The city of efficiency, cleanliness and technical advancement. Japan has found a solution for everything; toilets, road crossings, tube stations etc. In Tokyo you will be impressed from the moment you step off the plane.
We wanted the fastest route into Tokyo city centre so opted for the Narita Express, not as fast as the name would suggest, the journey takes just over 1hr to Shinjuku central station. Whats great about the ride is that you will witness changing scenery as you pass the rural, suburban, and urban landscapes. The train also has wifi the whole journey, so you’ll be able to check in on the rest of the world and document your journey.
Free walking tours
Determined to break the back of our jet lag immediately, we ventured out with our friends on a 1 hour Asakusa free walking tour, aka the old town, guided by two lovely hosts. Be sure to head up to the top of the tourist centre, which you will find on the opposite side of the road to the Asakusa gate. Here you will get a great view over the city – to the right Skytree stands at an impressive 634m, the world’s highest free-standing broadcasting tower, to the left you see the entire length of the Asakusa gate, filled with market stalls selling all types of touristy bits and bobs.
Asakusa gate is steeped in Buddhist traditions which it is important to respect whilst there. Be sure to stand at the well and bathe in the rich smoke coming from the incense sticks. this a cleansing process which is meant to clean you of your bad aura and prepare you for prayer. There is another 2 steps, so be sure to watch the locals and read the signs to follow the process correctly.
A highlight of the trip for me was the famous Shibuya Crossing, the worlds busiest intersection with thousands of people crossing every other minute. Be sure to take your camera and grab a coffee at Starbucks on the 2nd floor of the Q-Front building. Whilst you slurp on your coffee, you’ll witness below you what looks like a colony of ants swam in different directions and just as fast clear, leaving the road empty for the cars to pass. Shibuyu is exactly how I imagined Tokyo; loud, bright, and busy its a complete sensory overload.
I loved the Imperial Palace its another must see whilst in Tokyo, easy to get to on the Tozai Line stopping at Ōtemachi. The impressive landscape gives rise to huge skyscrapers in the distance as it sits in the middle of the business district. The stark contrast of beautiful gardens and temples against the back drop of tall towers is quite the spectacle, so be sure to have your camera at the ready. However, don’t be surprised not to see a palace, as the inner grounds are only open to the public on Jan 2nd and Dec 23rd.
If you’re seeking views across the city like my husband then be sure to head to Tokyo Tower, Skytree or Roppongi Hills. I recommend doing these both in the day and evening, as the city comes into its own at night. I was amazed at how vast the city is, 360 degrees of city which goes on and on, its never ending.
Something I’d be dreaming of before we even left for Japan was Ramen. I’ve had it in other places; London, Stockholm and Amsterdam but nothing prepared me for the traditional restaurant we stumbled upon in Shibuya, 亜寿加. You won’t understand anything on the menu, as its all in Japanese, we just looked and pointed at our nearest neighbours dish. OMG, the flavour is to die for! I was literally in Ramen heaven, every slurp of this exquisite soup was music to my hungry stomach. Make sure you do slurp and make plenty of noise, this is a compliment to the chef, I have never eaten noisier.
If you’re a Kill Bill fan then be sure to visit Gonpachi Nishi-Azabu for dinner, in the swanky Monato region. The atmosphere in the restaurant is great, the chefs greet every single guest like a celebrity in a chorus of big cheers, which is sure to make you feel welcome. If its you or one of your friends/family/partners birthday, I definitely recommend you tell the waiters, you will not be disappointed. I will leave the surprise but lets just say its EPIC! The menu offers something for everyone, good food but not amazing. It is pretty expensive for what it is, so you’re basically paying for the experience.
If you’re a big foodie, as my friends are then I recommend opting Oishii Tokyo food tour, which gives you the true local experience. The groups are small and intimate, consisting of no more than 7, the guides are English speaking and super friendly. Located around Ebisu a trendy neighbourhood in Shibuya-ku, you’ll sample some of the best local cuisine in local hangouts which is an experience in itself.