Be enthralled by Tokyo's frenetic pace and multifaceted appeal

Scintillating Tokyo sprawls over almost 2200 square kilometres. There are hundreds of esoteric neighbourhoods laced together under a dense web of train and subway lines, from business areas to high-end shopping, from counterculture fashion hubs to neon-laden nightlife, from the traditional to the futuristic.

Head to Akihabara for anime, Harajuku for cosplay, Ginza for fancy department stores and Kagurazaka for a taste of old Edo with traditional restaurants and shops. It’s business central in Shinjuku (and salaryman drinking in Kabukicho), boho vibes in Shimokitazawa and it’s an all-night party at the clubs of Roppongi and Shibuya.

Or, just pick a station at random and let Tokyo surprise you.

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Things to do: Tokyo

  • Child’s play

    Travelling with kids? Tokyo has a wealth of hands-on museums to keep them entertained. Start with the Science Museum opens in new window, where your little ones will learn about everything from the genome to cyberspace. And what child isn’t fascinated by trains? Take them to The Railway Museum opens in new window for a chance to live their engine-driver dreams on the railway simulator and clamber around old carriages.

  • Hip to it

    Kichijoji is a quickly gentrifying hipster hangout in western Tokyo that’s packed with some of the city’s coolest cafés, bars and shops and is also home to the popular Inokashira Park. Try yakitori at Iseya, a local institution, hit the gaggle of alleyways known as Harmonica Yokocho for drinks at an old-style standing bar and then catch a cabaret performance at Circus Café opens in new window.

  • Sea it now

    You won’t find fresher sushi than at Tsukiji Fish Market opens in new window unless you dive into the ocean yourself. If you can get to the market at 5am, you can watch the famous tuna auction. But don’t fret if you don’t; it’s fascinating to explore at any time. After looking around, hit one of the many sushi shops for a bite to eat. The popular Sushi Zanmai is open around the clock and has a picture menu.

  • Step lively

    With so much to see in Tokyo, it can be exhausting just trying to get around the city and see it all. The way to make the most of your time is to focus on one neighbourhood at a time and tackle each on foot. Luckily, the Japan National Tourism Association offers detailed walking plans opens in new window for seven of Tokyo’s most popular neighbourhoods, complete with maps, points of interest and loads of other helpful information.

  • The water works

    Not only is Tokyo a seafront city, it’s also home to several major rivers. Getting out on the water is a great way to spend the day. The Water Bus opens in new window (Suijou Basu in Japanese) travels between Asakusa, home to Sensoji Temple, and the lovely Hama-Rikyu Gardens. Audio guides, which are available in several languages, provide information about the historic bridges that span the Sumida. Another option is go for a cruise on a yakatabune, an old-fashioned Japanese houseboat. Cruises generally include dinner, so sit back and enjoy.

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Airport information

Narita International Airport opens in new window (NRT)

Distance to city centre: 66km

Taxi: Both standard and fixed-fare taxis are available at all terminals. Fixed-fare taxis cost JPY ¥20,000-22,500 for most central Tokyo destinations. There’s a surcharge for late night and early morning rides.

Train: Trains leave from Terminals 1 and 2; there is a free shuttle bus from Terminal 3. The Keisei Skyliner opens in new window runs nonstop to Ueno, taking around 40 minutes, from where you can connect to the subway. Fares are around JPY ¥2470. The Narita Express goes to Tokyo (50 minutes) and Shinjuku (80 minutes) among other stops. It costs from JPY ¥3020, depending on your destination. Check online for cheaper ticket deals for both of these options. Keisei Main Line trains follow the same route as the Skyliner but make stops, taking around 70 minutes and costing JPY ¥1030.

Shuttle: Keisei Tokyo Shuttle opens in new window buses depart to Tokyo Station every 20 minutes, with less frequent departures between 11pm and 6am. The journey takes around 90 minutes and costs JPY ¥1000.

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When to go

Catch cherry blossoms and cool weather in March and April. A festival-laden summer also coincides with the rainy season in late June and July, with August being hot but less crowded as locals flee the heat. Autumn (September to November) is the most pleasant with blue skies against autumnal colours. Winter is chilly with occasional snow. 

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Getting around

Tokyo's famously efficient public transport system is made up of a mix of Japan Rail opens in new window trains, Tokyo Metro opens in new window subway lines and a handful of private rail companies. There is also a comprehensive bus network opens in new window.

Fares are charged based on how far you travel, but save yourself a headache by getting a Suica opens in new window (JR) or PASMO opens in new window (Tokyo Metro) prepaid card. These pre-paid cards work across all lines and buses, and automatically deduct a (slightly reduced) fare when you pass through any gate. Any remaining balance can be cashed out when you head home. Both are available from vending machines at the airport and all subway and Japan Rail stations.

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