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Undeniably one of the world’s most exhilarating cities, Tokyo can be exciting, intimidating and a little overwhelming. However, with a bit of help from our local experts, you’ll have no trouble navigating your way around and getting into the vibe of this vibrant destination. Here are our top five things to do in Tokyo, handpicked by our local Tokyo tour guides.
Take in the view over Tokyo
Tokyo is a big city, but it’s not until you’re standing up high on one of the many observation decks that you can really appreciate the size of this massive metropolis. Tokyo Sky Tree is the tallest structure in Japan and offers breathtaking views that extend as far as the eye can see. Another must-see from the top (but a little harder to guarantee) is the iconic Mount Fuji. This shy mountain is often obscured by cloud or fog, so for visitors and locals alike it really makes your heart sing when you get a clear view of it off in the distance. Our favourite place is from the Peak Bar at the Park Hyatt (or from their stunning gym if you happen to be staying there) — on a clear day Mount Fuji seems so close that you could almost reach out and touch it.
Try all the food!
World-renowned chef, adventurous eater and television show host Anthony Bourdain doesn’t call Tokyo his favourite place to eat on Earth for nothing. Having said that, it can take a while to appreciate the vast variety of food that is traditional to Japan, as well as the endless seasonal and regional variations. There’s so much more to Japan’s cuisine than raw fish and rice. We’re diehard fans of yakitori — tasty skewers of grilled meats and vegetables that are the perfect snacks while out for a drink after work. The best area for yakitori is just a short walk from Yurakucho station — there are a lot of yakitori restaurants to choose from but our favourite is Teppei, which is just under the train tracks heading in the direction of Shimbashi station. We also have a sweet spot for taiyaki. These are fish-shaped pastries traditionally filled with a sweet red bean paste — but you can also find caramel, strawberry, chocolate and custard flavours.
The Ginza precinct has a well-deserved reputation as the power play for serious high-end shoppers in Tokyo, but locals generally prefer the Ometesando neighbourhood. There are still plenty of high-end shops — all the big brands plus some more interesting boutiques — but it’s all just a bit more genteel. For more casual wear, head over to Shibuya on the west side of the city or spend the day in Odaiba on the east side, where there are no shortage of gigantic malls and department stores catering to all ages and fashion tastes. (And of course, our local guides can take you on the ultimate shopping adventure on our Made In Japan tour, packed with authentic local arts, crafts and traditions!)
Watch to see what treasures you can find on a Made In tour in Tokyo!
Find Tokyo’s tranquil spots
Yes, believe it or not, quiet place do exist in Tokyo! A lot of people are intimidated by the thought of Tokyo — such a big city with so many people and so much activity. Sure, there is plenty of that frenetic energy if that’s what you enjoy — the bright lights of Akihabara, the busy Shibuya crossing, or the frenetic nightlife of Shinjuku — but there are a lot of neighbourhoods in central Tokyo where the pace is much more relaxed and laidback, and you kind of forget that you’re in one of the world’s biggest cities. Take a quiet walk through Yoyogi Park, visit some different art galleries, unwind in one of many modern coffee shops in Kiyosumi Shirakawa, or jump on a bike and meander around quiet back streets. Tokyo definitely has something for everyone.
Ride the rails
Really the only way to get around Tokyo is by using its fast and efficient public transport system. On first encounter, the public transport map can make your head spin. But there are English language maps readily available and with a bit of experience and bit of confidence, navigating your way around Tokyo’s train system is relatively straightforward. The game changer on Tokyo’s trains is the Suica card. This is a stored value card similar to those you’ll find in many cities around the world. You deposit the money on the card and then just touch in and out of the ticket gates — saves a lot of time at ticket machines and you don’t have to worry about whether you’ve correctly calculated the cost of your journey.
Tokyo may as well be the definition of the word ‘city’. The monumental capital of Japan is teeming with life, and if you don’t have a local to show you round you’ll probably miss most of it. Visit Tokyo with Urban Adventures to discover a slice of live in this mega-metropolis, and discover what it’s like to live in Tokyo. We’re especially infatuated with the cuisine, so if you’re foodie, pay attention!