Top five cultural highlights in Tokyo

photo by CC user Fg2 on wikimedia

Heading to Japan this year, but don’t know what to see during your time in this nation’s largest city? The following five cultural highlights in Tokyo will give you the best sense of this mega city’s place within Japan, and the world…

1) Imperial Palace

Home to the royal family of Japan, the Imperial Palace is one of the most revered places in all of Tokyo. While the complex itself is closed to the public except for two days per year (January 2 and the Emperor’s Birthday – plan well in advance to get tickets on these occasions), the magnificence of the building itself and the fabulous East Gardens make this spot a must visit.

2) Meiji Shrine

Built to honor Emperor Shoken and his role during the Meiji Restoration, the Meiji Shrine is an impressive Shinto holy place that will fill you with peace upon entering its grounds. While there are impressive temple structures located within, it’s the displays of Mother Nature’s brilliance that will make the biggest impression upon you during your time here, as it is covered by a verdant forest with 365 different species of tree.

3) Sensō-ji

Ranking as the oldest temple in all of Tokyo, Sensō-ji is a symbol of peace and rebirth to the Japanese people, after being labeled as such following its reconstruction after the Second World War. Highlights include the massive Thunder Gate, and the imposing five storey pagoda in the inner sanctum. In addition to the sights contained within, it is also home to this city’s largest festival of the year (Sanja Matsuri), which takes place over several days in the late spring.

4) Tokyo National Museum

Being the largest art museum in the country, and its oldest institution of its kind as well, the Tokyo National Museum is the perfect spot to get a retrospective of this nation’s cultural and historical treasures if you are short on time during your visit to Japan.

Containing over 110,000 pieces and with exhibits being transcribed in seven different languages, nearly all tourists patronizing this place will gain a greater appreciation for this nation’s accomplishments in history and in the arts.

5) Yasukuni Shrine

A Shinto shrine that doubles as a war memorial for any that fell in the service of the nation throughout its long history, Yasukuni Shrine is a touching place. It is a historic place to check out with deep meaning to most Japanese, with many statues commemorating many that were instrumental in its military history.

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