Tokyo is the New York of South Asia. It is a city that never sleeps; a city of bright lights and brash arcades, of sky-scraping towers, cutting edge design and vast shopping malls.
The capital of Japan may seem like a 21st century cloud-nine but it is also a city of contradictions. Shinto shrines and kimono-clothed women can be found among the high-rise office blocks and neon signs. Crammed commuter trains give way to peace memorials, street-side noodle stalls and steamy volcanic baths.
The Gardens of the Imperial Palace with its Meiji Shrine, the beautiful Yoyogi Park and Inokashira Park are symbolic of a traditional Japan and beautiful places in which to feel the grass underfoot and relax away from frenetic Tokyo life.
Tokyo is incredible when seen from above. Grab the best views with a trip to the top of Tokyo Tower, the World Trade Centre, the Skytree Observation Tower or the more scenic option of the Roppongi Hills.
Explore Japan’s cultural side with a visit to Mori Art Museum or Ghibli Museum for anime – one of Japan’s most famous creations. Those with a love of all things retail have found their nirvana in Tokyo. Anything that can be sold is for sale in this bargain hunter’s paradise, from electronics and comics to cosmetics and antiques. A stroll down trendy Omote-Sando reveals plenty of boutiques while Jinbocho is where all the bookshops are hiding. The giant malls of Siebu and Tobu have everything under one vast roof while Antique Mall and Antique Market are incredible places to trawl for furniture and historic curios. Harajuku is the number one stop for fashion. For a less commercial shopping experience, head to Ameyoko open-air bazaar for stalls and plenty of haggling.
Make time for breakfast sushi at Tsukiji Fish Market and for luxuriating in Japan’s famous Onsen, or thermal baths. LaQua and Odeo Onsen Monogatari are two of the finest. If visiting with little ones, Toyo Disney Resort should be fist on the list of things to do. Take part in a tea ceremony, picnic beneath the cherry blossoms in April or relax on the Sumida Rive with a soothing boat cruise.
Nights are jaw-dropping in this neon jungle. Shbuya and Shinjuku Stations are a riot of dazzling colour and light that must be seen to be believed. While the high-class restaurants, gambling dens, non-stop karaoke clubs, late night cafes for slurping noodles and sake-soaked bars can seem a little
overwhelming, one glance beyond the man-made skyline reveals the formidable, grounding natural beauty of snow-capped Mount Fuji.
The following information is correct as of November 2014 and is subject to change. Please check with the airline directly for complete accuracy.
Tokyo Haneda Airport is located 9 miles from the centre of Tokyo and can be reached by car in around 20-30 minutes. Numerous buses operate from outside the terminal building and there are also plenty of taxi firms an alternative way of getting in to Tokyo.
Narita International Airport is located 40 miles east of Tokyo and takes approximately 1 hour to reach the city centre. Alternatively there are two rail links that connects the airport to the city; the high-speed Narita Skyliner in 47 minutes and Japan Railways Narita Express in 56 minutes. Keisei buses take up to 90 minutes to reach the city centre and taxis and limousines are also available for hire.
What you need to know
Currency: The Japanese Yen
Visas: UK citizens do not require a visa for a visit to Japan of up to six months. For other nationalities the time period alters and for some a visa is required no matter the length of the visit - for more information check with a local embassy or the Foreign Office website. One arrival in Japan, visitors will be photographed and fingerprints taken. Non-compliance will result in refusal of entry.
Laws: A passport or ID must be carried at all times. There is zero tolerance towards drugs in Japan with heavy fines and sentences often resulting from these offences. Loud, rowdy behaviour is not tolerated while the legal age for consuming and buying alcohol is 20. There is no smoking ban in Japan however this is at the discretion of the establishment so check before lighting up!
Best Time to Visit
The changing seasons are the best times to visit Japan, for example March to May and September to November. In spring the stunning pastel pinks of the cherry (Sakura) blossoms burst into life lining Japans streets and walkways for one brief week while autumn boasts its own colourful palette.
Winters can be quite chilly in Japan while summers are generally hot and humid. June often brings a short rainy season. Peak tourist times are April and May in Golden Week and mid august for the Festival of the Dead but there are plenty of other reasons to visit Japan. The Sumo Tournament is worth a trip in January while the Bean Throwing Festival livens up a chilly February. In March there are Doll Festivals and Anime Fairs if you can bear to tear yourself away from the cherry blossoms.
April is Buddha’s birthday and the major holiday known as Golden Week. May brings with it Children’s Day and plenty of festivities while July is known for a giant fireworks display. New Year’s Eve is a cacophony of bells as all the city’s temples ring their bells 108 times to herald in the New Year with local coffee shops open all night to celebrate.
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