likely comes as no surprise that Tokyo, and Japan as a whole, is known for its seafood. Japan is surrounded by water, making seafood the most accessible food source. According to this Yale article, Japan eats 8% of the world’s seafood. Japan has also given us one of the world’s most iconic foods: sushi.
Check out this recipe book with recipes inspired by Tokyo’s cuisine.
Tokyo is Home to the World’s Top-Rated Restaurants
Featuring over 60,000 restaurants, and the most restaurants in the world per capita, Tokyo is home to many world-famous and top-rated restaurants. So if you ever get the chance to visit Tokyo, food should absolutely be a part of the experience.
Ginza Kojyu is one of ten three-star Michelin restaurants in the nation’s capital. Here, patrons enjoy the traditional Japanese multi-course experience with foods including wild-caught unagi (freshwater eel), wild vegetables, and razor clam. Meals use in-season ingredients with the occasional experimental dish—while maintaining respect for authentic Japanese cuisine.
Sushi in Japan is an absolute must-have if you want an unforgettable sushi experience. Sushi Yoshino, a restaurant in the Jinbōchō book district, features authentic Edomae-sushi courses. The veteran sushi chefs take immense pride in their craft, including delicate knife skills and stunning presentations.
If fine dining and sushi aren’t really your thing, don’t worry. In Tokyo, there are also more casual dining experiences, including ramen bars and yakiniku grills.
Shibuya Crossing Is the World’s Busiest Intersection
Known as the world’s busiest intersection, Shibuya Crossing is one of Tokyo’s most famous tourist spots. Countless movies feature the bustling intersection, including Fast and Furious: Tokyo Drift.
The intersection is so busy, in fact, that the traffic stops in all directions to allow people to cross the street. Thousands of people walk across the streets at Shibuya Crossing every day.
If you’re ever in Tokyo and want to visit Shibuya City, you will enter through this intersection. Stop and take in the sight because the hustle and bustle is an excellent example of Tokyo life—people everywhere, skyscrapers lining the sky, and neon lights all around.
You Can Visit the Imperial Family’s Palace
Tokyo’s Imperial Palace is home to Japan’s Imperial Family and is one of Japan’s most popular tourist attractions.
Long ago, from 1603 to 1867, Edo Castle was home to the shōgun and the seat of the shogunate. When the shogunate was overthrown in 1868, it ushered in the Meiji Period. During this time, Japan was westernized, and The Empire of Japan was instituted. By 1888, a new palace was built but later destroyed during World War II. The Takenaka Corporation rebuilt the palace in the same style, which is the world-famous Imperial Palace that stands today.
This popular tourist destination features a sprawling landscape bordered by moats, gardens, guardhouses, and stone walls. Guided tours of the grounds are offered, free of charge, but the interior and other areas are off-limits to the public because it is the home of the Emperor and his family. There are vast, manicured lawns, dazzling cherry blossoms, and visitors can see the old foundation of the former castle at the top of the hill.
The Tokyo Skytree Is the City’s Tallest Tower
Standing at 2,080 feet (634 meters), the Tokyo Skytree is known to be the tallest structure in Japan and the tallest tower in Tokyo. The Skytree’s purpose is for radio and TV broadcasts throughout the Kantō region and is a significant landmark.
The Tokyo Skytree is an unmistakable centerpiece in Tokyo’s skyline. Owners opened the tower to the public in 2012. The Skytree features two observation decks—one standing at 1,148 feet (350 meters) and the other at 1,476 feet (450 meters). Both offer a panoramic view of Tokyo and can hold a total of 3,000 people.
To get to the top, visitors ride the Skytree elevators—made by electronics giant Toshiba. The elevators have a 40-person capacity and travel at 1,968 feet (600 meters) per minute! That means you’ll reach the top in less than sixty seconds!
Cherry Blossoms Line the Landscape
Tokyo is famed for its magnificent cherry blossoms. Visitors from all over the world flock to the metropolis in April while the trees are in full bloom. This period is referred to as hanami, which translates to “flower viewing.”
In the spring, the cherry blossoms are a spectacular sight, transforming Tokyo into a pink oasis. The flowers dot the entire landscape—in parks, along the mountainside—and some of the most popular places to view them in Tokyo include Ueno Park and Shinjuku Gyoen.
Today, cherry blossoms are found in several different countries, but the Japanese Cherry Blossom (sakura) is the most well-known species. Considered the national flower of Japan, the cherry blossom is honored from March to April with several cherry blossom festivals.
Tokyo is Known for Its Massive Food Markets
Tokyo has many interesting markets across the city—it was home to many of the “world’s largest” and “world’s busiest,” and the Tsukiji Fish Market was both the world’s largest and busiest fish market. Tourists scrambled to the market around dawn to observe the busy tuna auction. The Tsukiji market closed in 2018, but operations moved—still in Tokyo—to the Toyosu Market.
The Toyosu Market boasts seafood, fruit and vegetable, and wholesale markets, each housed within their own facilities. The second floor of the market features an observation deck for tourists, as they’re not permitted to attend auctions. There are, however, restaurants, shops, auction tours, and merchandise sales available to tourists.
In addition to fish markets, Tokyo is home to the United Nations University Farmers’ Market. For fresh produce, this is the market to visit. Farmers set up booths along the streets of the Omotesando and Aoyama shopping district and sell locally sourced, organic fruits, vegetables, and other goods.
The Harajuku District Boasts Extreme Fashion
Harajuku is a region in Tokyo, best known for its extreme fashion and cosplay. The streets of the Harajuku district are lined with young people, cafés, museums, and tourist attractions. The area is vast, stretching from Harajuku to Omotesando.
