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Japan’s capital is a city of superlatives and contrasts. Greater Tokyo is the world’s most populous megacity (of around 35 million people) where the world’s largest metro system serves the largest metropolitan economy on the planet. The Tokyo Stock Exchange is the second largest in the world, underpinning the city’s status as a global financial hub and a major world city. Tokyo also boasts the largest share of Global 500 companies of any city on earth. However, this ever-changing cityscape, with its thrusting technological advance, belies an older order, and deeper history, within the flux of modernity. Tokyo began as small fishing village called Edo on the fertile land around the mouth of the Sumida River, on the edge of the Kanto plain. After Tokugawa Ieyasu was appointed shogun by the emperor in the early 17th century, it quickly grew to become the de facto capital of Japan, with the population reaching one million. Edo became the centre of feudal Japan and the important the base of the Tokugawa shogunate of the Edo period (1603–1868). It was from Edo Castle (today’s Imperial Palace), that the Tokugawa enforced their strictly hiearchical and military rule, which dominated the emperor in Kyoto. However, in 1868, following Western pressure to open up treaty ports, the antiquated, insular Tokugawa regime was overthrown. The young Emperor Meiji moved to the city, and renamed it Tokyo (‘Eastern Capital’). So began Japan’s transition from feudalism and the samurai to the modern, industialised, and trading nation it is today.


THIS EVER-CHANGING CITYSCAPE BELIES AN OLDER ORDER, AND DEEPER HISTORY, WITHIN THE FLUX OF MODERNITY FRESH INGREDIENTS A few years ago, the Michelin Guide brought out its first Tokyo edition, and confirmed the city as an epicurean odyssey: its restaurants were awarded a total of 191 stars (almost double the total for Paris and nearly quadruple London’s tally).

Images: JNTO, Dreamstime

Some great restaurants in Tokyo are tiny, and may be particular about who they serve, but perhaps this does matter when you can find exquisite food in unprepossessing places. Yukimura, for example, in an apartment block, has a Michelin star. For something more accessible but delicious, try Tsukiji market. There are also many acclaimed French chefs in the city, such as Joel Robuchon, Pierre Gagnaire and Marc and Philippe Delacourcelle. Meanwhile, Gordon Ramsay, Luke Mangan and Marcus Samuelsson also have restaurants in the city. What is the secret of Tokyo’s culinary success? The real secret lies in quality ingredients, and Tokyo is blessed with enormous range and quality. As for the sushi, nowhere else beats it – and you may find the clams are still alive.


EATING Bird Land B1F Tsukamoto Sozan Building, 4-2 15 Ginza, Chuo-ku. Tel: 5250 1081 This eatery is well known for its delicious yakitori (chicken skewers), and sansai yaki (chicken breast with Japanese pepper). Nihonryori RyuGin 7-17-24 Roppongi, Minato, Tokyo. Tel: 3423-8006 The molecular gastronomy at this famous restaurant has been impressing patrons for some time, as it takes Japanese food to a new level. The eatery has featured in S. Pellegrino World’s 50 Best Restaurants and has two Michelin stars. Little Okinawa 8-7-10 Ginza, Chuo-ku. Tel: 3572 2930 This cosy restaurant specialises in the food of Japan’s southernmost islands. There are numerous pork dishes, and the Chinese culinary influence is noticeable too.

Salt 1-5-1 Marunouchi, Shin-Marunouchi Bldg 6F, Chiyoda-ku. Tel: 5288 7828 Celebrated chef Luke Mangan (of the glass brasserie at the Hilton Sydney) created this restaurant, with its simple, relaxing décor. The chefs, who hail from Sydney, serve superb, modern Australian cuisine. SHOPPING Tokyo may deserve its reputation as an expensive city, but this may be slowly changing. Akihabara is the place for electronics and computers, such as at Laox (1-2-9 Soto-Kanda, Chiyoda-ku; Tel: 3255 9041). Meanwhile, Aoyama and Daikanyama contain a dazzling range of high fashion outlets, boutiques, and design names, and Harajuku is known for eclectic street fashion, including Bathing Ape (4-21-5 3F Jingumae Shibuyaku; Tel: 5474 8869). Ginza is a mixture of department stores,

