Your ultimate guide to

Tokyo

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Sumo wrestlers and sushi apprentices who train for more than 40 years for the privilege of cooking in a subway station. Bars staffed by Buddhist monks, the distant slopes of Mount Fuji and living dolls sashaying through the neon streets of Harajuku…

 

Few cities on earth feel as futuristic as Tokyo, yet its thousands of years of history make themselves known in the strict etiquette that governs everyday life and the outline of ancient temples glimpsed between soaring skyscrapers. Throw in a superb food and creative scene and you begin to understand why this is a destination with the power to thrill.

 

So where to start when planning your Tokyo adventure? Here are our picks of the best things to see and do in Tokyo.

How to Visit Tokyo

You can fly direct to Tokyo from Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, Cairns and the Gold Coast. From there, the excellent JR Narita Express will take you straight into the heart of the action.

Check out the local tourist board’s guide for the most cost-effective ways of travelling within the city

Best Time To Visit Tokyo

Tokyo really is a year round city, so the best time to visit depends on the sort of holiday you’re after.

From March to May, spring brings comfortable temperatures with a chance of showers. Picnicking beneath the cherry blossom trees in Ueno Park is one of the best activities to do in Tokyo in April.

Between June and August is peak season, when temperatures can soar into the mid-thirties and festivals such as Sumidagawa fill the night sky with the fizz and crackle of fireworks. July is often a little rainy.

Top Attractions in Tokyo

From royal palaces to robot cabarets, each single Tokyo neighbourhoods boats more top attractions than many other cities.

Nestling among romantic 17th century gardens filled with bonsai trees, the Imperial Palace is the pride of the Marunouchi district. Stroll over curvaceous stone bridges and in between castle ruins while gaining fascinating insights into Japan’s royal family.

Another of Tokyo’s best cultural attractions is the Sensō-ji Temple in the Asakusa district, which was established in 645AD. Browse the market outside its gate for ebony combs and kimonos, and be sure to look out for the temple’s doves, which locals believe are messengers of the gods.

Travelling with your brood? One of Tokyo’s top attractions for children has to be Disneyland. They’ll adore the rides and meeting their favourite characters, while you’ll enjoy the spectacular people watching. As our writer discovers, no one loves Disney like the Japanese.

For another entry point into Tokyo’s unique pop culture, check out our list of the city’s weirdest bars. Karaoke in a jacuzzi anyone?

Best Activities in Tokyo

Yanaka is one of just a few areas in the city that escaped bombing in WWII and it’s still a mecca for traditional crafts as well as more contemporary artisans. Its narrow, winding streets are best explored on a Tokyobike, which are beautifully designed in the area. We reckon it’s one of the most underrated Tokyo tourist activities out there.

If you’re looking for Tokyo activities that won’t cost a cent, opt for a stroll across the iconic Rainbow Bridge at night. Or plunge into the famous neon district of Shinjuku, which glitters like a disco ball after dark.

Many of Tokyo’s top attractions involve live performances. You may associate slow, sultry strains of saxophone with New Orleans rather than Japan, but Tokyo actually has more jazz clubs than any other city on Earth. Here’s what to expect when you spend a night exploring them.

Where To Stay in Tokyo

Picture the craziest hotel you can and then double it. No matter how wild your imagination, Tokyo’s hotel scene is sure to be wilder still.

From traditional ryokan (guesthouses) with tatami mats to Hello Kitty-themed hideaways and ‘love hotels’ that can be rented by the hour, Tokyo has it all. Take a closer look at your accommodation options with our handy guide.

Capsule hotels such as The Millenials were invented to accommodate businessmen who were too tipsy to make the journey home. Each person’s sleeping space is barely bigger than a coffin, yet meticulously designed and offers excellent value. A night in a tiny hotel is one of Tokyo’s classic cultural experiences. Get a sense of what to expect here.

The lively Shibuya district is near lots of Tokyo’s top attractions including Cat Street, making it a great base for your trip. Trunk Hotel is a sleek boutique option which showcases the best of Japanese furniture design.

Shinjuku makes a great base for first timers because it’s like a microcosm of the city. You’ll find everything from skyscrapers to universities and red light districts in its maze-like streets. Make like Scarlett Johansson in Lost in Translation by checking into the Park Hyatt.

Best Restaurants in Tokyo

Michelin-starred sushi with freshly grated wasabi. Velvety ramen, best enjoyed with plenty of slurping. Yakitori chicken skewers devoured at a stall under a railway bridge…

It’s fair to say that Tokyoites are literally fanatic about food and the breadth of restaurants on offer can be a little overwhelming. Many only offer a single dish, executed to perfection. So where exactly are the best restaurants in Tokyo?

The menu at Den has its roots in kaiseki, Japan’s traditional and often highly formalized cuisine. However, it includes playful, avant garde touches that make this an experience to savour, a feat that has been recognised with two Michelin stars.

Japan’s love of novelty extends to its dining scene. At Robot Restaurant Tokyo you can enjoy a bento box alongside a high voltage performance by a robotic dance troupe, or allow your dinner to sneak up on you at Ninja Akasaka restaurant, which has seriously sneaky staff.

Hungry for more Tokyo restaurant inspiration? Tuck into chef Michael Ryan’s gourmet guide to the city.

Places to Shop in Tokyo

Minimal kitchenware, vintage kimonos, futuristic gadgets and green tea Kit Kats… Chances are you already have a list of souvenirs you’d like to bring home and the good news is that it won’t be difficult to find them. The entire city is a shrine to consumerism and shopping is central to the culture in Tokyo.

One of the most infamous ‘hoods is Harajuku, which has spawned countless subcultures among the city’s youth. Expect to see goths and ‘Lolita dolls’, those lovers of all things pink and frilly, popping in and out of fashion boutiques such as Milk on Meiji Dori. Get a sense of the area with our one minute guide.

Akihabara has a futuristic vibe thanks to its huge quantity of electric shops and tribes of tech-lovers known as otaku, who favour frilly maid outfits and costumes inspired by their favourite anime characters.

Upscale Ginza is your go to for high-end boutiques such as Itoya, a skyscraper entirely filled with beautiful stationary, including handmade washi rice paper.

Tours & Packages Tokyo

It’s one of the most densely populated cities on Earth with a street system that’s as confusing as a bowl of noodles, so a Tokyo tour could be the missing key to
your trip.

Some of our top tours in Tokyo include exploring the city on land and water in the Sky Duck, an aquatic tour bus, and watching the tuna auctions in the famous Toyosu fish market, although you’ll need to apply early as space is very limited.

There are also plenty of day tours you can do easily from Tokyo, which will reveal hills covered in lush forests, steaming hot springs and sleepy villages. Here are five of the best.

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