Tokyo: Top 5 things to do

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Tokyo:  Top 5 things to do

Without doubt, Tokyo is one of the worlds most amazing cities.  Overwhelming in size, pace, and sheer culture-shock value, Tokyo also has incredible moments of stillness and opportunities for quiet reflection.  It is an incredibly modern city, but somehow it seamlessly blends this with its rich history and ancient traditions.

There is a huge amount to see and do in Tokyo, and you can shape your agenda depending on what your interests and passions are.

In this article we give you five of our favourite things to do – just to help you with a starting point as you plan your Tokyo expedition.

Embrace public transport

This will be a real game changer for you.  At first the trains of Tokyo can seem so busy, so complex, and so scary that you will probably be tempted to jump in a taxi instead.  But once you give it a try you will soon realise that Tokyos public transport system is by far the best way to get around the city. 

The first thing to think about is buying tickets.  All of the ticket machines have an English language option and are really easy to use. 

You can buy single trip tickets for each journey – to work out how much the ticket will be you need to look at the map at the ticket machine, find your destination, and it will tell you how much that journey will cost.  You need to put your ticket into the ticket gate to enter and exit the platform.  If youve made a mistake in calculating the cost of your ticket there is always a ticket-adjustment machine at each exit where you can top up your ticket price if needed.

Rather than buying single trip tickets you are better to get a Suica card – this is a stored value card that you use to touch in and touch out of the ticket gates, a similar system to that used by lots of cities around the world.  This is much quicker and easier to use than buying single trip tickets – the correct fare is simply deducted from your Suica card at the end of each journey.  You can buy a Suica card from any of the ticket machines.

To help navigate your way around grab one of the maps which will be available near the ticket machines.  Usually these are printed in Japanese one side and English on the other.  There is also plenty of signage in English at every station so as long as you stay calm, and take your time to work out where you need to go, youll be fine.

tokyo crossing Tokyo:  Top 5 things to do

Feast on the food

If you are heading to Japan it is fairly likely that you are already a fan of Japanese cuisine.  You will be surprised at the huge variety of food waiting for you in Tokyo.  There are more michelin star restaurants in Tokyo than anywhere else in the world, but you dont have to spend a fortune to enjoy really great food.  One of my favourite dishes is Yakitori – simple skewers of grilled meat, best enjoyed with a beer after work.  Yakitori Alley is just a short walk from Yurakucho Station.  The restaurants are built in the arches underneath the railway.  The history of this area is that when much of the city was destroyed by the US bombing raids during World War II, people were forced to live in the railway arches for shelter.  During the reconstruction of the city the government granted ownership of these spaces to the families that were living there – restaurants were built and they are still being run by the families who took shelter there during the war.

See some Sumo

If you can time your visit with a Sumo tournament this is a unique way to experience the theatrics that is the national sport of Japan.  If it isnt tournament season you can try and visit the training stables but this is quite difficult to do unless you have a local guide that has Sumo connections.  The traditional lunch of the sumo wrestler is the chanko stew – a huge feast of meat and vegetables.  In the Ryogoku district where the sumo training stables are located there are a number of restaurants where you can go and enjoy a chanko stew and embrace your inner wrestler.

tokyo sumo 1024x682 Tokyo:  Top 5 things to do

Yoyogi Park

This is a beautiful expanse of parkland not far from Shinjuku station.  You can start with a visit to the Meiji Shrine (one of the most important Shinto shrines in Japan), but the park is a great place just for hanging out and people watching.  Especially on a Sunday when everyone is out and enjoying a bit of space (which is at a premium in Tokyo).  I love watching the rockabilly gangs who jam and dance – with the hair and the outfits they are incongruously committed to the rockabilly aesthetic of 1950s Americana. You can also rent a bike and cycle through the park.

 

Get Lost in Translation

A really interesting perspective on Tokyo was Sofia Coppolas movie Lost In Translation.  Released in 2003, the movie followed Bill Murray and Scarlett Johansson as they wandered around the Park Hyatt hotel, battling insomnia, loneliness, and the culture shock of a strange city.  It is a beautiful movie and you can immerse yourself in it by staying at the Park Hyatt – a fantastic hotel near Shinjuku station.  The pool and health spa is stunning (and was featured heavily in the movie).  If you cant afford to stay there at least head to the iconic Peak Bar for a cocktail or three – on a clear day Mount Fuji will seem so close that you feel that you should almost be able to reach out and touch it.

Dive into the one of the worlds great cities.  Dive into this unique place that seamlessly blends the history of yesterday with the future of tomorrow.  Dive into the sights, the sounds, the flavours, and the sensations of the capital of Japan.  Dive into Tokyo.

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