48 Hours In Tokyo

Anytime you have the opportunity to spend 48 hours in a city as vast and complex as Tokyo, Japan, you should thank your lucky stars. The capital of Japan has captured the imagination of many people, such as filmmakers like Ridley Scott, whose 1982 cult classic Blade Runner was inspired by the city.

Tokyo is one of the world’s largest metropolises with a population of more than 13.35 million people, covering 2,188 km². First-time visitors to here can easily get overwhelmed by the lights, tall buildings, crowds and just the plain unfamiliarity of the place. However, that’s part of its charm and there’s always something new to see and do here. What also makes the city extremely cool is its mind blowing public transportation system, a multi-layered arrangement of subways, buses and trains that can and will get you to your destination on time. Here are some of the must-see and do things in this awe-inspiring city.

Where to stay

Once you land at Narita International Airport (NRT) jump on the Narita Express (N’EX), a high speed train, which will take you into the heat of Tokyo within a mere 53 minutes; a round-trip ticket to and from the airport on N’EX will cost from ¥6,000 to ¥7,000.

Tokyo offers a range of accommodations to fit any budget. High rollers can book a room at the Park Hyatt Tokyo in Shinjuku, a five-star hotel with 177 rooms that offer a stunning 360° view of the city and if you’re lucky on a clear day you can see Mount Fuji in the distance. This is also the same hotel where the 2003’s Lost in Translation was filmed and if you ever watched the movie you’ll know the rooms are stylishly decorated and come with top notch service and amenities. There are several dining establishments on site, a spa and wellness centre, fitness facility, library and a jazz bar that serves up some wicked (and strong) cocktails – be sure to hit this spot to channel your inner Bill Murray.  

If you’re working on a tighter budget and don’t need as much fancy stuff for your short stay, then smaller hotels and ryokans (Japanese style inns) is a great way to get an authentic and homely experience. Hotel Ryumeikan Tokyo a three minute walk from Tokyo Station whose location and wallet friendly prices makes it very popular, so make sure to book well in advance. Amenities include free Internet, a Japanese restaurant and laundry service. Staying here will cost you from ¥24,000 for a single room or ¥79,000 for a suite for two. Breakfast is not always included in the prices, but the hotel often runs special packages to suite a wide variety of needs

Where to eat

Tokyo is peppered with many hidden food gems, so instead dropping big cash in a fancy restaurant check out the basement level floor of department stores, the variety of cuisine in their food halls is mouth-watering. Also don’t fear heading down a dark alley – yes we said it – as you’ll likely find your way into a local izakaya (Japanese bar), sushi, ramen or curry shop that will serve you the real deal.

And as crazy as this may sound, the vending machines in Japan are a total trip. Looking for a hot cup of coffee or tea in a hurry? How about a can beer to quench your thirst when it’s 30°C plus? You’ll be surprised what food and beverages you can get out of these things. Plus convenience stores, such as 7-Eleven, Lawson and Family Mart, as well as ¥100 Yen stores surprisingly serve up cheap snacks and green tea flavoured Kit-Kits found in no other place than here.

However, if you want restaurant recommendations you can hit up Sushiro, a popular conveyor belt sushi train franchise that serves up inexpensive yet tasty sushi. In Setagaya, Ivan Ramen is a great place to hit up and loudly slurp down a bowl of noodles. It’s run by Long Island native Ivan Orkin whose restaurant was dubbed by Time magazine as one of the best ramen shops in the world. Other popular local spots are Ootoya and Tenya which both serve Japanese comfort food. The first offers home-cooked inspired dishes such as fish, chicken, beef and pork; whereas the later (Tenya) specialises in tempura for the deep fried food lover in you.

What to do

A short walk from Tokyo Station is the Imperial Palace, currently the residence of the Japanese Imperial Family. Guided tours of the palace’s outer grounds are offered throughout the year and must be reserved in advance; the only time visitors are allowed into the palace and its inner grounds are on January 2nd and the Emperor’s Birthday (December 23rd).

Japan is several years ahead of the world in the electronics games, so if you’re looking for the latest and greatest devices make sure to visit Akihabara (aka: Electronic Town) and it’s many electronic speciality stores. Next, make your way to Asakusa and Sensoji, a popular Buddhist temple which makes an amazing picture opportunity. Nakamise, a path and shopping street, leads to the temple and is littered with stalls where you can pick-up souvenirs for family and friends.

Head to the Meiji Shrine via Harajuku Station; the grounds offer a relaxing escape from the hustle and bustle of the city and another opportunity into explore Japan’s rich history. Just a stone’s throw away is the popular Harajuku shopping districts; Takeshita Dori which targets teenagers or the ritzy Ometesando, known as Tokyo’s Champs-Elysees, which caters to luxury brands such as Louis Vuitton and Burberry. When you’re done in Harajuku, one train stop away is Shibuya where the popular Shibuya Crossing and legendary Hachiko statue can be found, both are must-visit locales. If you can fit one more stop into your busy itinerary visit Tsukiji Fish Market; the live tuna auction takes places at 5:00 a.m., but if you can’t make it to that at least grab fresh sushi at one of the local restaurants to say that you were there.

For more information go to: ilovejapan.ca.

Kimberly Lyn

Kimberly Lyn

Kimberly Lyn is a freelance writer based in Toronto. Her worked has appeared on StyleList Canada, 29 Secrets and GlobalNews.ca. She is also founder of the highly successful fashion blog The Souls of My Shoes, where she provides insights and thoughts on this world with a concentration on footwear. Find her at www.thesoulsofmyshoes.com and on Twitter @kimberly_lyn.

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