In 2020, all eyes in the sporting world will look to Tokyo 🗼. As we all eagerly await the start of the summer Olympics, perhaps one pair of those eyes belong to you! 👀 If that’s the case, have you thought about the possibility of not only watching the Olympics but watching them live in Tokyo while you learn Japanese with us?
If you’ve ever wanted to visit Tokyo, you should think about going this summer and being part of the many different and exotic competitions taking place in the city, including BMX freestyle, fencing, and the thrilling modern pentathlon. Who knows – maybe you’ll discover a new hobby for yourself in the Olympic arena!
Tokyo is more than just this international event, however, so we’ve compiled a list of some interesting places and events for you to see during your stay.
The biggest attraction of the year will be the Summer Olympics and Paralympics, known collectively as Tokyo2020. Tokyo is now the only Asian city to host the Olympics twice, the first time being back in 1964. To celebrate this achievement, Tokyo has built a whole new stadium – the New National Stadium – which was finished on 30th November 2019. This O-shaped stadium can seat 68,000 and, if needed, extend to a temporary maximum capacity of 80,000!
But this won’t be the only place that Olympic events take place. There will be competitions in over 40 venues all over Tokyo, including many of the city’s stadiums, parks, arenas, and gymnasiums. Though this may seem like an overwhelming amount of venues, the 11,000 athletes coming from 206 nations will certainly need plenty of space! From the end of July to the second week of August, Tokyo will transform into the premier kingdom of sports – perfect if you’re a sports fan and have always wanted to enjoy the atmosphere of a city gripped by Olympic fever.
Akihabara – district of pop culture
Akihabara might be one of the most famous wards in the city. Everything is bright: the shop signs flicker, huge manga characters peer out of windows, and it feels like the whole district is plastered with gigantic, colourful ads. At first, Akihabara can be a bit of a sensory overload, but it definitely has its own unique charm.
What started as a shopping centre for household electronics – and a post-war black market – is now one huge shopping district offering manga, anime, video games, electronics, computers, and a variety of merchandise and pop-culture-related products. Akihabara is one of the places where you can find everything.
But there is more than just retail therapy available here. In this ward you will also be able to visit an arcade – that iconic and legendary relic of the ’80s & ’90s – and get in touch with the roots of gaming culture.
View this post on Instagram
If you want a slice of the weird side of Japan, make sure to visit one of the many cosplay cafés you can find all over Akihabara. Or, if comics aren’t your thing, how about a café where you can pet piglets or kittens?! Everything is possible in Tokyo!
Sensoji and the Meiji Shrine
For the history fans out there: Tokyo has plenty on offer for you, too!
One example is Sensō-ji, a Buddhist temple considered to be one of the oldest in Tokyo. If you believe the folklore, it began as a small shrine created after two fishermen found a statue of the bodhisattva Guan Yin in the water. The fishermen brought the icon to their chief, who recognised the holiness of the relic and turned his own house into a shrine to Guan Yin, who in Buddhist culture is considered to be the embodiment of compassion. As the popularity of the shrine grew, so did its size – until it was destroyed in an air raid in 1945. But that wasn’t the end for this temple: the people of Tokyo painstakingly rebuilt the whole Sensō-ji complex, which is now a towering symbol of reincarnation and peace, key aspects of Buddhist philosophy.
We highly recommend visiting the gigantic and dramatic gates that lead to Sensō-ji and enjoying the delicious cuisine offered by the surrounding restaurants. You will also find a Japanese garden within the temple complex – it’s an ideal place to relax and take in the traditional Japanese characteristics of neatness and tranquillity. Everything here also has a distinctly historical aura that you should definitely check out!
Also on the list of places to visit is the Meiji Shrine. Located in a forest in the heart of the Shibuya business district, this is the right address if you’re looking for culture, history, and relaxation in nature. Built to deify the spirits of Emperor Meiji and Empress Shōken, this temple is home to a treasure museum in its inner part, called the ‘Naien’. The outer part – the ‘Gaien’ – is home to the Meiji Memorial Picture Gallery (a collection of murals about the Emperor and his life), the Meiji Memorial Hall (a former government building), and a variety of sports facilities. The latter including the stadium for the first Olympic Games held in Tokyo in 1964. In 2020, the Shrine celebrates its 100th birthday, so be sure to pay it a visit while you’re in the city!
