Explore Tokyo 2021 guide

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Your 2021 guide

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Here are ten reasons to recommend Tokyo to nervous travellers in the post-Covid era 1. A considerate culture prevails

For such a huge and bustling city Tokyo it is relatively clean and orderly. Its residents are scrupulously considerate and cleanliness and hygiene are of the highest priorities, with current government protocols strictly adhered to. Social distancing and respecting personal space comes naturally and face masks worn during the winter flu season has long been culturally ingrained. In fact, many Japanese use them to protect from allergies or cover blemishes.

2. There’s room to breathe



Water way to go!

There are plenty of opportunities to escape the crowds by taking to the water on one of the many lakes, ponds or rivers and canals that weave through the heart of the city

A city break in Japan’s capital needn’t be a purely urban experience. Think vast swathes of countryside with mountains, fields, forest, lakes and rivers - even islands. Stay in a quiet suburb such as Shibamata, a nostalgic and old-fashioned district centred around Shibamata Taishakuten Temple. Explore shops that are more than 100 years old and make time for restaurants that sell local specialties such as skewered rice flour balls.

3. Sightsee by staying outside

Sightseeing in Tokyo can be kept strictly al fresco. Lots of fascinating buildings can be appreciated from the outside, like Buddhist temple Senso-ji or the Kanda Shinto shrine, which are close to Akihabara, the heart of the city’s tech and anime geek culture. Count the hundred of lucky cats at Gotokuji Temple, thought to be the birthplace of the Japanese beckoning cat maneki-neko, then purchase one before making a wish and leaving it at the shrine. And don’t miss the Edo-Tokyo Open Air Architectural Museum, which houses reconstructed teahouses and bathhouses from the 17th to the 20th centuries.

4. Find your peace in the garden EDO-TOKYO OPEN AIR ARCHITECTURAL MUSEUM


Tokyo has numerous parks and green spaces, with vast scope for socially distanced activities that range from walking and picnicking to cycling and rowing. Several are even located on the rooftops of some of the city’s iconic high-rise buildings. For example, the Meguro Sky Garden is built on the roof of a circular loop junction on the Metropolitan Expressway. The green lung is home to 1,000 trees, including cherry and pine, a Japanese garden and a bamboo grove. On a clear day you can see Mt Fuji in the


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5. Something for every season

The city enjoys distinct seasons, starting with its famously flamboyant spring, which inspires hanami, the Japanese custom of enjoying the transient beauty of pink cherry blooms. Warm summers bring more flowers: purple wisteria, blue hydrangeas, pink azaleas and yellow sunflowers. By November, red maples and golden ginko trees create a spectacular flaming backdrop. And in winter, crisp, snowcovered Tokyo has a romantic and picturesque appeal of its own and is the perfect time to head to a steaming onsen.



6. Old and new, tradition and innovation

Tokyo serves up a bewildering mix of tradition and modernity: one minute you might be checked into your hotel by a robot and the next you’ll find yourself in a side street where sliding doors hide centuries-old tea ceremonies. Close to Tokyo Station, the district of Nihonbashi sees shiny skyscrapers sit side by side with glittering shrines. Visitors can visit one of the traditional department stores to browse fine kimonos and fine lacquer bowls. And in August they can again join the Bon-Odori festival, a Japanese Buddhist custom that honours the ancestral spirits.

7. Food, glorious food

Tokyo’s food scene is an alluring combination of simple home-grown cuisine and Michelin-starred international restaurants. There are only three Michelin-starred ramen restaurants in the world – and they are all in Tokyo. For local flavours, there are numerous izakayas (similar to a British pub), which sell down-to-earth food like yakitori (grilled chicken skewers). Other classic Tokyo dishes include Monjayaki, a pancake topped with shredded cabbage and other ingredients and cooked on a griddle. Tokyo’s neighbourhoods are reinventing themselves to accommodate safe dining, with alfresco food courts and outdoor seating.

8. You can find your niche

Tokyo has a district for every proclivity. Liberal and bohemian Koenji is a hothouse of vintage fashion, alternative music and ‘grunge’, while Akihabara is the cultural home for die-hard fans of gaming, manga and anime and tech nerds. Okubo is known for its flourishing Korean and Muslim population and Ginza is the epitome of opulent luxury and designer shopping. In Harajuku, dress as outrageously as you like, and visit Shimokitazawa, a hip neighbourhood known for its large assortment of vintage and thrift shops.


distance. Down on the ground, Hama-rikyu Gardens is one of many beautifully landscaped examples: its focal point is a pond and a pine tree thought to be over 300 years old.

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9. Get out on the water

There are plenty of opportunities to escape the crowds by taking to the water on one of the many lakes, ponds or rivers and canals that weave through the heart of the city. A popular way of seeing Tokyo is a river cruise. Stand-up paddle boarding and kayaking is available on the Sumida river, at the foot of the TOKYO SKYTREE, the highest manmade structure in Japan. Or take a day trip out to Okutama, two hours to the west of the city centre, for whitewater rafting on the Tama River or zip-lining over gorges and rappelling down cliffs. Or spend a few days in the Tokyo Islands to the south, where pristine beaches, blue waters and, if you are lucky, a sighting of whales or dolphins await.



