City guide: Tokyo, Japan | Private jet charter
Tokyo, Japan’s vibrant capital city, mixes the ultramodern and the traditional, from neon-lit skyscrapers to historic temples. Tokyo is blessed with an extraordinary cultural legacy, exemplified by its many temples and gardens. Museums and galleries in Tokyo are outstanding, while music and theatre are highly revered and Tokyo offers visitors a plethora of venues, alongside some of the most innovative cuisine in the world.
Top five must-see sights and attractions
The very best views of Tokyo are from the 634m-high Skytree – a communications and observation tower in the Sumida district – offering panoramic 360-degree views across Tokyo and across to Mt Fiji.
The first observation platform is at Tembo Deck via a 50-second elevator ride. The second viewing point, Tembo Galleria, is at 450m. Watch the sun set over cocktails at the 634 Muashi restaurant (on the 4th floor of the tower) serving new Japanese cuisine inspired by the spirit and character of Shitamachi.
The action isn’t limited to the views, head down to the Somamachi complex at the bottom of the tower. There’s a planetarium and an aquarium here, and even a postal museum, and more than 300 shopping and dining options. Avoid the lengthy queues on arrival by using the ‘foreign visitor’ entrance.
Located in Tokyo’s Asakusa district, Sensō-ji Temple and its 5-storey pagoda are dedicated to Kannnon, the Buddhist goddess of compassion. The oldest Buddhist temple in Tokyo, this 50-acre site is home to the famous Kaminarimon Gate with its 3-metre red paper lantern – known as Thunder Gate.
The long avenue – Nakamise-dori – and alleyways leading up to and around Sensō-ji Temple are lined with souvenir stalls selling masks, carvings, kimonos, fabrics, snacks and toys.
Tokyo Imperial Palace
Tokyo’s Imperial Palace is still used by Japan’s Imperial Family and stands in a 17th-century landscaped park surrounded by moats and two-metre-thick walls in the Marunouchi district of the city. Usually closed to the public, you can however see the Emperor on just two occasions each year. The first date is January 2nd when he gives a short address. The second is on his birthday, December 23rd. Head for the main Nijyubashi entrance.
A wonderful respite from the hectic city, one of the Palace gates leads to the exquisite East Higashi-Gyoen Garden which is open to the public. Created among the ruins of the former Edo Castle which once occupied the site, the cherry blossoms, sunflowers and over 40 other flowers provide welcome respite.
Visit Mikura-jima Island
For an off-the-beaten-track adventure during your stay in Tokyo, visit the extraordinary Mikura-jima Island where you can swim in the cerulean blue waters with dolphins and hike up Mt Oyama. The island is tiny with a resident population of less than 400 and home to lush vegetation and wildlife. The dolphins are in residence between April and November.
The island’s mountain forests provide a rich habitat for the wild Nioi-Ebine-Ran orchid, as well as mulberry, box and beech trees. Join a guided hike and you may also discover the giant Chinquapi trees of Mikura-jima which can be over 5m in width. To reach Mikura-jima Island either fly and ferry via Oshima Island or Hachijojima Island – journey time 1.5 hours – or take the overnight passenger ship from Tokyo’s Takeshiba Pier.
Shopping in Ginza
Peruse the world’s most expensive real estate as you flex the plastic at the luxury brand flagships in Tokyo’s glitziest neighbourhood. Ginza is the go-to retail district and has been Tokyo’s commercial centre for many centuries. Exclusive showrooms and elegant department stores such as Wako and Mitsukoshi line the busy streets. The Ginza Six mall will be heaven on earth to shopaholics, while the side streets are home to smaller boutiques, galleries and kimono stores.
Take a breather at one of the coffee or tea shops and aim to visit here at weekends when traffic is banned. At night, the famous Kabuki-za Theatre is a magnet for tourists and locals, and don’t miss the Auma-odori dances at the Shinbaashi Enbujō Theatre.
Tokyo International Airport (Haneda) has excellent road and rail links into the centre of the city. As does its sister Narita Airport, although the latter is farther out. Take a taxi into Tokyo or ride the Express Train from the international terminal that runs to Shinagawa Station – about 10km north of the airport.
Once in Tokyo, public transportation is so efficient it’s unlikely you’ll need a hire car. Take Japan Rail (JR) trains across the city or the subway. Taxis are coloured green, yellow and black and are ubiquitous throughout central Tokyo. For journeys to other cities the exciting Shinkansen (bullet train) is a must.
Best time to visit
We suggest visiting Tokyo in Spring between March and April when the cherry blossom is in full array. Or in Autumn when the golden foliage is at its best and temperatures are cooler. Summer – as with most popular tourist destinations – is peak season in Tokyo, so expect queues at the major sites and often oppressive humidity. Winter is usually cold, but can be a good time to visit the city when there are fewer tourists.
Located on East-Central Honshu, the largest of Japan’s main islands, Tokyo is a vibrant example of modern and ancient cultures co-existing. Japan’s enigmatic capital offers visitors an unparalleled historic legacy, superb local and international cuisine, secluded beaches, world-class museums and galleries, luxury hotels, and an efficient transport system.
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