Where to eat, stay, shop and play: Jason Tse of Flight Centre Hong Kong reveals 10 top things to do in Japan’s wonderfully weird capital.
Glimpse Mount Fuji
On a clear day, you can see Mount Fuji from Tokyo as it lies just 100 kilometres to the south-west. For a closer look, hop on a shinkansen headed to Osaka, where you’ll get a spectacular view of the volcano on the right-hand side of the train, about 40 minutes into the journey. If you have more time to spare, stay a night at Hakone hot spring resort at the foot of the mountain.
Be pop cultured
To mingle with the anime, manga and idol crowd, head to Harajuku Bridge, where the Gothic Lolitas and Cosplay kids bring the world-renowned heroes of popular Japanese animation to life. Yoyogi Park also draws all sorts of obessive otaku talent, from horn players to rockabilly gangs, complete with poodle skirts and Elvis-inspired pompadours.
Bid at a tuna auction
Tsukiji Fish Market sees the handling of over 2,000 tons of marine products per day, including 450 varieties of fish. One of the largest wholesale fishmarkets in the world, it’s busiest right before dawn and starts to wind down by 9am. Book ahead to attend the famous 5am live tuna auctions – limited to 120 people, they’re held seven days a week.
Find your Zen
Just 10 minutes away from one of Tokyo’s busiest hubs is the peaceful oasis of Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden. Ask for a map in English so you can be sure to hit the three major gardens: English Landscape, French Formal and Japanese Traditional. This spacious imperial park also houses two teahouses where you can get your fill of matcha and wagashi.
Go temple hopping
Dedicated to the Bodhisattva Kannon (goddess of mercy and pets), Sensoji Temple is the oldest and most visited in Tokyo. The incense that billows from the main entrance is said to bestow good luck on those who ‘bathe’ in it. The approach to Sensoji is lined with quality souvenir shops, and festivals and events are held on the temple grounds throughout the year.
Catch a kabuki show
Kabuki-za is the go-to theatre in Tokyo for fans of the bizarre Japanese dance-drama that is kabuki. Known for its highly stylised drama and the elaborate makeup worn by performers, kabuki is as popular now as it was in the 17th century. Expect a series of innovative stage effects, which allow the actors to revolve on the spot, fly and even disapear.
Achieve sensory overload
For the ultimate sensory overload head to Robot Restaurant. You aren’t there for the food – popcorn and bento boxes – you’re there to be transported to a world of fantasy. Blaring pop music fills the room, warrior princesses fight 10-foot-tall transformer robots and sequined bikinis ricochet laser beams into every corner.
While you find great sushi in just about every restaurant in Tokyo, be sure to check out the acclaimed Sushi Saito. With three Michelin stars under its belt, it’s impressed just about every industry heavyhitter including the late Joel Robuchon. Sushi Saito seats just seven diners, so you’ll want to book your table months in advance.
Mix with the avant-garde
Newly opened Yayoi Kusama Museum features many of the zany Japanese artist’s major installations, sculptures and paintings. A graduate of Kyoto School of Arts and Crafts, Kusama was a big part of the avant-garde scene in 1960s New York, and is best known for a series of happenings in which she painted naked participants with brightly coloured polka dots.
Sleep in beauty
Providing a modern take on the traditional Japanese tea room, Hotel Koé Tokyo is about as clean-lined and minimalist as it gets. Perfect for solo travellers or couples looking for hip boutique-style accommodation, Hotel Koé is also a lifestyle centre with a retail shop, event space, trendy restaurant and bakery.
Flight Centre Hong Kong specialises in tailor-made travel experiences; the widest choice of airfares, accommodation and tours; plus 24-hour emergency assistance. To book your getaway, call 2830 2776 or visit www.flightcentre.com.hk. For a local consultation, contact DB-based Flight Centre representative Jennifer Durbridge on [email protected]
Photos courtesy of Flight Centre Hong KongTags: japan, what to do, tokyo, sushi, kabuki, sensoji temple, shinjuku gyoen national garden, temples, fish market, yoyogi park