10. Expect the quirky and unusual

There is always another surprise in store in Tokyo. How about a yoga session whilst surrounded by Japanese art at Hotel Gajoen Tokyo, followed by a buffet breakfast in the hotel’s executive lounge? Explore the world’s largest Starbucks Roastery, spread over four floors, before heading to The KAWAII MONSTER CAFE, a large cafe/restaurant in Harajuku that offers cabaret-style entertainment shows through its collaboration with singers, dancers, designers, fashion models and other artists. Or sign up for a traditional indigo-dyeing class at Wanariya to learn about an age-old technique and make your own handkerchief or tenugui hand towel. TOKYO /

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MAnnErS wAiting for thE bullEt trAin

Like any city on the planet, Tokyo has had to adapt to the existence of Covid-19, but good hygiene, excellent sanitation, cleanliness and qualities like respecting the personal space of others have long been cultural traits Tokyo, and Japan in general, is well known for being ‘clean’. Visitors quickly notice a lack of litter on the streets or left anywhere that could catch the public eye. In fact, although the city boasts a population of nearly 14 million residents it can at times appear almost spotless.

it’s a Japanese thing ShoES outSiDE of tEMplE

SociAlly rESpEctful

feet first

In most Japanese homes and traditionalstyle restaurants, temples, hot springs, and others, patrons are expected to remove their shoes before entering

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Cleanliness and tidying up after oneself is ingrained into Japanese culture - to the extent that a regular expectation for school children is that they clean their classroom and other communal areas - even the toilets - at the end of each day. In the vast majority of Japanese homes as well as traditional-style restaurants, temples, hot springs, and other establishments, patrons are expected to take off their shoes before entering. And during football’s World Cup tournaments in Brazil (2014) and Russia (2018), the national team’s fans amazed the world by staying behind to collect and bag rubbish from the stadium. The Japanese players also left their dressing room in such an immaculate condition that FIFA commented about it on Twitter. The country’s high-tech and multi-function toilets are also a source of some curiosity for visitors. Automatic WCs are very common and aside from their variety of massage and water jet options, lids open and close automatically and instantly flush when someone moves away from the seat - so essentially the ultimate hands-free experience! Relatively new to some of Tokyo’s parks are ‘transparent toilets’, designed so prospective users can inspect their cleanliness from the outside. Created by several architects that include the Spritzer prize-winning designer Shigeru Ban, the toilets are made from coloured ‘smart glass’ that turns opaque

ViSitorS oftEn rEMArK on toKyo’S littEr frEE StrEEtS

when the cubicles are occupied. At night they light up the parks like a glowing lantern. The city hopes to have transparent toilets in several locations in Shibuya by spring 2021. Many Tokyo hotels also have cutting-edge innovations that have removed touch points and human interaction. Leading the pack is the Henn na Hotel in Ginza, which is listed by Guinness World Records as the world’s first robot-staffed hotel. Two dinosaur robots welcome guests, who are asked to check in at the hotel using voice recognition. A range of innovative devices installed in the rooms include the ‘iRemocon’ remote network controllers and ‘LG Styler’ clothing-care systems, which uses an eco-friendly steam generator to freshen up garments from odours and wrinkles.

the Seven-Minute Miracle

Such is the thoroughness of Japanese cleanliness and leaving public spaces as tidy as possible for those who use them next, that this has even become a tourist attraction in its own right – in the form of the sevenminute Shinkansen train-cleaning ritual. Each day, at Tokyo Station’s four platforms, more than 300 ‘Shinkansens’ (bullet trains) arrive and depart, with average intervals of roughly four minutes. TESSEI, a subsidiary of Japan Railway, is in charge of cleaning these express trains, ensuring they are meticulously clean and ready for the next passengers. Each cleaner takes a car with about 100 seats, taking away rubbish, checking luggage racks, wiping every tray table and sweeping the floor. After completing their mission of cleaning and readying these 17-carriage bullet trains in under seven minutes, cleaners line up to take a bow outside as a demonstration of their pride and diligence.

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Kisses, hugs, handshakes and other public displays of affection are not the Japanese way to greet each other – a bow is considered more polite and respectful

Social distancing

Like elsewhere, Covid social distancing measures are in place in Tokyo and its three neighbouring prefectures. But in general, Japanese people are anyway less prone to body contact during everyday interactions. Kisses, hugs, handshakes and other public displays of affection are not the Japanese way to greet someone – a polite bow is more appropriate.

Essential details

Tokyo’s roadmap to a new normal is aimed at achieving a balance between containing COVID-19 and keeping businesses open and the economy ticking over. Measures are ever-changing to react to the situation, but visitors can access important information regarding the virus on its COVID-19 resource hub, easily accessed via the Tokyo Metropolitan Government website metro. tokyo.lg.jp/english. The hub is packed with essential information, contacts and advice.

