Talk Cutting Edge – Talk Tokyo !! Talk Fashion – Talk Tokyo !! Talk Innovation interlaced with Tradition – Talk Tokyo !! And no, this isn’t Money Heist’s Tokyo that we are talking about.
Be it Killing Eve’s Anime Underworld or Blade Runner’s Sci-Fi streetscapes, one thing they both have in common is massive influence from fast paced city of Tokyo. One of the biggest cities in the world with home to over 13 million people, this city perfectly balances the preservation of the past with an eye towards the future. This one of the most densely populated urban centres of the world stands witness to the harmonious coexistence of both the cultural dimensions.
Tokyo is the economic and political epicenter of Japan. Bursting with wild and wonderful activities, this futuristic capital city of Japan holds shrines, palaces, temples, vintage teahouses and peaceful gardens dear to its bosom. But this serene and traditional vibe doesn’t strip Tokyo from its wild nightlife or fancy fashion game.
Technically speaking, Tokyo is a prefecture of Japan. Located at the head of Tokyo Bay, the prefecture forms part of the Kantō region on the central Pacific coast of Japan’s main island of Honshu and forms the seat of Emperor of Japan as well as the National Government.
A Glimpse Through the Past
Originally a small fishing town going by the name EDO, it was fortified by the Edo Clan in twelfth century and in1457, Ōta Dōkan built Edo Castle. It came to prominence in 1603 when Tokugawa Ieyasu, the founder and first shōgun of the Tokugawa shogunate and one of the “Great Unifiers” of Japan, moved his base here. During the subsequent Edo period, it grew into one of the largest cities in the world with a population topping one million by the 18th century. During the Edo era, the city enjoyed a prolonged period of peace known as the Pax Tokugawa, and in the presence of such peace, Edo adopted a stringent policy of seclusion, which helped to perpetuate the lack of any serious military threat to the city. However, this prolonged period of seclusion came to an end with the arrival of American Commodore Matthew C. Perry in 1853. Commodore Perry forced the opening of the ports of Shimoda and Hakodate, leading to an increase in the demand for new foreign goods and subsequently a severe rise in inflation. These circumstances brewed social unrest and rebellion, very popularly known as The Meiji Restoration, leading to end of Edo era and 17-year-old emperor Meiji took over the reins in 1867 and officially moved his residence to Tokyo and the Edo castle became The Imperial Palace. The city of Tokyo was officially established on 1st May 1889. Since then, it has been a witness to several catastrophes, earthquakes as well as the horrors of World War II. The process of rebuilding and redevelopment started in 1952 when Japanese occupation ended and was showcased to the world in 1964 Olympics. Since then, decades after decades, this metropolitan prefecture has borne testimony to unprecedented development in form of high-rise skyscrapers and cutting-edge technology.
How to Reach Tokyo and The Best Time
- Narita Airport – You can reach Tokyo via Narita Express, which takes approx. 1 hour and costs JPY 3250. You can also go for Narita Airport Limousine Bus, at half the cost.
- Haneda Airport – Reach Tokyo via Tokyo Monorail which takes 15 minutes, costing JPY 500.
Before getting to Tokyo, , you can get yourselves a Suica IC Card online and pick it up as soon as you land. This SUICA card will be your lifeline during your stay. The card allows you to tap in and out of each station without having to buy a ticket every single time you take a train. You can easily refill the card credit at any train station.
Tokyo is a land of climatic extremes, with scorching summers and cold, snowy winters with blizzards. Therefore the best time to visit Tokyo is during the spring (March-May) when the cherry blossoms are in full bloom and autumn from October to November. The cherry blossoms, otherwise known as Sakura, are one of the biggest tourist attractions in Japan. Here’s a list of some of the best traditional festivals in Japan all year round. However, the favorite season of Sakura is host to some of the best spring festivals. One of the most popular ones is Sanja Matsuri, which sees 2 million people yearly. This wildest festival is celebrated every third Sunday of May at the Asakusa Shrine. Then there is Ueno Sakura Matsuri festival in the famous Ueno Park, one of the best cherry blossom viewing spots in Tokyo.
