- Local Time
Prepare to get lost in Japan’s capital city, where addresses are notoriously tricky to parse. But whatever you’re seeking, it’s here: sleek modern architecture and venerable shrines; frenetic neon–lit streets and serene onsens; Michelin–starred restaurants (the world’s densest concentration) and slurp–and–go ramen.
Where to Stay
- The serene lobby at Trunk (Hotel) in Tokyo, Japan.Trunk (Hotel)For the co-working space
- Minimalist, sunlit rooms with two beds at Claska in TokyoClaskaFor the Japanese decor
- Dining room of the Conrad Hotel restaurant in TokyoConrad TokyoFor a luxury business trip
- The Tokyu Stay Shinjuku lobby is a modern and well lit spaceTokyu Stay ShinjukuFor the budget-friendly rates
- Complimentary Japanese sandals and fans in the suites at the Four Seasons Tokyo at MarunouchiFour Seasons Tokyo at MarunouchiFor the family-friendly perks
Eat & Drink
Grilled skewers at Jomon Roppongi For killer kushiyaki, you can’t top Jomon (hint: their Roppongi outpost is easier to find than their semi–hidden location in Shibuya). Gizzards, tongues and tails are on offer here, but there is plenty of top–notch Japanese bar fare for the less adventurous. Wash it all down with shochu or sake.
Cocktails and Kill Bill vibes at Gonpachi The courtyard–style interior of this restaurant was the inspiration for the House of Blue Leaves, the fictional location where the Bride and the Crazy 88 (O Ren Ishii’s personal army) duke it out in Quentin Tarantino’s Kill Bill: Volume 1. The menu includes classics like grilled skewers and tempura – and affordable cocktails – with vegan and halal options available.
Noodle slurping at Rokurinsha This busy noodle bar specializes in tsukemen, a popular style of ramen in Tokyo, where a bowl of plain noodles is served next to a rich soup. Dip your noodles in the broth, slurp, and repeat until you’re finished or ready for a noodle top up. Hidden in the basement of Tokyo station, this nondescript ramen shop is a local favourite so expect wait times to reach up to 40 minutes.
Michelin–starred classics at Shigeyoshi With an ever–present smile on his face, chef Kenzo Sato puts together a traditional multi–course kaiseki dinner made from local ingredients. The seafood–heavy menu is seasonal, but expect creative concoctions like cherrystone clam and wild mushroom soup topped with savoury custard.
High–end sushi at Sushisho Masa There are seven seats and no menu (except for the sake list) at this restaurant in Roppongi. Let chef Masakatsu Oka and his apprentices guide you through an extensive tasting–menu featuring over 40 sushi pieces, such as thinly–sliced fatty tuna with wasabi and salt–grilled anago conger eel. Book reservations well in advance.
Wallet–friendly sushi at Tsukiji Aozora Sandaime This sushi restaurant offers an upscale dining experience without making an enormous dent in your budget. Try the bright red tuna sashimi and the raw prawn nigiri, served on a pillow of rice.
Afternoon pick–me–up at Fuglen Tokyo Fuglen stands out on the Tokyo coffee scene, thanks to its espresso and its decor, an eclectic mix of dark teak wood, mid–century furniture and vintage paraphernalia. It’s the perfect spot for an afternoon pick–me–up and a quick bite after visiting the nearby Meiji Shrine, one of Tokyo’s most popular attractions.
Cocktails at Gen Yamamoto Presiding over a counter crafted from a 500–year–old slab of mizunara oak, Gen Yamamoto is one of Tokyo’s most famous bartenders. The cocktail menu at this eight–seat bar showcases national ingredients like Nagano quince, Shizuoka wasabi and Gunma strawberry.
What to Do
Over–the–top entertainment at Robot Restaurant The draw here is the spectacle, not the food. Expect to see all the Japanese clichés in a 90–minute blast of pyrotechnic silliness: samurai swordplay, giant monster battles, taiko drumming and, of course, robots. With a pop and techno soundtrack, it’s an experience that plays to tourists but is nevertheless utterly Tokyo.
Manga and cocktails at Daikayana Tsutaya Books Browse books, magna and magazines in one of the city’s largest bookstores (it spans three buildings). The award–winning modernist complex is worth a trip just to see its basket–weave façade. The Anjin Library & Lounge offers an on–site cocktail bar and a dining menu.
Cherry–blossom selfies at Chidorigafuchi Park Hanami, literally meaning “flower viewing,” refers to the period between March and April when people all over the nation stand in awe of Japan’s pink cherry blossoms. For a magical hanami experience, rent a boat at Chidorigafuchi Moat and paddle through the sakura–covered waters surrounding the Imperial Palace.
Art without the crowds at Nezu Museum This gem in upscale Minami–Aoyama offers a quieter alternative to the bustling Ueno museum district. Nineteenth–century railway tycoon Nezu Kaichirō’s collection of premodern Japanese and East Asian art was unusually broad, ranging from sculpture and calligraphy to ceramics and armour. Architect Kuma Kengo’s building and pristine Japanese garden are worth the visit alone.
Minimalist housewares at Found Muji Muji’s creative team scoured the world, amassing mainstay housewares that fit the Muji philosophy of well–crafted minimalism. Recent examples include Terracotta dinnerware, glass sake bottles and Tokyo–grown cypress trays.
Picture–perfect running route at the Tokyo Imperial Palace The five–kilometre trail around the Imperial Palace is a favourite for runners from dawn to dusk. Soak in the views of Edo Castle before stopping at the Runbase, near the Takebashi subway station, where change rooms and showers are available.
Capsule collections at United Arrows Known for its elegant take on wardrobe essentials, quality craftsmanship and collaborations with big names like Adidas, this Japanese retailer has over 35 stores nationwide.
Crêpes and Hello Kitty in Harajuku Make like a local in the kawaii mecca and enjoy a sweet crêpe from Marion Crêpes on Takeshita Dori, the neighbourhood’s main street. Then head to Kiddy Land, one of the city’s largest toy stores, and check out the floors that are dedicated to Hello Kitty and Snoopy.