Upon arrival in Tokyo Narita International airport (or just before you leave!), don't just rush headlong into the city... If you have come long-haul and are tired, there's nothing better than to get your head down at one of the airport hotels for a few hours, and then use Narita as a gentle introduction to Japan/Tokyo. It is a nice small town, which is very walkable, and has many little gems including a temple, local restaurants, shops and backstreet pubs. Prices for food, hotels et al will be much cheaper that Tokyo city, and it allows you to acclimatise in a much less hectic/congested atmosphere. I have always found it a perfect way to take a breather before business in Japan and/or exploring the country on vacation.
Go at night to pay homage to the statue of Hachiko the dog. Hachiko went to meet his master at the station every night,even for 9 years after his master died at work and didn't return. Great spot to people watch! Be amazed by the orderliness of the Japanese as they wait to cross the road into the Centre Gai. Nobody moves until the green man shows, then 300+ cross the road at the same time. Wander the pedestrianised streets and gawp at the weird, trendy fashions of the young Tokyoites. All this lit up by the 6-storey tall TV screens and neon lights.
Basically Tokyo-on-sea, a big slab of reclaimed land in Tokyo bay where you can go and chill out, eat/drink/shop, enjoy sea breezes, even go to the (artifical) beach! There are stunning views of Tokyo (especially at night), and it's one of the few places in Tokyo where you can enjoy the great outdoors. There's a massive ferris wheel for even better views and you can even rent a dog to walk!! One of the best things about it though is the journey there - it's worth going just to enjoy the monorail ride across the enormous Rainbow Bridge.
Yuirkamone monorail from Shimbashi. A one-day ticket gives unlimited travel on the monorail all day for around £7.
Visit the Ginza district on a Sunday.The streets are closed to traffic and it's a great time to stroll around the area with it's many shops. Perfect for people watching!
Ginza is well connected to both underground and overland train services. The nearest station is, not suprisingly, called Ginza.
Take a walk in Shinjuku at night. An awe-inspiring sight as this area of the capital becomes a neon wonderland! It has to be seen to be believed.
Shinjuku is easy to get to. It's on several JR lines including the important Yamanote line, as well as several subway lines.
The existentialists had a special word for walking around randomly in order to escape the routine and see things from a different angle. I can't remember what the word is, something long and French probably, but I wholeheartedly agree with the sentiment, especially in Tokyo.
Tokyo is basically an unplanned city - it has developed in a chaotic, messy way which means, sadly, that Tokyo is a very ugly city when seen from the macro level. But this also means, thankfully, that it is a joy to explore on the micro level.
Set off in any direction and you will come across tiny temples and shrines, strange shops which never seem to have any customers, ugly houses, more ugly houses and then a beautiful decaying old Japanese style residence.
You don't have to travel far for this experience - that is another wonderful thing about Tokyo's chaos - you can walk 10 minutes from the busiest train station, take a few turns and find yourself in a lovely, quiet, ancient residential area.
And the best thing about all this is the order behind the chaos - wherever you go and however far you walk, you will always be only a few minutes from a train station or bus stop. In Tokyo you can comfortably get lost, and Tokyo is a great place to get lost in.
Send your feedback or queries to email@example.com