Tokyo is both a prefecture and the capital city. It is the largest city in Japan with the greater Tokyo area also being the most populous metropolitan area on the planet. You can quite easily spend a day in Tokyo and question if you have seen a million people. Tokyo offers a wide range of districts to explore, and contrary to what we have read elsewhere, they all seemed perfectly safe and everyone we met was very welcoming. As you would expect there are restaurants serving all types of traditional Japanese cuisine, but I hope you like sea food. To get a real taste of Japan go to one of the small Izakaya’s that are popular in Shinjuku’s Golden Gai area. If Japanese food is not your thing don’t worry, there are hundreds of 7-11’s and Family Marts offering a large selection of western foods and if you are really stuck, there are well known western fast food chains.
You’ll find everything in Tokyo, it still upholds much of it’s traditional values but at the same time you’re never far from something weird and whacky! Despite the strong work ethic in whereby you’ll often see people leaving the office at 9pm, they still know how to have fun and there is plenty to see and do outside of work. Some of our favourites include:
Tokyo metropolitan government building:
Want a free spectacular view of Tokyo? Head up this building one evening to soak up one of the most beautiful skylines in the world. The high-rise buildings seem to glisten for miles and miles as far as you can see. There’s a 360 viewing platform up there so you can enjoy the city from every angle and even stop for dinner at the very reasonably priced ‘Good View’ restaurant that has amazing views but not so good food.
Another freebie that really encapsulates the hustle and bustle of Tokyo. Just stand and watch the herds of people at this crossing for 10 minutes, literally hundreds cross in every direction when the lights go green. It’s well worth a look at night as it’s located in an area around Shibuya station that’s home to some of the largest led screens in Tokyo.
For a completely surreal experience you have to visit a Tokyo cat cafe! We arrived thinking the place would be empty but to our surprise these places are really popular with the locals. You basically pay to have time stroking, feeding and playing with the tens of cats housed in the cafe. It’s something Japanese people apparently find very relaxing and use as a distraction from their hectic work schedules.
As with the rest of Japan there is an abundance of temples and shrines across Tokyo. Don’t miss the Senso-ji in Asakusa and the shrines in the Meiji Jingu Park. Get there early if possible as they become very busy as the day goes on.
If you want to be in the heart of Tokyo, we’d recommend staying in Shinjuku. It’s a lively part of the city with plenty of shops, bars and restaurants. Prices are a little higher for your typical hotel but if you book in advance you shouldn’t pay more than £30 per night. For the budget traveller there are the famous capsule hotels dotted around Tokyo, most of these are single ‘rooms’ in the region of £15 per night but a handful of them do offer doubles. Be aware that many of these capsule hotels have shared communal bathrooms, and no swimwear is allowed, we found out the hard way!
A lot of people say Tokyo is expensive when it comes to eating out but we can’t really say we noticed. A typical meal in a Japanese restaurant will set you back about £10 per person. Prices do vary though, the side streets are often much cheaper and actually serve tastier food. There’s a lot of fish as you’d expect but you don’t have to walk around for long to find he likes of Italian pizza or an American steakhouse if you’re all sushi’d out. There’s also convenience stores literally on every corner in Tokyo that we found to be extremely cheap, you can pick up sandwiches, pastries and hot snacks. Perfect for the fussy eater.
Getting around Tokyo is a breeze! They have one of the best subway systems in the world, not only is it immaculately clean but it runs like clockwork. A typical day pass that allows you unlimited travel across the city costs in the region of £5 which is a bargain considering the size of Tokyo and how much you can squeeze into one day by hopping around on the subway.