What’s Doing In Tokyo
Tokyo (東京), Japan’s capital, can be a contradiction in terms. On the one hand, its sheer scale and frenetic pace can be overwhelming. On the other hand, the serene, traditional Tokyo is still there, waiting to be discovered.
The city is officially known as the Tokyo Metropolis and is the seat of the Japanese government and the home of the Imperial Family and Imperial Palace.
The city’s pace can indeed be overwhelming because the prefecture’s total population exceeds 13 million, making Tokyo the world’s most populous metropolitan area, with 35 million people. More Fortune Global 500 companies (47) are headquartered here than in any other city.
To see both the traditional and twenty-first century Tokyo in a few days is easy. Start with a visit to the Hamarikyu Gardens, in Chūō, Tokyo. This park was the site of a Shogun Tokugawa family villa and opened to the public in 1946. It may be one of the calmest places in the city, and the teashop in the middle of the pond offers to visitors a Japanese-style tea ceremony.
The Conrad isn’t the only hotel perched on the top of a skyscraper. The Park Hyatt Tokyo opened in 1994 atop the Shinjuku Park Tower in Tokyo’s Shinjuku neighborhood.
Tokyo’s sleek Roppongi Hills complex, which opened in 2003 in the Roppongi district of Minato, Tokyo, includes the Mori Art Museum, movie theaters, more than 200 restaurants and shops, the 54-story Mori Tower (with an observation deck on the 52nd floor), luxury residences, offices, and the Grand Hyatt Tokyo.
WHAT TO DO
The Ginza district, also in Chūō, is the home to numerous upscale stores, boutiques, restaurants, and cafés. It is one of the most famous and high-end shopping districts in the world. For electronics, visit Akihabara Electric Town, a district known for new and used electronics, gadgets, and computers.
Dining options are numerous. Take in the view (pictured above) at the New York Grill, on the 52nd floor of the Park Hyatt but also visit China Blue in the Conrad, and Kyubei (pictured), which is perhaps the most famous sushi restaurant in Japan.
For entertainment, try traditional kabuki dance-drama. The renowned Kabuki-za Theater is temporarily closed for reconstruction (it reopens in 2013) but performances are being held at the nearby Shinbashi Enbujō. Sumo wrestling at the Ryōgoku Kokugikan (also known as Sumo Hall) is also worth taking in.
Trade show visitors will probably visit the Tokyo Big Sight, formally known as the Tokyo International Exhibition Center. Its most distinctive features are its four glass-and-titanium inverted pyramids. Located in Odaiba, Tokyo Bay, it opened in 1996 and is the home of the Tokyo Motor Show and many other events.
Other must-see attractions include the Buddhist Senso-ji Temple and, in springtime, the cherry tree blossoms in Ueno Park, home of the Tokyo National Museum.
Finally, the observation deck at the Tokyo Tower (pictured), which at 332.5 meter s(1,091 feet) is the second tallest structure in Japan has wonderful views of the city in all directions.
IF YOU GO
Numerous airlines including American Airlines, All Nippon Airways (ANA) , Japan Air Lines, and United have non-stop flights to Tokyo from the U.S. ANA is the launch customer for the Boeing 787 Dreamliner and is currently the only airline flying that type.
Two airports serve Tokyo, Haneda (more formally known as Tokyo International Airport) and Narita International Airport. Haneda is 14 km (8.7 miles) from the city and handles almost all domestic flights as well as select international ones. Narita is 57.5 km (35.7 miles) from the city and handles the majority of international traffic.
There are literally thousands of hotels and ryokans (traditional Japanese inns) to choose from. Many frequent visitors stay at the new Conrad Tokyo (with a direct monorail connection to the Big Sight) and at the Park Hyatt.
(Photos: Jonathan Spira)