With the Olympics 2020 location announced and sports enthusiasts eager to find out more about the host city of Tokyo, we have put together a list of all the stimulating things to see and do. A city brimming with eccentric culture, futuristic trends and extraordinary metropolitanism, from the Tokyo Skytree to the beloved Sumida river, you couldn’t even dream of a place with more impressive experiences and attractions. If you aren’t already dying to see the games in 2020, perhaps these 10 points will be enough to convince you,
1. Visit Tokyo Disneyland
The existence of Disneyland Tokyo is somewhat of a secret, though spanning 115 acres, it should really be a more familiar establishment. Opened in 1983, the theme park is the 4th most visited in the world and is impeccably run, spotlessly clean with a garnish of Japanese culture. Not just an attraction for kids, the theme park is open until 10pm so couples can have a romantic stroll through Magic Kingdom without children in tow and with day tickets costing a mere £40, it certainly is a substantial saving from visiting the US park.
2. Tsukiji Fish Market
Yes, fish market. But not just any. The largest wholesale fish and seafood market in the entire world. Whether you are a fan of fish or not, this is certainly something to witness. Separated in to two sections, the market is divided in to an inner auction and an outer market selling kitchen supplies and utensils. From the most costly caviar to the smallest sardines, the market handles an astronomical 400 species of seafood. Convinced? Visit the market at peak time 5.30am to witness chaotic auctioning and some serious spending.
3. Try a coke with tea and milk
When visiting the city, it is essential to try at least one bizarre culinary creation. The Double Tall Cafe is a perfect place to find some of the most eccentric dishes, including a rather odd concoction of coke with tea and milk. Though some people may not be too appeased by the delicacy, the cafe is also a wonderful place to sit and watch passers by. It’s also reassuring to know that the cafe serves an excellent frothy latte, perhaps more accustomed to the majority of visitor’s taste buds.
4. Visit the Meiji Shrine
Built in dedication to the spirits of Emperor Meiji and his Empress, this Shrine forms a rather large forested area within the city, located by Yoyogi Park. An approximate 100,000 trees make up the park and the fresh air and tranquil sounds make quite a change from the city surroundings. Visitors are welcome to partake in typical Shinto activities around the park such as writing out wishes on an Ema and making offerings. Unlike most wondrous tourist attractions, this Shrine boasts free admission and is open throughout the week.
5. Dinner and drinks in Ebisu
The most reputable location to go for a drink and enjoy some of the best grilled meat and vegetables in the city. With an array of small ‘izakaya’ in side street blocks, you will find the Ebisu location only a short distance from the train station and one stop from Shibuya. With extensive drink selections, one of the most renowned Japanese pubs is Saiki, which seats a maximum of 24 people on the floor. Aside from quirky seating arrangements, the menu is purely drafted in Japanese, so you’ll have to hope for the best when you order! Our advice would be to bring a small phrase book and hope for the best that you receive some of the raw vegetables with red miso dip.
6. Meet Hachiko the dog
The statue marks a story nearly a century old, of a professor and his loyal dog. After waiting diligently at the same spot every afternoon for his master’s return train home, nearly 10 years on, the dog, Hachiko also passed away and in memory of his loyalty, a bronze statue was raised in his honour. The landmark is now a famous meeting place and is also a great place to witness some of Japan’s most hip youth trend-setters get together.
7. Watch the sun set in to Mt Fuji
Climbing Mount Fuji is of course heralded as being one of the most incredible and unique experiences, and an absolute must when visiting Tokyo. However, if you want a room with a truly astounding view, you may instead want to consider climbing Mount Takao. From the summit of Mount Takao, you will be able to watch the sun set right in to the very caldera of Mount Fuji, one of the most sought after photographs in Tokyo. If the idea of sub-zero weather conditions don’t float your boat, return mountain cable cars run until 6pm from 20-26 December.
8. Explore haunted Tokyo
For such a metropolitan city constantly being built for the future, you’d be surprised to hear that there are a number of sites that are famously reported haunted. From sounds of wailing and sobbing at dawn to apparitions of decapitated heads, there are a number of tours that will be sure to creep you out. If you like to take an evening stroll, take a visit to Hakone Yama, a hill located in Toyama Park, formerly the location of the Army Medical College and Hospital. Rumour has it that bodies left over from experiments are buried here, perhaps the cause for bones continuously being unearthed and the sounds of sobbing and wailing prevailing throughout the night.
