Enjoy a trip to charming and enthralling Tokyo
Packing in everything from the bizarre to the breathtakingly beautiful, Japan’s capital Tokyo is far from your typical city break, but its charming and enthralling vibe will leave you truly enchanted.
Located on the Japanese island of Honshu, Tokyo has a long and complex history, which has seen the city develop from a small fishing village called Edo to the most populous metropolitan area in the world today.
In the early 17th century, the feudal military government of Japan – known as the Tokugawa shogunate – based itself at Edo Castle, making Edo a prominent political centre. It grew to become one of the most densely populated cities in the world by the mid-18th century.
At the time, Japan’s imperial capital was Kyoto, some 500 miles west of Edo. But following fall of Edo and the Meji Restoration – and the resulting collapse of the shogunate – in 1868, the imperial capital moved to Edo, which was then renamed Tokyo – literally meaning ‘eastern capital’.
But it’s not been an easy ride for Tokyo since then. The city has had to endure devastating natural and man-made disasters, including the Great Kanto earthquake in 1923 and sustained bombing during the Second World War.
As a result, much of today’s Tokyo has been constructed as part of the redevelopment following these events, with modern sights including the world’s tallest tower – Tokyo Skytree – the first Disney park to be built outside of the USA, and the jazzed-up National Stadium, given a multi-million-pound makeover in preparation for hosting the delayed 2020 Olympic Games.
When it comes to holidays in Tokyo, the capital of the Land of the Rising Sun has everything you would imagine. With friendly locals, delicious – and sometimes dubious – cuisine, bright lights, late night karaoke bars, stunning scenery, religious shrines and temples, and no shortage of quirky and crazy things to do, Tokyo has the lot. But even knowing this, it somehow still catches you by surprise.
There are plenty of ways to ease yourself in gently to what Tokyo has to offer, but we’d recommend jumping straight in at the deep end with a visit to Robot Restaurant. Unlike any eatery you’ll have ever been to before, the modest bento meal is simply a side order to the main course – a show featuring giant robots, flashing lights, lasers and booming music.
To get the whole picture of the city head to the top of Tokyo Skytree, while back at ground level, another excellent – if somewhat different – vantage point can be enjoyed from the infamous Shibuya Crossing. A road crossing doesn’t sound like much of a tourist attraction, but if you want to gain the full Tokyo experience, it’s a must. In the heart of the business district, an estimated 2,500 people cross the junction at any one time, heading to and from multiple directions.
If crowds are your thing, then you’re bound to love Disney Resort. Just a short drive or train ride out of the centre, it comprises two parks – Disneyland and DisneySea, each of which is a day out in its own right.
Along with the bright lights and modern attractions, Tokyo, like the rest of Japan, is steeped in history, culture and tradition. The Edo Tokyo Museum is the perfect place to learn more about the city’s Edo period mentioned above, while the Imperial Palace, home of the Japanese Emperor, and Sensō-ji temple are ideal for culture vultures.
If you’re not too worried about your modesty, factor in a visit to a traditional onsen too, for a real Japanese experience, or try to time your visit with one of the city’s major sumo tournaments in January, May and September.
Beyond Tokyo’s boundaries, there are a number of unmissable days out within easy reach.
Nearby, the city of Yokohama is home to spectacular sights such as the Yokohama Landmark Tower, Sankeien Garden and the Shin-Yokohama Ramen Museum, while ski resorts and the stunningly beautiful Mount Fuji and its surrounding lakes are all just a train ride away.