The idea of Tokyo — Japan’s capital and one of the most densely packed cities on the planet — can be intimidating even before getting off the plane. We chat to three women who have found their way in the metropolis; living, working and regularly travelling there.
Steph Newman and Annika Victoria share their favourite places and unforgettable sights — as well some practical advice — to help you get the most from a visit. Eloise Rapp details her lovely observations of suburban Kyoto in her photo essay, Soft Focus. And Natalie Brown uncovers the essential Tokyo spots to tick off, as well as the must watch/read/follow media that will inspire you to plan your own Japan adventure.
On the ground in Tokyo
cover photograph and words by Stephanie Newman
Japan’s mega metropolis is a city of contrasts. Between the scramble crossings and towering office buildings you’ll find peaceful neighbourhoods where elderly women ride bicycles laden with vegetables from the market, and cats are snoozing outside shrines built to honour the eight million gods of Shinto. Jump into a taxi and dive into the Ginza bar district for a night out partying, or take it easy exploring the 150 bookstores of the Jimbōchō neighbourhood.
Tokyo isn’t just a massive city; it’s a whole collection of cities. Each of the 23 individual wards has a unique flavour and style. From the sumo area around Ryōgoku to Cat Town in Yanaka, no two corners of the city feel the same.
First-time visitors will delight in the robot toilets, speeding bullet trains and noisy game arcades, while regular travellers to Japan’s capital will make a beeline for their favourite Ebisu izakaya (small bar), or meet their friends at Shibuya’s Tower Records, home to an impressive selection of music imported from around the world.
Poke your head into the hole-in-the-wall bars and climb the stairs to catch a view of Mount Fuji on the horizon. Nine million others might be rushing through the streets, but you can take your time to explore.
Jump on the train, stroll down the quiet side streets and get lost in this urban wonderland.
Read on to discover Tokyo and its surrounds…