Tokyo is a city that simultaneously embraces both the new and the ancient. Regardless of the length of your stay, you’ll be immersed in vibrant splashes of techno-urban energy tempered by moments of calm solitude. Whether you’re attracted to the calm or the chaos, Tokyo offers a labyrinth of cultural and culinary charms.
Greet the Day
Get a good night’s sleep and greet the city with the sunrise at Park Hotel Tokyo. Even if you missed Japan’s cherry blossom season, you’re in luck; the hotel has an “Artist’s Floor” where each room on is inspired by a different Japanese artist’s take on their homeland. Dream of spring in the stunning cherry blossoms room, and then enjoy the beautiful view of Tokyo Tower from your window.
Face it, there is no escaping the kawaii (cute) phenomenon in Japan. Since you can't beat them, join them with a visit to Shirohige’s Cream Puff Factory. This bakery specializes in the cutest cream puffs you will ever see, which all feature the likeness of Totoro! Totoro, from Hayao Miyazaki's animated film "My Neighbor Totoro" has become a beloved global character. It may seem cruel to bite into Totoro, but there really is nothing better than sinking your teeth into creamy cuteness. This shop is open every day from 10 am to 7 pm, with the exception of Tuesdays. The cream puffs go fast, so plan to visit early in the day, just in case.
Sens?-ji and Sensibility
Stroll along Nakamise dori, a bustling street of shops leading right up to Sens?-ji Temple. If you only visit one temple in Japan, make it this one. Graze on soft serve flavors like cherry blossom and green tea, and eat traditional desserts such as dango (the treat that inspired the emoji!). Sens?-ji, also known as Asakusa Kannon Temple, is a Buddhist temple that ranks among Tokyo’s most popular. Built in 645 C.E., it ‘s also Tokyo’s oldest temple. Draw an omikuji (a paper fortune) and if your luck doesn’t suit you, you can always play with fate and draw another.
From A to Z
Grab lunch or a coffee at A to Z Café, a coffee bar designed by the artist Yoshitomo Nara and the creative group, Graf. You won’t be surprised to see Nara’s signature sad-eyed girls and puppies decorating the walls. Don’t, however, let their winsome stares distract you from the high quality full-course meals and wine bar. There is a cabin-like structure in the middle of the café that highlights the artist’s minimalistic depictions of childhood.
The Sky’s the Limit
The Tokyo Sky Tree was completed in 2010, becoming the tallest structure in Tokyo. The structure is both an observation deck and a broadcasting tower. Besides providing a great view of the surrounding city (on clear days, you can see Mt. Fuji in the distance), strategic design choices went into the construction of the Sky Tree. Its color is based on the lightest shade of Japan’s traditional indigo blue. With Japan’s artisan downtown district directly below the tower, it is meant to tie together Japan’s historical craftsmanship and its newer futuristic city style. Reserve tickets in advance to avoid the lines. https://instagram.com/p/BCp5vEpQzTZ/
Use Your Noodle
Ichiran specializes in tonkatsu ramen: ramen with deep fried pork. There’s no better way to end your culinary experience in Tokyo than with a steaming bowl of noodles. Ichiran claims that each of its bowls involves the effort of over 40 specialists. Better yet, Ichiran is open 24 hours, making it the best spot for your late night noodle fix.
Time for “Kanpai”
Check out Golden Gai, six narrow alleys that are packed with nightspot options. The bars are small (many only fit five to six customers), so you can expect to get cozy. The area may seem low profile, but it is frequented by high profile customers like Japanese celebrities and artists, though probably not recognizable to a foreigner’s eye. Take the east exit of Shinjuku Station for the easiest route to this area.