Tokyo is a mammoth metropolis rich in culture, attractions, entertainment and shopping opportunities.
With numerous historic temples and shrines sharing space with futuristic-looking skyscrapers, it is a city where ancient and modern meet, where its people hold fast to Japanese culture and traditions even as they embrace modern technology.
The capital of Japan is also home to an abundance of gorgeous bars, hotels, museums and shopping outlets. Fancy a night out in town? Roppongi and Shinjuku are two of the most vibrant destinations for round-the-clock nightlife. Looking for a tranquil space to chill? Try Ueno-onshi-koen Park – more commonly known as Ueno Park – in Taito Ward or the Imperial Palace in Chiyoda Ward. If fancy hotel bars and boutiques are more your thing, then Ginza is sure to please.
Whatever your interests, Tokyo has the means to make for an unforgettable experience. Say ‘konnichiwa’ to your new obsession.
100v; sockets are two-pronged, compatible with electrical plugs that have two non-polarised flat pins – which also fit into North American sockets.
When to go
The best times to visit are spring (March to May) and autumn (September to November), when the temperatures and parks are perfect. The Japanese, who love dressing up, celebrate Halloween (October 31) in a big way, so if you’re in the city then, head over to Shibuya Crossing (main photo) at Halloween weekend to witness the frenzy. The summer months of July and August are when heat and humidity are at their peak.
Travel peak periods
Spring is sakura season, which is when tourists flock to the city. The first blossoms in Tokyo typically appear in late March, coming into full bloom in the first week of April. Being in Japan during cherry blossom season is a lot of fun: You’ll witness the nation’s obsession with all things pink – from decorations to frappuccinos – and both locals and tourists alike gathering at parks (above) and other public areas for hanami (cherry blossom viewing) parties.
Tourist transport passes
The city of Tokyo is well connected by public transport. You can purchase a prepaid Pasmo or Suica card at convenient stores and train stations. This can be used for travel on the subway, trains and buses, and can be topped up as and when.
NEXT: Hotels →
Value for money
Luxury Capsule Hotel Anshin Oyado, in Shinjuku and Akihabara, boasts pods with Wi-Fi, LCD TV screens, headphones and comfortable Simmons mattresses. Toiletries, beverages and shaving kits are complimentary, and there’s also a man-made onsen for soaking in.
Experience warm and personal hospitality at traditional Japanese inn Kimi Ryokan in Ikebukuro. There are 38 rooms with neatly arranged tatami mats and futons; bathrooms are shared. Socialise with other travellers at its rooftop terrace and communal lounge.
Conveniently located in the heart of Shibuya, Hotel Unizo Tokyo Shibuya offers minimalist rooms with subtle elements of Japanese design. There is also a women-only floor.
Equally close to the action is JR Kyushu Hotel Blossom Shinjuku, which is about a three-minute walk from the busy Shinjuku station. A deluxe twin room is 38 sq m – a generous size by Tokyo standards. Wheelchair-accessible rooms are also available.
For pure luxury, look no further than The Ritz-Carlton, Tokyo. This five-star stay transports you back to the days when hotels exuded pure glamour. There are five types of rooms and 11 different suites to choose from, the most lavish being the 307 sqm The Ritz-Carlton Suite (above), which affords stunning views of the Imperial Palace garden and beyond.
Another opulent five-star option is Shangri-La Hotel, Tokyo, which occupies the top 11 floors of Marunouchi Trust Tower Main, near Tokyo Station. The rooms and suites here are gussied up with contemporary Asian artworks and rich touches such as handwoven textile headboards, while bathrooms look out to envy-inducing views of the city.
NEXT: Dining →
Value for money
For an introduction to quick and tasty conveyor-belt sushi, head to Genki Sushi. Here, a moving belt serves up classic sushi with slices of sashimi as well as creations such as crab cream croquette at affordable prices.
For some of the city’s best tsukemen (noodles served with a separate bowl of dipping broth), head to Mensho Tokyo. The eatery’s thick and silky hand-made noodles hold the unctuous lamb broth well, making for a decadent treat.
Tsuchiya (5-5-6 Nishishinjuku, Shinjuku) specialises in okonomiyaki (above), a savoury pancake loaded with nagaimo (a type of yam), cabbage, eggs and other toppings. Diners get to cook their own on a hotplate.
Tucked away on the rooftop of an office building in Daikanyama, Hacienda del Cielo serves Mexican classics such as quesadillas and Mexican chorizos, along with addictive frozen margaritas.
Pay a visit to two Michelin star L’Effervescence, where owner-chef Shinobu Namae fuses French and Japanese culinary techniques. As expected from a restaurant hailed as one of Asia’s best, every dish here is a work of art.
