There are few places on Earth like Tokyo. A cornucopia of vibrant lights, cloud-piercing skyscrapers and a constant buzz of energy. East meets West in a synergy that bonds the spiritual history of Japan with its enigmatic future. A visit to the worlds most animated metropolis will have you hooked, and you'll never want to leave.
Tokyo creates a unique contrast of modern city life and peaceful nature. Both of which are fundamental to wellbeing in Japan. The heart of the city is a bustling hub of buildings, pocked with tranquil areas of nature. Yoyogi park sits between Shinjuku and Shibuya with the majestic Meiji shrine at its centre. On a clear day, you can spot the epic peak of Mount Fuji from the tallest skyscrapers. Or Shibuya's astonishing newly erected viewing deck.
Japan is a gastronomic paradise, and the food is some of the best in the world. Shaping staple meals to perfection for centuries, trying every dish in Tokyo is one of the best ways to experience Japan. Ramen is a favourite, and you'll be hard-pressed to pick your favourite flavours once you've delved into the delicious broths on offer. Japan uses seemingly bland ingredients in imaginative ways that transform dishes from ordinary to extraordinary. Try the fan favourite okonomiyaki, and you'll never see cabbage in the same light again. Of course, don't forget to try sushi and sashimi in the country where it was born. Sushi pops up all over the world, but you've never tried sushi until you've had it delivered to your plate fresh from the hands of a professional sushi chef.
Japan has one of the most fascinating cultures in the world. Tokyo is a clash of contrasts, where traditional Asian values sit comfortably beside Western modernism. Tranquil shrines, museums and palaces are tucked neatly beside contemporary business districts, modern restaurants and technological advancements. History thrives alongside modern-day progress. One of the delights of the Japanese experience is the traditional onsen. Even in Tokyo, these heavenly baths can be found everywhere. It's a great way to delve into the foundations of Japanese customs. Experience their cuisine, everyday life, and their wellness rituals and you're one step closer to discovering the soul of Japan.
Shopping in Tokyo
Shopping is a major attraction in the fashion capital. Take a wander through the winding streets of Harajuku and you'll discover what cute, edgy Japanese fashion is really about. Shinjuku is one of the largest shopping and entertainment districts in Japan. You can find everything here, even weird things you didn't know you wanted until now. Go high end in Ginza or full nerd in Akihabara where the anime and manga lover is supreme. A good tip is to always place your cash on the tray at the counter and never directly to the cashier. It's not that they don't want to touch you. They're just weird like that. Tipping is also not expected anywhere.
Know before you go
Tokyo's transport system is perhaps the best in the world, though can feel confusing. You haven't visited Tokyo until you've spent a week lost underground in Shinjuku station. Once you get the hang of it, it becomes surprisingly easy and you'll adore the efficiency. Download Hyperdia to get up to date travel information on the go. Wifi is a rarity in the city, and unfortunately, you can't download Google Maps offline anywhere in Japan. It's helpful to download copies of the transport maps to find your way.
Buy a JR Pass (before you enter the country) to get a discounted rate on almost the entire transport network. It's also useful to pick up a Pasmo card for local trains and buses.
There's a big toilet shoe culture in Japan, so don't be surprised if you see a bunch of rubber shoes lined up inside the restroom. Many travellers are equally surprised and delighted by other toilet affairs. There are two kinds of toilet in Japan, the traditional Western-style, complete with an array of fun squirty buttons and bottom drying switches. The other is the squat toilet, bemusing western visitors since the dawn of time. There's usually at least one Western-style in every establishment if you can't quite figure it out.
Best Time To Visit Tokyo
Spring (March to April) is the most celebrated season in the entire country. The cherry blossoms (sakura) usually start in Tokyo around March 30. Viewing parties spring into action as the famous cherry blossoms decorate the many parks, rivers and recreational sites. The cherry blossoms bloom earlier in Tokyo, then move west across the country. So it's a good idea to start your trip in the city and follow the blossom.
Autumn in Tokyo is another captivating time to catch the colour changing nature. The cities parks burst into a thousand shades of gold, red, and yellow, and temperatures drop to a bearable level with warm days and less humidity.
It's best to avoid Tokyo in the height of summer, especially the Golden Week in August as it's one of Japan's biggest national holidays.
What To Expect
Planning a trip to Tokyo? Here are a few basic tips to get you started.
Currency - The official currency of Tokyo is the Japanese Yen
Language - The official language is Japanese. Many Japanese people speak basic English, and will generally go above and beyond to help. In preparation for the Tokyo 2020 Olimpics Japan is heavily investing in English education. You will find that more people are speaking English than even 5 years ago.
ATMs - ATM's in Japan are a little few and far between for tourists, but you can always find one in the 7-11 or Lawson. In recent years there are more and more cash maschines around Tokyo with English interface. Cash is still widely used in Japan. Cards like Monzo (MasterCard) will usually be accepted.
Plugs & Sockets - Japan uses the Type A plug with two flat pins. The standard voltage is 100v and some appliances will need a converter.
Safety - Japan is one of the safest countries in the world and Tokyo is no exception. It's safe to walk around, even at night. The shadiest areas of Tokyo are most likely safer than in your hometown.
Climate - Tokyo has a temperate climate. Winters are mild and see plentiful dry sunny days. Summers are hot, humid, and very wet victims of the monsoon season from September to October. Where heavy rainfalls and strong winds ravage the city. Spring and autumn welcome pleasant weather and a lot of clear days to enjoy all the weird and wonderful fun in Tokyo.