Tokyo is part of the largest urban area on Earth, so a solid plan is essential if you want to avoid getting lost in the seemingly endless urban expanse. Here’s an itinerary for a short stay in the city that will allow you to see the best parts of Japan’s colossal capital.
When Tokyo comes to mind, it brings with it images of luxurious skyscraper hotels with all the extras, including the price tag. Yet Tokyo offers a huge variety of places to rest your head from traditional Japanese temple lodgings in the mountains to the latest in hotel convenience in mid-city capsule hotels. For a real Japanese feel, try out a ryokan with low level furniture and plenty of Zen.
Tokyo is its own epicentre when it comes to shopping, with towering malls plastered with brightly colored advertising signs, it would be hard to ignore the city’s thirst for consumerism. It has its own ‘out-there’ cult fashion and is one of the best places in the world for gadgets. From designer boutiques to flea markets, Tokyo certainly has it all as sightseeing districts double as shopping areas specialising in certain trends and themes.
Tokyo is known as the city with the most Michelin star restaurants in the world, 17 of which have three stars. However, don’t be fooled into thinking this is all Tokyo has to offer; it is a core of all foods from sushi to European influences of French and Italian and South East Asian food. Similarly to the range of food on offer, cafes and restaurants vary from being located above or below offices, in malls or on top of hotels.
The Metropolitan area of Tokyo is a cultural hub bursting with historical traditions versus the relatively new cities’ buildings and huge shopping obsession. The city brings the modern architecture and fashion together seamlessly with the beauty of traditional Japanese arts and culture. The city also owes part of its attraction to the backdrop of Mount Fuji and the iconic cherry blossom trees.
Tokyo Metropolis as we now know it was only formed in 1943. Previously Tokyo was merely a city, which was then merged with the former Tokyo Prefecture to create the largest metropolitan area in the world. Today, numerous neighborhoods make up the metropolis, many of which are known for attractions like sumo-wrestlers, eccentric fashion and night clubbing. The neighborhoods are easy to navigate, held together by a circuit of train loops called the Yamanote Line.
Kyoto is mainly about shrines, parks and gardens, yet there are also options for getting active or enjoying the nightlife. Cultured evenings are particularly good here and can be enjoyed at Gion Corner, which is a popular theater. For a spot of geisha ogling, this area is also a must.
Kyoto is loaded with souvenir shops, boutiques, malls and arcades and is the best place to head for traditional Japanese items and handicrafts. You can find pottery, textiles, and high quality paper items in all parts of the city.
Although Osaka has a bit of a reputation as an unruly place (from a Japanese perspective), it is still incredibly safe by Western standards. It comes with a temperate climate and standard rules of Japanese etiquette, while obtaining yen and getting about by public transport is a breeze.
Although not quite on par with Tokyo, the eating in Osaka is excellent and there are numerous places to dine at. You will also find a large collection of cuisines, not just Japanese. They include great Chinese and Korean eats, as well as a glut of European cafés especially French and Italian and good old American fast food joints.
Japan's second largest city sits in the Kansai region of Honshu on Osaka Bay and is an industrial powerhouse and the original commercial capital. Despite its rich history, Osaka is not really one for the historian, focusing more on its shopping and futuristic side, though it does boast important shrines and landmarks.
Shopping is what Osaka does best. It has an absolute huge collection of malls and arcades, many of which are set underground to keep the heat off of shoppers. Electronics and clothing items are the most popular buys and you can find some good bargains in the height of summer and winter low seasons
Hokkaido is a large island with plenty of area for tourists to explore. While visiting, they'll encounter a mix of cosmopolitan districts and wide-open spaces, and they'll also be sharing this space with enthusiastic Japanese tourists. Visitors will be greeted by hospitable locals and well-maintained tourist infrastructure that keep travel painless.
Hokkaido's mountainous park and forests lend themselves nicely to outdoor activities, and there are excellent seasonal activities offered throughout the year. The winter season lasts from November to March, when the activity focus shifts to snow-based sports.
Kyoto's cuisine (Kyo-ryori) is traditional and highly refined; aimed as it was at the wealthy and powerful during Kyoto's days as the royal capital. A multi-course meal (kaiseki ryori) in the swishiest places is the epitome of Kyoto imperial eating, with plays on fish being particularly popular.
