The places to visit in Tokyo – Part 1

Shibuya crossing can be busy at any time of the day, so be careful when lingering around too long on the crossing

I could explore Tokyo for eternity and still find new areas – but that is to be expected given how massive the city actually is. Everywhere and anywhere is a photo opportunity, especially urban and street photos. If you are visiting Tokyo for just a few days, here is a list of recommended places to visit in Tokyo that you shouldn’t miss out on:

1. Hie Shrine

This is located near the Prime Ministers Residence and it was the first shrines I visited after arriving in Japan. I suggest you either visit this shrine early in the morning (around sunrise) or around 8/9am on a Sunday morning. Having visited on a Sunday morning, it was practically empty with hardly anyone around, perfect for wandering around and capturing some photos on your own.

If you exit the subway at Asakasa-mitsuke station, walk down the street and once pass the Chair museum, cross over the road and walk slightly up the hill around the base of the shrine (it’s on a hill top) until you see a small entrance on your left.

Route from Asakasa-mitsuke station to west entrance of Hie Shrine, one of the places to visit in Tokyo
Route from Asakasa-mitsuke station to west entrance of Hie Shrine

This is the best entrance to the shrine as it’s lined with torii gates. It’s kinda like a mini Fushimi Inari shrine in Kyoto, but located in Tokyo. Be prepared to spend at least a few hours at the torii gates, capturing that magical atmosphere.

The red torii gates at the west entrance of the Hie Shrine, one of the places to visit in Tokyo
The red torii gates at the west entrance of the Hie Shrine

When you arrive at the shrine itself, just stand to one side and watch any activity take place. You’ll be amazed at how quiet the shrine is despite being in the midst of Tokyo city. If you have a 5 yen coin in your pocket, say a pray at the shrine itself.

2. Memory Lane, Shinjuku

This small alley near the heart of Shinjuku is surprisingly quiet even at midday. It is so close to Shinjuku station, that when walking along this short alley full of small bars, you forget you’re actually in a city.

Standing around Memory Lane in Shinjuku during the day, gives you numerous photo opportunities as shop-owners prepare to open up, is a place you must visit in Tokyo
Standing around Memory Lane in Shinjuku during the day, gives you numerous photo opportunities as shop-owners prepare to open up

Be sure to visit during the day, around noon time when only a few people pass through it, but also list it at night – there are some great places to eat there and the atmosphere is very welcoming.

3. Shibuya Crossing

One of the busiest crossings in the world, Shibuya crossing is a must to experience. I actually spent a good afternoon and evening photographing here, as well as walking across the crossing a few times!

Shibuya crossing can be busy at any time of the day, so be careful when lingering around too long on the crossing
Shibuya crossing can be busy at any time of the day, so be careful when lingering around too long on the crossing

Be-it day or night, there are so many people that cross. But be warned, don’t linger on the road once the lights change, you’ll get some unpleasant sounds from cars driving by.

There are two good locations to see the crossing in action from up above, either at; Starbucks, where you can get a drink and people watch down at the crossing. If you use the time-lapse feature on your iPhone, you can get a nice recording of the crossing in action to show your friends. Or, at the crosswalk on the west side of Shibuya station – this can give you a different perspective of the crossing, but be aware that the station is crazily busy, and I found it wasn’t so easy to navigate to.

Shibuya is also a great shopping district, so don’t just head over there for the crossing, head over for the shops and the many awesome restaurants that serve good food!

4. Asakusa and Sensoji Temple

Located north east of central Tokyo, Asakusa is a district that is home to Sensoji Temple which is heavily packed regardless of when you visit, especially at the weekend.

However, the temple is open 24/7, so if you are an early morning person (unlike me), you can wake up early to get some cool photos of the temple during that magical golden hour at sunrise.

The main street leading up to Sensoji Temple, one of the places to visit in Tokyo
The main street leading up to Sensoji Temple, one of the places to visit in Tokyo

Despite being packed during the day, if you wait until night time, then the temple is lit up. It certainly provides an eerie experience and its kinda cool to say to your friends and family that you’ve visited a temple at nighttime.

At night, the main shrine in Sensoji Temple is lit up and is a recommended place to visit in Tokyo, when no one else is around
At night, the main shrine in Sensoji Temple is lit up and is recommended to visit when no one else is around

If you visit around May time, you get to watch the Sanja Matsuri festival and the Kanda Matsuri festival. Both festivals are heavily subscribed with a huge amount of tourists visiting each year. I suggest to not follow the main procession as this is extremely packed around Sensoji temple, but one of the smaller processions around the side streets of Asakusa. If all else fails, just listen to the beating of the drums and the shouting of “Yatto! Yatto!” Around you and you can find usually one of them.

A participant at the Sanja Matsuri festival held around May time, is a good experience of festivals in Japan
A participant at the Sanja Matsuri festival held around May time, is a good experience of festivals in Japan

Also in Asakusa, there is the Kanda Myojin temple nearby with isn’t heavily packed and is easy to walk to from Sensoji. So, you can easily visit both temples in one day if you wish.

5. Akihabara

Commonly referred to the Electric Town, Akihabra is THE shopping district for all things anime, manga, electrical items, arcades and pontochos and and video games. Be prepared for a long walk as the Main Street stretches for about a mile, and there are storeys and storeys of shops on top of each other. Not forgetting loads of cafes, maid cafes and restaurants to eat at.

People walk down the main street in Akihabra during Sunday's between 1pm and 6 pm, is a place to visit in Tokyo
People walk down the main street in Akihabra during Sunday’s between 1pm and 6 pm

If you are looking for those SNES games or an original, unopened Pokemon Blue GameBoy cartridge, chances are that there is a shop somewhere in Akihabara that will sell it, but be warned that the prices can be some-what eye watering…

One thing I really like is that on a Sunday between 1pm and 6 pm, the whole street in Akihabara is closed to the traffic, so you can walk across the road without fear of traffic. It’s even a cool place to sit down and have a picnic (no joke, I’ve seen people do that!). At night time, as you’d expect, the whole street lights up with neon signs and the shops stay open to 9 pm, even 10 pm for some.

That’s Part 1 of the guide, which should give you some ideas of where to visit. Be sure to check out my article on tips for planning your travel to Japan as well to help you make the most of your time in Japan!