Tokyo City Guide
Tokyo, the capital city of Japan embodies the phrase ‘bright lights, big city’ like no other city in the world. This exciting and densely populated city is renowned the world over for being a leading financial center that is on par with cities like New York and London.
Aside from being a business hub, Tokyo is known for its excellent restaurants (Tokyo has the highest number of Michelin starred restaurants in the world) ancient sights, fashion forward fashion trends and futuristic technological innovations. Besides all this, it is also a choice vacation destination. Tokyo is home to nearly 12 million people and has the reputation of being an extremely safe city and a low crime rate. All these various favorable factors have rendered Tokyo a top notch vacation destination that is visited by nearly four million tourists every year.
Where to stay in Tokyo
Tokyo offers a wide array of hotels that range from super-luxury and luxury hotel properties of the world’s most popular hotel brands and a wide array of business hotels.
The neighborhood of Shinjuku is populated by many towering skyscrapers and it is home to many hotels. Shinjuku is a popular accommodation choice for tourists as it is home to Kabuki-cho one of Japan’s most famous nightlife districts, great shopping in the form of the huge Takashimaya Shinjuku complex and the verdant Shinjuku Gyoen Park.
Tokyo’s Ginza district is the most up market shopping area in all of Japan. The Ginza is home to many department stores, boutiques, great restaurants, art galleries, hotels, clubs and bars and is a great favorite with visitors on a vacation in Tokyo.
Shibuya is a neon lit famed shopping district of Tokyo that is home to numerous diverse stores. Shibuya also functions as an important commuter hub in the city and is often referred to as the Times Square of Tokyo. If you love to shop, then perhaps the many hotels in Shibuya could get your vote for accommodation in Tokyo.
Places to see in Tokyo
The Imperial Palace
The Imperial Palace is often described as the heart and soul of Tokyo. This former abode of the Tokugawa Shogunate was constructed during the eighteenth century and is today home to the emperor of Japan. The palace itself doesn’t have public access but its grounds, which include the Higashi Gyoen or East Garden and the site of the Edo Castle, can be visited by the public for free. On certain days like the day after New Year’s Day and the day before Christmas Eve, visitors can gain access to the inner grounds to witness the Japanese Royal family make public appearances.
The Yasukuni Shrine
The Yasukuni Shrine, which commemorates the Japanese war dead, lies to the north of the Imperial Palace, the shrine consists of a simple Worship Hall that is housed in a Shinto style building. The Yushukan Museum contains wartime memorabilia and is also located close by to the shrine and contains relics from Japan’s ill-fated role in World War II.
In recent years, Tokyo’s district of Harajuku; located around Tokyo’s Harajuku Station on the city’s Yamanote Line; has received much world-wide acclaim. This enclave is the favored hang out of the city’s teenagers who sport the most outlandish and avant-garde fashion styles that serve as inspiration for designers from all over the world.
The main concentration for this teen trendsetter scene is along Takeshita Dori and its side streets, which are lined with fashion boutiques, vintage clothing stores and numerous fast food outlets catering mainly to this young, stylish population of the city. Harajuku is also home to Omotesando avenue, which is a wide tree lined avenue littered with shops, cafes and restaurants that is often likened to Champs Elysees in Paris. In addition to its myriad shopping and dining, facilities, Harajaku also offers few historic sites like the Meiji Shrine, the Yoyogi Park and the Ota Memorial Museum of Art.
Tokyo Disneyland and Tokyo Disneysea
If you are on a vacation in Tokyo with your children, the attractions of Tokyo Disneyland and Tokyo Disneysea should be considered a must-do on your list. While Tokyo Disneyland offers many of the attractions of the original Disneyland like Space Mountain, Jungle Cruise, Pirates of the Caribbean etc, Disneysea is a theme park that is unique to Tokyo. Disneysea features rides and attractions based on marine legends and myths like the Tower of Terror, Mysterious Island, Mermaid Lagoon, Lost River Delta and more.
Tsukiji Fish Market
One of prime tourist attractions in Tokyo is its Tsukiji Central Wholesale Market, which is actually a wholesale market for the distribution of fish, meat, produce and flowers in Tokyo. The Tsukiji Central market, however, is largely known as a fish market due to the popularity of its tuna auctions.
The Japanese are the biggest consumers of seafood in the world and the market handles 450 kinds of sea food. It is renowned for its blue fin tuna auctions. The blue fin tuna, which is now an endangered species of fish, is a highly coveted delicacy in Japan. It is for this reason that the tuna auctions that are routinely held in the Tsukiji market attract much worldwide attention and draw hordes of tourists who wake up at the crack of dawn on their vacation in Tokyo to be on hand for the auctions. After the auctions, most tourists usually have breakfast at one of the many food stalls that are located in and around the market.
Best time to visit Tokyo
Tokyo has an extreme climate, which is characterized by hot humid summers that extend from the months of June to August. Daytime temperatures during Tokyo summers usually range from 70F to 80F (20C to 30C). The city also experience harsh, cold, snow-filled winters during which temperatures are often known to plummet below 32F(0C).
