Top 9 Tokyo（Things to Do）
1. Tsukiji Fish Market
The world's largest, busiest fish market has long been a favorite destination for jet-lagged tourists with predawn hours to fill. But the main reason for going at 5 a.m. is to catch the live tuna auctions. Before you go, however, be sure to check this website to see if public access is permitted that day.
If so, it will be on a first-come, first-serve basis, and limited to 120 people, admitted in two shifts of 60. You can register starting at 4:30 a.m. at the fish information center inside the Kachidoki Gate off Harumi Street. If you prefer to do your exploring at a more reasonable hour, keep in mind that by 9 a.m., business will have already started to wind down. You'll still see fishmongers filleting the day's catch, but you won't have to dodge so many trucks and trolleys.
Forget kabuki; sumo is better theater. If you happen to be in Tokyo during one of the three grand tournaments — 15-day events in January, May and September — you can catch some of the action at Ryogoku Kokugikan, Tokyo's National Sumo Hall. Bouts, scheduled throughout the day, usually last for just a few intense seconds (bodies lock, twist, ripple, drop) with a lot of posturing (stretching, stomping, salt-tossing) in between.
Try to be inside the arena at the start of a new round, when the rikishi parade into the arena wearing ceremonial aprons over their loincloths, and sometimes a former champion demonstrates some classic moves. Note: The morning and midday contests are not usually well attended, so the hall will be quieter, the competition less stimulating, but tickets are easier to come by. Book ahead if you want to go on a Friday or Saturday evening, when the place is packed with cheering spectators who like to throw their seat cushions after a particularly heated match.
3. Meiji Shrine
Dedicated to the late 19th-century emperor who opened Japan to the West, Tokyo's most famous Shinto shrine is wonderfully serene and austere, not colorful or flashy like other Asian places of worship, and is less of a tourist trap than Senso-ji, the big Buddhist temple across town in Asakusa. The 40-foot-high (12-meter) torii gate at the entrance to the 200-acre park is made of 1,500-year-old cypress, and there's a second one like it closer to the shrine itself.
Stop at the cleansing station where you can dip into a communal water tank and purify your hands and mouth before offering up a prayer. You can write wishes on little pieces of paper and tie them onto the prayer wall, or do as the locals do — toss some yen into the offering box (it's near the enormous taiko drum), bow your head twice, clap twice, and bow once more.
4. Yoyogi Park
Yoyogi Park in Shibuya-ku is the perfect comic relief after a low-key shrine stop.
With living space so tight in this city, parks are the places for club meetings and practice sessions and even play rehearsals, and Yoyogi draws all sorts of talent, from horn players to hip-hop dancers to rockabilly gangs, complete with poodle skirts and Elvis-inspired pompadours.
who usually gather by the park's east side entrance on Sundays to jam to American pop music from the '50s. Somehow this scene is more satisfying than the Gothic Lolitas and Cosplay kids, costumed fans of Japanese manga and anime characters hanging out on the Harajuku bridge, but I always take my friends to see them too.
5. Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden
If Yoyogi Park is the most entertaining green space in Tokyo, the Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden is the most beautiful.
Ask for a map in English ("Ay-go mappoo?") as you walk in so you can be sure to hit all the major gardens: English Landscape, French Formal, Japanese Traditional (with teahouse) and the curiously named Mother and Child Forest (Haha to Ko no Mori). There's also a lovely Taiwan Pavilion; go inside and look out the second-story windows.
6. City Views
There's a lot going on at and around the popular Roppongi Hills complex — a garden, a cinema, loads of shops, cafés and restaurants — but if you stay focused, you can be in and out in an hour and hit all the highlights. Start at Louise Bourgeois's giant spider sculpture, Maman, then move on to the Mori Tower for the 52nd-floor observation deck called Tokyo City View.
The $15 ticket includes admission to the Mori Art Museum, where exhibits range from the intriguingly modern to the truly bizarre (one recent show had my kids running for the door).
For an extra $3, you can go up to the 54th floor Sky Deck, which runs the perimeter of the rooftop heliport. There's a bilingual photographer on hand who will take your picture, Tokyo Tower behind you, with his nice camera. Purchasing the $15 print, which will be waiting for you downstairs, is entirely optional.
7. Shibuya Crossing
It would be a shame to come to Tokyo and not take a walk across the famous intersection outside Shibuya Station. On sunny afternoons or clear evenings, the surrounding area is packed with shoppers, students, young couples and commuters. When the lights turn red at this busy junction, they all turn red at the same time in every direction.
Traffic stops completely and pedestrians surge into the intersection from all sides, like marbles spilling out of a box. You can observe this moment of organized chaos from the second-story window of the Starbucks in the Tsutaya building on the crossing's north side.
8. Dinner and Drinks
You can easily spend a fortune on meals in this city, but it's more fun to rub elbows with salarymen at a standing bar or drink in some local color on the cheap at a small izakaya. Tokyo a trendy neighborhood in Shibuya-ku, is full of these establishments, which specialize in grilled meat and vegetables, sashimi and other casual fare, cooked in tiny kitchens and served on petite plates.
Almost by definition, they also have extensive drink menus, and are easy to spot by the doorway curtains (called noren,) and chalkboard menus propped up out front. You won't have to venture far from the train station to find side-street blocks full of them, and the neighborhood is easily accessible — just one stop away from Shibuya on the JR Yamanote line, and two stops from Roppongi on the Tokyo Metro's Hibiya line.
In Japan, karaoke usually happens in a private room with your friends or colleagues, with a waiter delivering drinks. But at Smash Hits, located at the west end of the Hirooshotengai (neighborhood shopping street), you perform on stage before a random, rowdy audience. There's a thick catalog of English songs to choose from, and emcee Saito-san is known to shuffle the order in favor of newcomers, so you won't have to wait long to make your evening debut. Cheer the salarymen taking turns at the mic — many are practiced regulars who favor Billy Joel, Guns 'N Roses and Queen — and they'll show you love in return.
Inside these cozy basement quarters is stadium-style seating and endearingly grubby décor. The walls are papered with album covers (remember LPs?) and Polaroid snapshots of patrons from years gone by. Smash Hits is open Tuesday through Saturday nights, from 7 p.m. to 3 a.m.; the $40 cover charge includes two drinks. It's a 5-minute walk from the Hiroo stop on the Hibiya line; take Exit 2, turn right, then round the corner at the wine shop and walk to the end of the block.