Let’s be honest, a couple of days isn’t nearly enough time to discover the many contrasting delights of this city. But a weekend in Tokyo is better than nothing, right? Check out the following highlights and you’ll at least get a glimpse of what makes this dizzying place tick.
Think: majestic shrines, imperial palaces and iconic landmarks by day; dining in robot restaurants, belting out karaoke tunes, and hunkering down in sleek capsule hotels after dark
Here’s how to spend a couple of days in Japan’s overwhelming capital…
Your Guide to a Weekend in Tokyo
Hit the Buzzing Streets of Shibuya
Once you’ve figured out how to adjust your bed at the sleek Millennials Shibuya capsule hotel, hit the buzzing Shibuya streets and head on over to the landmark Shibuya Crossing. Used in movies, Manga films and TV adverts a million times over, this busy junction heaves with people crossing the street in every direction – all at once.
Head into the Starbucks that overlooks the junction to nab an aerial view and pap some memorable pics. Then, take a stroll and refuel in one of the tiny ramen joints tucked away in the district’s alleys.
Overload on Japanese Cuteness in Harajuku
A 15-minute walk from Shibuya is Harajuku, Japan’s spiritual home for all things kawaii (“cute”). The throbbing street of Takeshita-dōri is its ground-zero. This is a mecca for young Japanese who adore dressing in cute costumes and shopping in kawaii-themed shops while munching on multi-coloured candy floss.
When you’ve had your fill of cute, make the short walk up to the nearby Meiji Jingu Shrine. Quiet and scenic with its shady woods, streams and large wooden torii gates, this peaceful shrine is the perfect place to enjoy a little break.
Spend an Evening Exploring the Neon-Lit Playground of Shinjuku
Home to both the world’s busiest train station and Asia’s largest entertainment district (Kabukicho), Shinjuku is a funky playground where the most bizarre elements of contemporary Japanese life hang out. You’ll see robot-staffed restaurants, hostess bars and drunken karaoke joints on its kitsch and sometimes seedy streets, along with a million other things you’re unlikely to find anywhere else in the world.
When you’ve had your fill of the carnival-esque atmosphere, fill up on yakitori meat skewers or red bean paste cakes from the street vendors. Then, retreat to one of the intimate, old-fashioned bars that fill the narrow alleyways in the quaint Golden Gai area.
Go Visit the Emperor
Start the day by jumping on the metro and heading to the city centre where you’ll alight at the vast underground mini-city that is Tokyo Station. When you finally figure out where the exit is, head to the historic Imperial Palace, ten minutes’ walk away. Set on the former site of Edo Castle (once the largest fortress in the world), the Emperor’s gaff is pretty much off-limits to visitors. Although you can take a peek at the beautiful inner grounds if you sign up for a tour in advance.
In fact, the best bet is to head over to the East Gardens. Here you can stroll around ancient castle walls, formidable moats and perfectly manicured Japanese-style gardens at your leisure. Visit during cherry blossom season and you’ll be in Insta heaven!
Discover Edo-Era Japan in Asakusa
Hugging the Sumida river on the northeast side of Tokyo is Asakusa, a historic ward where the city’s merchants and artisans lived during Japan’s Edo period. Known by traditional architecture, majestic temples and casual street markets, this relaxed, almost calm area affords a taste of Tokyo’s past.
The glorious Sensō-ji Buddhist temple is easily the district’s standout sight. The nearby Nakamise-dōri shopping district is a top place to pick up cool souvenirs and cheap eats.
Catch a Sumo Wrestling Match at Ryōgoku Kokugikan
Sumo wrestling is of course an icon of Tokyo, and Japan. Are you in town when a sumo tournament is on? If so, you simply have to watch the big boys knock seven bells out of each other at the mythical Ryōgoku Sumo Hall. FYI, sumo is very popular, so it’s a fair bet you’ll have to book an online ticket in advance or line up at the stadium’s box office early in the morning to score a seat.
Trust us though; getting to watch this iconic Japanese sport is something that’ll live in your memory for a very long time.