Travel

Japan: 24-hour Tokyo

Tokyo's pop-culture chaos is juxtaposed with serene temples and ancient sites. Photo / Japan National Tourism
Tokyo's pop-culture chaos is juxtaposed with serene temples and ancient sites. Photo / Japan National Tourism

FROM the heated toilet seats to the birdsong piped through the railway stations, Tokyo is a city unlike any other. You'll find all the pop-culture chaos you associate with the uber-modern Japanese metropolis beside the serene calm of a Buddhist shrine and the broad sweep of a public park.

It means if you find yourself with only limited time in the city, you have to plan it well, but on the upside there are few cities that run as efficiently as Tokyo. Once you've decided where to go, you'll get there quickly.

Getting around

From the airport, the Narita express train will take you to the key central stations - Shinagawa, Shinjuku and Ikebukuro - in about 90 minutes. From there you can catch super-efficient suburban trains.

The metro train service is your best way to get around. Get some advice from your hotel concierge on which stops you need for the attractions you want to visit. The rest is easy - the train map is colour-coded and the lines are numbered. Pay attention to your surroundings; some of the stations can be confusing, with above- and underground lines converging.

Where to eat

Tokyo is famous for its gourmet restaurants, but you can also find culinary treasures by being a little brave and wandering down the odd staircase or back street. Again, if you don't speak Japanese you'll need a little creative sign language to make your order, but you'll generally be assisted by willing staff and in many cases those delightful plastic representations of the dishes on the menu.

Get an overview

Several skyscrapers have viewing platforms which will give you an awe-inspiring outlook on the city. Try the Mori Tower, a 54-storey high-rise in the newish precinct of Roppongi Hills.

The first few levels of the tower are home to retail outlets and restaurants; near the top are the Mori Art Museum and the City View platform. And from the rooftop heli-pad you can admire the vista in the open air.

On a clearish day the exclamation mark on the panorama is Mt Fuji, which sits like a school model of a volcano, draped in a snow blanket. In any conditions, the most striking thing about the view is that you can't see the edges of the city in any direction.

Immerse yourself

For Tokyo's high end, you need to head to Ginza - a mecca of luxury retail where the broad streets are lined with Chanel, Louis Vuitton, Prada, Gucci, Tiffany and massive flagship stores for brands like Sony and Apple.

Or head into one of the department stores, which are in a league of their own. Especially worth visiting are the food halls, where handcrafted pastries, cakes and sweets are testament to that famous Japanese devotion to detail. Here you'll also find strawberries so perfect they look like they're made of plastic - retailing at six for $80. Nobody said Tokyo was cheap.

If pop culture is your thing, the Harajuku district is about a 10-minute walk from the palace. It is particularly famous for the "Harajuku girls", who wear outrageous clothing and make-up and promenade outside the railway station. From the station it's a quick walk across the road to Takeshita St, a narrow shopping strip filled with the cheap clothing stores, novelty shops and food stalls that you associate with the Japan of anime and video games.

Change the pace

Right beside the mania of Takeshita and Harajuku station is the serenity of Meiji Shrine. Named for an emperor who died in 1912, the tree-lined shrine is as calm, cool and contemplative as Harajuku is vivid and noisy.

For another taste of Old Japan, visit Sensoji temple and the five-storeyed pagoda. They're in one of the oldest parts of the city and are guarded by the famous Thunder Gate. The temple is a tourist Mecca and the street running from the gate to the temple is lined with souvenir and food stalls. Fabric, screenprinting and clothes shops are a a block or two away.

Before you go

Many English speakers are put off Tokyo by perceived language difficulties. It's harder to find English speakers here than in many other destinations but that doesn't stop you finding your way around.

Get as much information as you can before you go and, if possible, learn words like "hello", "excuse me", "sorry", "goodbye" and "thank you very much". You're most likely to find English speakers around the airport or larger hotels so make use of them for directions.

Topics:  holiday japan tokyo travel


Stay Connected

Update your news preferences and get the latest news delivered to your inbox.

Rainbow club shines at Gold Coast regatta

Rainbow Region Dragon Boat Club at the Gold Coast's Broadwater regatta.

Teams battled it out in blistering heat

FORECAST: Perfect storm for a lazy weekend

Rain is on the way on the Northern Rivers.

Much needed heat relief expected to continue

Regional fathers needed to fight against male suicide rates

Regional fathers are needed in the fight against male suicide rates.

If you're a father aged 28-32 take part in this widespread survey

Local Partners

Tower built, now the recruits are coming

SINCE the opening of the new Marine Rescue tower in Ballina in October last year, the volunteer organisation has had at least a dozen new recruits.

BIG RIDE: Matt to bring out smiles for Smiddy

LONG WAY ROUND: Matt Muir raises his bike in triumph on his ride last year.

Fundraiser at Yamba Shores Tavern ahead of 800km charity ride

Buddhism pioneer shares life's mission

Lama Ole Nydahl will be presenting a new documentary in Ballina.

About the first ever Western students of Buddhism in Nepal

Mr Grey is back, just fifty shades darker

SCREENING: Dakota Johnson and Jamie Dornan in a scene from the first trailer for the movie Fifty Shades Darker.

Advance screenings next week

Why Hollywood’s siding with Brad Pitt over Angelina Jolie

TOWARD the end of last month’s Golden Globes ceremony, the producer of the nominated drama Moonlight made a surprise onstage appearance: Brad Pitt.

Tensions high at pointy end of MKR's round two

Things are really heating up on My Kitchen Rules.

Games are being played around the My Kitchen Rules table

Jungle Jay sent packing from I'm a Celebrity

I'm A Celebrity ... Get Me Out Here! contestant Jay Laga'aia with Keira.

BIG friendly giant Jay Laga'aia has been eliminated from I'm A Celeb

Carson Kressley brings 'camp' to I'm a Celebrity jungle

"I am not all Park Avenue and daffodils” ... Carson Kressley.

Meet the "campest” campmate to star on I'm a Celebrity.

Star Wars: The Last Jedi mystery already solved

FILE- This undated file photo provided by Disney shows Daisey Ridley as Rey, left, and John Boyega as Finn, in a scene from the film, \"Star Wars: The Force Awakens.\" Hasbro said it is changing its Star Wars Monopoly set after an 8-year-old girl became upset that Rey, the movie's female heroine, was not included as a figure along with Darth Vader and Kylo Ren. (Disney/Lucasfilm via AP, File) MANDATORY CREDIT

A key mystery surrounding the title of episode eight has been solved

Kids' game "full of f**king paedophiles" according to dad

A mortified dad has expressed serious concerns over an online game

Lisa Marie Presley's ex caught with child pics: court

Lisa Marie Presley, at right, and her husband, Michael Lockwood back in 2010. FILE

Lisa Marie, 49, claimed she was left “sick to her stomach”

Potential home buyers punished for doing the 'right thing'

Should I go to university or buy a house?

50 more high rise buildings planned for Brisbane CBD

Height limits have been scrapped for Brisbane CBD

800,000 more people expected to work in city over next 20 years

Clarence River island paradise selling for $5M

Former Ballina councillor Margaret Howes is selling her island getaway.

GALLERY: Tropical getaway with beaches and airstrip put on market.

What $11.9m can get you on Coast's most exclusive street

29-31 Wyuna Drive Noosaville Qld 4566

This is what a cool $11.9m can get you

How a first home buyer built house with no deposit

NEARLY THERE: Construction on the first house to home orphans at Umoja began in January.



Photo Contributed

His home will be completed later this year.

Ready to SELL your property?

Post Your Ad Here!