Take every Asian city you have been to, add Times Square and multiply them all together, and you have a concept of Tokyo. Immense, bustling, and packed with technology and human traffic, everything in Tokyo is bigger, better, shinier and busier than your wildest imaginings.
Tokyo’s sprawling skyline is dominated by staggering skyscrapers, which have leapt from the horizon in the aftermath of World War II, when much of the city was destroyed. The city never stays the same: as time progresses, so the skyscrapers soar higher, neon facades grow taller and brighter, and technology reaches new realms of possibility. Among the constant change and progression, however, Tokyo’s temples and gardens remain sacred, offering peaceful respite from the chaos of this mesmerising city.
Direct flights to Tokyo will bring you to either Haneda Airport or Narita International Airport. Both experience high volumes of passengers, but Haneda is closer to Tokyo and, as the quieter of the two airports, you are likely to take less time going through customs.
Tokyo in the summer is teeming with tourists and temperatures are high (mid-thirties), as is humidity. There is plenty to see and do all year, but ideally the best time to visit Tokyo is in the autumn, from September to December, when it is pleasantly warm and less crowded. Likewise, if you are looking for cheap flights to Tokyo, the shoulder seasons of spring and autumn are the best time to go.
Tokyo’s unique ability to embrace change and progression whilst honouring tradition is quite striking. On the one hand, you can go to a restaurant and be served by a robot, while on the other, Tokyo’s residents still hold traditions and culture in high regard. By getting a balance and embracing the old and the new, you will get a good sense of what makes the city so special.
Sensoji Temple was built in 645 and in the ensuing millennium and a half, Tokyo grew around the temple and grounds. The temple consists of a complex series of halls and gardens, some of which are fairly modern – these halls were rebuilt after being destroyed in WWII. You will be confronted with plenty of stalls which may seem disrespectful, but has in fact been a tradition since the 1700s Wander, browse and enjoy the reverent peace typical of even the most busy temples across Asia.
West Tokyo is home to the Meiji Shrine, built in memory of the Emperor Meiji and his wife, who died in 1912 and 1914 respectively. 100,000 trees were donated and planted, creating an exquisite peace of forest in the chaotic city. Here, you can walk along tranquil pathways and reflect on the beauty of the world, away from daily stresses and concerns. Many people leave prayers and wishes, or write letters to gods which are posted in post boxes dotted around the shrine.
The Japanese arts of sumo and samurai fighting are still a respected part of the country’s culture, even if, today, their purposes have altered slightly. Sumo was originally intended to provide entertainment to Shinto deities. Today, it is a national sport. Every year, Tokyo is host to three tournaments, which last 15 days and take place in the national sumo stadium, the Ry?goku Kokugikan. A bout of sumo wrestling lasts just seconds, with the first wrestler to touch the floor or leave the ring losing. The end of the day sees the best-ranked wrestlers going head-to head, and by this tie the atmosphere can be incredibly tense. If you want to watch sumo wrestling, you can buy bench seats on the door; if you want boxes or better seats, it is wise to book in advance. There are also training tours during tournaments, where a guide will explain the rules and rituals that shape the sport, and you may even get to watch some wrestlers practising.
Samurai fighting is another ancient art that is still celebrated in Tokyo, with traditional displays that allude to the terrifying bravery of samurai fighters. You can even learn a little of samurai fighting yourself, learning basic moves and simple choreographed fights sequences in a traditional dojo.
In stark contrast to Tokyo’s ancient traditions, the cross roads at the entrance of Shibuya Station is remarkable to behold. The massive crossroads features ten lanes, with five roads converging. When the lights at the pedestrian crossings change, over 1,000 people cross the road, like a thousand dancers taking part in a seamlessly choreographed dance. The sheer scale of the process leaves one awed, making it something to do at least once in your lifetime!
We are sure you will forgive us for waxing lyrical about Tokyo’s public conveniences but…. the toilets in Tokyo are unlike anything else anywhere else in the world! By Tokyo’s standards, Western toilets are positively barbaric. In Tokyo, the loos have heated seats, sprays (front and rear), and are self-flushing. Going to the loo has never been such an indulgent event!
On your trip to Tokyo you will discover gadgets galore from a city obsessed with the cyber age. Gadget stalls pretty much line the streets, and take you from the sublime to the ridiculous. You can dine in the Robot Restaurant, where the food is nothing to comment on, but the performance (featuring robots, of course, is surreally spectacular. And what better way to get from A to B than the Sky Hop, a futuristic hop-on, hop-off sky train.
As one might expect from one of the busiest cities in the world, in Tokyo you are never far from entertainment to suit all the family. This includes, Legoland, Disneyland, Madame Tussauds, architecture tours and organised trips to Mount Fuji, Japan’s highest mountain. Not to mention a couple of hours of Karaoke which was, after all, invented in Japan.
Tokyo is awash with themed bars and restaurants that offer a surreal dining experience. However, the real taste of Japan can be found in the many noodle bars, local restaurants and sushi bars, where you can sample true Japanese delicacies. Fresh produce is key to Tokyo’s cuisine and the delicate curries, exquisitely fresh sushi and delicious yakitori with rich teriyaki sauce must all be sampled to understand what is so special about Japanese food. Most restaurants specialise in one type of food and it is not unusual for locals and tourists alike to queue for an hour or more to get a table at the best restaurants. Head to Ramen Street, which is packed with restaurants offering some of the best noodles you will ever taste.
There is no doubt that a trip to Tokyo will leave you reeling. The perfect fusion of sci-fi and ancient traditions makes for a once-in-a-lifetime experience that will be truly unforgettable,
If you would like help finding cheap flights to Tokyo, Travangelo can help you to plan the trip of a lifetime.