24 hours in Tokyo

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The archetypal bustling Metropolis, Tokyo effortlessly blends contemporary wonders with traditional sensibilities.


It has become almost clichéd to say it, but this is a city where you actually do find ancient temples beside glistening skyscrapers; a city where family-run restaurants and traditional craftsmen still thrive alongside high finance and high-tech business. Although home to 13 million – 35 million if you count the entire Greater Tokyo area – there’s more to Tokyo than its trademark crowds and neon-lit streets. With city-centre parks and gardens such as Shinjuku-gyoen andHama-Rikyu, Tokyo does green and tranquil just as well as it does high energy. With sites such as the Imperial Palace and Senso-ji Temple, it wears its rich history with justifiable pride. Then there’s Tokyo’s position as the world’s culinary capital (sorry, Paris), the city’s restaurants having received twice as many Michelin stars as any other.

The upshot – blink and you will miss something special.

Start with the frenetic dawn tuna auctions at Tsukiji Market, the world’s largest wholesale seafood market. Afterwards, wander the outer market’s colourful stalls and grab breakfast at one of the many early-morning sushi bars.

From Tsukiji, walk to the nearby Hama-Rikyu Gardens. These sprawling gardens centre on a picturesque pond and teahouse behind the looming skyscrapers of the Shiodome district – one of Tokyo’s most striking city views.

Take the Water Bus from Hama-Rikyu to Asakusa. The boat skirts Tokyo Bay then slowly heads up the Sumida River, delivering magnificent views from across the water that culminate with Tokyo’s newest landmark, the 634m Sky Tree Tower.

Wander through Asakusa’s Senso-ji Temple complex. Two giant entry gates are separated by a vibrant shopping street. Senso-ji’s imposing main building and pagoda provide a striking contrast to the surrounding urban sprawl.

Explore the tangle of side streets west of Senso-ji, stopping for a mouth-watering lunch of yakitori (char-grilled chicken skewers) at one of the yakitori-ya restaurants spilling out onto the narrow streets.

From Asakusa, take the metro into the Ginza district for a spot of retail therapy. Nose around the numerous designer-label stores, then hit Ginza’s prestigious department stores – Mitsukoshi, Wako, and Matsuya, to name but a few.

Stroll from Ginza to the Imperial Palace. Although the vast grounds are off limits, tour groups still come from far and wide for a glimpse of the palace protruding from the dense woods beyond its deep moats.

Head to Roppongi to soak up contemporary Japan. Take in the Mori Art Museum on the 53rd floor of the Roppongi Hills building complex, then poke around the shops and cafes of swanky Tokyo Midtown.

Switch to traditional Japan with dinner at Inakaya. With rustic interiors and staff in traditional attire, this robatayaki (literally ’fireside cooking’) restaurant in Roppongi is the perfect place to sample classic Japanese fare and sake.

Take the subway to Shinjuku for a cocktail at the Park Hyatt’s 52nd-floor New York Bar, where Bill Murray’s character drank his evenings away in Lost in Translation. The views of Tokyo illuminated below are spectacular.


Tokyo, Japan
Distance: 8,279 km
Flight Time: 9 hours, 30 minutes
Frequency: Daily

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