Your Ought To Be Bucket List When in Tokyo
You can go for guided tours by localites for a more authentic experience. Here are some of the tours you can opt for:
- Akihabara Anime & Gaming Adventure – Gamers rejoice ! Experience the quirky Maid Café and shop your heart out in the gadget’s paradise
- Asakusa Night Foodie Tour – Enjoy bar hopping and cook your own okonomiyaki in this historical neighbourhood
- Asakusa Cultural Street Food Walking Tour – Spurge in local sweets and delicacies alongside shopping in Nakamise shopping street, and learn about Japanese culture
- Harajuku Kawaii and Pop Culture Tour – Learn about Japanese Pop Culture, dine in a monster café and experience divinity by taking a tour of Meiji Shrine.
- Tokyo Ramen Tasting Tour – Because no trip to Tokyo would be complete without tasting the favorite dish.
- Sumo Morning Practice Tour – It’s a must do if you are unable to attend a Sumo tournament which happens only thrice a year.
You can also opt for walking tours, my most preferred way of exploring a place. Check out some of the best walking tours here.
Below are some of the must visit places in Tokyo.
- Yoyogi Park and Meiji Jingu – It’s a huge park with a pleasant shaded walk and all of the walking routes will go through Meiji Jingu, a beautiful Shinto shrine, where you can buy an amulet and other traditional souvenirs.
- Harajuku – Harajuku embodies modern youth pop culture of Japan – It’s a crazy area filled with people, trendy shops, and street food. Harajuku became well-known as the hangout spot for the trendy youngsters who would wear their most outrageous, fashion-forward outfits. Do give Japanese Crepes and Zaku Zaku Icecreams a try here.
- Roppongi Hills – Tokyo City View And Sky Deck in Roppongi where you can take the lift up to the rooftop and get an amazing view of the city, including the iconic red Tokyo tower. On lucky days, you might even see Mt. Fuji.
- Shibuya Scramble Crossing – It’s probably the busiest crossings in the world. It has been featured in many movies, video games and music videos. One can deem it to be the perfect example of organized chaos.
- Statue of Hachiko, the loyal dog – I am sure all the dog lovers in the world have heard about him. So go on then, meet this “good boi”. Probably get a photo clicked as well !
- Akihabara -You must check out Akihabara for all the outrageous things you’ve heard about Japan – the infamous Maid cafe, cat cafes, electronics, comic books, floors and floors of arcade games, just to name a few.
- Asakusa – You can visit Senso-ji, a famous Buddhist temple. You can also shop in the famous Nakamise Shopping Street where cheap food and souvenirs are available. History enthusiasts can also checkout the Edo – Tokyo museum nearby.
- Omoide Yokocho – It literally translates to memory lane. So you are practically walking down the memory lane where everything smells of traditional Japan. Enjoy skewered meat with whiskey or beer.
- Robot Restaurant – You cannot skip the famous Robot Restaurant while in Tokyo. It’s a 90-minute show with lasers, dances and robots. It’s the most modern Japanese experience one can get. You need to pre book the tickets.
- Golden Gai – If you wish to experience the crazy Japanese nightlife, this is the place to be in. It has multiple bars with different themes, so you can bar hop great deal.
- Tokyo Book and Bed – This capsule hotel in the Ikebukuro neighborhood is covered with bookshelves and literary chandeliers. A dreamland I say for all the booklovers out there.
- TeamLAB Borderless Museum – Wander through a room of floating lanterns that enchant you as they change color, and make your way through a dazzling room of crystal raining down from the ceiling. To say you’ve never seen anything like it would be a huge understatement.
- See a Japanese Baseball Game at the Tokyo Dome – A 4 am game with cheerleaders and all that jazz isn’t to be missed at any cost.
- Disneyland Tokyo – Because you can never be too old for Disneyland.
- Cat Café, Mocha – Cuddle those cute furballs at this café. Yes, crazy right ? But welcome to Tokyo, where you love for the 3Cs – caffeine, city lights and cats is requited.
