Tokyo Travel: An Insider Guide

Tokyo Travel: An Insider Guide
August 2020

Japan is the only place where you could visit a centuries-old temple then be served lunch by a futuristic robot. Where a tranquil Shinto shrine sits sandwiched between cloud-piercing urban skyscrapers. Where smoky ramshackle laneways can be found tucked behind neon-flickering city squares. And where ladies draped in decorative silk kimonos wait to board bullet trains. The contradictions are illuminating, exciting and inviting.


Japan’s capital city of Tokyo offers a melting pot of all such contradictions and then some. Many neighbourhoods flash and buzz like a vision from the future, skylines pierced with sleek, space-age structures; others evoke the traditional past with low-slung wooden buildings and glowing lanterns radiating surprising warmth; elsewhere, unassuming concrete blocks hide art galleries and cocktail bars; every lane hinting at hidden wonders waiting to be discovered. With enchanting traditional culture entwined with avant-garde art, a thriving music scene and theatrical exhibitions of an astounding variety, Tokyo is a destination brimming with possibility.

If you’ve been dreaming of a Tokyo trip with a difference, exploring beyond the typical must-see sites, below are just a few tips for an unforgettable Tokyo immersion from our adventurous Asia Product Manager, Robina Frosinini.

See

Visit the magnificent Meiji Shrine

Renowned as a spiritual country, Shinto shrines (or Jingū) are dotted all across Japan, constructed as dwellings for the ‘kami’ (Shinto ‘gods’), places of worship and reverence. Standing serenely at odds with the bustling city life that unfolds nearby, the Meiji Shrine in Shibuya was built in dedication to Emperor Meiji and his wife Empress Shoken. A reformist, Meiji was responsible for the end of feudalisation and led the modernisation and westernisation of Japan. The shrine is nestled within a tranquil forest garden, the perfect place for quiet reflection and to admire the striking structure and its history.


Appreciate the creative works on show in the Roppongi art district

Known most commonly for its lively nightlife, the Roppongi District is also home to a number of cutting-edge art galleries, showcasing an astounding breadth of works from fine art, to photography, Japanese artefacts and experimental video. The three major art museums in the region (The Mori Art Centre, the National Art Museum and the Suntory Museum of Art) form what is colloquially known as the Roppongi Art Triangle. Each within easy walking distance of the others, it creates an engaging ‘creative trail’ for those with a penchant for art appreciation, easily extended with visits to any of the other nearby galleries.  in particular the Mori Art Museum is a must-visit for its innovative exhibitions of modern art and the museum’s 52nd floor views, looking out over Tokyo and beyond with the possibility of seeing Mt Fuji if the weather is clear.

Do

Watch a live Sumo wrestler training session

Sumo is a spectacular sporting tradition with has long captivated travellers the world over, and it’s definitely something that is best appreciated through a firsthand experience. Go behind the ring of Japan’s national sport with a visit to one of Tokyo’s sumo stables, standing in awe as you experience this incredible, dedicated and disciplined tradition up close. A true insider experience, sitting on the sidelines of an actual training session, watching professional Sumo athletes and their master trainers, you will experience a rare window into the world of Japan’s ancient culture.

Stay

Aman Tokyo

Located in the heart of the prestigious financial district of Otemachi and occupying the top 6 floors of the Otemachi Tower, a stay at Aman will offer you spectacular views of the Imperial Gardens, Tokyo Skytree and Mount Fuji. The hotel nods to the traditional in its decor – the lobby, designed by Kerry Hill, mirrors the layout of a traditional home, complete with meditation garden, below backlit shoji paper serving as a giant skylight – but wows with its thoroughly modern metropolis views from its vast floor-to-ceiling windows. If you’re looking to relax and revel in a little luxury, try the Qi-realigning spa (just one draw of the spectacular, two-story Aman Spa, offering plethora of restorative treatments), and some of the best Italian food in the city, thanks to Venetian-trained chef Masakazu Hiraki.

Dine

Known for its extreme attention to detail, Tokyo is home to some of the best Japanese food in the country, with 234 Michelin-starred restaurants—more than any other city. It is impossible to choose just one! If we had to tempt you, 3-starred RyuGin and chef Seiji Yamamoto (hailed as Japan’s leading molecular gastronomist) applies cutting-edge technology to the tradition of kaiseki ryori, (a theatrical series of small courses) and offers up a truly transcendent dining experience. Or, Tenoshima reimagines austere high-end kaiseki cuisine as something more casual while continuing to push the boundaries of creativity. The nine-course tasting menu changes roughly every fortnight, a showcase for chef and owner Hayashi Ryohei to champion the local, indigenous and seasonal produce of Japan.

Just the tip of the Tokyo iceberg, it’s truly a city that will leave you in awe. Explore A&K’s Japan experiences and journeys on our website.