Dazzling Tokyo is the world’s most populous metropolis, with contradictions at every turn – shockingly bright neon skyscrapers alongside ancient shrines, packed trains and the peak-hour frenzy not far from plant-covered wooden houses and village-like lanes. You can’t do it all. You could never do it all. But if you only have 24 hours in this super exciting city, here are a few thoughts on how to spend your time.
Where to Eat
If there’s one thing Tokyo does well, it’s food. It is the undisputed world capital of fine dining, with more Michelin-star restaurants than any other city. From sushi and soba to late-night cocktails in the heart of Ginza, every palate is catered for in this foodie paradise. For the ultimate gastronomic experience, combine fine dining with some of the world class street food.
New York Grill
When the sun sits low and night begins to fall over Tokyo, make your way up to the 52nd floor of the Park Hyatt Tokyo and the sophisticated New York Grill. With floor-to-ceiling windows offering breathtaking views of the city, this is an experience way beyond fantastic food. But oh, the food. Featuring a medley of Japanese and Western dishes cooked to perfection, New York Grill is the place to order your US Black Angus Tenderloin or whole grilled Canadian lobster. Arrive early to snag a window seat, order cocktails, and enjoy. Location: Park Hyatt, 3-7-1-2 Nishi-Shinjuku, Shinjuku, 163-1055
With its unassuming façade and simple dining room, Fukamachi resembles a typical old-school Tokyo restaurant inside and out. You’d hardly guess that for its many devotees, there is just no better tempura in the city. The omakase “leave it up to the chef” menu consists of mouthwatering, batter-fried bites of seasonal seafood, vegetables and mushrooms. Skip over to the a la carte menu and try the awabi (abalone) and uni (urchin) while you’re there, and you’ll be pleased you did. Location: 2-5-2, Kyobashi, Chuo-ku Tokyo, 104-0031 Sub Jude Glin Kyobashi Shinohara Building 1F
One of Tokyo's best-kept secrets, the food at this three-Michelin-starred restaurant belies its nondescript location on a side street in Ginza. Seating just seven diners, chef Masahiro Yoshitake's refreshingly modern take on sushi has earned him rave reviews and a dedicated following. Bookings are essential and the restaurant happily caters to foreign visitors. Location: 3F Suzuryu Building, 8-7-19 Ginza, Chuo, 104-0061
Where to Stay
6-6-2 Nishi-Shinjuku, Shinjuku, 160-0023
Located amidst the bustle of Shinjuku and around the corner from leafy Shinjuku Central Park, the Hilton Tokyo provides spacious rooms and is brimming with friendly staff. Shuttle buses to Shinjuku Station and Narita Airport make transportation a breeze, while the hotel’s upper floors offer sweeping views over the spectacular cityscape below.
Courtyard By Marriott Tokyo Ginza
6-14-10 Ginza, Chuo, 104-0061
A hidden gem just a few blocks back from the shopping wonderland of Ginza, this well-appointed hotel offers more than just a great location in the heart of Tokyo. Renowned for its generous rooms and quality service, the hotel’s buffet breakfast is reputedly one of the best in the city.
Hotel Gracery Shinjuku
1-19-1, Kabuki-cho, Shinjuku-ku , 160-8466
The contemporary, 30-storey Hotel Gracery Shinjuku is located in the heart of Shinjuku, in the popular entertainment district Kabukicho. Yes, it’s a theme hotel, as you’ll see with Godzilla perched menacingly over the hotel’s facade. It’s both convenient and lively, and takes only three minutes to walk from JR Shinjuku Station, which is one of the busiest stations in Tokyo.
Where to Play
Scattered amongst the skyscrapers, up-market shopping districts and overwhelmingly busy train stations, you can still find shrines, stone lanterns and other traces of old Japan. If you only have 24 hours in Tokyo, you’ll have to be choosy. Here are some of the must-see destinations.
Serene, austere and beautifully tranquil, Tokyo’s most famous Shinto shrine is dedicated to the late 19th-century emperor who opened Japan to the West. The 12-metre-high torii gate at the entrance to the 70-hectare park is made of 1,500-year-old cypress, and there’s a similar gate closer to the shrine itself. The park is covered by an evergreen forest that is filled with over 120,000 trees of 365 different species, donated from all over Japan when the shrine was established. Open sunrise to sunset, and admission is free.
It would be a missed opportunity of you came to Tokyo and didn’t get amongst the crowd on the famous, operates-like-clockwork intersection outside Sibuya Station. When the lights turn red, they turn red in every direction, which means traffic stops completely and pedestrians surge into the intersection from all five sides. For the best photo opportunity, head up to Starbucks on the second storey of the Tsutaya building and nab yourself a window seat.
Travelling for work? What better way to encourage a little team building or get to know your Japanese clients than with an entertaining round of Karaoke. On any given night, Karaoke is happening all over the city, as friends or colleagues sing up a storm in private rooms while being served a steady supply of drinks. For something a little less intimate, try Smash Hits, located at the west end of the Hiroo shotengai (neighbourhood shopping street). Here, you can perform before a friendly but rowdy audience, and will have a thick catalogue of English songs to choose from.