Tokyo

When I think about Tokyo, I wonder how it took me so long before I visited this great city for the first time. For a city that’s larger than New York, with close to 10 million inhabitants, the city manages to keep a certain level of calmness to compliment the cleanliness around you and the politeness of the Eddoko and Japanese. I guess I finally see what Tyler Brûlé has been fawning over for the last ten years.

Tokyo is one part bright lights and J-POP, blended with one part architectural marvels, one part cool neighbourhoods, one part shrines, and temples, topped up with endless shopping and fantastic food. As it’s medium- to long-haul from most destinations, even though you could easily come for a long weekend, a week would be recommended to find your feet and explore more than one neighbourhood.

Looking forward to what they’ll be offering for the 2020 Olympic games. #foodie #japanese #architecture #tokyo #brightlights #bigcity

For each city there’s a city map available that you can simply add to your Google maps and easily find your way around. Here’s the full map

Arriving

You will arrive at either Haneda or Narita airports. Either way, it’s pretty easy to transfer into the city using public transport for about ¥600 / €5. For most destinations you would need to transfer, so get a transfer ticket to the correct line that your destination is on. If you don’t or mess it up – don’t stress every station has several people around the exit points who will happily assist you to correct the fare.

Getting Around

The metro and train services are also the most accessible means of getting around, so get hold of a PASMO card that can be topped up for travel around the city. Public transport stops at midnight though, so be prepared for a cab ride home from the karaoke bar. When hauling one of the vintage-looking cabs, look for the red signs in the windscreen (available), while green suggests occupied. The doors open and close automatically – so no need to reach out to them.

Eat

This paragraph is first with good reason.

Uokin

JAPAN, 〒150-0002 TŌKYŌ-TO, SHIBUYA-KU, SHIBUYA, 3 CHOME−27−11, GEMS渋谷 2F

Owned by a restaurant group – these guys deliver a good selection of fresh favourites. Expect to see young advertising and creative types around.

Harajuku Gyoza-ro

JAPAN, 〒150-0001 TŌKYŌ-TO, SHIBUYA-KU, 渋谷区JINGŪMAE, 6 CHOME−6−2−4

They serve only two kinds of dumplings which you can have either steamed or fried, 2 euro for six pieces. Select some sides and finish with beer and sake. So uncomplicated. Bar-seating means it’s also great for single diners.

Kaoriya

JAPAN, 〒150-0013 TŌKYŌ-TO, SHIBUYA-KU, EBISU, 4 CHOME−4−3−10 センチュリーパーク 1F

A tribute to buckwheat (soba noodles). From snacks to tea, it’s all buckwheat. The environment is slick yet rustic Japanese.

Genki Sushi

24-8 UDAGAWACHŌ, SHIBUYA-KU, TŌKYŌ-TO 150-0042, JAPAN

Come here to combine the love of sushi with the love of robots, diners order from their own tablet and then pluck sushi from a moving conveyor belt at this Japanese chain.

Sometaro Okonomiyaki

2 CHOME-2-2 NISHIASAKUSA, TAITŌ-KU, TŌKYŌ-TO 111-0035, JAPAN

When you head out to Kappabashi street to go shop for kitchenware, be sure to stop at this authentic old Okonomiyaki place. Expect floor-seating. Avoid if not your thing.

AFURI

JAPAN, 〒151-0051 TŌKYŌ-TO, SHIBUYA-KU, SENDAGAYA, 3 CHOME−63−1, グランデフォレスタ 1F

Good old ramen ordered the classic way from a vending machine. Insert money, order ramen, wait for a place.

Sakura Tei

3 CHOME-20-1 JINGŪMAE, SHIBUYA-KU, TŌKYŌ-TO 150-0001, JAPAN

A laid-back, hidden-away place, open late and serving a great selection of teppanyaki, okonomiyaki, and other hot-plate delights. Great to hang out with a group of friends while snacking.

Drink

Even though a lot of drinking happens with food (izakaya for example), Tokyo offers several options focussed more around libations.

