While most people’s idea of a holiday is at a beach resort on a remote island, I’m a city girl at heart and sand, palm trees and sunsets leave me cold. What will I do after day two? Would there be Wi-Fi? So it was love at first sight when I stepped onto the busy streets of Tokyo. It’s just like everyone says: I felt like I was in a scene from a futuristic film, surrounded by strangeness, ads blasting from gigantic display screens and trains zooming past at 270km/h. But it’s not all crazy. Drop by Senso-ji, an ancient Buddhist temple in Asakusa, where for a 100 yen ($1.10) donation, you can discover your fortune.
Don’t want to get squeezy with tourists? Try Meiji Shrine instead, which is just a 15-minute walk through the park. After all that spiritualism, chances are you’ll be hungry, and Tokyo boasts the most Michelin-starred restaurants in the world. Alternatively, tight budgets will be happy with a beef bowl at Yoshinoya (everywhere!). Once my stomach was happy, it was time to shop, and the best place for it is Shibuya 109, where you can find amazing pieces after a bit of a rummage. And don’t get me started on the street vending machines—an attraction in themselves—offering hot drinks, soups, ice-cream, bananas, souvenirs and even used underwear. Well, whatever takes your fancy.
Want to be in the beating heart of the city? Bed down at ibis Shinjuku. It’s just a five-minute walk from Shinjuku station which sees 3.5 million travelers pass through its gates daily, and the infamous Memory Lane where you can guzzle yakitori and beer for under $20. The spotless rooms may be small, but they’re big on personality with tiny touches like Shiseido toiletries, a choice of pillows and a great view (I was on the 9th floor). If Shibuya 109 is too much for you, a multi-storey Uniqlo is just a stone’s throw away, as are an Isetan and Takashimaya. Bonus: the hotel’s international breakfast buffet is just brilliant if you need an early caffeinated start to keep up with all the excitement.
- Moisturiser – The weather can be dry, especially during chillier seasons.
- Small Trash Bags – Littering is frowned upon in Japan, but strangely enough dustbins for general trash can be incredibly hard to find.
- Everything Kawaii – Have a cat-ear headband that you’re too shy to wear out in Singapore? Bring it to Tokyo, where no one will bat an eyelid.
Return flights with Singapore Airlines start from $1300, with a flight time of seven hours and 10 minutes. Rooms at ibis Shinjuku start at $195 per night on www.Ibis.com
By Sophie Hong, Cosmopolitan, May 2015