Japan’s capital is a city like no other. The energy is palpable, but there are areas of calm too, including some of Japan’s most beautiful landscape gardens and rich traditions. Leave your preconceptions behind and allow the excitement and energy of the world's ultimate metropolis surprise and enchant you.
Constantly changing and confronting normality, Tokyo never gets old and however prepared you are – Tokyo will impress, confuse and amaze you. It is one of the finest global cities in the world, and boasts the most brilliant metro system to help escort you with ease. The city’s neon bright lights and glassy facades rise seamlessly into the sky, overlooking immaculately clipped Japanese gardens that offer respite from the frenetic streets.
Tokyo is where old meets new; its tiny backstreet bars, quirky cat cafés, sumo stables and Shinto shrines sit harmoniously with the most progressive architecture in Asia. With over 30 million people in greater Tokyo, more Michelin starred restaurants than London and Paris as well as department store shopping to rival New York; Tokyo really takes centre stage in Japan. Ignore its façade as a busy metropolis, and get under the skin. Tokyo has been the capital of Japan since 1868, and beneath the surface is a city with grit, history, charm and tradition.
It is hard to do the city justice in a few days, but you can cover some good ground with three or four nights in Tokyo and we would recommend having at least one full day with a guide to get you started. With no real centre, Tokyo is made up of distinct smaller districts that have real substance and vary hugely from each other. Here are some ideas of places to visit:
Known as the Kensington of Tokyo, Ginza is home to some of the most deluxe designer shops and department stores in Japan along with Michelin starred restaurants that grace its streets
Arguably Tokyo’s historic heart and a relaxed area, Asakusa is a must visit when in Tokyo. Take a riverboat from here to explore the charming boutique lined streets along with Hamarikyu Gardens and Senso Ji Temple.
Imperial Palace Gardens
As the residence of the Emperor of Japan, visitors only have access to the East of the gardens but it is well worth the visit and is conveniently located not far from Ginza.
Not far from Meiji Shrine, Harajuku is a small district in Shibuya that sits at the centre of Japan’s eccentric teen fashion and youth culture. Here you’ll find weird and wonderful independent shops, pancake restaurants, cat cafes and more.
Iconic Tokyo with high-rise skyscrapers and neon lights, Shinjuku is overwhelming, awesome in scale and a must see in Tokyo. With millions passing through this one station each day and streets lined with bars and restaurants, it is not for the faint hearted. We think this is an excellent area for a final night in Japan.
Argued to be the busiest intersection in the world, with around 1000 people crossing at any one time. This is iconic Tokyo and at peak times, is one of the busiest places on earth.
Dedicated to Emperor Meiji and the Empress Shoken and completed in 1920, Meiji Shrine is a beautiful Shinto shrine that sits within an urban forest. If you are lucky, you may see an ornate wedding take place. We feel this is a must visit.
If you are visiting during tournament season, visit either a tournament or practice at one of Tokyo’s sumo stables. This authentic experience is subject to availability and can change depending on schedules, so this is only for the more flexible traveller.