A rubbish-free subway



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Todoroki Valley

Tokyo is rightly renowned as one of the world’s leading mega-cities but it has a surprising number of getaway places where nature is on spectacular view


Not only is Japan’s capital blessed with countless parks and gardens but the greater region is also home to mountains, forests and even beaches and islands, all bursting with flora and fauna and offering personal space to explore at a leisurely pace.

Gardens of Eden The East Gardens of the Imperial Palace


Tokyo has countless gardens, all offering visitors the chance to connect with nature in the midst of the city’s constantly moving urban activity. Perhaps the best known is the East Gardens of the Imperial Palace. The former site of Edo Castle’s defences, it blends moats, walls, grand gates and guardhouses with classic Japanese gardens featuring expansive lawns and stunning foliage. Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden, regarded as Tokyo’s equivalent of Central Park in New York, is conveniently located just a short walk from Shinjuku. The huge green lung requires a small entrance fee, which makes it that less busy than it might otherwise be. Visitors can wander leafy walkways and spy seasonal flowers in the English, French and Japanese gardens.

Just 50 minutes by train from Shinjuku, Mount Takao’s views, hiking trails and close proximity to the city make it popular with locals Green Tokyo v10 November 11.indd 6

Rikugien Gardens

The Hama-rikyu Gardens were an Imperial retreat for centuries but have been enjoyed by all Tokyo residents since 1946. Located on the edge of Tokyo Bay and wrapped around a tidal pond with an attractive teahouse at its centre, the gardens can be reached by Tokyo Cruise Ship. Close by is the equally serene Kyu-Shiba-rikyu Gardens. Once belonging to a feudal lord this is now a metropolitan oasis where visitors can follow the stone paths around the pond and gaze at the skyscrapers reflected in it. For great views, the traditional Rikugien Gardens centre around a man-made hill and pond, with a network of pathways leading to vantage points. During spring and autumn the gardens stay open later and bright spotlights showcase the seasonal colours. Although turned off in 2020 due to the pandemic, they are expected to return in 2021. For flower aficionados, the Tokyo University-owned Koishikawa Botanical Garden preserves thousands of species of flora amongst its rolling landscaped lawns and wide tree-lined avenues.

Park life

Tokyoites love their parks for the peace and space they offer away from the surrounding urban rush, but no city escape could be more of a contrast to the surrounding streets than Yoyogi Park. It sits next to the frenetic and crammed Harajuku area, famous for its eccentric teen fashion and cosplay colour. Expect equally excellent people-watching opportunities, just with more room for social distancing. Consider combining Yoyogi Park with a visit to the neighbouring Meiji Jingu shrine. Once you pass through the impressive torii gate you’ll

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Hama-rikyu Gardens

cable car station at the foot of mt takao

be enveloped in noise-absorbing trees and will notice the sheer peace and quiet. Located in Tokyo’s ‘shitamachi’, or downtown area, green Ueno Park is also packed full of sights. There are a number of museums, including the Tokyo Metropolitan Art Museum and National Museum of Art and Science; various shrines, such as the ornate blackand-gold Ueno Toshogu Shrine; a five-storey pagoda; a zoo and a seventeenth-century teahouse. Inokashira Park is loved by the locals who flock to its pond and take to the water in a swan-shaped boat in fine weather, picnic under cherry blossom trees in spring, or play or watch baseball year-round. The park is also home to the Studio Ghibli Museum, dedicated to home-grown animation films.

Wild places

Still in metropolitan Tokyo but just 20 minutes by train from Shibuya, verdant Todoroki Valley is a world away from concrete and tarmac. Here visitors can follow a path through a ravine and alongside the Yazawa River. It is covered in a canopy of foliage, which muffles the sounds of the city and highlights the tweets of resident birds. The 20-minute walk passes bridges, the remains of tunnel tombs and the Todoroki Fudo temple, located next to a waterfall. Just 50 minutes by train from Shinjuku, Mount Takao’s sweeping views, hiking trails and close proximity to the city make it popular with locals - avoid the weekend to dodge the crowds. The top of the 599-metre mountain offers views of the snow-capped Mount Fuji on a clear day. Weary hikers can finish the day with a soak in the Keio Takaosan Onsen Gokurakuyu hot spring at the base of the mountain.