Helmed by chef-owner Yoshiaki Takazawa, Takazawa – which earned a spot on S. Pellegrino & Acqua Panna’s Asia 50 Best Restaurants 2017 list – specialises in intricate French-Japanese fusion creations. The restaurant seats just 10 guests in a warm, intimate environment; Takazawa works in an open kitchen, while his wife, Akiko, entertains guests. The standout dish here is the ratatouille, a mosaic-like terrine of different types of vegetables.
NEXT: Bars →
An offshoot of a design-focused bistro/bar in Oslo, Norway, Fuglen Tokyo serves coffee by day and finely crafted cocktails from 7pm – try the delicious Ginger Daiquiri. The space, which oozes ’50s and ’60s Norwegian charm, is situated in hipster neighbourhood Tomigaya.
The Black Bar, housed within The Lounge by Aman (above) in Aman Tokyo, which occupies the top six floors of the 38-storey Otemachi Tower, is one of the most fabulous places to be seen in Tokyo. The black-themed cocktails and appetisers are more than Insta-worthy; creations include the Aman Black Espresso Martini and the Black Rum Mojito, and the black-garlic baguette toast and crab cakes with black tomatoes respectively. Finish with a side of dessert.
Gamers will love 8bit Cafe, a video-game-obsessed bar with retro Super Nintendo consoles on which you can play games such as Dr Mario – it has an extensive collection for you to choose from. Snap a picture of yourself with its giant Game Boy centrepiece and coo over the memorabilia. The nostalgia-filled space is right by Shinjuku-sanchome Station.
NEXT: Shopping →
Omotesando, one of the busiest fashion districts in the city, is where you’ll find a wide, tree-lined shopping avenue dazzling with the boutiques of high-end labels such as Prada and Comme des Garcons. It is also home to the wonderfully designed Omotesando Hills mall (above), packed with even more luxe boutiques, an art gallery and gourmet restaurants. If you’re looking for a covetable art-inspired gift, check out the MoMA Design Store – the first outpost of the design fan’s haven in New York. It’s well curated, with everything from children’s toys to designer homeware.
Not far from Omotesando is Harajuku’s famous Takeshita Street, packed with all kinds of shops, stalls and cafes frequented by the city’s youth. Expect to find plenty of cute fashion accessories, sweaters emblazoned with slogans, and phone covers. Fuel up on crêpes stuffed with fruit and cream, and whole cheesecakes. Channel your inner Harajuku girl – or boy – by purchasing a head-turning outfit at ACDC Rag, which is crammed with everything, from Gothic Lolita to punk styles.
Don Quijote can be described as a store with just about everything – think of it as Japan’s answer to Target. Spend hours here browsing for everything from action figures and cosplay costumes to cosmetics and second-hand Louis Vuitton bags. There are branches nationwide.
NEXT: Attractions →
Tokyo Skytree is a TV broadcasting tower and one of the most famous landmarks in Tokyo. Standing at 634m, it is the tallest building in Japan, and its two observation decks boast spectacular views of Tokyo. At its base, you’ll find a shopping complex and aquarium.
Despite being set in the heart of one of the city’s most hectic districts, the 58.3ha Shinjuku Gyoen (above) is one of the prettiest and most popular parks around. It originates from the Edo period, and showcases traditional Japanese architecture and landscaping, along with stunning flora such as cherry blossoms in season, and sycamore and tulip trees.
Another spot for a picturesque stroll is the Meiji Shrine in Harajuku, dedicated to the deified spirits of Emperor Meiji and Empress Shoken. Hewn from the wood of Japanese cypress trees, the shrine sits in the middle of an exquisite forest garden. Entry is free.
NEXT: Experiences →
Visiting an animal cafe is definitely high on any tourist wish list. Japan offers options beyond cat cafes, which have caught on around the world in recent years. See juvenile hedgehogs up close at Harry in Roppongi, or check out feathered nocturnal creatures at Owl Village in Harajuku.
When you’re done taking selfies with cute critters, turn your camera towards your cup of coffee at Reissue Cafe. Here, baristas who are experts in latte art can froth just about any design onto your flat white (above) – even an image of yourself and adorable 3-D cats.
No trip to Tokyo is complete without a night of karaoke, which is a favourite pastime of the locals. The big chains such as Joysound and Big Echo offer English songs, along with a range of food and beverage packages.
NEXT: Essentials →
Singapore Airlines flies twice daily non-stop from Singapore to Tokyo Narita, and three times daily non-stop from Singapore to Tokyo Haneda
By James Wong, SilverKris
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