Talking about Japan, there’s a place that always comes first to mind - Tokyo. Ever since Tokugawa Ieyasu started the Shogunate Edo Period here in 1603, Tokyo has been the capital of Japan and gradually developed into the largest city in Asia. Tokyo is a mega prefecture that comprises 23 special districts, 26 cities, 5 towns and 8 villages, including Izu Islands and Ogasawara Islands. It contrasts cutting-edge fashion and trends with restrained traditional culture, giving it its unique charm.
On your first visit to Tokyo, you might go to Tokyo Tower to enjoy the views, Shibuya to experience the world's busiest intersection, Shinjuku’s Kabukicho to indulge in the nightlife, and head to Sensō-ji temple for a photo in front of the renowned “Kaminarimon”. Not forgetting of course a day out exploring the world’s only Tokyo Disney Sea.
On your second trip to Tokyo, architecture fans might take a stroll in Omotesando, where many giants of Japanese architecture showcase their work, while manga and anime fans make the pilgrimage to Akihabara and vintage item collectors find little treasures in Shimo-Kitazawa.
There is also a great variety of art galleries and museums with various themes, all of which will make people who love art and culture never want to leave Japan. There’s always something new and exciting in Tokyo, no matter how many times you’ve been here.
What’s more, there’s the incredible shopping! Ginza and Omotesando is home to all the major luxury brands, while Harajuku and Shibuya symbolize the latest in Japanese street fashion. Shinjuku and Tokyo Station offer all kinds of fun and deliciousness. Here in Tokyo, you can find almost anything you wish for, as long as you have the bank account for it.
Tokyo has four distinctive seasons, each with its unique beauty. Cherry blossoms dance in the air in spring, magnificent fireworks shows light up the night in summer, golden ginkgo and red maple leaves glow in autumn, and Christmas illuminations sparkle in winter. Visitors can enjoy themselves all the year round.
With the relocation of Tsukiji being delayed until at least 2018, here’s your perfect opportunity to visit the world’s most famous fish market
There isn’t a seafood market in the world more famous than Tsukiji Market. Tsukiji is the largest seafood market in Japan, supplying 90% of the country’s seafood. In early 2016, Japan announced that the Tsukiji Market would be relocated to Toyosu and renamed Toyosu Market, much to the dismay of foodies around the world. But with the latest news that the relocation has been pushed back to at least February 2017, there’s still a chance to visit the original place with a history of over 80 years. The star of Tsukiji Market is undoubtedly the tuna. Here you can find not only the world’s best bluefin tuna, but also the world’s largest tuna auction every morning. Registration opens at the market before 5am, and it’s only open to the first 120 visitors, so if you want to see the auction, so we suggest getting in line around 3 or 4am.
There are dozens of famous restaurants in the market serving up fresh, affordable sashimi and sushi such as “Sushi Dai” and “Daiwa Sushi”. A sushi meal in these restaurants usually costs only 3,000-4,000 Yen, while a similar meal elsewhere is likely to set you back 10,000 Yen or more – it’s great value. As you can imagine, there is usually a long line at the popular restaurants, so it’s best to get up early if you want to taste the amazing seafood in Tsukiji fresh from the ocean.
Land of the rising Michelin stars
Japan has the most Michelin-starred restaurants in the world, and Tokyo has maintained its dominance as the world capital of Michelin-awarded restaurants for nine consecutive years. It’s the perfect place for foodies to expand their culinary experiences.
In the most recent version of the Tokyo Michelin Guide, 13 Japanese restaurants are rated three-star, and they provide mainly high-end Japanese cuisine featuring kaiseki as well as some molecular and French cuisine. There are also 51 two-star rated restaurants and 153 one-star restaurants. One thing to note is that some places only accept reservations in Japanese, so be sure to check in advance.
The most famous three-star Michelin restaurant in Tokyo is Sukiyabashi Jiro, which is where Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe feted U.S. President Barack Obama during his visit in 2014. Owner-chef Jiro Ono, who is over 90 years old, is referred by some as the “God of Sushi”.
The main restaurant in Ginza where he takes charge is usually booked solid a year in advance. Getting a seat there is so hard that most regular people will never get to try Mr Ono’s masterpieces. If you have Japanese friends who have friends in high places, this might be the time where you call in that favor.
Where fiction meets reality
If you are a fan of Japanese TV dramas, why not visit the places where your favorite scenes were filmed and go on a pop-culture tour! Tokyo Tower and Odaiba for example are a staple for date scenes, while Shibuya crossing and Yebisu Garden Plaza are usually places in the film where friends meet.
Anime fans can relive a popular scene in “The Garden of Words” in Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden, and explore Nakano where the story of “The Girl Who Leapt Through Time” took place. Fans of “Slam Dunk” should visit Kamakura, and Evangelion fans Hakone, where the anime drew plenty of inspiration from.
Rediscover your inner child at the Ghibli Museum
The Ghibli Museum in Mitaka is where Hayao Miyazaki’s amazing world comes to life. Designed by the legendary Japanese animator himself, the museum is a delight for both adults and children.
The museum is structured like a small maze, where you can find familiar scenes from the Ghibli universe, such as the castle watchhouse safeguarded by Totoro, and the giant mechanical troops in “Castle in the Sky” up on the museum’s roof.
Hayao Miyazaki’s original work studio has also been restored in the museum, where you can enjoy the behind-the-scenes materials, such as manuscripts of his works. Another treat is the unpublished animated shorts shown exclusively in the museum’s Saturn Hall. Whether you’re a fan or not, the Ghibli museum is a great experience for the whole family.