(such as Matsuya and Seibu), fashion shops, exclusive boutiques, and art galleries. Tokyo also has varied shopping malls and themed experiences. Try Decks, beachside on Odaiba island, Glassarea Aoyama, in Minato-ku, and the upmarket Marunouchi Building in Chiyoda-ku. Meanwhile, Kanda-Jimbocho is an intellectual haven, famous for bookstores and small cafés (such as Sakura Cafe Jimbocho). Check out Isseido-Shoten bookstore (1-7 Kanda Jimbocho, Chiyoda-ku; Tel 3292-0071), among many. NIGHTLIFE Old Imperial Bar 1-1-1 Uchisaiwaicho, Chiyoda-ku. Tel: 3504 1111 Imbued with the history of the old Imperial Hotel (which survived the Great Kanto earthquake, but was later demolished and rebuilt), this bar reprises some features of Frank Lloyd Wright’s original. It is sedate, with a timeless, refined quality.

Previous page: Senso-ji Temple; Tokyo Tower. This page: The Imperial Palace view of Shinjuku, neon lights in Akihabara; sushi rolls; evening view of Mount Fuji

A971 9-7-1 Akasaka, Minato-ku. Tel: 5413 3210 A friendly mixed crowd socialises in this popular, convivial restaurant and bar, particularly on Friday and Saturday nights when they spill out onto the street corner.

Images: JNTO, Dreamstime

Blue Note Raika Bldg, 6-3-16 Minami-Aoyama, Minato-ku. Tel: 5485 0088 This is Tokyo’s premier jazz club, hosting renowned international artists such as Roberta Flack. Good food and drink are available here, too. Hub Pub B1F, 25-9 Udagawacho, Shibuya-ku. Tel: 770 4135 If you fancy diving into an English style pub, Hub Pub is a good option, with branches all over Tokyo. There is a friendly mixed crowd here and a decent range of beers and pub fare (including, of course, fish and chips).

ART AND CULTURE Bridgestone Museum of Art 1-10-1, Kyobashi, Chuo-ku. Tel: 3563 0241 This smart, well-presented art museum has a superb collection of French impressionist paintings, such as by Renoir, Corot, and Matisse, plus sculpture and work by Japanese artists. Edo-Tokyo Museum 1-4-1 Yokoami, Sumida-ku. Tel: 3626-9974 Experience the history of Tokyo and Edo at this excellent musem featuring superb reconstructions, and with good English signage too. Complex 6-8-4 Roppongi, Minato-ku. Tel: 5411 7510. Dip your toe in the thriving Tokyo art scene at this five-storey building: a veritable hive of interesting, thought-provoking art galleries, from the established to the newer and cutting edge.

Imperial Palace East Garden (Higashi-gyoen) Marunouchi, Tozai, Chiyoda or Hanzomon Line to Otemachi (exits c13b or c8b). Tel: 3213 2050 Higashi-gyoen, regularly open to the public, is a tranquil, historic retreat from the hubbub of the city. Enter from Ote-mon (on the east side), close to Tokyo Station, or Hirakawamon and Kitahanebashi-mon (to the north). Also pay a visit to the Museum of Imperial Collections, within the palace. Zojo-Ji (Zojo Temple) Shiba-koen, Roppongi. Tel: 3432 1431 Behind Tokyo Tower stands this exquisite temple of Jodo Buddhism, dating from 1393, but relocated. This was an important shrine visited by the Tokugawa family. The three sections symbolise the three stages to nirvana. The ancient bell, weighing 15 tonnes, is one of the most important of the Edo period.