Once belonging to a feudal lord, serene KyuShiba-rikyu Gardens is a city oasis where visitors can follow the stone paths around the pond and gaze at skyscrapers reflected in it Tokyo /

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Longevity comes naturally in Japan and even amongst the frenzy of city living Tokyoites find time to nurture their minds, bodies and souls. From hot springs to forest bathing to a calming cup of tea, there’s no shortage of options The magic of onsen

Okutama River

Forest Bathing


Volcanic Japan is bursting with hot springs and Tokyo also has its fair share of these natural soothers. The city has numerous onsen or public baths - the perfect way to relax and refresh after a day of sightseeing. Options range from the modern Tokyo Dome Natural Hot Springs Spa LaQua, where the hot springs 1,700 metres below power multiple indoor and outdoor baths and saunas, to more traditional-style onsen experiences like Myojin no Yu, where cypress-wood tubs are filled with ironand salt-rich water. There’s even a hot spring theme park – Oedo Onsen Monogatari, which has six different types of baths (including one for pampered dogs) and a 50 metre-long footbath in a Japanese garden. Further out of town are oceanside and forest-view onsen. The Okutama Onsen Moegi-no-Yu is the perfect place to soak aching muscles after a day of hiking in the local mountains, with its outdoor baths looking over the Okutama River. On Oshima Island the Hamanoyu onsen offers panoramic and undisturbed views of the Pacific Ocean from its bathing pools.

Forest bathing

Forests are enchanting and peaceful places full of natural wonder and the Japanese have embraced the idea that simply spending time in a woodland area amongst nothing but trees can have a positive effect on both your psychological and physical health. Shinrin-yoku - which literally translates to ‘forest bath’ – is the Japanese practice of bathing oneself in nature. Places in the Tokyo area where you can do this include Sayama Hills (also known as Totoro Forest), Hinohara Tokyo Citizens’ Forest, Mount Takao, Institute for Nature Study and Arisugawa-no-miya Memorial Park.

A RITUALISTIC tea ceremony

and the portions are traditionally modest. In this fabulously epicurean city, different neighbourhoods enjoy reputations for particular dishes. For the freshest sushi head to Tsukiji, Ginza or anywhere else near the Tsukiji Fish Market, while for wholesome soba buckwheat noodles visit more traditional areas like Kanda, Nihonbashi and Asakusa and step into one of the family-run restaurants. For a fine dining treat served up with equally delicious views, visit the skyscraper districts of Otemachi and Marunouchi.

Tea time

Evoking concepts of mindfulness, gratitude and hospitality is the traditional Japanese tea ceremony. This timehonoured cultural ritual involves boiling water in an iron kettle, stirring matcha green tea to perfection, passing around an ornate bowl and then sipping slowly. Zen Buddhism is a primary influence in the tea ceremony. It’s an experience that has been around for a thousand years but visitors can experience it right in the heart of modern Tokyo. Options include the Sakurai Japanese Tea Experience, which has a five-course tasting in its swanky apothecary-styled interior, or the more traditional Kosoan, where tea is served in a wooden house with sliding doors and tatami mat seating set among a picturesque garden. Oedo Onsen Monogatari

Healthy eating

It’s not hard to maintain your ‘five a day’ when you’re in Tokyo. While fast food outlets are popular, the majority of the city’s restaurants offer fresh and healthful cuisine too -

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SEASONS Whether framed by the vibrant pink of cherry blossom in spring, spectacular reds and oranges in autumn, hot and sultry summer days or a dusting of snow on a festive winter evening, Tokyo is a year-round city with many faces that delivers a multitude of seasonal treats and surprises Cherry Blossom at Night

Peak times

The peak periods in Tokyo are driven mainly by the distinct seasons and the natural displays of beauty they bring. Although Tokyo is a popular city year round, the crowds are thinner in both early and late summer.


Spring is a popular time to visit, particularly mid-March to early April when the cherry blossoms cast a pink blush over the city, prompting people to gather and enjoy the spectacle known as ‘sakura’. Places pretty in pink include Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden, Yoyogi Park, East Gardens of the Imperial Palace, Hama-rikyu Gardens and the sides of the Meguro River. Following this is Golden Week, a peak travel period because of a string of festivals, running from the end of April into early May.


The rainy season, known as ‘Tsuyu’, runs from mid-June to late July, with days characterised by humidity and scattered showers or drizzle. With fewer crowds in Tsuyu season, this is the perfect time to take advantage of the city’s many indoor activities. Almost everywhere, places such as hotels, restaurants and shops, as well as tubes and trains, are all comfortably air-conditioned. Summer days in Tokyo can be hot, with highs in the 30s (C), but the city’s parks are full of shaded areas and waterside spots that benefit from a cooling breeze. Tour the city’s historic waterways by boat, kayak or paddleboard, or take a riverside stroll along the Sumidagawa river from the old district of Asakusa to the sumo-famous town of Ryogoku, or along the shaded ravine of Todoroki Valley. Or head to the beach in Tokyo Bay, with sandy spots at Kasai Rinkai Park, Shiokaze Park, Odaiba Seaside Park and Jonanjima Seaside Park.

In Japan, summer also heralds the time for fireworks festivals. The most well-known is the Sumida River Fireworks Festival, a pyrotechnic extravaganza which sees a constant barrage of fireworks launched from two separate locations: near Sensoji Temple in Taito Ward and near TOKYO SKYTREE in the Sumida Ward. Visitors can also enjoy Japanese street food that includes yakisoba (noodles) and refreshing shaved ice, or kakigori.