The best seasons to visit Tokyo are spring and autumn, especially the season of spring when the temperatures are mild and the city’s many parks are covered with their world famous cherry blossom blooms.
Getting around in Tokyo
Tokyo is served by its Narita International Airport, which is located 40 miles or 66 kilometers to the north of Tokyo and is its chief international gateway. The city also has a second airport, the Haneda Airport (Tokyo International Airport), which handles mainly domestic flights but is on course to handle more international connections. Getting to Tokyo from anywhere in the world is thus extremely easy. In fact, Fare Buzz periodically offers flight deals for Tokyo and if you are in the market for cheap air tickets to Tokyo then you may want to explore the cheap air flights that Fare Buzz has to offer.
Tokyo is well served by an excellent and efficient transport system that is made up largely of surface and underground trains, which are operated by companies like East Japan Railway Company (JR trains), Tokyo Metro and Tokyo Bureau of Metropolitan transportation; the last named organization also operates bus routes in addition to train services. A visitor on vacation or business in Tokyo should invest in a Suica card to access the city’s public transport system.
Taxis in Tokyo are prohibitive and a taxi from Tokyo's Narita Airport to the center of the city can cost you nearly $400; not to mention the hours you can be stuck in gridlocked traffic. The best way to get to the center of Tokyo, where your hotel will be probably located is to use one of the methods of excellent public transport available from the airport. There are two fast train services available from the arrival terminals at Narita; these are The Narita Express and the Keisei Skyliner.
Yet another option for travel from the airport to your hotel is the Airport Limousine Bus. These buses serve most of the top hotels in Tokyo and are available outside the terminal buildings at Tokyo airport. Tickets are available at desks located outside baggage claim and the desk clerk will be able to tell you which bus to take depending on your destination. Tickets for the Airport Limousine Bus cost around 3000 yen and the buses have ample storage for your luggage too.
Where to shop in Tokyo
Tokyo is known for its multitude of shopping options. The city is home to various specialized shopping districts that offer truly unique shopping experiences. The Japanese are renowned for their passion for fashion and style; hence most leading global fashion brands have a presence in Tokyo’s upscale shopping districts like Ginza, a sophisticated shopping district that is home to several high end stores, boutiques and chic restaurants. On weekends, several streets of the Ginza are pedestrianized so that shoppers can conduct their shopping expeditions in peace without the bother of traffic congestion.
Harajuku and Omotesando are two Tokyo districts which are renowned as epicenters of pop culture and avant-garde style. Immensely popular with the city’s young fashion brigade, these areas host several fashion-forward boutiques and retail heavens like Omotesando Hills, which hosts more than a hundred big brand stores like Dior, Louis Vuitton, Celine, Prada and more. A similar youth-centric fashion district is Shibuya, a busy town that offers several casual fashion outlets along with department stores, restaurants and fast-food outlets. Located within Shibuya are various retail epicenters like the Shibuya 109 fashion building and the Seibu and the Tokyu department stores.
Yet another shopping district worth visiting is Tokyo’s well-known nightlife district, Roppongi which has within its midst a huge commercial development, Roppongi Hills home to more than 200 stylish stores, restaurants, cafes and bars.
Other notable shopping areas of Tokyo include Shinjuku, a busy, bustling zone renowned for its large department stores, electrical appliance superstores and many book stores.
Where to eat in Tokyo
Tokyo is famed as a food lover’s paradise. The city offers tens of thousands of food outlets that serve both local and international eats. Ramen, sushi, western eats, south-east Asian foods, you are bound to find everything your heart and stomach desires in the more than 80,000 restaurants that litter Tokyo’s culinary landscape. Tokyo’s list of ‘best’ restaurants changes often but currently some of the most well-regarded restaurants in Tokyo include establishments like Chabuya and Chabuya Zotto (ramen), Aronia de Takazawa (fusion Japanese), Tenko (classic Japanese), Bulgari il Ristorante (Italian), Shichifukujin, Sushi Dai, Sushi Mizutani and Fukuzushi, (all great sushi restaurants), Quand L’appétit Va Tout Va (a French bistro), L’As and L’Alchimiste (French cuisine) and 81(modern international cuisine).
Nightlife in Tokyo
Tokyo offers an energetic nightlife scene at its various nightlife haunts like Roppingi, Golden Gai near Shinjuku, Shibuya and Ginza. Izakayas (pub that serve sake and food), rooftop bars, karaoke rooms, nightclubs, geisha bars, Tokyo offers them all and more. Popular spots currently include the New York Bar located on the 52nd Floor of the Park Hyatt hotel, the Asahi Sky Room located atop the Asahi Super Dry Building, the Jico Floating bar in Tokyo Bay, the Lovenet Karaoke rooms in Roppongi and thumping nightclubs like ageHa, Womb and Warehouse 702 which offer the promise of great night out on the town.