Linking eras with ease
Yoking past and future, Tokyo dazzles with its traditional culture and passion for everything new. From architecture to cuisine, this is a capital full of superlatives
service very seriously. Whether you’re inhaling a thick bowl of miso ramen noodles, sinking your teeth into some creamy tuna from the Tsukiji Central Fish Market or splashing out with a multi-course kaiseki meal of seasonal delicacies, you’ll often be struck by the care that goes into the humble art of eating here.
The Japanese workaholic stereotype is very true, but stroll through a neonlined row of Shinjuku yakitori joints on a Friday, or any cherry grove in spring, and you’ll see that people take pleasure very seriously here. There is ever-flowing sake, deep respect for heartfelt karaoke, and constant curiosity about how outsiders view this archipelago at the end of the world. From picnics to shot bars, Tokyo’s nightlife is a drinker’s delight.
Blade Runner city
buildings, overhead wiring and garish neon. Yet it has the moxie to build the tallest tower in the world on a foundation of reclaimed land and several bucking tectonic plates. Add one of the planet’s best masstransit systems and you have the perfect sci-fi cityscape.
Tokyo’s Top 5
1 Shinjuku nightlife The Shinjuku neighbourhood pulls you in and impresses with its scale and sheer variety. Where else in the world can you stand so completely enveloped by neon, flashing lights and the jangling soundtrack of pachinko (vertical pinball game) parlours and then, just a few blocks away, be among creaky wooden watering holes lit by the glow of just a few street lights? In Shinjuku you can sing karaoke to your heart’s content, catch the city’s best jazz musicians or dance the night away with drag queens. 2 Tokyo Sky Tree Opened this year, the Tokyo Sky Tree (tokyo-skytree.jp/en/) is the world’s tallest tower at 634m. This digital broadcasting monolith was built with a special anti-quake structure borrowed from Japanese pagodas. Two observation decks present a stunning panorama of the greater Tokyo area. The views are best at sunset and in the colder months when Mt Fuji’s peak pokes out above the distant mountains. 3 Shopping Where to begin? With the eyepopping, highly covetable fashions, the cutting-edge electronics or maybe the traditional artisan crafts? Whichever way you look at it, Tokyo is full of dangerously tempting shops. There’s literally something for everyone and even if it’s crafted in the wilds of Oita prefecture, odds are you can get it here in the capital. You don’t have to spend a fortune, though, to come away with an only-in-Tokyo treasure. And window-shopping alone provides a fascinating look into Japanese pop culture, craftsmanship and design. 4Meiji Jingu This Shinto shrine, Tokyo’s largest and most famous, feels a world away from the city. It’s reached via a long, rambling forest path marked by towering torii (gates). The grounds are vast, enveloping the classic wooden shrine buildings and a landscaped garden in a thick coat of forested green. Meiji Jingu (meijijingu.or.jp) is a place of worship and a memorial to the Emperor Meiji, but it’s also a place for traditional festivals and rituals. If you’re lucky you may even catch a wedding procession, with the bride and groom in traditional dress.