Tokyo
Photo Courtesy of Landon Nordeman

Tokyo offers not only a plethora of festivals, but also many museums and places to explore traditional handicrafts and customs. Certain neighborhoods are identified with aspects of Japanese and Tokyoite culture: Asakusa is known as the temple district, Shibuya as the go-to hangout for the young generation, and Shimokitazawa as the hotbed of the indie music scene. For a one-stop encapsulation of Tokyo’s history and Japanese culture, check out the Edo Tokyo Museum in Ryogoku, located next to the Ryogoku Kokugikan (Sumo Hall); this massive structure looks like an alien battleship and houses scale models of Edo-period (1603-1868) architecture and dioramas of daily life. It also features traditional Japanese dance performances.

Festivals (known as matsuri), the Japanese equivalent of block parties, are abundant in Tokyo. Celebrations commemorate historic events and honor Shinto gods with massive fireworks displays and jubilees. Two of the largest festivals are the Sanja Matsuri, held at Sensoji Temple in Asakusa in mid-May to commemorate the three founders of the temple, and the Sumidagawa Fireworks Festival, held on the last Saturday of July over the Sumida River.