- Imperial Palace – This complex consists of meticulously-maintained gardens, art galleries, castle ruins, parks, and of course, the home of the Emperor himself.
- Kabuki Show – This is Japan’s version of a racy and tragic Shakespearean drama, in which women’s roles are played by men and the actors are adorned in extravagant makeup. Watch sword-wielding samurai, heart-broken geishas, and devastating betrayals here.
- Kamakura Buddha – Kamakura is a beach town, an hour away from Tokyo. The most notable is the giant bronze Buddha statue in Kōtoku-in temple that dates to the 13th century. You should also make best of your time with a hike through the forests to Hasedera Temple
- Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden – The grounds are made up of three different types of landscaped gardens: French, English and traditional Japanese and are lovely stroll through the many winding pathways or lounge on the emerald lawns to soak in some sun. Around 20,000 trees are spread throughout Shinjuku Gyoen including 1,500 cherry trees, making it an ideal place to witness the blooms in peak season.
- Ghibli Museum – is one of Japan’s most famous animation studios. They have produced many feature length films such as My Neighbor Totoro, Princess Mononoke, Spirited Away and Ponyo on the Cliff by the Sea.
- Meet the Geisha – Though not as popular as the Geishas of Kyoto, you can still manage this experience in the two neighborhoods of Kagurazaka and Asakusa, where you can enjoy geisha shows and geisha experiences.
- Tokyo Skytree – Tokyo Skytree is the tallest structure in Japan and the tallest tower in the world. It is a broadcasting and observation tower located in Sumida, Tokyo.
Best Places to Eat
- That said, the basics you must know are that Sushi, Ramen and Izakayas are a must try here. Sushi: Tokyo is home to the world’s largest fish market, Tsukiji Fish Market, so it’s only natural that it would have the world’s best sushi restaurants.
- Ramen: Tokyo is a ramen lovers’ paradise. You can find every type of ramen and every regional style in Tokyo.
- Izakayas: Japanese-style pubs, or izakayas, are restaurants that serve good beer and sake along with typical Japanese fare like sashimi, grilled fish, yakitori and vegetable dishes. They’re super popular with the after-work crowd.
Tokyo is one of the best shopping destinations in the world. More so, because it’s Tax Free. Head over to Ginza, the world-renowned shopping district, for major international labels including Chanel, Cartier and Bulgari. For those looking for more unusual or cutting-edge trends, the Harajuku and Omotesandō neighborhoods are the place to go.
Accommodation in Tokyo
About where to stay, this is personally one of the best blogs I have come across where the author has given a very organized district wise description with honest high and low points of that place.
Apart from that, you can also have a look at this review-based list for different hotels based on your location, preferences and budget.
You can rent Pocket WIFI device here. Internet can be your lifeline in this huge metropolis as navigating without google maps can be quite a challenge. It won’t be an understatement to say that they are an absolute necessity. You can also try a hand at going through Tokyo Subway Map for better clarity.
Some Japanese Vocab Never Harmed Anyone
Not many in Japan speak English. Therefore knowledge of basic Japanese words and phrases might come in handy. Feel free to use google translate app liberally here.
- Hello: Konnichiwa (Kohn-nee-chee-wah)
- Thank you (normal): Arigatō. (Ah-REE-gah-tohh)
- Thank you (less formal): Arigatō gozaimas (Ah-REE-gah-tohh goh-zahy-mahs)
- Thank you (informal): Dōmo (DOHH-moh)
- Yes: Hai (Hai)
- No: Iie (E-eh)
- Goodbye (long term): Sayōnara (Sah-yohh-nah-rah)
- Goodbye (informal): Ja ne (Jahh neh)
- Excuse me: Sumimasen (Soo-mee-mah-SEN)
- I’m sorry: Gomen nasai (Goh-men-nah-sahy)
- Is there someone here who speaks English?: Dareka eigo ga hanasemasu ka? (Dah-reh-kah ey-goh gah hah-nah-seh-mahs kah?)
- Help!: Tasukete! (Tahs-keh-teh!)
- Cheers!: Kanpai!(Kan-pie!)