Tokyo is a city that demands exploring. Its winding backstreets, with their bars and public baths, offer the intrepid traveller the chance to see another side to this fascinating destination. But its brash, neon boulevards are stunning too, the perfect place to look up in wonder in a city that never stops.
With a population of over 13 million, getting around Tokyo might seem daunting. But the city has one of the world’s most reliable subway systems, its tentacles stretching well out into the suburbs. Private train lines and bus services are easy to use, with ticket machines and signage available in many languages.
Tokyo’s sheer scale means it’s impossible to run out of things to do. But there are some key sights that are essential for anyone heading to Japan’s capital for the first time.
In a city full of skyscrapers, the Tokyo SkyTree stands apart. It’s the second tallest structure in the world (after Dubai’s Burj Khalifa) at 830m and offers spectacular views, not only of the metropolitan area, but even Mount Fuji on a clear day.
Early risers should be sure to head to Tsukiji Fish Market for the tuna auction, which takes place between 5am and 6am. If that’s too early, you can still head down and explore the stalls and eat in the sushi and tempura restaurants that dot the perimeter. Tsukiji is moving to a new location in November 2016.
The peerless National Museum is also a must, with a vast array of ancient art and artefacts that give a stunning overview of Japanese history. Afterwards, be sure to stroll around Ueno Park, which is especially beautiful during the annual cherry blossom season in March/April and when the leaves begin to turn red in October. Film buffs should check out the ace Studio Ghibli Museum in the Kichijoji neighbourhood.
Tokyo serves up off–the–beaten-track treats aplenty. Curious travellers need only turn down one of Roppongi’s narrow alleyways or explore Shinjuku’s tower blocks to find restaurants, bars and cultural hotspots that are easily missed.
Kichijoji is home to the wonderful Inokashira Park, as well as streets packed with amazing vintage stores selling unique Japanese clothes. Shibuya’s world-famous crossing might be an obvious spot to visit, but the backstreets around its train station are home to some excellent bakeries, Izakayas (Japanese-style pubs) and cat cafés, where you can pay to pet Tokyo’s cutest felines.
Tokyo is undoubtedly Japan’s most diverse city when it comes to eating. But the traditional local dishes are what really make it tick. Try bar snacks in an Izakaya first. The excellent Masuya Ueno is the pick of the bunch. Tsukiji’s tempura stands are often quiet and more affordable than the market’s sushi spots. And no trip to Tokyo is complete without eating Monjayaki. Try this Japanese pan-fried batter type dish at Monjya Street, about 70 Monjyayaki restaurants are in competition in Tsukishima. Speaking of Street, Tokyo Ramen Street is at the Yaesu underground exit of Tokyo Station. 8 popular raman shop includes “Rokurinsya” are all in one place. Noodle fiends should make a beeline for this much–loved joint.