9. See the Imperial Palace
A park boasting 3.41 square km of garden and a large palace, this is of course the home and residence of the Emperor of Japan. If rulership isn’t your area of interest, the valued grounds exceeding the entire of California’s real estate should be enough to make you want to visit this incredible landmark. With the Imperial Palace Gardens being opened to the public 5 days a week, you will be able to fit this visit in to your schedule, the location being just a short distance from Tokyo Station.
10. Walk through Nakamise
Essentially the shopping street approach to Sensoji, the popular 7th Century Buddhist Temple. If you are planning to visit the extravagant temple, you will be pleased to know that your journey there will be equally as interesting. Visitors are welcomed by traditional, local snacks and souvenirs spread across the 89 shops on the street. If exploring the street and surrounding area of Asakusa on foot doesn’t sound tempting, you can take a ride on a rickshaw for 8000 Yen, around £50.
Tokyo can expect a big tourism bounce now that it has been awarded the 2020 Olympics. Here’s what you shouldn’t miss
1… GO UNDERGROUND
Most tourists visit Tokyo as part of a longer Japan holiday. The city can overwhelm if you arrive jetlagged from the airport. Best save it to last, when you can take it on, fresh and revived. Tokyo is beyond big. Think of it is as a series of smaller cities joined up, each with a station five times the size of a London terminus. With a good guidebook (see also gotokyo.org) and help from the hotel concierge, you can navigate the vast train and underground network by yourself. Or join other guests and hire a guide. Don’t take a coach trip: you’ll miss the buzz, and the fabled commuter show – trains packed with oceans of impeccably dressed office workers.
2… HIGH CULTURE
Tokyo’s version of South Kensington is Ueno – a district full of museums, including the National Museum of Western Art, a neat counterpoint to the V&A, our museum of Oriental art. The National Science Museum, Tokyo National Museum and Archaeological Museum complete the cultural rich list. Elsewhere, my highlights included the 1,400-yearold Sensoji red Buddhist temple in Asakusa, the 1,900ft Tokyo Sky Tree tower, and the many gardens with a teahouse and a lake.
3… EDIBLE ORIGAMI
Eat out in Japan and you join in a piece of ancient theatre. The second I crossed the threshold of a restaurant, a chorus of greetings arose. Then I took off my shoes. Why not? It keeps the place so much cleaner. And those rice paper windows? They shut out the glare, yet let in the light. I ate in a tiny sushi restaurant (there are hundreds) a counter in front of the chefs, drinking endless cups of Japanese tea, watching deft fingers conjure up edible origami. My departure was marked by another equally cheerful outbreak of goodbyes. In a different restaurant I witnessed office workers join in with chanting country musicians.
4… GINZA GLITZ
The Ginza shopping district is brash and lavish, like 5th Avenue, Regent Street and Times Square all mixed into one, only bigger and higher and with more neon lights, pulsing and sparkling at full wattage. The gilded centre is lined with huge department stores, flagship electronics shops, car showrooms and fashion boutiques to shame Paris. In one store I sampled a £31,000 massage chair. In the five-storey Sony Tower, I caught Jurassic Park in the plush movie gallery. Yet Ginza can be intimate and personal too. In an art and craft shop, I found an exquisite box for business cards, hand-made from paper, for under £10. They gift-wrapped it most meticulously, without me asking.
5… MAGIC MOUNTAIN
The one unmissable out-of-town attraction is Mount Fuji. The best place to take in its majesty is out at sea or from the Bullet Train heading south from Tokyo. They book tourists a window seat. I took a coach tour to the Gotemba Fifth Station, 7,500ft up. On the way, the sacred mountain rises above a patchwork of valleys and fields in a rare green corner of built-up Japan. You can take the train from Tokyo to Gotemba for nothing, using the Japan rail pass.
Leave town just one…for the natural wonder that is Mount Fuji
6… LOST & FOUND
I stayed in the Park Hyatt, where they filmed the movie Lost In Translation. It starts on the 39th floor of the Shinjuku Park Tower. After dinner in the New York Grill on the 52nd floor, I sat with a drink, like Bill Murray and Scarlett Johansson, mesmerised by an endless torrent of lights far below on the expressway. Non-residents are free to share the experience. Find other Lost In Translation locations at japan-guide.com/news/0003.html .