Popular Tokyo (Yokohama) Shore Excursions
Tokyo is an intriguing mix of ancient, modern and futuristic. In a single day, you can go from the serenity of the temples of Asakusa to the glitzy name-brand shops of Ginza.
Senso-ji, located in the Asakusa district of Taito, is one of Tokyo's most important -- and popular -- Buddhist temples. Though the actual buildings, including the impressive Thunder Gate and a lovely five-story pagoda, have been rebuilt many times, Senso-ji originally dates to 645 A.D., making it the oldest temple in Tokyo. Within the temple you'll find omikuji stalls, where you can pick up a clue to your future written on scraps of paper or consult an oracle for answers to questions. After you've visited the temple, make sure you wander the nearby streets dotted with souvenir shops selling everything under the sun and eateries serving noodles, sushi and tempura. (Open 6 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily)
Dedicated to the deified spirit of Emperor Meiji, the first emperor of modern Japan, Meiji Shrine, (sunrise to sunset daily) is another of Tokyo's most visited shrines. Located right near the busy Harajuku train station, the shrine and next door Yoyogi Park are nevertheless peaceful respites with walking paths meandering through a quiet forest. At the northern end of the shrine grounds is the Meiji Jingu Treasure House (9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. daily), which is home to a collection of personal items that once belonged to the emperor and his empress. On the southern grounds of the shrine is the Inner Garden (9 a.m. to 4 p.m.). This for-fee space is especially popular in early summer when the irises are in bloom.
Tokyo's Shibuya Crossing, famously seen on the big screen in "Lost in Translation," is a bit like Times Square on steroids. Located outside Shibuya train station, the crossing is always packed (and we do mean packed!) with shoppers and commuters, and when the lights turn red, everyone one of them steps out onto the street to cross, a veritable surge of humanity.
One of the world's most upscale neighborhoods, Ginza is the place to go for high-end shopping in Tokyo, as well as some of the city's best restaurants. You'll find every luxury brand represented, including Chanel, Dior and Gucci. It's also where you'll find a $10 cup of coffee, so make sure to check the price of everything before making a purchase.
Still have energy after a full day of touring? How about taking in a bit of Japanese evening entertainment? You've got lots of choices, but two of the most iconic are a sumo wrestling match or kabuki theater show. For sumo, you'll head to the Ryogoku district and the 10,000-seat Ryogoku Kokugikan Sumo Hall. Fifteen-day Sumo tournaments are held three times a year: in January, May and September.
Kabuki is a classical Japanese dance-drama performance best known for the elaborate makeup worn by performers. Kabuki is performed in multiple acts and can take up to four hours, but visitors may opt to purchase single-act tickets for a taste of the art form. Be sure to rent translation headsets to understand what's happening on stage. Kabuki-za in Ginza is the main kabuki theater in Tokyo, offering a variety of kabuki shows year-round.
Sushi lovers who want to see where all the fish comes from should head to Tsukiji Fish Market, the largest wholesale fish and seafood market in the world. Though the inner sanctum, where most of the fish auctions take place, is closed to the public, you can apply for a viewer spot at the tuna auction. You've got to get up bright and early, though. On busy days, visitors start lining up at the Osakana Fukyu Center before 5 a.m. -- it's first come, first served up to 120 people per day. If you don't get into the tuna auction, you can still visit Tsukiji's outer market, which consists of fresh seafood shops and sushi restaurants. Top off your visit with a sushi breakfast at a restaurant outside the market -- the fish is freshest in the morning!
To put all the sightseeing you've been doing into perspective, spend half a day at the Edo-Tokyo Museum,, which traces the city's history from its early days of Edo to its transformation into modern day Tokyo. With lots of models and displays, as well as a few interactive exhibits, the museum is a great place to learn about the city.
On a sunny day, the best place to go for a view is Skytree Tower. The 2,080-foot tower is the tallest building in Japan. When you're done, spend time exploring Skytree Town, with its eight floors of shopping and dining, as well as a full-fledged aquarium and planetarium.
If you've got an extra day of free time and the weather is clear, consider heading out of town for a visit to Mount Fuji. The highest mountain in Japan and one of the best-known symbols of the country, snow-capped Mount Fuji is about 60 miles away from Tokyo. Numerous operators offer day tours, which typically include a bus ride about halfway up the mountain to the 5th Station and may also feature a lake cruise on nearby Lake Ashi.