Images: KTO, Dreamstime


Survival and triumph are words that aptly describe the history of Seoul and also Korea: the city’s battle-scarred history reflects Korea itself. Seoul, founded more than six centuries ago, has a fascinating past. The city’s primacy began in 1394, at the beginning of the Joseon dynasty, when King Taejo established the seat of government in the Hanyang valley around the Han River. Gyeongbokgung Palace was built as the centre of the city; today’s presidential residence, the Blue House (Cheongwadae), is nearby. The palace complex, built to symbolise the unity and strength of Korea (the country was unified for many centuries), was largely razed by Japanese invaders in the late 16th century, as well as during Japan’s harsh colonial rule of Korea (1910 to 1945). It is now being gradually restored. If the exit of the Japanese in 1945 was a relief, Seoul had precious little time to savour the victory. In 1948 the Korean peninsula was divided into two states – the Republic of Korea in the south, and communist DPRK in the north – and there followed a brutal conflict that reflected the nascent Cold War and drew in China. Twice the communists took Seoul, and twice it was retaken by UN forces, but at a huge cost in lives. Today, South Korea is no longer a hermit kingdom. Powered by much vaunted economic success, and bolstered by cherished stability, Seoul is the richly cultural capital of a democratic, progressive state.

HANOK AND LANEWAYS Despite wars, upheaval, and the mighty bulldozer, some older traditional architecture and neighbourhoods of Seoul remain. Hanok are the traditional, singlestorey homes of Seoul, designed to be in harmony with nature, with courtyards and gardens. Life in the hanok is very different: living on the floor is the norm, using mats. These hanok, and the networks of quieter laneways, shops, and small eateries, form the living heritage of Seoul. These areas include Samcheong-dong, Namsangol Hanok Village, Jongno, Bukchon Hanok Village, and Hyoja-dong (near Cheongwadae).


EATING Tokoshon 85-1 Chebu-dong, Jongno-gu. Tel: 737 7446 Not far from Gyeongbokgung, Tokoshon is renowned for the Korean speciality of samgyetang (chicken ginseng soup), as well as other favourites. The restaurant is set in a hanok, and former president Roh is known to eat here. Gorilla in the Kitchen 650 Sinsadong, Gangnam-du. Tel: 3442 1688 This chic, health-conscious restaurant, owned by Korean actor Bae Yong-joon, does not use butter or cream, and just the minimum of salt, to make tasty fusion dishes. Gamrodang 87-1 Hwa-dong, Jongno-gu. Tel: 3210 3397 Try the best in vegetarian temple food that uses organic vegetables direct from the farm, including rice wrapped with lotus leaf, and a range of remarkable salads.

Zelen 2F, 116-14, Itaewon-dong, Yongsan-gu. Tel: 749 0600 It may be a surprise, but quality Bulgarian food is available in Seoul, and this restaurant is now highly regarded. Try hearty, meaty fare (meatballs, stews, stuffed chicken, and pork chops), and decent wines, in a welcoming atmosphere. SHOPPING You can find a vast array of shopping options in Seoul. There are the big brash malls of COEX in Samseong (Gangnam-gu), or Central City near the bus terminal in Gangnam, but Seoul is renowned for its specialised shopping locales too. Gwanghwamun is famous for its bookstores, such as Kyobo (B1, Kyobo Building, Jongno; Tel: 3973 5100), and also the vast and absorbing Dongdaemun Market. Meanwhile, Insadong-gil specialises in art and is packed with numerous galleries, pottery,

embroidery, and antique shops. Myeong-Dong has a wider range of shops, including local and imported clothing outlets and department stores, such as the engrossing Lotte Department Store (Namdaemunno, Myeongdong; Tel: 771 2500). Nearby Itaewon largely caters for American soldiers, with its varied clothing stores and eel skins. Also check out the excellent What The Book (Sobangseo-gil, Itaewon; Tel 797 2342), for new and secondhand books. For high fashion at prices that boggle the mind, visit chic Apgujeong in Gangnam. You will find anything from Armani and Stella McCartney to Andre Kim and Jimmy Choo. NIGHTLIFE All That Jazz 168-17 Itaewondong, Yongsangu. Tel: 795 5701 This is a top jazz club, where popular local jazz musicians play every

Previous page: View of Cheonggyecheon; Doksugung Palace This page: Gyeongbokgung Palace; Moray fish stew; 63 Building; Dongdaemun Market

night of the week. The club also offers great drinks and dinner.

bolstered its reputation as a favourite watering hole.

