At Ryogoku Kokugikan, sumo tournaments (honbasho) are held three times a year in January, May and September. Honbasho last for 15 days and are the only sumo tournaments that count... which is why you should buy your tickets well in advance. A whole culture revolves around the brief bouts of wrestling, and you will be richly rewarded for exploring around the area. For an authentic taste of sumo, find some chanko-nabe and tuck in.
Some cities are famous for their grand boulevards, but Tokyo’s most exciting streets are often the small alleys known as Yokocho. Lined with tiny, unique shops, these alleys vary in style from traditional to modern, seasonal to year-round. Some of the best Yokocho include:
Amazake Yokocho (sweet sake Alley), which starts at an intersection outside Ningyocho Station and stretches to Meiji-za Theatre. The tasty Japanese booze is served at liquor and confectionery stores lining the alley.
Okazu Yokocho (side-dish alley) is 230 metres of shops selling prepared food and groceries.
Nonbei Yokocho (drunkards’ alley) in Shibuya is known for its tiny bars with space for a handful of people. A great place to go for a bite to eat and a quiet drink with friends.
Harmonica Yokocho is named after the musical instrument it resembles. On the north side of Kichijoji Station, this small maze of alleys is full of hip restaurants and shops. This is one of the few Yokocho Alleys that is best in the daytime.
Ameya Yokocho (candy shop alley – usually called Ameyoko) is busiest in late December, when it attracts a large crowd of New Year’s shoppers.
Ebisu Yokocho is lined with tiny, lively akachochin taverns. Each is unique, so get something to eat and start barhopping!
Temples and Shrines
Although Tokyo is a relatively young city (compared to, say, Kyoto), there are a large number of shrines to visit, photograph and pay your respects at. Around 80% of Japanese people identify as Shinto, while there is a sizeable Buddhist community. It is not unusual for families to participate in ceremonies for children at a shrine, yet have a Buddhist funeral: Buddhism's vision of the afterlife being more attractive than Shinto's!
Sensō-ji is Tokyo’s largest and oldest Buddhist temple. Dedicated to the Bodhisattva Kannon, also known as Guan Yin or the Goddess of Mercy, this is an iconic stop for any visitor in the city.
Meiji Shrine is the Shinto shrine dedicated to the spirits of Emperor Meiji and his wife, Empress Shōken. Be sure to read up on how to show your respect when you visit.
Yasukuni Shrine is a Shinto shrine dedicated to those who died fighting for Emperor Meiji.
A short walk from Shin-Okubo Station, this area has boomed as Korean culture has become ever more popular in Japan. Try authentic Korean food, catch up on the latest K-Pop and enjoy the ambience of the Korean community in Japan's capital.
Tsukiji Fish Market
Purgatory for fish, after they are pulled from the sea but before they are turned into heavenly dishes by Tokyo’s chefs. From seaweed to caviar, via all kinds of rare and endangered species, this is a very big and very fishy experience that you will not forget in a hurry. Although the heart of the market is exclusively for fish trading, the restaurants around the edge are, obviously, superb for seafood.