Sumida River Fireworks


Autumn’s colours usually arrive from mid-October to mid-December, with the peak in mid-November.The Koyo season, as it’s known locally, feels less busy than spring because it lasts for a longer period.


Tokyo’s driest months are in winter – but it can get cold, with highs of 10 (C), lows closer to freezing and snow showers. Yet with clear views and bright lights, winter is an atmospheric time to visit Tokyo. Climb the TOKYO SKYTREE or Tokyo Tower when the skies are clear and you’re likely to spy the iconic Christmas pudding shape of the distant Mount Fuji. This is the season when Tokyo is a sparkling wonder, lit up by millions of colourful LED lights displayed in trees and around buildings. Light displays, known as ‘illuminations’, start appearing after Halloween and run until mid-February, brightening up the dark nights. In fact, moody festive illuminations adorn the whole capital - for example the zelkova trees and shrubs lining Omotesando, between Harajuku and Omotesando stations, shine brightly. Top areas include Roppongi, Shibuya and Tokyo Dome City, which has dazzling displays based on Japan’s famous landscapes and sights. Christmas is not a public holiday in Japan and everything stays open as usual.


Omote Sando Illumination

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Yanaka-reien cemetary

Step away from the popular iconic spots and discover atmospheric pockets of calm and explore quiet suburbs where the locals hang out Fukagawa-meshi

Bohemian Shimokitazawa

The Shibuya crossing is undoubtedly Tokyo’s most iconic photo spot, thanks to the constant hypnotic flow of people that criss-cross it. But just a stone’s throw away is Shimokitazawa, a laid-back and bohemian district that is home to vintage clothing stores, book and music shops and quirky cafés and bars. Also neighbouring hectic Shibuya is Daikanyama, where the neon high-rises are replaced by leafy low-rise avenues lined with stylish boutique shops and brunch spots. oshima island


Classy Kagurazaka

Close to the bright lights and skyscrapers of Shinjuku is this small and stylish neighbourhood, known as ‘Little Paris’ due to its cobbled streets, chic shopping and French restaurants. Once a lively geisha district, it is still dotted with kimono stores, traditional houses with lacquered wooden walls and discretely elegant ryotei – invitation-only restaurants which traditionally offer geisha entertainment. Today, this is mixed with Michelinstarred restaurants and minimalist galleries, although you might still spot a geisha hurrying to an appointment. On weekends, Kagurazaka’s main street is closed to traffic and wide open for strolling.

Waterfront Fukagawa

Just three kilometres east of the Imperial Palace, Fukagawa was a merchant district in the old city of Edo and retains the serene atmosphere of Japan’s traditional ‘shitamachi’ old towns. The top attractions in this riverside community include Koto City Fukagawa Edo Museum, which takes visitors back in time with its replica village; taking a boat down the river at Yokojukken-gawa Shinsui Park; or stopping in a local eatery to sample Fukagawa-meshi, a working-class meal of clams, mushrooms and rice enjoyed here for centuries. The next neighbourhood over is Kiyosumi Shirakawa, where you can wander among black pines and seasonal flowers like azaleas in Kiyosumi Garden, or take a sip from Tokyo’s impressive coffee scene in one of the many independent roasters which line the streets.

Old-fashioned Yanesen

There are plenty of charming neighborhoods in Tokyo but Yanesen in east Tokyo is the perfect choice for a relaxing afternoon stroll due to its quaint atmosphere, shitamachi vibe and bohemian culture. There is actually no actual place called ‘Yanesen’, rather it is a construct acronym consisting of the first few letters for the three districts of Yanaka, Nezu and Sendagi. Taken together, this is a district of narrow alleyways with centuries-old temples and shrines - particularly Sansaki-zaka, the area’s main street - and tightly-packed low-rise wooden houses with their immaculately kept flowerpots. Drop into a izakaya pub, cosy coffee shop or a retroshop selling old-style snacks. Also in this area is Yanaka Cemetery. Bursting with foliage and flowers this is the final resting places of warlords and artists, including Yoshinobu, the final Tokugawa shogun. And visit Nezu-Jinju Shrine, with its red arch tunnels, carp ponds and gardens.


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Yanaka Ginza shopping street

Nezu-jinja Shrine

The green grass of Nerima

Nerima City is a central yet beautifully green neighbourhood, well known among anime fans as the birthplace of the industry. It is home to multiple production studios as well as parks and gardens. The area was cultivated as farmland in the Edo period and even now its neighbourhoods are surrounded by expansive greenery – like Hikarigaoka Park with its wide-open lawns and rows of cherry trees, and Shakujii Park, which has peaceful ponds covered in water lilies. Art lovers can visit the Chihiro Art Museum of Tokyo, dedicated to a famous Japanese children’s book illustrator, Nerima Art Museum for contemporary Japanese art or the interactive Toei Animation Museum.