Club Evans Wasan-gil, Hongdae. Tel: 337 8361 A much loved and well established jazz club and academy with a sophisticated, knowlegeable clientele. Live music begins at 9pm.

ART AND ARCHITECTURE Gyeongbokgung Line 3 to Gyeongbokgung, Exit 5. Tel: 2732 1931 Gyeongbokgung was the main palace until 1592, when it was razed by Japanese invaders. After rebuilding, King Gojong resided there from 1868. Geunjeongjeon is the impressive main palace building, and Gyeonghoeru is a large raised pavilion overlooking a lake, where state banquets were held.

Images: KTO, Dreamstime

Dawon Off Seokjeongol-gil, Insadong. Tel: 730 6305 This beautiful, relaxing teashop, set in a hanok and an idylic courtyard with fruit trees, is a perfect place to unwind and enjoy the remarkable teas, including refreshing fruity ones for the summer months. 3 Alley Pub Itaewon 2-gil, Itaewon. Tel: 749 3336 This feels like a ‘home from home’ for expats, with its friendly atmosphere, pub fare, darts, pool, and weekly quiz nights. The nine draught beers have certainly

Changdeokgung Line 3 to Anguk station, exit 3. Tel: 2762 8262 This is the famous UNESCO World Heritage site, and guided tours are essential. Notice the mountain behind, with the small stream in front: the feng shui followed by all Josean palaces. The site includes Seoul’s oldest stone bridge (built in 1411), and Naksonjae (built for

a concubine). The exquisite Biwon (Secret Garden) and lily ponds create a calming, tranquil ambiance. National Museum of Korea 135 Seobinggo-ro, Yongsan-gu. Tel: 2077 9000 The flagship museum of Korea, and after numerous moves, the collections are now housed in a vast, modern building in Yongsan Family Park, built to withstand an earthquake. The permanent exhibition covers the entire span of Korean history, and there are numerous other collections. Seoul Arts Centre Seocho-gu, subway Line No. 3, Nambu Bus Terminal Subway Station, Exit 5. Tel: 580 1300 This massive modern complex in southern Seoul, opened in 1993, features an opera house, concert halls, theatres, exhibition spaces, various archives, and cultural plazas.


Hiroaki Yamamoto, from the Hilton Tokyo

ASK THE CONCIERGE Our concierge in Tokyo shares his local knowledge of Japan’s premier city. BEST RESTAURANTS Edo-Gin in Tsukiji (the world’s largest wholesale fish and seafood market) is one of the best sushi restaurants in the area. You can view a large tank in which the ingredients swim before ending up on your plate. Meanwhile Marcus Samuelsson’s Aquavit in Harajuku (following his Stockholm and New York ventures), serves modern Scandinavian fare in a beautifully designed setting. For something more homely and down to earth, try Good Honest Grub in Shibuya, which offers wholesome Westernstyle breakfast, brunches, lunches and more, using fresh ingredients from their own farm. SAUNAS AND SALONS Ooedo Onsen Monogatari in Odaiba is Tokyo’s only hot spring theme park. The baths use natural springs, and there are many restaurants, bars, and other facilities. NIGHTLIFE Muse in Roppongi is a multi-level entertainment venue of dance floors, lounges, and bars. Enjoy karaoke, darts, pool, or air hockey, or just relax. VIP party rooms are also available.