Shopping and dining are popular activities within the district with dozens of small businesses, including independently-owned boutiques and cafés. International chain stores and luxury retailers also line the streets.
Tourists are drawn to the Harajuku district for its fun, lively environment, and extreme fashion, including cosplay getups. Cosplay started in Japan and quickly spread around the world, so it’s no wonder that you’ll find cosplay shops all over Tokyo. Takeshita Street is especially popular for its cosplay scene, with a vast department store featuring an entire floor dedicated to costumes.
Tokyo Is the Epicenter of Anime, Manga, and Tech
Tokyo is globally known as the epicenter of anime, manga, and electronics and technology. In the Chiyoda area of Tokyo, you’ll find Akihabara Station—Tokyo’s hotbed of anime, manga, electronics, and video games. The district is well-known for its diehard fan culture and contains hundreds of shops and other establishments, including massive electronics stores, dining options, and internet cafés.
Hundreds of shops line the district, including small street vendors, independently owned shops, and massive retailers. Here you can check out and purchase the latest gadgets, like cameras, computers, televisions, phones, and even home appliances. Mandarake, an enormous manga and anime shop, features figurines, dolls, posters, and other manga-related merchandise.
In addition to anime and manga merchandise, there are “maid cafés” where waitresses dress up as anime characters. There are also manga cafés where you can watch movies and read comics while using the internet.
Tokyo is Home to Many of Japan’s Vending Machines
Japan as a whole boasts over five million vending machines—and Tokyo is no exception. With a vending machine roughly every 39 feet (12 meters) in the metropolis, you’ll never have to go without a snack or drink.
Tokyo’s vending machines aren’t limited to sweet and salty snacks and beverages like vending machines in the United States. In fact, some of these vending machines sell fresh fruit, pastries, sweetbreads, cooking sauces, pictures, keychains, and other merchandise. There are even mystery vending machines that sell “blind bags,” so you’re not sure what you’re paying for until you open it!
Tokyo Has Dozens of Cafés—Featuring Cats
There are dozens of cafés in Tokyo with excellent coffee and pastries, even cats.
Ordinary cafés are famous throughout Japan, but Tokyo is known for its “cat cafés.” These cafés are dining facilities where you’re surrounded by—you guessed it—cats! Cat cafés were originally started in Taiwan with Taipei’s Cat Flower Garden in 1998, but Tokyo is the megacity that put them on the map! Once cat cafés opened in Tokyo, they steadily rose in popularity and are now gaining traction worldwide.
You can enjoy freshly brewed espresso or pizza in the Taito neighborhood while snuggling with furry, friendly felines at Monta. Monta includes some of the most loved breeds, including Ragdoll, Maine Coon, and the Bengal. The cozy interior makes it the ideal spot to relax and enjoy the company of cats.
Other facilities where you can enjoy food and drink with cats include Temari no Ouchi, Café Nekorobi, and Café 299.
Tokyo Hosts Dozens of Museums
Tokyo is home to dozens of museums, which isn’t surprising considering that Japan has a rich, deep history. Many of these facilities are located in decades-old, expertly designed buildings featuring stunning architecture. The buildings are certainly a far cry from the dilapidated, dusty museums that so many of us are used to.
Tokyo has museums dedicated to different subjects, including history, ancient and modern art, photography, architecture, and even samurais. While some museums feature permanent collections, many of Tokyo’s museums constantly change their roster of exhibits, so check out their respective websites before visiting.
Visit the Samurai Museum and dress up as one of the ancient military warriors and engage in a mock sword fight. If you’re more into the art scene, check out the Tokyo National Museum, where you can view the world’s most extensive collection of Japanese art.
Sacred Destinations Are Widespread in Tokyo
Shrines and temples are found throughout Tokyo, and many of these holy attractions receive millions of tourists annually. So whether you’re looking to indulge in matters of the spirit or simply enjoy a snack on sacred grounds, Tokyo has what you’re looking for.
Perhaps the most sacred spot in Tokyo is Sensō-ji. Sensō-ji is Tokyo’s oldest and most famous Buddhist temple. In fact, it is considered the most widely visited spiritual site in the world. Nearby are the Shinto and Asakusa shrines. With these sacred locations in such close proximity, it’s no wonder why the area brings in 30 million visitors per year.
The Meiji Shrine is yet another popular sacred tourist destination. The local government constructed the shrine in 1912 as a nod to former Emperor Meiji and his beloved wife. The Meiji Shrine is breathtaking in its beauty, thanks to the forest setting and nearby mural gallery.
The 2020 Olympics
Tokyo was set to host the Summer Olympics in 2020. Of course, with a global pandemic looming over the world it was postponed and organized for the following summer. Summer of 2021. At the time of writing this, the Olympics are still a few days away and it is unclear if they will move forward with the games as more than 80% of the population of Japan is against the games being held there and multiple COVID cases have broken out within the Olimpic Village. Many teams and players have backed out of the games for various reasons related to COVID.
With a history spanning 400 years, Japan grew to become the world’s largest metropolis. Today, the lively city is the mecca for foodies, anime and manga fans, sight-seers, and spiritual seekers around the world. Japan continues to be a popular tourist attraction for its Michelin-star restaurants, busy city life, historical Imperial Palace, massive skyline, cherry blossoms, shopping opportunities, museums, and sacred sites.The next time you wonder what Tokyo is famous for, you’ll know the answer: a lot.
Check out this guide on Amazon for everything to do while visiting Tokyo.