Lakes & mountains in Okutama

Still within the city’s boundaries and a possible day trip as it’s just two hours from the centre, the region of Okutama is a world away from urban Tokyo. It’s characterised by mountains and trees rather than skyscrapers and traffic lights. The area is famous for its lake, limestone caves, camping grounds and hot springs. Activities include hiking up various peaks through mosssmothered forest and past creeks and waterfalls, as well as relaxing by Okutama Lake. There’s also the quaint, retro-town of Ome, which has an air of both Japanese and 1950s’ Americana nostalgia.

Dramatic and volcanic Oshima

The largest of the Izu Islands, and the closest to the city, Oshima can be reached in two hours from Tokyo by high-speed ferry. The island is dominated by a still-active volcano which creates a lunar-like landscape in places. Dramatic vistas include Mount Mihara and its desert of black ash; the red-striped Semba Exposed Cliffs that wrap around a road above the ocean, and the Shiofukino Hana (Tide Spout) where waves pound against rocks.

Kiyosumi Gardens

Fukagawa was a merchant district in the old city of Edo and retains the serene atmosphere of Japan’s traditional ‘shitamachi’ old towns Tokyo /

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DISTANCE Popular Tokyo is known for its busy city streets but there are ways to travel around the city and enjoy its attractions whilst avoiding much of the hustle and bustle - whether that is by pedal power, catching an off-peak train or aiming high for a bird’s eye view Pedal power



Saddle up

The city’s cycling tour companies sanitise all equipment and gear between use and have put other safety and hygiene measures in place



Whether by traditional pedal power or on an electric machine, you will discover Toyko’s top landmarks in the saddle of a bicycle. Classic tours pass Meiji Jingu Shrine, Yoyogi Park and the Imperial Palace, and cycling down hidden paths, small alleyways and charming side streets. Moving beneath the skyscrapers of Shinjuku, riders visit a hidden local shrine and explore neighbourhoods like Ginza and Roppongi Hills. The city’s cycling tour companies sanitise all equipment and gear between use and have put other safety and hygiene measures in place.

number of Tokyo’s biggest attractions are within walking distance of each other. Pretty routes which mostly avoid large gatherings include the Kanda River, which stretches almost the entire length of central Tokyo. Closer to the centre it passes the student area Iidabashi, a French cultural hub home to numerous restaurants and bakeries and Jimbocho, an old-fashioned neighbourhood full of antique book shops. A walk that demands a camera in hand is the route from Tamachi Station to the futuristic Shibaura Island across the Rainbow Bridge, with views of the glittering skyline around Tokyo Bay.

Get on the rails

Head to the top

Travelling by train is the most convenient and speediest way of getting around in Tokyo and an experience in itself. To assist visitors, the East Japan Railway Company has developed an app, available in English, which provides up-to-date real-time information. It also gives route options between the user’s starting station and the station at which they want to terminate their journey. It suggests the most desirable route by taking into account the journey time, the number of changes (of lines) needed and any delays on the route. The user can search by station names or city landmarks. As a general rule, try to avoid taking trains between 07.00 and 09.00, when the majority of Tokyo’s commuters travel to work. Shinjuku is one of the world’s busiest train stations and something of a challenge for visitors, with its multiple train lines and platforms and numerous exits. But visitors can walk to nearby stations that are less busy, like Shinjuku-Nishiguchi Station, to take the Oedo line, or Shinjuku-Sanchome for the Marunouchi line, the Shinjuku line or the Fukutoshin line.

Walk the line

Another option is to negotiate your way around the city on foot, combining gentle exercise with an up-close look at some of the city’s diverse neighbourhood. A large

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It may sound counter intuitive but heading to the top of some of Tokyo’s tall buildings is one way to distance yourself from the crowds. The city has a number of ‘hidden’ rooftop gardens –like the Ginza Six garden atop an upscale shopping mall. It’s 4,000sqm space features a green garden complete with a small shrine, wooden decks to sit on and a water feature. ARK Gardens are a series of green spaces spread out across several interconnected buildings that form the ARK Hills complex. Each one has a different theme and showcases seasonal blooms, with green arches festooned in pink roses throughout summer. At the Seibu Ikebukuro Main Store Rooftop Garden, you will find a surprising tranquil and peaceful high-rise with a garden inspired by Claude Monet’s Water Lilies.

Private glamping

Just outside the city, in the Okutama region, is Woodland Bothy. After a 30-minute walk into the mountains, you arrrive at a personal cabin in the woods. This is glamping at its most private - there is only one cabin available to rent so it is only the bird calls that break the silence. Expect comfortable king-sized beds, a luxurious bath and handmade soba noodles, locally grown vegetables, and cuts of Wagyu (Japanese beef).