Kyoto is a safe and friendly place for visitors, with low rates of crime and spotless streets. The country suffers from seasonal typhoons June through October and there are some dos and don't to observe, but most tourists get by without incident.
It's not all about the shopping; Osaka also has a good spread of attractions, both traditional and modern. There is something of interest for all types of visitor, from a highly regarded zoo and parks to some of the country's most high profile temples and shrines. There are also several well done museums.
Osaka has a huge amount to entertain. In fact it is one of Japan's most fun cities for all ages and persuasions. There are interesting museums and unique landmarks to check out such as the Floating Garden Observatory, the buzzing American Village in downtown and a host of theme parks like Universal Studios Japan.
Tourists don't travel to Hokkaido specifically for the shopping opportunities, but the provincial capital is an important shopping center for people who live on the island. Tourists can easily set aside a day or two to explore Sapporo's network of interlinking shopping malls and pick up a souvenir or gift in the process.
Known for its shrines and spring cherry tree blossoms, Kyoto is one of Japan's most beautiful cities. Having been the capital for more than 1,000 years and having never been bombed in WWII, it has retained many fantastic structures through a collection of intriguing districts backed by a ring of mountains.
Kyoto's main offering to visitors is its amazing collection of shrines, temples and gardens. Although there are plenty of other attractions that all the family can enjoy, the likes of the Kyoto Imperial Palace and the Heian and Fushimi Inari Taisha shrines are must-sees.
Hokkaido's best dining district is in Sapporo. All of the major shopping malls have food courts (usually on the basement level) with noodle shops, Western fast food restaurants and cafés. Most of these complexes also have blocs of nicer restaurants on their top floors, some of which come with a view.
Japan's youngest province, Hokkaido, is the archipelago's northernmost island. Before the 1800s it was inhabited by the Ainu people, a minority group that still exists here and has recently made major breakthroughs in gaining mainstream recognition. Tourists come mainly for the region's outdoor appeal.
Hokkaido is seen as Japan's last frontier, and the best attractions on the island are large swathes of national parkland. Each has its own seasonal attractions, from hiking to skiing, and millions of Japanese tourists come every month to enjoy the sites.
Tokyo, Japan’s capital city is formidable when it comes to the quality and variety of foods. Tokyo tourists and locals will find everything from noodle shops to upscale traditional dinners (kaiseki), but it doesn't stop there. After touring the sushi bars and tempura restaurants, there are just as many international eateries serving authentic Western cuisine. In this Tokyo dining, food and restaurant guide will help you decide where you can find your favourite cuisines while in Tokyo, Japan.
While Tokyo's endless of blocks of high-rise architecture drive some to flee for Japan's remote sectors, Tokyo tourist who stick around quickly find there's more to this city than they first assumed.
As the world's largest metropolitan center, Tokyo can be an intimidating place for first-time visitors. But behind the skyscrapers, crowds and bustling streets is a charming cultural hub with enough sights and activities to thrill visitors for days on end.
Tokyo's cosmopolitan atmosphere fosters an outstanding entertainment scene, with an option to suit any brand of visitor. Central districts like Shibuya, Shinjuku and Ginza stay busy well into the early morning hours when metro service resumes.
Shopping is a Japanese obsession, and it's hard not to be drawn into the enthusiasm while visiting. There's no limit to what you can buy here, from traditional handicrafts to the latest-breaking models of digital cameras or designer fashions.
Tokyo was insulated from the rest of the world for centuries, and locals today still rely on well-established cultural norms. Visitors will find the Japanese warm and hospitable, but they'll also find that the burden to assimilate is their own. In the course of a visit, tourists will come to appreciate the city for its modern touches, especially the world-class transportation network.
Cherry blossoms in bloom, historic shrine festivals and river cruises in pleasant temperatures make for the perfect spring holiday in Tokyo. Book a Tokyo hotel in spring to enjoy the city’s liveliest and most fascinating alfresco experiences.
Only in Tokyo can you encounter a wealth of fascinating obsessions found nowhere else in the world. Feel the tingle of eating blowfish, check out Tokyo’s youth dressed up as comic-book characters and head back in time to Edo Tokyo ryokan hotels with this guide to the city’s unique experiences.
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