Sakurai Japanese Tea Experience

JAPAN, 〒107-0062 TŌKYŌ-TO, MINATO-KU, 港区MINAMIAOYAMA, 5 CHOME−6−23, スパイラルビル5F

When one thinks about Japan – tea comes to mind. This place lives up to its name, offering a real experience when it comes to the tea ceremony. The guys who own it not only roast their own tea, they also blend up some unique combinations of spirits for use in the evenings when Sakurai turns into a cocktail bar. Calm. Copper. Black. Water.

Oath

4 CHOME-5-9 SHIBUYA, SHIBUYA-KU, TŌKYŌ-TO 150-0002, JAPAN

Join the sound-obsessed crowd in this tiny bar-club-like environment with some hot electro beats.

アルバトロスジー

1 CHOME-1-7 KABUKICHŌ, SHINJUKU-KU, TŌKYŌ-TO 160-0021, JAPAN

The Albatross, located in one of the side streets in the legendary Golden Gai district is one of the famous, slightly ramschackled bars in this rare district. Also offers a makeshift rooftop terrace with a great view of the city lights.

Photo by Benjamin Hung on Unsplash

Shop

The shopping in Tokyo is so vast that there’s no easy way to approach it. Here’s a small selection of interesting options for a weekend shopping list

Kappabashi Kitchen Town

JAPAN, 〒110-0036 TŌKYŌ-TO, TAITŌ-KU, 台東区MATSUGAYA, 3 CHOME−3−18−2

This area is kitchen heaven. Absolutely everything you can imagine for both professional kitchens and private homes. From every imaginable type of ceramic to shops selling only chopsticks and streets dedicated purely to knives.

Omotesando Hills

JAPAN, 〒150-0001 TŌKYŌ-TO, SHIBUYA-KU, JINGŪMAE, 4 CHOME−12−12番10号

Have a walk through the beautiful side streets and the many small niche shops in the area.

無印良品 Found MUJI 青山

5-50-6 JINGUMAE, SHIBUYA, TOKYO 150-0001, JAPAN

The well known Japanese homewares company has a pretty extensive offering in their Tokyo stores, especially Shibuya, offering a wide range of fabulous products. Be sure to also head to the Muji FOUND store around the corner to get a peek of products around the world that caught Muji’s eye.

ビオトープ Biotop

4 CHOME-6-44 SHIROKANEDAI, 港区 MINATO-KU, TŌKYŌ-TO 108-0071, JAPAN

A nursery like no other, paired with a designer goods store.

Stay

There are plenty of hotels and traditional guesthouses to choose from in Tokyo. If you feel brave you can also go for an Airbnb. Japanese people tend to go out of their way to make your stay comfortable. Also be sure to ask about “Mobile wifi” which will make it much easier to have constant internet during your stay.

Also – be sure to research the area you would like to be in before choosing the hotel. This could make your stay a lot easier.

Trunk Hotel

Part of the Design Hotels group, they offer a hip, contemporary experience.

Park Hyatt Tokyo

If you’ve seen the film “Lost in Translation” and want to experience the same hotel – this is the one.

Ito Ryokan

A Ryokan is a traditional guesthouse. You should expect to sleep on the floor (on a futon roll) in a room furnished with tatami flooring and sliding doors. There’s normally access to a communal bath plus a complimentary Japanese garment called a yukata. There are several really nice ones.

Do

If you don’t have enough to do around Tokyo, here’s a couple of things worth heading out of town for.

Kōtoku-in

4 CHOME-2-28 HASE, KAMAKURA, KANAGAWA-KEN 248-0016, JAPAN

Boasts the second-largest Buddha statue in Japan (which is mainly made up of Shintu and nearly 50% Buddhism). You can also hike to the fox shrine close by.

Shinkansen from Shinagawa

SHINAGAWA, TOKYO, JAPAN

Japan offers the fastest maglev trains in the world. Take the bullet train to explore the rest of Japan.

Kenzō Tange – St. Mary’s Cathedral Tokyo

3 CHOME-16-15 SEKIGUCHI, BUNKYŌ-KU, TŌKYŌ-TO 112-0014, JAPAN

Some buildings don’t belong to a time or place. This is one of them. If you love architecture, this is an iconic piece of Tange’s work. Also, have a look at the Yoyogi Gymnasium.

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