Tokyo Station and the surrounding Marunouchi district epitomize the contrasts between traditional and modern Japan. Soaring skyscrapers overlook the quiet Imperial Gardens, and the station's striking 1900s-style facade conceals sleek bullet trains and a wealth of pop culture shopping and intriguing culinary options.
Tokyo Station is a major hub for many commuter trains, metro lines, as well as the bullet trains.
Besides bullet trains from all over the country, Tokyo Station can be reached from within the city limits on the Yamanote Line, Chuo Line, Sobu Line and Keihin-Tohoku Line. For those using Tokyo Metro lines, the Marunouchi Line is convenient. Although it is a bit of a walk, you can also reach Tokyo Station via underground passageways linked to nearby Otemachi Station, where the Tozai, Chiyoda, Hanzomon and Mita metro lines stop.
If you are coming from Narita Airport, the Narita Express (NEX) connects to Tokyo Station and takes about an hour.
Built upon the former site of Edo Castle—once the largest castle in the world—the Imperial Palace is usually only visible from afar. However, you can sign up for a tour of the majestic inner grounds, just make sure to book well in advance through the Imperial Household Agency's website to avoid disappointment.
For a more casual visit, head to the Imperial Palace's East Gardens to stroll through meticulously manicured Japanese-style gardens and see the ancient castle walls. Runners and cyclists circle the palace regularly; join them if you have the chance.
While a walk around the Imperial Palace grounds is lovely in all seasons, during cherry blossom season Chidorigafuchi moat comes alive with delicate shades of pink and white. With a short walk from Kudanshita Station, you can stroll under a canopy of gently falling sakura blossoms or even rent a rowboat for a scenic float around the moat. Make sure to go early in the day to avoid the crowds.
Nearby, Yasukuni Shrine holds a yearly cherry blossom festival with lots of tempting food stalls and popular evening illumination events.
Don't be fooled by all the gleaming office buildings—the Marunouchi area is filled with museums, shops, and upscale restaurants. For high-class shopping with European flair, look no further than the tree-lined avenue of Naka-dori stretching between Tokyo Station and the palace.
Right by the station, the Shin Marunouchi Building, KITTE, and Daimaru department stores are popular options for visitors searching for a perfect gift or the latest in Japanese fashion.
Prefer to pursue art and learning? The red brick halls of the Mitsubishi Ichigokan house a bijou collection of Japanese and Western art as well as a pleasant retro cafe where you can rest your feet. Other options for art include the nearby Museum of the Imperial Collections in the East Gardens, the National Museum of Modern Art and Science Museum in Kitanomaru Park, and Intermediatheque in the KITTE building.
Thanks to its central location, you can easily walk from this area to Ginza, an elegant shopping district, or Nihonbashi, home to the Coredo Muromachi shopping centers and traditional restaurants. For a quick bite to eat, Tokyo Station City—the underground shopping area beneath the station—is an excellent option with plenty of choices.