The Big Mikan - Tokyo's frenetic pace and multi-faceted appeal will pull you in
Tokyo covers an area of almost 2,200 km but it’s criss-crossed by a web of train and subway lines and there are almost as many neighbourhoods as there are stations. Head to otaku heaven Akihabara for all things anime. Harajuku boasts counter-culture shopping and an eye-popping array of cosplayers. Shinjuku is where business gets done and where “salarymen” drink after work in seedy Kabukicho. Ginza offers swanky shopping and kabuki performances at the remodeled Kabuki-za Theatre. Asakusa or Kagurazaka offers a taste of old Edo with its traditional restaurants and shops. And once the sun goes down, the clubs pump out music all night in Roppongi and Shibuya. Or, just pick a station at random and let Tokyo surprise you.
Things to do: Tokyo
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.
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.
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.Back to top
When to go
The blooming of plum and cherry trees make March and April a lovely time to visit, though temperatures are often still cool enough that bringing along a jacket is advisable. Summer begins with the rainy season in late June and July, which brings with it the festival and fireworks season. August can be nice, despite the heat, as Tokyoites flee the city in droves on their summer holidays. Autumn (September-November) is perhaps the best time to come, as you’re likely to see bright blue skies every day against autumnal red, yellow and orange leaves. Tokyo rarely gets snow in winter, but it can happen, so be prepared if you come between December and March.Back to top
Tokyo is served by a mix of Japan Rail trains, Tokyo Metro subway lines and a handful of private rail companies. Using a navigation app like Google Maps is helpful.
Fares are charged based on how far you travel, but save yourself a headache and get a Suica (JR) or PASMO (Tokyo Metro) prepaid IC card. They work across all lines and automatically deduct a (slightly reduced) fare when you pass through any gate. Suica cards are available at the JR office at Narita Airport. Any remaining balance can be cashed out when you head home.Back to top