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Best Landmarks in Tokyo

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Dedicated to the deified spirits of Emperor Meiji and Empress Shoken, this Shinto shrine was originally constructed in 1920 at the site of an iris garden that is known to have been favored by the royal couple. Emperor Meiji ascended to the throne in 1867, at the height of the Meiji Restoration, drawing Japan from the veils of feudalism and into the modern era. The traditional nagare-zukuri shrine is built amid a teeming, evergreen forest of over 10,000 trees from across Japan; a token of gratitude donated by the people. Simple, yet elegant, the Meiji Jingū is isolated from the hustle and bustle of the city, its verdant shroud softening the sounds of the vibrant metropolis that is Tokyo. Nearby lies the enchanting inner garden, a field of iris blooms in June. The Imperial Treasure House at the shrine also exhibits the coronation carriage and several other intriguing mementos of Emperor Meiji and Empress Shoken. The shrine that stands today is a reconstruction of the original, which dates back to 1958 after its predecessor was destroyed during World War II.

The Tokyo National Museum displays a bevy of sculptures, paintings, calligraphy, archaeological objects and other decorative arts. Broadly divided into Japanese, Chinese and Korean forms, the museum's collections are nothing short of artistic preservation of Asian history and culture. Exhibitions, lectures and gallery talks are held regularly, so visitors can gain access to some valuable information about the world's largest continent. The museum also stores historical documents dating back to the 10th and 11th Centuries.

Just 51 minutes west of Shinjuku lies Mount Takao and the Yakuo-in shrine. There are several different nature trails to the top, which is about 599 meters (1965 feet) high. Here, you can relax over a beer and look out over the metropolis below to the east and Mount Fuji to the west. Recommended routes are six along the valley, going up, and five, walking down, which take about 50 and 70 minutes respectively. For those less inclined to hike up the sloping inclines there is a chairlift and a cable car, each costing a few hundred yen, that take you two thirds of the way up. All in all, an exhilarating experience.

The volcanic Mount Fuji is Japan's tallest peak as its summit is at a height of 3,776.24 meters (12,389 feet). This ethereal beauty is an icon of Japan's natural and cultural heritage, greatly revered and even deemed sacred as per Shinto beliefs. The near-perfect conical mountain has inspired thousands of paintings, poems and other artwork, its pinnacle dressed in snow for almost five months of the year. Shrines, temples and monasteries line the lower slopes of this active volcano, riddled with lakes, forests and pristine gardens along routes well-traversed by pilgrims. Mount Fuji is also a popular destination for mountaineers, with several attempts made to summit the volcano each year. The most recent eruption was over two centuries ago in 1707, yet the threat of disaster is ever-present. Often draped in a cloak of clouds and bathed in a golden hue at sunset, the otherworldly vision of Mount Fuji is not mired by this choleric side, however.

Gleaming in swathes of orange and white during the day, the Tokyo Tower rises from a sea of skyscrapers in its latticed glory, and soars above the city at 332 meters (1,092 feet). The tower, constructed in 1958, was inspired by the charming form of the Eiffel Tower in Paris, and its architect, Tachū Naitō, instantly imbibed this design into his plans for the magnificent tower. A remarkable landmark in this thriving city, the Tokyo Tower hosts a variety of entertainment along its steep stretch. At 150 meters (490 feet), the Main Observatory hosts a viewing platform, while the special platform with incomparable views is located at 250 meters (820.21 feet). On a clear day, the views extend to as far as the lofty pinnacle of Mount Fuji. The Tokyo Tower, among other things, is a dazzling beacon symbolizing the city's success, and appears the most beautiful when illuminated in incandescent colors.

This striking Buddhist temple is one of Tokyo's oldest, originally established in 645 CE in honor of the goddess Kannon. Legend has it that in 628 CE, two brothers found a small statue of the goddess in the Sumida River which miraculously returned to them each time they submerged the idol. The majestic Kaminarimon, or Thunder Gate, guards the approach to Kinryū-Zan Sensō-Ji, its most distinctive feature being a massive paper lantern painted in shades of red and black to resemble a storm cloud. Beyond this lies the Nakamise, a pathway lined with colorful stalls selling traditional crafts and snacks. The temple itself is a magnificent sight, its main hall a grand spectacle replete with intricate details, and large paper lanterns strung from a ceiling held up by towering columns. Set alongside a five-tiered pagoda, the shrine is a vividly vibrant place of worship which is also one of the city's best known. The original temple was damaged during the Second World War; the existing structures are recent additions.

