The spectacular city of Tokyo never sleeps. Its sheer size and endless action make it one truly exciting and memorable city to explore.
For Australians who are not holidaying in Japan it is a great way of travelling to Europe with direct nine hour flights available from Sydney into Tokyo. The time difference in Tokyo is only 1 hour behind Australia (2 hours behind in daylight savings) and if you are continuing onto Europe it is only another 11 hours direct flying time.
The first thing you notice when landing in Narita Airport is just how enormous it is. Don’t be overwhelmed; just follow the marked directions to get to the Airport Limousine Bus transfers desk or Narita Station.
Airport limousine buses operate constantly from the airport taking between 60 and 120 minutes to get to Tokyo Station. The buses stop at the major hotels in the city and cost around $40USD one way. Bookings can be taken in advance but are not usually necessary.
The Narita Express train also operates from the airport into Tokyo taking just under 1 hour stoping at all the major stations. First time visitors with a lot of luggage would probably be better off catching the airport bus rather than the train as they can be very crowded and the major stations are very large, always extremely busy and have many different exits leading out in all directions making it hard to get your bearings. Taxis are also readily available from the airport but are costly.
Central Tokyo is divided up into districts or areas, some of the most popular districts are; Shinjuku, Akihabara, Ginza, Roppongi and Ikebukuro.
Shinjuku is a central place to stay with easy access to trains and walking distance to tourist attractions, shops, restaurants and bars. Some hotels in Shinjuku that are serviced by the airport limousine buses include the Keio Plaza, Shinjuku New City Hotel, Hilton Tokyo and the cheaper but very comfortable Shinjuku Washington Hotel.
The Shinjuku Washington Hotel offers reasonable rates (around $120USD) per night for single, double and triple rooms all with private ensuites and internet access. The hotel has in-house restaurants and a convenience store.
With its modern futuristic sky scrapers Shinjuku is the home of Tokyo’s commercial district. The Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building is the tallest building Tokyo and has a free observation deck on the top two floors open to the public until late in the evening every day. It is definitely worth a visit to give you an idea of the size and layout of the city.
Shinjuku is world famous for its flashing neon lights and sprawling nightlife, from small street bars to world renowned restaurants and the red light district. In the evenings the streets are packed with people coming and going from restaurants and bars.
Shinjuku, and Tokyo itself, is a seafood lovers paradise, the sushi and sashimi are unbelievable with sushi train restaurants on almost every corner.
Don’t panic if you’re not too keen on seafood as there are endless other options; dumpling restaurants, Korean BBQ meat restaurants, noodle and rice bars, tempura bars (lightly battered deep fried seafood and vegetables) and Yakitori bars (grilled flavoured meat skewers). Western foods and fast food outlets are readily available as are bakeries selling sandwiches and gourmet cakes.
The Tsukiji Central Wholesale Market is one of the largest fish markets in the world and one of Tokyo’s major tourist attractions. It is responsible for distributing all of Tokyo’s seafood, meat and fruit and vegetables daily. The market is worth a visit to watch the morning auctions of the fresh seafood, enjoy some sushi at one of the many sushi bars or pick up a Japanese souvenir from one of the market stalls.
Akihabara is the electronic centre of Tokyo. Seemingly endless streets and laneways are lined with retail outlets selling all the latest electronic merchandise and gadgets. Every latest piece of electronic equipment can be found from massive plasma screen televisions to tiny cameras, laptops and massage chairs. The massage chairs are often on display giving a good reason to stop and have a rest for five minutes or so! Don’t forget your passport as many of the stores offer duty free options.
Ginza is home to high class elegant boutiques, the world famous Sony showrooms and art galleries. It is very popular on the weekends when some of the main roads are closed making it pedestrian thoroughfare only.
Roppongi is the one district in Tokyo that never sleeps! The streets are alive every night with party goers filling its hundreds of discos, bars and nightclubs. The Japanese certainly know how to party with many nightclubs having certain themes like 70’s and 80’s music, karaoke, house and dance music to rock bars! A lot of the nightclubs charge hefty fees to get in but once you are in all drinks cost the same price. Roppongi also has many reasonably priced restaurants offering cuisines from around the world.
Ikebukuro is home to the two largest department stores in the world; Seibu and Tobu. A full day could be spent just exploring one of them! If you are petite you will really enjoy the clothes shopping but the larger tourist is a bit limited. Western stores like Gap, Hugo Boss, Armani are located in Ikebukuro also.
Take some time out to visit the Imperial Palace Plaza and its breathtaking surrounding gardens and temples. The palace is a short walk from Tokyo station.
The Tokyo Dome is a domed baseball and concert stadium seating 55,000 people. Next to the stadium is an amusement park with fun rides, a Ferris wheel and some very fast roller coasters! Another attraction at the Tokyo Dome is La Qua natural hot spring fed pools and spas.
For those travelling with young children don’t forget about visiting Tokyo Disneyland; direct buses depart from major train stations regularly to and from Disneyland.
At 330 meters high the Tokyo Tower Observatory may not be as much fun as Disneyland for the children but it has some arcade style games, a wax works museum and an amazing observation deck 200 meters above the ground that looks over all of Tokyo with Mt Fuji clearly visible.
Even though the roads are always chaotic, the footpaths crowded and the trains bursting with commuters Tokyo is not a hard city to explore. The best way is by both foot and train; catch the train to a district that you want to see then explore it on foot.
The JR Yamanote train line loops around central Tokyo stopping at all the main tourist districts. This looping train line is easy for tourists to use as it makes it quite hard to get lost. Simply purchase a ticket from a self service ticket machine, find the colour coded train line then wait for only a few minutes for the train to arrive.
Even though the major train stations are extremely busy and large they are not hard to navigate. The trains are constantly arriving and departing and the crowds civilized and free flowing.
For a city with such a high population Tokyo has a very low crime rate. The Japanese are really friendly, polite and honest people so don’t be afraid of venturing out in very busy crowds.
English is spoken in Tokyo at most hotels, train stations, major department stores, tourist attractions and many restaurants.
If you can spend at least two nights in Tokyo as it is well worth the visit. It is a city that has something to offer everyone.