The Japanese capital is awash with technology, traffic, temples, and baffling toilets
As rightful owner of the title for 'most populous metropolis in the world', approximately 12.5 million people reside within Tokyo's boundaries, resulting in a mass of inhabitants squeezing on the subways, crowding the sidewalks, and filling the department stores from dawn to well-past bedtime. With its high-energy, visual overload, Tokyo often seems like a city from another planet but the confronting cultural difference is all part of the charm for the intrepid traveller.
Tokyo is a heaving city that seamlessly blends tradition and technology. Glass-fronted gravity-defying hotels, trendy boutiques and Michelin-starred restaurants sit alongside temples, Japanese gardens and markets attracting the masses. Tourists are well catered for with plenty of art galleries and museums by day, and delicious dining experiences and thronging nightclubs by night.
The sheer buzz of Tokyo is infectious with neon lights, karaoke bars and sublime sushi never far away. In terms of iconic buildings, the Japanese capital is second to none and each shop, bar and restaurant offers a sci-fi state of sophistication. While it may be a tad tricky to navigate, Tokyo has a plethora of sensory treats to offer travellers, plus it's one of the safest cities in the world to visit.
When to go?
March is the optimum time to see the Cherry Blossoms in full bloom, or opt for January, May or September if you're keen to catch a 'Basho' sumo wrestling tournament. While the winter can be chilly, September to March are far preferable to the steamy summer months when humidity is at a high, making for some very sweaty sight-seeing.
How to get there?
British Airways, Japan Airlines and Virgin Atlantic all fly non-stop from London into Tokyo's Narita International airport. Located about 60km outside Tokyo, the airport is well served by speedy trains that will transport you to the centre of town within an hour. On your return, opt for an Airport Shuttle bus from any major station or hotel.
During the day, opt for Harajuku for a shopping trip, or Roppongi Hills if you really want to give your credit card a workout. To escape the frenetic city, take a stroll in the Japanese gardens at Shinjuku park or admire the The Imperial Palace from a distance (it was surrounded by a 16km maze of moats when built in 1868). Alternatively, head to the Asakusa district to see some of the old Tokyo, with the Sensoji Temple offering a peaceful retreat from the city. The Tsukiji fish market is well worth the 5.30am start to see the tuna auction in full swing, and you can reward yourself afterwards with a ridiculously fresh sushi breakfast. At night, enjoy the neon blaze of Shinjuku and Shibuya with a thicket of high-rise hotels and a never-ending stream of sake and noodle dens.