Tokyo is the bustling capital of Japan, full of futuristic technology, traditional culture and exotic cuisine. With a population of over eight million, Tokyo is by far the largest city in the country. Due to the lack of space and vastly growing population the city is built upwards and you will find yourself constantly with your neck tilted to the sky to gaze at the giant buildings that surround you on your visit. Tokyo is a city where neon lights, big brands and skyscrapers dominate the skyline.
Ride: Bike Culture
The bike culture of Japan is ever growing and popularity of cycling is increasing in the country, especially among “fixie” bikes with no gears or brakes. The rapidly expanding population, environmental concerns and fitness boom have all played a part in this spike in the number of cyclists. The Japanese are not just using bikes for simple short journeys as they would have in the past, now commuters are picking up their helmets and have taken to riding in the city. Mamachari bikes are a popular bike choice for the people of Tokyo. This is due to the style having a basket or seat at the front and back of the bike. These bikes provide the perfect alternative for most families for whom running a car in the city would be too expensive and inconvenient due to the sheer lack of parking and high fuel prices.
Showa Kinen Park
Located an hour east of Tokyo sits Showa Kinen Park in Tachikawa, a tranquil national government park which is a vast contrast from the bright lights of the city centre. Money really stretches extremely far in Japan, entrance to the national park is just £2.95 (410Yen). With the park being so huge it is split into five separate zones. The zones provide a broad range of activities for visitors, from a sportspark where you can mix with the locals in a game of disk golf, futsal (a form of football), croquet or lawn bowls to a full waterpark with nine swimming pools. And if you aren’t too keen on going in the water yourself there are plenty of boat trips along the park’s very own canal.<>
And of course the park boasts idyllic settings for a bike ride, where bike hire costs less than £3 for three hours. Not a bad price to pedal through the 14 km cycle path boasting gardens of rainbow coloured tulips, waterfalls and canal ways. What is apparent is just how clean and well maintained the park is; it seems there is not a flower out of place along the immaculate gardens and pathways.
Tokyo offers a truly diverse shopping experience that is hard to beat. The Akihabara district of Tokyo gives visitors a mesmerizing glimpse into the futuristic electronics capabilities of this technologically advanced country. Here you will stumble upon gadgets you never even knew existed, whilst being in awe at the flashing signs of the most famous Japanese brands scaling every skyscraper in the technology district.
Whilst those looking to immerse themselves into the more traditional markets, craft shops and stalls would enjoy a trip a little outside the centre of Tokyo to the Ameya Yokocho. The market is a gem for finding quality products and souvenirs at very reasonable prices. There is an abundance of shops selling everything you could want from jewellery, clothes and shoes to traditional Japanese attire and souvenirs to remember your trip by. This is also the place to go for all of your fresh produce such as fish and fruit and is definitely worth a visit if you are looking to be adventurous and try out Japanese snacks. The sweet old town of Yanaka is similar and also worth exploring, with temples and market stalls you will get a true feel for Japanese culture here.
100km southwest of Tokyo is the breathtaking active volcano and highest mountain peak in Japan, Mount Fuji. Whether you want to climb all 10 stations (climbing season is July and August) and look across the city or gaze up at it from the Fuji Five Lakes surrounded by cherry blossoms at the base of the mountain, Mount Fuji is something that no trip to Japan would be complete without visiting. On a sunny day when the blue sky meets the white snow tipped mountain you will be glad you decided to visit Japan and wonder why you didn’t come sooner. Said to be the holiest mountain in Japan, there are multiple Shinto shrines, Buddhist temples and Torii gates located along the first five paved stations on the assent. Pictures can’t even come close to doing this stunning landscape justice, and as the mountain reflection sets into the lake below and the vivid red colour fills the sky you will take home an experience and memory to last a lifetime.
Japan, 〒106-0031 Tokyo, Minato, Nishiazabu, 1−13−11
Much like London, Japan has a strong and diverse price range of food and restaurants.Tourists are often left gobsmacked when they discover just how cheap it can be to buy food here. In some establishments a bowl of Soba (thin buckwheat noodles) topped with meat can cost as little as £2 (300Yen). In contrast, luxury restaurants can charge upwards of £100 per head for a meal out. Whether you prefer diving in and tasting some street food from the hundreds of stalls and markets or you want to have a 5* dining experience in a top restaurant, Tokyo will have something for everyone no matter what their taste buds or budget.
If you want to fully immerse yourself into being a stereotypical tourist in Japan then the Gonpachi restaurant should be top of your list. Quentin Tarantino visited the restaurant on a trip to Japan and it inspired him to create “that restaurant fight scene” in his film Kill Bill Vol 1. At Gonpachi there is an elevated top floor level with a clear running theme of wood and bamboo. With the open plan kitchen and the quirky layout,every guest can have a full view of the kitchen and watch as their meals are prepared.