SHOPPING Ameya Yokocho (Ameyoko) is a busy market area between Okachimachi and Ueno stations on the Yamanote Line. Here you will discover everything from clothes to fresh and dried food. Meanwhile, ABC Mart in Shibuyu-ku offers shoes at reasonable prices, and the Uniqlo UT Store, also in Shibiyu, is all about the next wave in T-shirt fashion. MUSEUMS AND GALLERIES The Tokyo National Museum is the largest museum in Japan and has an impressive collection of art and archaeological objects from Asia, including Japanese national treasures. Meanwhile, the National Museum of Emerging Science and Innovation in Odaiba focuses on the latest science and technology, with interactive exhibitions, virtual reality, events, and seminars. Another side of Japan is on sight at the Japan Folk Crafts Museum

in Meguro-ku. Set in a wood and stone building, it features mingei (folk craft), including ceramics, textiles and furniture. GETTING AROUND The idyllic Meiji Shrine, in Shibuyu, was completed in 1921 to honour Emperor Meiji and Empress Shoke. It was designed in the Nagarezukuri style and is set in a 175-acre forest of 120,000 trees (365 species) donated from all over Japan. This Shinto shrine and evergreen forest is a place of solace, relaxation, and contemplation right in the heart of Tokyo. HIDDEN GEMS Ben’s Cafe in Shinjuki-ku is a favourite community hangout with a bulletin board and local art on the walls. It is renowned for its beer, bagels, quiches, pastries, and coffee, all of which go down well at regular evenings of literature, comedy, and live music.


Hong Na Hyun, from the Millennium Seoul Hilton

ASK THE CONCIERGE Our Seoul concierge provides local insights into the many facets of city life. BEST RESTAURANTS Gecko’s Garden in Itaewon-dong is always worth a visit for its garden and rooftop terrace, cosy interior, and eclectic mixture of European food. Another delight is Le Saint Ex, on Yongsan-gu, a genuine French bistro (replete with blackboard), for hearty French fare over wine. SPAS AND SALONS In Seoul, spas range from the spartan through to the luxurious jjimjilbang. The Dragon Hill Spa in Yongsan is spread over seven floors, and has a wide range of baths and saunas, with a golf driving range, cinema, rooftop garden, and outdoor pool, among other attractions. Meanwhile, Spa Lei in Gangnam is an immaculate, stylish women-only spa with knowledgeable staff. NIGHTLIFE Once in a Blue Moon in Apgujeoung is an intimate live jazz venue with live performances every evening to the early hours. Over in Hongdae (Seoul’s main clubbing district), you will find DJs and live music at places like M2, Club FF and SK@2.

SHOPPING Take a break from the ‘newness’ of many shopping experiences, and stroll around the relaxing Janganpyeong Antiques Market in Dapsimni (Dongdaemun-gu). Meanwhile, Jongno is well worth a visit, one of the oldest roads in Seoul and home to some big bookstores such as Kyobo Book Centre, Youngpoong Bookstore, and Bandi & Luni’s, as well as other attractions. MUSEUMS AND GALLERIES A visit to the War Memorial of Korea in Yongsan-gu is a must. Situated at the site of the old army headquarters, the six-floor memorial museum displays over 13,000 items (including documents and memorabilia), with military equipment outside. The memorial and museum depict the many conflicts in Korea’s history, and includes the Statue of Brothers, symbolising the partition of the country.

GETTING AROUND A walk around Insadong and Daehangno is always stimulating. Insadong is the craft capital of Korea, covering the full gamut of work: paper, pottery, embrodiery, furniture, and hanbok clothing. Daehangno is packed with theatres and artistic ventures, and you can take a stroll through Marronnier Park. HIDDEN GEMS Dalsaeneun Dalman Saenggak Handa (Moon Bird Thinks Only of the Moon) is a peaceful, rustic teashop in an old Insadong laneway. The many plants and ancient objects create the perfect setting for a good cup of tea. You can also take a stroll around beautiful Samcheong Dong in Jongno-no. The area is full of laneways, hanok, small shops, galleries, art ventures, and museums. Have a look out for the Artsonje Center, Art Gallery Street, and Samcheong Park.




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Seoul’s long history is apparent in its magnificent palaces, architecture, laneways, temples and shrines. Seoul is one of Asia’s most prominent centres of culture.

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