Japan´s vibrant capital and largest city (pop, more than 37 million) is one of the world´s most popular with foreign visitors, and while many of them come to explore a bit of Japanese culture both modern and traditional, as befits a premier cosmopolitan world city, Tokyo also boasts plenty of areas where international culture is on display, starting with those of neighbouring China and Korea, as well as much drawn from the West. And here´s a look at a half dozen of the most notable:
Here in the northwest of Tokyo you´ll find a good deal of Chinese influence, including various Buddhist temples (including Sensō-ji, the city´s oldest – dating back to 645 CE – the world´s most visited, and dedicated to Kannon, aka Guanyin, a bodhisattva widely revered in China). There are also quite a few souvenir and food shops with Chinese products, as well as Chinese restaurants.
The other community widely represented in Asakusa is that of the “Nikkei” Brazilians, and apart from being home to Tokyo´s Association of Samba Schools, it´s also famous for its annual Brazilian-style Carnaval (above), drawing up to a half million visitors in mid-September to Kaminarimon Dori street.
Also in the north of the city, this bustling shopping and entertainment district has also become heavily Chinese, thanks to a large immigrant population that started arriving in the 1980s, giving rise to a huge number of shops and restaurants and leading it to be considered Tokyo´s Chinatown.
This neighborhood, just five minutes from booming hub Shinjuku is Tokyo´s Koreatown, its streets packed with Korean restaurants, markets, bars/clubs, and a plethora of shops selling not just Korean foods but others focussing on books, cosmetics, K-pop, and other aspects of popular culture.
Moving from East to West culture-wise – and also a hop and a skip from Shibuya – this buzzy district is famous for being where Tokyo´s “cool kids” hang out and sometimes outrageous street fashion rules. You´ll see plenty of both Western and youthful influence in Harajuku´s many shops, cafés, restaurants, bars, and clubs.
A few minutes west of Shibuya, this affluent neighbourhood hums all day long and kicks into even higher gear at night. It’s a mix of upscale highrises, foreign embassies, international restaurants, bars/clubs, luxury hotels, and shops. Many of them are located in the 21-year-old, nearly 11-hectare (27-acre) Roppongi Hills complex, which is also home to other notable attractions, including the 54-storey Mori Tower, which besides shopping, dining, and headquarters of corporate giants also houses an observation deck with some of Tokyo´s most sweeping views and the Mori Art Museum of contemporary art. You´ll find more modern works at the Tomio Koyama Gallery (and if you´re up for yet more, the venerable Tokyo National Museum – Japan´s oldest art museum and one of the world’s largest, with holdings dating back centuries – is a ten-minute taxi ride away in Ueno Park). On top of all that, Roppongi boasts an impressive collection of street art, with one of the premier stars being Maman, at the base of Mori Tower – one of a half dozen giant spiders crafted by celebrated British sculptor Louise Bourgeois (and another of which resides at the Bilbao Guggenheim).
Out in Tokyo Bay and easily reachable via metro as well as via the Rainbow Bridge, Odaiba was built for defensive purposes in the mid-19th century and in the 1990s was redeveloped into a shopping, dining, entertainment, and cultural mecca. Especially eye catching here is the quarter-scale version of the Statue of Liberty in front of the Aqua City mall (actually a replica of the version on the Seine in Paris). Other notable attractions out here include the Miraikan National Museum of Emerging Science and Innovation, the ship-shaped Museum of Maritime Science, Sega´s Joypolis indoor amusement park, and a Legoland Discovery Center. In addition, you can take in beautiful views (including one of the city´s best sunsets) while enjoying a Hawaiian-inspired burger at Kua’Aina in Aqua City.