You'll be packing in the activities for Day 2 as well, starting out at the Edo-Tokyo Museum, and then strolling through the electronic-goods haven, Akihabara, also home to anime and manga shops. Next, it's on to Harajuku, one of Tokyo's most vibrant neighborhoods; Tokyo's most venerable Shinto shrine; a museum devoted to woodblock prints; and Oriental Bazaar, a great shop for souvenirs. Finish the day with a trip to Shinjuku, where you'll have a bird's-eye view of the sprawling metropolis from an observation deck (it's free!). After dinner, take a stroll through Shinjuku's Kabuki-cho happening nightlife district, ablaze with neon.
Start: Subway or JR Sobu Line to Ryogoku.
1. Edo-Tokyo Museum
This wonderful museum chronicles what life was like for the people who lived here, beginning with Edo's founding in 1590 and continuing to 1964 (when Tokyo hosted the Olympics). The museum presents vivid accounts of the lives of shoguns, merchants, craftsmen, and townspeople. Be sure to take advantage of free museum tours. Closed Monday.
Take the JR Sobu Line from Ryogoku Station two stops to Akihabara Station.
For a mind-numbing spin through the latest in Japanese electronic wizardry, check out a few of the 600-some shops and stalls vying for your attention in the nation's largest electronics district. In recent years, a growing number of shops specialize in manga and anime (Japanese animation).
Take the JR Yamanote Line, which loops around central Tokyo, directly to Harajuku Station (via Tokyo Station). Quicker is the Sobu Line which cuts across Tokyo, but you have to transfer to the Yamanote at Yoyogi Station.
Harajuku is teeny-bopper heaven, with throngs of young Japanese combing shops for the latest fashions. It's one of Tokyo's most energetic neighborhoods, full of sidewalk cafes, boutiques, accessory stalls, and street vendors. Don't miss Takeshita Dori, the quintessential Harajuku street.
4. Miyashita or Yasaiya Mei
Omotesando Hills, 4-12-10 Jingumae, a swank shopping complex, offers a sophisticated respite from the teenage crowds. On its third floor are several restaurants, including Miyashita (tel. 03/5785-0707), serving its own take on French and Japanese fusion dishes, and Yasaiya Mei (tel. 03/5785-0606), which specializes in seasonal vegetables along with choices for carnivores.
5. Oriental Bazaar
With a facade that resembles a Shinto shrine, this is Tokyo's best bet for one-stop souvenir shopping: four floors packed with tableware, yukata (light cotton robes), new and used kimonos, antique furniture, and more. Closed Thursday.
6. Ukiyo-e Ota Memorial Museum of Art
This diminutive museum packs a wallop with its themed exhibits of ukiyo-e (woodblock prints). I've seen everything from Edo-era beauties to varied views of Mount Fuji. Closed Monday and from the 27th to the end of every month for exhibit changes.
7. Meiji Jingu Shrine
It's not old — it dates from only 1920 — but it was built in honor of Emperor and Empress Meiji, whose role in opening Japan to the rest of the world cannot be overstated. After walking through a lush forest, once the private grounds of a feudal lord, and passing under two torii (traditional entry gates of a Shinto shrine), you'll come to the shrine, designed with an austere, dignified simplicity. On weekends, the entrance to the shrine serves as a stage for teenagers dressed in bizarre costumes.
Take the JR Yamanote Line from Harajuku one stop north to Yoyogi Station, and then transfer to the Oedo Line to Tochomae Station.
8. Tokyo Metropolitan Government Office (TMG)
Nothing conveys Tokyo's vastness better than this building's observatory 45 stories above ground. From here you have unparalleled views of Shinjuku's skyscrapers and even Mount Fuji on clear days. Best of all? It's free. Hours are daily 9:30am to 10:30pm.
9. New York Grill
You may recognize this gorgeous hotel as the premier setting for Lost in Translation. For the same expansive views featured in the film, head to this top-notch venue on the 52nd floor of the Park Hyatt Hotel. You'll pay for the memorable experience to dine here on superb American cuisine — but only if you make a reservation in advance.
Take the free shuttle bus from the Park Hyatt to Shinjuku Station (last departure: 9:20pm), or take a taxi to Kabuki-cho.
Kabuki-cho ranks as one of Japan's most famous — and notorious — nightlife districts. Neon galore heralds restaurants, bars, dance clubs, strip joints, peep shows, and hostess bars. Once the domain of Japanese businessmen carousing with fellow office workers, Kabuki-cho's narrow streets now attract a college crowd as well, until the wee hours. It's fun to take a spin through, if only to see what all the hubbub is about.