If indulging in a spot of retail therapy while in Tokyo, expect to find everything you could wish for - and much more! Affluent Ginza is the district in which to browse high-end boutiques, avant-garde shops, designer labels and sleek department stores, as well as gourmet food and fine crafts. Youthful Shibuya offers music stores, outrageous apparel and crazy gadgets, while Kuramae – once a riverside warehouse district – is now the place to find artisanal goods; from quality leather items to bespoke stationary. Kienji is a vintage lover’s heaven, Daikanyama is home to an enclave of cosy cafes and stylish boutiques, while famed Harajuku is synonymous with hipster fashion and colourful street art. Malls and department stores aplenty in Shinjuku, or an array of traditional flea and food markets around the city give an experience of authentic Japan.
Easily one of Tokyo’s greatest treasures is its eclectic and simply exquisite dining scene, offering sizzling soba noodles at street-side stalls, sushi that stuns in both taste and presentation, artisan sweet treats with often whacky designs, and an array of exceptional fine dining restaurants. In fact, Tokyo houses more Michelin stars than any other city in the world.
Shrines and Temples
With its neon lights and space-age skyscrapers, it is easy to forget that Tokyo still houses a wealth of sacred shrines and ornate temples. Perhaps the most recognisable is the Senso-ji Temple, the oldest and one of the most important Buddhist temples in Tokyo. Home to a striking five-storey pagoda, the temple’s history dates back to 645AD, though the famed red building was extensively rebuilt following WWII. Located in the Harajuku district, the Meiji Shrine was built in 1920 and is dedicated to the first emperor of modern Japan, Emperor Meiji and the Empress Shoken. Pass through the traditional torii gate and into the enchanting Meiji Jingu forest, before uncovering the captivating complex of shrine buildings, in which an array of traditional Shinto activities take place.
The Imperial Palace
The Imperial Palace, the residence of Japan’s Imperial Family, is an impressive building surrounded by an expansive park, moat and huge stone walls, though located right in the centre of the city. Take a guided tour of the picturesque palace grounds, while the Imperial Palace East Gardens are open to the public year-round, home to the historical castle tower foundations and stunning Japanese gardens.
The tallest structure in Japan and the second highest building in the world, the striking Sky Tree houses two observation decks which offer truly dazzling panoramas over the city and far beyond. Head up in the smooth, swift elevator to the decks (the highest of which is located at 451.2 metres) and discover souvenir shops, bars and restaurants with unparalleled views. The base of the Sky Tree houses the large Tokyo Solamachi shopping complex and the Sumida Aquarium.
Traditions: Sumo and Samurai
The district of Ryogoku is Tokyo’s Sumo capital, hosting regular matches at the Ryogoku Kokugikan Sumo Hall. It also houses the small yet fascinating Sumo Museum, with exhibitions showcasing the history and culture behind this unique national sport. You will also be able to see the Banzuke: the official ranking list of all sumo wrestlers in Japan. Shinjuku houses the Samurai Museum, in which you can spot and try on traditional Japanese swords and armour, as well as learning how the 700-year-old Samurai warrior traditions still permeate the lives of modern Japanese people. Sword performances, workshops and Samuari calligraphy lessons are just a few of the many activities on offer here.
A great place to escape the hustle and bustle of the city, Kamakura is a seaside town just south of Tokyo. Once the political centre of medieval Japan, Kamakura combines dozens of beautiful temples, a huge statue of Buddha and fascinating buildings with quaint shopping streets, laid-back beach bars, organic eateries and surfing centres. The surrounding hills offer a range of great hiking routes, while the sandy beaches and bustling town ensure there is something for everyone at this traditional Japanese hideaway.
London Heathrow to Tokyo Haneda International Airport and Narita International Airport with British Airways and Japan Air.
11 hours 40 minutes from London Heathrow to Tokyo.
Travelling With Children or Without an Adult
Children travelling without both parents should be aware that some countries require documentary evidence of parental responsibility before allowing lone parents to enter the country or, in some cases, before permitting the children to leave the country. Please contact the relevant Embassy for the county you are travelling to for further information.
Visa and Advance Passenger Information
All passengers must ensure they have a valid, acceptable passport, any required visa and any other documentation for both the final destination and any stop-off points en route. Please make sure that Advance Passenger Information is submitted in advance to travel for all destinations. Failure to hold correct documentation or submitting incorrect details with Advance Passenger Information or Visa applications may result in refusal of carriage or entry into a country. Please check with the relevant Embassy regarding visa requirements well in advance of your travel date. Charges may apply for some visas.
Passengers not travelling on a British Passport are advised to contact their relevant Foreign & Commonwealth office for individual Visa requirements.
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Health facilities, hygiene and disease risks vary worldwide and you should take health advice about your specific needs from your general practitioner or a specialist clinic as early as possible before travel. Those planning to become pregnant should discuss their travel plans with their healthcare provider to assess their risk of infection with Zika. For information about Zika, other mosquito-borne diseases (such as Dengue fever and Chikungunya), Lyme Disease (caused by tick bites), and to receive advice on mosquito bite avoidance measures, please visit Insect and tick bite avoidance.
In addition, we highly recommend that you seek specialist advice from your doctor and, where recommended, obtain vaccinations or tablets for protection against, for example: Malaria, Hepatitis A, Polio and Typhoid. In some cases, treatments for Malaria should begin well in advance of travel. Travellers may also be required to show Yellow Fever Certificates on arrival in certain destinations ie, some African countries. Please note that you are strongly advised against scuba-diving for 24 hours before travelling by air. We would also like to draw your attention to the risk of DVT (Deep Vein Thrombosis) and recommend that you consult with your doctor before travelling.
Visit the FCDO website and select your destination country for the very latest travel advice: Foreign Travel Advice. Additional sources of information include: Public Health England, The National Travel Health And Network Centre, Foreign And Commonwealth Office and your General Practitioner or a specialised clinic.