See & Do

Tokyo is a megalopolis like no other. You could live in the city for years and still not know it inside and out, which of course adds to its charm. There are always new places to explore and unknown enclaves waiting to be discovered. Most residents have a handful of favourite haunts and are unfamiliar with the rest of the city – people who spend a lot of time in Ginza and Roppongi are probably not that hip to Ikebukuro. And denizens of Harajuku and Shibuya don’t spend much time hanging out in Ueno.

Tokyo is not a major tourist destination. It’s a bit too overwhelming for globetrotting retirees to navigate, and backpackers tend to steer clear due to the steep costs. However, recently Taiwanese, South Korean and well-to-do Chinese have started coming over on package tours.

A city of contrasts, Tokyo is a mishmash of the old and the new. Sacred temples are sandwiched between mile-high skyscrapers, sprawling public parks offer respite from the hustle and bustle of the metropolis, and hidden residential enclaves look the same as they did 50 years ago.

The majority of the city’s most impressive buildings are in west Shinjuku. Most of these were built at the height of the Bubble Economy and offer an overwhelming glimpse of the space age architecture the city is known for.

Destructive fires, earthquakes and bombings during the second world war have forced Tokyo to rebuild itself numerous times. Surprisingly, the layout of the streets and roads remains virtually the same as it was a century ago. Construction is big business and old buildings are constantly being torn down and replaced with ultramodern ones. Talk of moving the seat of government out of Tokyo proper has come and gone. Rumours of relocating Tsukiji Fish Market have yet to come to fruition. Still, changes abound. Roppongi and Omotesandō have both recently been the sights of gargantuan architectural projects and Shinjuku seems to have a new building every other month.

Roppongi and Shibuya are the main areas for going out and partying. Ginza is more upscale, popular with those with cash to spend. Shinjuku and Ikebukuro are full of restaurants, and are home to the city’s seedier establishments. Ueno has a number of parks and the outlying area sports an antiquated vibe. The surrounding prefectures are suburban sprawls and of little interest, although Chiba has some attractive beaches and Gunma is famed for its onsen natural hot springs.

Newsletter Subscription