I travelled to Tokyo earlier this year with work. Luckily, we had a weekend between events to explore the city. Here’s what we did… (you can click here to see my travel vlog)!
Direct return flights from London are £600 – £700 depending on what time of year you travel and how far ahead you book.
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We stayed in an area called Akasaka which was close to the city centre and the venue we were hosting the event in. The hotel was called Hotel Mystays Premier which cost about JPY 12,000 (£85) per night.
The rooms were pretty small but I think that’s typical of anywhere you’ll stay in Tokyo.
Currency is the Japanese yen! As I write, the JPY 100 = £0.71 / £10 = JPY 1,433! A tough one to work out so have your phone calculator at the ready.
The Tokyo metro is super efficient, cheap and very easy to use. Taxis, including Uber, are really expensive for short journeys so I would avoid if possible.
Things to do…
– Imperial Palace
The Imperial Palace is the primary residence of the Emperor of Japan. A lot of the gardens are closed off but you can walk around the outskirts.
If you want to see inside, make sure it’s open and book a tour in advance. It’s a pretty place to run around but nothing spectacular.
– Tsukiji Fish Market
The fish market is an absolute must! You can go early in the morning to see the market in full action (selling fish straight off the boat), or go later in the day and enjoy all the fresh fish from numerous stalls and restaurants. Definitely don’t eat anything before as you’ll want to be hungry and eat everything you see!!
Shinjuku is a very lively area of Tokyo, popular with tourists as there’s a lot going on.
It’s full of bars, clubs, shops and skyscrapers, as well as being home to Japan’s largest red light district!
I’m sure there are loads of bar / club recommendations which I don’t know about as we only spent one evening there. I did hear that the Robot Restaurant is really popular but you’ll want to do your own research.
– Golden Gai
I’d heard rave reviews about Golden Gai before I travelled to Tokyo so was very keen to visit. It’s a collection of teeny bars (some seating just a few people) near to Shinjuku.
It’s very popular with tourists but I think it’s a shame the bar favours tourists rather than locals. I went with some Japanese colleagues and the bars insisted on charging for them to enter but not me… so it somewhat lost its charm! Also, we went to a karaoke bar and it was English people singing popular English karaoke songs, not the real Japanese experience.
An impressive ancient Buddhist temple in Asakusa.
The area was close to shopping streets and markets and jam-packed with tourists… even in the rain!
Cool to visit if you have time, but felt a little touristy despite being a place of worship.
– Shibuya Crossing
Shibuya is famous for its scramble crossing… one of the busiest in the world. You’ll definitely want to say you’ve crossed 🙂
Upscale area near to our hotel. Loads of bars, restaurants and shopping. It’s quieter and classier than some other districts – good for business but perhaps not for tourists.
A popular high-end shopping area in Tokyo with lovely bars and restaurants. We had dinner here a few times and it felt safe to walk.
It’s home to Chou Dori Street which is pedestrian only and like walking on a movie set.
– Mipig Cafe
Fancy drinking coffee whilst cuddling micro pigs? Look no further than Mipig! I am a big into ethical travel and was slightly worried this wouldn’t be ethical… but it was a really calm environment. You have to book which means there are only a few people in at a time. You have to sit in your corner and allow the pigs to come to you. Just hope they don’t go to slaughter when they get too big…
Another lively entertainment and red light district in Tokyo. Loads of shops including Don Quijote which is the biggest discount store in Tokyo.
They sell everything… from sweets to Rolex watches, from contact lenses to designer bags. Worth a walk around.
– Tokyo Tower & SkyTree
2 different towers in Tokyo. Apparently Skytree is the better of the 2 as it’s the tallest tower in the world. We didn’t get time, but you can go up for views of the city.
– Disneyland & Disneysea
Disneyland… need I say more?
The park is located a short train ride from the centre of Tokyo and well worth the visit.
They also have Disneysea which caters for adults if you’re feeling a little more grownup than we were.
Japan is famous for karaoke and you’ll find karaoke bars 10 floors high all over Tokyo!
Where to eat…
A lot of the places we ate at had names in Japanese and I didn’t note the English versions down. I was incredibly lucky to have Japanese colleagues with me most of the time… many of the restaurants have Japanese only menus and the staff cannot speak English. This makes ordering for a pescatarian pretty hard…
– Sushi Zanmai
This is a chain you’ll find all over the city and the sushi is unbelievable! Top recommendation would be fatty tuna slightly fried / grilled. UN. REAL.
– Trattoria Ciao
Italian restaurant in Ginza. We were SO tired this night and were turned away from loads of restaurants as they didn’t have an English menu and we were without Japanese speakers. We got lucky as the food at Trattoria Ciao was soooooo tasty. 10/10 would recommend.
– T.Y. Harbour
Absolutely gorgeous restaurant slightly outside of the city centre on the water. Large menu with loads of choice and a gorgeous setting.
– Ivy Place
Cute restaurant in Shibuya where we enjoyed a delicious brunch.
Cool bar / restaurant close to Ginza. We hosted our awards here 🙂
Really cool restaurant in Shinbashi serving incredible fresh fish at a reasonable price. Loved the setting too – we sat on cushions on the floor!
Traditional Japanese food to try:
- Tempura (anything)
- Miso soup
We also got to go and see our lovely colleague and her husband at their home with their gorgeous son Kensei 🙂
Tokyo is a very cool place to visit with loads to see and do. Other friends have visited the rest of Japan and it looks incredible. I’d definitely like to return one day to explore more.