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Tokyo is always changing and evolving its offering, with new areas springing up, fresh places to dine opening and novel experiences presenting themselves to curious visitors Four Seasons brings luxury to Otemachi

Otemachi One is a much-anticipated new landmark skyscraper in the centre of Tokyo’s business district and popular sightseeing area. The sleek complex includes Otemachi One Avenue, with its shops and restaurants, and the Four Seasons Hotel Tokyo at Otemachi. The hotel boasts stunning views of the Imperial Palace from its luxurious rooms and a rooftop terrace serving Michelin-starred meals from Chef Guillaume Bracaval, who crafts innovative French cuisine inspired by the Japanese terroir.

Akihabara overpass


A brand-new tourism and commercial area is taking shape under the elevated railway tracks in Akihabara, the common name for the area around Akihabara Station. The project is transforming the overpass between Akihabara and



Shibuya Scramble Square is the tallest building in the area, rising to a height of about 230 metres and 47 floors above the ground. Visitors can head to the observation deck at the top to enjoy 360-degree views of the city


Okachimachi Station. Already attracting visitors is 2k540 Aki-Oka Artisan, so named because it stands 2km and 540m from Tokyo Station. The arts and crafts shopping precinct features around 50 different artisanal shops, studios, galleries and cafes. Its success has prompted several expansions, including the opening of another development: Seekbase Aki-Oka Manufacture. Features here include a 29-room hotel themed around ‘urban sustainability’, a gin distillery and an area to buy, sell, or repair electronic equipment - something that fits Akihabara’s image as a magnet for electronics fans.

Toranomon Yokocho

Yokocho is Japanese for ‘alleyway’ but these days it refers to the narrow streets packed with busy izakayas, bars and eateries tucked away in Tokyo’s backstreets. Toranomon Yokocho is a less crowded, more spacious and upmarket version occupying most of the third floor of the new high-rise Toranomon Hills Business Tower. It features 26 bars and eateries and brings together in one space some of the capital’s trendiest and most respected restaurant names.

Shibuya Scramble Square

This new destination in the sky is great for visitors who want to see the famous Shibuya crossing without jostling with locals and tourists. Shibuya Scramble Square is the tallest building in the area, rising to a height of about 230 metres and 47 floors above ground. Visitors can head straight to the observation deck at the top, with its indoor and outdoor options, to enjoy a 360-degree panoramic view of the city.

Tokyo Mizumachi

This spacious new facility, meaning ‘water town’, is a new shopping and leisure destination stretching between the edge of Asakusa, across the Sumida River, all the way over to TOKYO SKYTREE. Visitors will find numerous restaurants, breweries, coffee shops and bakeries as well as boutique stores selling clothing and designer home wares.

Yuen Bettei Daita hot springs

Yuen Bettei Daita brings the tranquliity and peacefulness of the country to the edges of the city. Just 10 minutes from the busy central business district, this hot spring offers large baths, Japanese dishes and local teas. Tealeaf fields once covered the area and attracted literary scholars. Today, the open-air bath, with its source of Ashinoko hot springs in Hakone, is a simple alkaline hot spring. The women’s bath features a mist sauna and the men’s a dry sauna. TOKYO /

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DAY TRIPS inokashira park

ueno park

Tokyo is such a vast and varied city that it would take several visits to tick off its many ‘must visit’ attractions. Below are four suggested itineraries to plan days that will highlight its unique neighbourhoods Natural highs

Located in the far west of Tokyo, Okutama exemplifies the archetypal images of Japanese nature, with its mountains and lush forest.

jindai-ji temple

harmonica alley

Morning: From Hatonosu train station, head to Hatonosu Gorge and on to its suspension bridge to gaze upon this gorgeous natural scene - which could be vibrantly green or burnished bronze, depending on the time of year. The Tama River flows through the ravine’s rugged crags, and the calming sound of rushing water echoes throughout the narrow valley. Just a short walk along the river, past moss-smothered boulders, is Shiromaru Dam. This imposing structure has the longest fish ladder in Japan, a 330-metre-long staircase which helps trout migrate upstream. Afternoon: From Okutama Station take a bus to the Nippara Limestone Caves. This subterranean attraction has a constant temperature of 11 degrees, making it

Grab a bento box for your picnic lunch and head to Inokashira Park’s pond, a famous scenic spot since the Edo period (1603-1867) Tokyo Day Tripper Itineries v16.indd 14

Nippara Limestone Caves

cool in summer and warm in winter. Dripping in stalactites and spiked with stalagmites which took hundreds of years to form, the atmospherically lit cave is also home to a white Bodhisattva statue. End the day at Moegi-no-Yu, a natural hot spring that is fed from a natural source deep underground. Luxuriate in an open-air bath looking across the Okutama River.

West is best

Spend a leisurely day wandering West Tokyo’s beloved Inokashira Park and the surrounding, highly desirable, Kichijoji district.