Watching over the increasingly cosmopolitan expanse of Tokyo, this lofty building is an architectural wonder. The Kenzo Tange-designed building, with its two distinctive towers, was the tallest building in Tokyo until 2006, when it lost its title to the Midtown Tower. Completed in 1990, the enormous building takes up three city blocks. Designed to look like a computer chip, the building has been called a beacon of technological advancement that embodies the contemporary vigor that the city is known for. The building itself is stunning and is topped by observation decks which afford dynamic views of the city sprawled below. The gargantuan scale of the Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building befits the sheer enormity of its function; it is from here that all of the 23 wards, as well as the various towns and villages of Tokyo are governed.

So named because of its colorful lights, Rainbow Bridge spans the bay from Shibaura Wharf to Odaiba, one of Tokyo's premier wining and dining areas. Comprising eight traffic lanes and two railways, the bridge also has a pedestrian walkway and observation towers. Inaugurated in 1993, the suspension bridge is 918 meters long with a distance of 570 meters between the two towers. Another way to see this spectacular bridge would be to travel over it on the Yurikamome monorail line departing from Shimbashi. Or you could take a cruise boat upriver from Hinode Pier to Asakusa.

Residing amid rolling, open parkland, the glorious Kōkyo (Tokyo Imperial Palace) is an ethereal structure commanding might and magnificence. Fronted by the rejuvenating Fukiage Garden, East Garden and Ninomaru Garden which are enlivened by an alluring autumnal glory, the palace is steeped in history and unabashed architectural excellence. The Imperial Palace has been the official residence of the Emperor and Empress of Japan since Tokyo became the political and imperial capital in 1868. Located in what was once the inner section of Edo Castle, the seat of the Tokugawa shogun, this piece of prime real estate in central Tokyo is enclosed by walls and moats. The magnificent visage gives way to an interior which is just as elegant, comprising Hōmeiden State Banquet Hall, the Rensui Dining Room and the Chōwaden Reception Hall among other sections. Only on two occasions - January 2 (New Year) and 23 February (Emperor Naruhito's birthday) do the Emperor and the Royal Family emerge and wave to the gathering crowd from behind bulletproof windows. A magnificent nexus of modernist architectural styles fused with rooted, traditional nuances, the Imperial Palace is the crowning glory of Tokyo.

First opened in 1935, the historic Tsukiji fish market created an outer market region, thanks to its massive popularity. Known as the Tsukiji Outer Market, this vibrant landmark sells a variety of items like fresh produce, fish, utensils as well as ready to eat food. The market came into existence as a need to cater to non-wholesale customers, who were initially barred from entering the area for it was solely commercial. Even though the historic inner market has shut shop, you can still enjoy the unique shopping culture at the Outer Market.

Founded in 1926, the Tokyo Metropolitan Art Museum displays a wide range of Japanese art forms in its six huge galleries. Apart from organizing exhibitions of traditional Japanese crafts, graphic design and calligraphy by contemporary Japanese artists, the museum also holds art lectures and workshops for upcoming enthusiasts. Admission prices vary as per the exhibition. For more details, check the website.

Watching over the increasingly-cosmopolitan landscape of Sumida, Tokyo Sky Tree is one of the tallest of its kind in the whole of Japan. The tower is indeed a beacon of the city's contemporary bent and an amalgam of the country's traditional tastes and elements of Neo-futuristic architecture. Boasting a monumental scale of 634 meters (2080 feet), this lofty tower is home to many attractions including a restaurant, a cafe, an aquarium and a couple of observation decks that afford astounding views of the metropolitan cityscape beneath. Also doubling as a broadcasting tower, Tokyo Skytree prides itself on its glorious standing as one of the world's tallest towers. A sight of magnificence and luminescence at night, Tokyo Sky Tree is not only a dominating feature of Sumida's skyline but is also a majestic embodiment of the city's ever-evolving face.

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