TokyoCopyright: Clement Souchet/Unsplash
TokyoTokyo's technological leaps and passion for everything new have made the rest of the world sit up and take notice. A city made of smaller cities, Tokyo's neighbourhoods are individual and unique in what each can offer, from cultural sights to vast shopping malls. Get ready for a whirlwind of modernity and tradition in the neon-lit Japanese capital.
The CityBefore you set your foot outside the hotel door, be aware of Tokyo’s complicated address system. Very few streets have names and instead are identified by numbers indicating building, block and area. 1-11-18, Shibuya, Shibuya-ku would therefore translate as the 18th building of the 11th block of the 1st area of Shibuya in Shibuya ward. Invest in a bilingual map of Tokyo and don’t hesitate to ask police for directions, as even the locals can get confused. Once you have grasped the navigation system, Tokyo is a delight to get around. The metro is super efficient, the city is clean and people are courteous and friendly. Though addresses may be confusing, Tokyo is divided neatly into 23 wards, each with a certain distinctive characteristic. Visit Asakusa for old-town charm and temples, Ginza for shopping, Mecca and Akihabara for electronics galore. Blend old and new to get a taste of Tokyo’s great diversity. Variety is Tokyo’s key. Few other world cities are as wonderfully idiosyncratic. International and local influences intertwine in cuisine, festivals, music, galleries, shopping and even accommodation. Bizarre and fast-moving, yet peaceful and intrinsically religious, Tokyo’s identity is above all, distinctly Japanese, despite existing as a world of its own.
Do & See
Whether you’re a techno buff or want to take in some more traditional Japanese sights and sounds, this city can offer it all. Visit splendid Shinto shrines or indulge in some shopping on Tokyo’s equivalent of Fifth Avenue.
Boasting more than 300.000 restaurants, cafes, and food stalls, the only problem when going for dinner in Tokyo is too much choice. Japanese food is famous for its clean and fresh taste, but here you can really delve into the depths of this oriental cuisine. Sample the best sushi before moving on to more adventurous fare in an izakaya or yatai street stall. High-end dining can be expensive, but in restaurants such as the New York Grill, there is no doubt that you are paying for the very best in terms of cuisine and, in the former, spectacular views. Many of the more pricey venues offer great deals for lunch, so it is worth making the most of these culinary delights earlier in the day. Book ahead for most places, especially during the weekends and watch out for a particular eating etiquette. Sticking your chopsticks into your rice vertically is a funerary custom!
Cafe culture is thriving in Tokyo, where novelties such as the manga craze have taken over many venues. In addition, the Japanese are caffeine fanatics and kissaten, literally, a "tea-drinking shop" that is also a coffee shop, has been set up on every corner to cater to this demand. During the past decade, Tokyo has seen the emergence of the 24-hour manga kissaten, which offers comic books, internet access, and even a place to sleep for cartoon addicted night owls. Manga, literally translated as "crazy drawings", total almost 40 per cent of everything published in Japan. Magazines can amount to 5 or 6 hours of reading time each, which perhaps indicates the need for around the clock access in manga cafes.
Bars & Nightlife
Most socialising done in Tokyo is away from home, hence the infinite number of venues that offer alcohol in the city, from the ubiquitous izakaya to the more exclusive glitzy bars. The nightlife in Tokyo has something to offer everyone. Whether you are looking for a hedonistic party, superclub sounds, or chilled-out beats, it’s all here for the taking. Lounge about or dance the night away at Tokyo's best clubs.
Shopping in this city has become more of an art than a simple pleasure. If you’ve got cash to spend then this is the paradise of all shopping paradises. Shopping malls and department stores abound and specific areas are often devoted to certain wares to make life easier. Roppongi is more than just hundreds of shops - it is a mini city of restaurants, clubs, cafés, cinemas, hotels and museums. It is where the expat crowd in particular, party, eat, drink, shop and hang out and is about as far from traditional Japan as is possible. Roppongi Hills, a mall comprising most of the above, is at the centre of this hive of activity and attracts a good percentage of Tokyo’s serious shoppers. Housing high street, boutique and designer brands, you can safely expect to find everything you’re looking for. . If you want to avoid more mainstream bookstores and spend some time looking for some hidden literary treasures, Kanda is where to go. Browse among the second-hand shops that line Yasukuni Dori and you’re bound to stumble upon a few gems. Good Day Books is Tokyo’s oldest and most famous used English book store and you can spend hours here among the 40.000 second hand and new copies.