Morning: Start at Kichijoji Station, home to trendy shops, international cafés and organic grocery stores. North of the station, the Kichijoji Sun Road shopping district offers a retro-1970s atmosphere with plenty of shops and restaurants. It’s covered so is a great place to stroll and browse during rainy days. Grab a bento box for your picnic brunch and head to Inokashira Park’s pond, a famous scenic spot since the Edo period (1603-1867). Afternoon: Take a gentle stroll around the park to the Ghibli Museum (you will need to pre-book), a whimsical multi-storied mansion dedicated to the film studio dubbed ‘Japan’s Disney’. The maze of twisting corridors, tiny doors and winding staircases, plus a rooftop garden, recreates the enchanting mood of the films, which adults and children love equally.

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Yanesen, east of Ueno Park, is the collective name for the Yanaka, Nezu and Sendagi neighbourhoods, with a quaint feel and totally relaxed vibe ghibli museum


Take a stroll along the Tamagawa Josui, a historic canal that is now a ‘green road’, or head south to Jindaiji Temple, an ancient Buddhist monument to warrior monk Ryogen. Dating from the 8th century - making it one of the oldest temples in Japan - it is an oasis of serenity located in a woodland grove. Close to the temple is the sprawling Jindai Botanical Garden and many quaint soba noodle restaurants. The Garden has 30 distinct areas featuring several varieties of one kind of plant. Alternatively, return to Kichijoji and visit Harmonica Alley, a labyrinth of lanes lit large by paper lanterns, for some bar hopping.

Afternoon: After lunch, board a Tokyo Cruise Ship at the Asakusa Pier and purchase a ticket for Odaiba aboard the futuristic Hotaluna vessel, designed by anime master Leiji Matsumoto. This ultra-modern island on Tokyo Bay was created to protect Tokyo from marine attacks but is now a familyfocused entertainment hub. Attractions for all ages include teamLab Borderless, an immersive museum known for its instagrammable art installations, the National Museum of Emerging Science and Innovation and Legoland Discovery Center Tokyo. Alternatively, relax in a traditional hot spring at Oedo Onsen Monogatari or hit one of the many shopping malls.

Waterfront wandering

Bohemian vibes

Morning: Start at Asakusa Station and stroll to Sensoji Temple via Nakamise-dori (dori means ‘street’) otherwise known as Nakamise shopping avenue - which is lined with shops selling crafts, souvenirs and sweet and savoury snacks. At Sensoji, perhaps the most famous and photographed of all Tokyo’s temples, take the time to soak up the incense smoke-filled atmosphere around the five-storey crimson pagoda. Then move on to TOKYO mizumachi, a new retail experience that opened in June 2020 under the elevated railway tracks between Asakusa Station and TOKYO SKYTREE Station on the Tobu Skytree Line. Its attractions include cafes, delis and pastry shops stop for daifuku, a type of rice cake - and more. The Sumida River Walk, a new pedestrian bridge built alongside the Tobu Railway bridge crossing Sumida River, provides an easy and enjoyable walk between Asakusa and the TOKYO SKYTREE.

Morning: Start at Nippori Station on the Yamanote Line and head along the main street that skirts the edge of the serene Yanaka Cemetery. The street is home to authentic shops selling wares like rice crackers from glass jars. Carry on to the Yuyake Dandan staircase, a great spot for a street view photo. Continue to Yanaka Ginza, an area of independent shops, coffee houses and street food spots that are perfect for a long and lazy lunch. Walk to Nezu-jinja Shrine and explore its spacious grounds, which in spring are ablaze with pink and red azaleas. Then admire the ornate carving in the main temple before following the red lacquer torii gates to a small fox shrine.

Experience a journey from the past to the future in one day by linking two fascinating Tokyo neighbourhoods with a cruise in-between.

nenzu-jinja shrine

Yanesen, located east of Ueno Park, is the collective name for the Yanaka, Nezu, and Sendagi neighbourhoods, with their quaint feel and totally relaxed vibe.

Afternoon: Head southeast to Ueno Park and choose between relaxing, walking along the cherry tree avenue (blushing pink in spring time), rowing a boat across the lake or visiting one of the many art museums or Ueno Zoo, whose star residents are giant pandas.



Tokyo /

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KEY Northern Tokyo


Eastern Tokyo

Central Tokyo

Outlying Area

Point of Interest

Western Tokyo




UENO PARK Shibamata



Yanaka Ginza

Koishikawa Botanical Garden Tokyo Dome Natural Hot Spring Kanda Shinto Shrine



Inokashira Park Studio Ghibli Museum


Meiji Jingu Shrine Yoyogi Park Shibuya Sky

Ryogoku Kanda

IMPERIAL PALACE Kiyosumi Gardens


Kyu-Shiba-Rikyu Gardens


Shiokaze Park

Odaiba Ōedo-Onsen Monogatari

Tokyo Bay

Todoroki Valley

Keio Takaosan Onsen Gokurakuyu


Kasai Rinkai Park

Tsukiji Market

Gōtokuji Temple


SKYTREE Senso-Ji Temple


Oshima Island


gotokyo.org/en/plan/coronavirus-information gotokyo.org/en tokyotokyo.jp

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