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For other destinations and types of holiday, visit Kuoni
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Things to do in Japan

How to spend a day in Tokyo – shrines, shoguns and the Shibuya Scramble

Wander over to the modern Shibuya district, famous for its colourful fashion and the home of Japanese pop culture…

By Ken Yoshioka
Tokyo Tour Guide

Start your day in Tokyo at the Meiji Shrine – one of the country’s most famous shrines, it’s dedicated to the deified spirits of Emperor Meiji, the first emperor of modern Japan. Enter the grounds through a 12 metre-high torii gate, washing your hands as part of the Shinto ritual, with a peaceful, forested path leading to the shrine.

If you’re lucky, you might see a Shinto-style wedding ceremony here – expect a colourful procession led by a bride and groom, who walk to the worshipping hall to receive a blessing from the enshrined deities.

From the shrine, wander over to the modern Shibuya district, famous for its colourful fashion and the home of Japanese pop culture. It’s also the home of the Shibuya Scramble – the famous, hectic crossing where 10 lanes come together, surrounded by huge colourful billboards and neon signs. There’s plenty to keep you entertained here – visit the Pokemon Center or stop by the Ghibli store, a colourful shop themed around the Japanese animation film studio.

Next up, head to central Tokyo, visiting the Imperial Palace, which used to be the shogun’s castle. Wander the East Gardens, exploring old remains including stone walls, entrance gates and guardhouses built by the Tokuwaga shoguns, and while you’re here, look out for members of the royal family – I once saw the Crown Prince (now Emperor) Naruhito and his wife in a limo procession when I was guiding a tour here. I waved my hands at the limo, and they waved back!

After exploring the palace, head northeast to the Asakusa District, which dates back to the Edo Period. Here you can see Sensoji, the city’s oldest temple, built in the 7th century with colourful murals on the ceiling. There’s also an interesting Shinto shrine next to it, and the historic Nakamise Lane is worth a stroll too, with little shops selling souvenirs, sweets and other local delicacies. This is my favourite area to guide tours in because it gives me a chance to explain the two main religions in Japan and shows a more traditional side to the city. You get beautiful views over the Sumida River too.

Round off your day with a visit to Tokyo Skytree, the tallest free-standing broadcasting tower in the world, towering 634m high. Ascend to the observation deck for 360-degree views over the city below – it’s incredible seeing this city of 12 million people from above, and it gives you a totally different take on this diverse city.


  • Culture
  • History
  • Places to go

Available in these itineraries…

Alfred & Ken Yoshioka

Ken has been a tour guide in Tokyo for nine years. He grew up in the city and joined one of the country’s leading banks after graduating from university. During his time there, he worked in Australia, the US and Germany and travelled to more than 50 countries. After leaving the bank, he decided to become a tour guide to share his knowledge of Tokyo with visitors.

Plan your holiday withAlfred&

Your journey will start with one of our UK team – someone like Richard, who's travelled extensively in Japan. They’ll shape your ideas into the trip of a lifetime. But they won't do it alone. They'll draw on the expertise of our contacts on the ground, connecting you to the people who'll make your holiday one you'll always remember - the tea devotee who'll introduce you to the ceremony surrounding Japan's national drink, the noodle guru who'll teach you how to make the perfect bowl of soba and the ryokan owner who'll tutor you in the relaxing art of the onsen.

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