The world’s most populous metropolis, Tokyo, is Japan’s capital and home to more than 12 million people. With so many people, Tokyo is a buzzing urban area with flashing neon lights leading to bustling bars, eateries and karaoke boxes, yet that’s not just the townscape of Tokyo. In the historic downtown areas like Asakusa, Ueno, Ryogoku, without towering skyscrapers, you’ll find little pockets of history in this downtown or more commonly knowns as “shitamachi” area which will take you back to the time when the Shogun and his samurai ruled the country.
There’s an indescribable atmosphere in Tokyo that gives the city a unique charm with skyscrapers and neon lights soaring over the Tokyo skyline. The Shibuya Crossing famous with hurried crowds, bars and nightlife found in Shinjuku and Roppongi, unique anime/manga/geek culture centered in Akihabara, and Harajuku, the hub for kawaii culture for teens are just a few examples of this dazzling mix of ultra-modern unique city with each of Tokyo’s 23 wards having its distinctive character of its own.
Amidst the urban jungle, the downtown or the shitamachi area still maintain the nostalgic and enigmatic charm of once upon a city filled with samurai ruled by the great shogun, Tokugawa Ieyasu. Without towering skyscrapers, the downtown areas such as Asakusa, Ryogoku, Kiyosumi-Shirakawa, Monzen-Nakacho, and Ueno, has a more retro vibe, preserving the historic temples, museums, and tiny shops and bars hidden among pre-war winding alleyways. Unlike other places in Tokyo, time seems to be much slower in these areas with a one of a kind tastes of an entirely different side of Tokyo.
Contrary to common perception, beyond all these urban borders, its hard to visualize but Tokyo actually has its own nature getaway places. Located on the western side, Okutama is a popular destination for outdoor adventures such as waterfall climbing and canyoning. And Mt. Takao, just about an hour train ride away from Shinjuku station, is a perfect place for a day of hiking. And last but not least, many are surprised to learn that Tokyo owns subtropical islands such as Hachijojima, Izu Oshima and Ogasawara with pure white sand beaches and beautiful coral reefs.