This peaceful place is a stark contrast to the rest of Shibuya. The forest offers the perfect chance to enjoy nature and recharge your social batteries in a natural environment.
Shibuya – shopping centre, nightlife area, Shibuya Crossing
Speaking of Shibuya: you really should stick around here after visiting the Meiji Shrine, because this ward has a lot to offer!
For all the shopaholics who are not satiated by Akihabara, this is the place to go. The Shibuya 109 is right in the centre of the ward and is the perfect place if you’re looking for clothes, shoes, costumes, and accessories. The mall is a whopping 10 storeys tall – you can spend the whole day in here wandering around and getting lost! Plan your visit to give yourself enough time to check out this retail giant.
Connected to Shibuya station is the Shibuya Hikarie, and if you thought the 109 is big then just wait until you see this 34-storey colossus! You won’t just find boutiques and shops here; you’ll also find two whole floors dedicated entirely to restaurants, as well as a theatre and several museums.
This building offers something for everyone, so why not pay a visit and see where you end up?
Shibuya is also famous for its nightlife. You can choose between hundreds of bars and clubs or dine in a late-night café or restaurant. You can even go bowling in the dark – the all-night lanes that are lit by UV light – or try out the Japanese classic: karaoke. Whoever you are, you will find a way to spend your nights in Tokyo in a fun and unique way.
A point of note about this district: you can’t talk about Shibuya without mentioning its iconic crossing. If you’re already around, check out this gigantic intersection and lose yourself amongst hundreds of locals.
Harajuku Omotesando Genki Matsuri Super Yosakoi – this jawbreaker is the name of a popular dance festival held in Tokyo every year. At the event, 6,000 participants deliver mesmerising performances and celebrate the art of dancing. Always held at the end of August, this free dance-off is definitely worth a visit, but beware: the dancing might be infectious!
Another big festival in Tokyo is the Hozuki-ichi at the Sensō-ji. This festival takes place every 10th of July, the date that’s believed to be the best for visiting a temple. Local legend says that a visit to the temple on this day is worth 46,000 visits on any other day! Named after the plant with healing properties that resembles a red Japanese lantern, this festival is a unique experience for spiritual and curious people. Get your blessing and purchase a good-luck charm from one of the local vendors.
If you are in Tokyo during August, you might witness one of the strangest events in the city: the ‘Pikachu Outbreak’. The iconic Pokémon will flood the city and do what it does best … dance! Also named the Dancing Pikachu Parade, this event features dozens and dozens of larger-than-life characters, all showing off their fantastic moves. Whether it’s in public spaces, streets, or malls, they will be everywhere – and they will be adorable. What started as a promotion for the 2014 Pokémon movie turned out to be so popular that it became an annual event. So don’t worry if you see yellow electric mouse dance-offs all over Tokyo – it’s absolutely normal!
If you want to combine a good deed of the day with some sightseeing in the natural part of Tokyo, you can take part in the Tokyo River Clean-Up. For this, people gather to free the rivers Arakawa and Edogawa of litter and attend a guided eco-walk. This eco-event allows you to meet new people and learn more about the rivers and nature within the city – there will also be a picnic!
Anybody who is into comics and manga should be sure not to miss the Summer Comiket. This event features many amateur mangaka and other artists selling their own creations. There are plenty of genres covered and many different drawing styles on show here. Comiket is also a great place to see loads and loads of elaborate, handmade cosplay costumes. This event is actually the biggest cosplay festival in Japan! Perhaps you could even do one yourself – the fee to cosplay at the Summer Comiket is around £5, so why not show off your own creation?!
And now …
We hope that this blog post has ignited a burning desire in you to go and visit this beautiful city. If you have reservations about the food here, check out our post about the Top 10 places to eat in Tokyo; if you want to learn more about our Japanese school in Tokyo, then visit our website or contact us now to see how we can help you with your trip.