With so much to see and do, Tokyo can be described as overwhelming for first time visitors. Nevertheless, the city never fails to leave a lasting impression thanks to the sheer range extraordinary experiences it has to offer. What is especially exciting about Tokyo is the way it contrasts the past with the future; one minute you can be exploring the wonders of a historic temple or shrine, and the next you can be on top of an ultramodern skyscraper, or navigating your way through one of many uniquely themed restaurants and bars that the rest of the world has yet to catch on to. Adventure addicts prepare to fall head over heels for your new favourite city.
This metropolis certainly has no shortage of photo spots. For big city views visit The Tokyo Skytree, Japan’s tallest building across two huge observation decks. Prefer a cocktail in front of the glistening city? Head over to the Ritz Carlton’s 45th floor bar and kick back with live jazz. The Shibuya Crossing is said to be the busiest intersection in the world and is definitely one to capture on video as hundreds of people scramble from all directions. Finally for picturesque Japanese scenery, Shinjuku Gyoen originates from the historic Edo period and is covered in beautiful plants, trees and traditional architecture. The Meiji Shrine in Harajuku, dedicated to Emperor Meiji and Empress Shoken is a visual masterpiece and for those who want to see the cherry blossoms in spring, Yoyogi Park is a great spot to catch those pink petals.
The weird and wonderful
Tokyo is famous for the bizarre and that can come in many forms. In Shinjuku you’ll find the Robot Restaurant, a cabaret show of monsters and giant robots, and in Roppongi you can have a coffee with a prickly little hedgehog in the Harry Café. Want your coffee without animals crawling around your ankles? Then check out the Reissue Cafe in Harajuku where latte artists can put almost any design or image on the foam of your cup (we decided to pay tribute to Melanie B).
Shoppers won’t know where to begin as Tokyo is a major force in retail! Burn that yen (1 Dirham = approx 31 Japanese yen) in Harajuku for trendy and vintage gear (be sure to visit Takeshita Street which draws in crowds of young fashionistas). Omotesando is home to boutiques from Louis Vuitton to Prada, as well as Japanese designers such as Comme Des Garcons. A great place for gifts is Tokyo Hands in Shibuya, which sells just about everything imaginable under one roof.
If your new dress needs to make an appearance, then bring her to lunch at Piacere by Tokyo Station within the Shangri La. It is one of the hottest lunchtime spots in Tokyo, with breathtaking views over the city. Bar Ben Fiddich in Shinjuku is a pretty cool place to head to in the evening, there’s no menu – just tell the bartender what you fancy and he will whip up a special creation just for you. For something casual head over to the Tomigaya area, which is an emerging hipster neighbourhood that the tourists have yet to discover. Here you’ll find Fuglen Tokyo who serve the most amazing crafted cocktails including their famous ginger daiquiri.
Where to stay
The Imperial Hotel is Tokyo’s legendary hotel which was founded in 1890 and has hosted some of the most famous people in the history including Margaret Thatcher and Babe Ruth. Even Queen Elizabeth II popped by for tea once. It oozes royal extravagance from the lobby chandeliers right up to your room which comes with gorgeous traditional Japanese touches. The hotel is right by landmarks such as the Imperial Palace grounds and Hibiya Park so expect stunning views. The Imperial is known for the finest service in Japan, with kimono clad guest attendants on call to attend to your every need. The wellness centre has an indoor onsen (hot spring), for a wonderful soak in mineral rich waters.
• Like Dubai, Japan has a very low crime rate, so the city is extremely safe for night time strolls
• Japan is a cash society, so unless you’re at a hotel or a fancy restaurant, always have cash with you
• Eating or drinking while walking or when riding on public transport frowned upon, so if you’re peckish pop into a café
• Talking loudly on the phone on public transport and many public areas are also a no-no, so save those bragging calls for when you’re back at your room
• Tipping is not common practice in Japan, and in some cases considered rude, so don’t do it
• Avoid the trains during the morning rush hours (weekdays, from around 7am-9am), where commuters are packed with every inch of the carriage. Treat yourself – take a taxi
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