With Mount Fuji in the distance and a seemingly endless sprawl unfolding beneath, the visceral experience of Tokyo begins before your plane has even touched down. And it’s inside the world’s biggest city where some truly opulent experiences are waiting. From neon-splashed Shinjuku to the flagship stores of Ginza, Tokyo’s breathless neighborhoods are full of sublime moments and memories.
So don’t waste any time – here’s how to enjoy Japan’s pulsating capital:
The organized chaos of Shibuya Crossing is a good place to get started in Tokyo, but an even better one is 46 floors directly above Asia’s most famous intersection. Shibuya Sky offers breathtaking widescreen panoramas across Tokyo and its vast rooftop offers cosy hammocks for lazily watching the summer clouds drift by.
Back on solid ground and just 20 minutes away lies the glamorous hum of the Ginza district, where a cursory walk down its main street is flanked by grandiose shining stores from Prada, Louis Vuitton, and Bvlgari. Though for a more local experience, perhaps check out the Muji Global Flagship store and embrace its sleek minimalist aesthetic to the max across five glorious floors.
While they are both popular tourist spots, the sublime collection at the Tokyo National Museum and the curving contours of the Imperial Palace are essential historical stops for understanding modern Japan.
After all that exploring, it’s time to get pampered and nowhere does relaxation quite like Japan. The Signature Spa Journey at the Aman Spa includes a luxurious full body scrub and a 90-minute massage, while afterwards there are the onsen-style hot baths and a 30-meter pool with panoramic city views standing by.
Follow in Bill Murray and Anthony Bourdain’s footsteps by ending the evening in the cool low-lit surroundings of the New York Bar, preferably with an aged Suntory whisky in hand. Perched 52 floors above the iconic Park Hyatt hotel, Tokyo’s shimmering skyline is resplendent from these gaudy heights.
Japanese cooking’s penchant for perfection means that Tokyo should be on everyone’s gastronomic bucket list.
Japan’s capital is the world sushi epicenter and nowhere crafts and creates quite like Sukiyabashi Jiro. The first sushi restaurant in the world to receive three stars from the Michelin Guide, it’s run by legendary master chef Jiro Ono and counts President Barack Obama among its clientele.
Moving to French cuisine but with a perfect assimilation of Japanese ingredients, Narisawa’s Franco-Asian fusion dishes such as Okinawan sea snake broth have earned itself two Michelin stars. But perhaps that’s no surprise when you learn that chef Yoshihiro Narisawa worked under towering figures like Paul Bocuse and Joël Robuchon.
Look out for an impeccable take on the traditional kaiseki dinner in the minimalist three Michelin star surroundings of Ishikawa, while Den by Chef Zaiyu Hasegawa brings humor and innovation to his kaiseki dishes.
With stunning views of the iconic Tokyo Tower from its lush new Garden Terrace, the Tokyo EDITION is a gorgeous place to begin any Tokyo adventure. Designed by architect Kengo Kuma, it’s located in the central Toranomon business district and the charcoal and golden tones of the opulent Gold Bar only enhance its classic cocktail experience.
Scanning Tokyo’s skyline from the summit of a skyscraper in the historic Nihonbashi district, the decadent Mandarin Oriental Tokyo boasts no less than 10 bars and restaurants. It’s tempting not to leave. Expect exemplary service and classy rooms with a soft beige palette amid brushes of orange and teal.
If Andre Fu’s beautiful pastel rooms aren’t enough to convince you to stay at the Four Seasons Tokyo Marunouchi, then the two Michelin-star French fine dining at Sézanne surely will. And if you’re looking for something a little more traditional, then Hoshinoya’s luxurious take on rural ryokans is a serene gem in the heart of a bustling metropolis.
Like New York, Tokyo is a city that never sleeps. But it can’t slow time, and in a city, this size time is very much of the essence. So when booking your flight, try to land at Haneda Airport rather than Narita Airport. Of the city’s two airports, it’s almost 30 miles closer to central Tokyo, so make sure to skip landing at Narita and get settled in at your hotel much earlier by flying into Haneda.
Travel writer | Photographer | Words: BBC, Washington Post, Condé Nast Traveller, Lonely Planet, The Telegraph.