Tokyo was voted the most satisfying city in the world to visit in 2014. Despite the massive population of over 13 million, visitors said it was friendly, clean and easy to get around. Japan’s capital was also third in the world for restaurants and nightlife and fifth for shopping, according to the same Trip Advisor list.
Although there are more than 1,000 neighbourhoods, each with their own distinctive vibe, visitors to Tokyo can often find world-class shopping – whether that is big brand labels or hip cutting-edge design – in the same district as some of the most exciting nightlife in the world, be that traditional karaoke or clubbing.
For example, Shinjuku station, the busiest train station in the world (with 60 exits), is surrounded by flagship department stores, Japan’s largest electronics retailers underground shopping arcades.
At night, Tokyo is where you can listen to jazz at the famous Dug, explore the six alleys of tiny bars and eateries in the Golden Gai or enjoy the atmosphere of the neon-lit nightlife area of Kabukicho, home to the unique Robot Restaurant. It is also home to more than 40 karaoke clubs, which are full of boxes where you just have to belt out a tune or two.
In contrast, the area around Shibuya station is home to trendsetting stores and high-end brands, particularly along Aoyama and Daikanyama. It is also where you’ll find the well-photographed busiest pedestrian crossing in the world, Shibuya Crossing (a great spot for a Tokyo holiday photo), even more towers of neon and izakaya, small bars serving tapas-style food – another thing to try if you are in Tokyo. Stop off at Tokyo Food Show for a chance to try a wide range of Culinary delights and explore Supeinzaka (‘Spain Hill’), a short street (Tokyo is not all high rise) packed with tiny cafes, restaurants and shops.
Head to Harajuka if you love labels, it is where you can walk down the tree-lined Champs-Elysees of Tokyo, Omotesando, with its designer shops before exploring Takeshita Dori, which is crammed with shoppers, cafes and shops.
Those looking for something more traditional should head to Nihonbashi, the historic merchant district with its local foods and products and where you will find flagship branch of Mitsukoshi, Japan’s first department store.
For more cutting-edge and hip fashion it has to be Aoyama, which is also where you will find some of Tokyo’s best jazz clubs, along with boutiques and bookshops.
More specialist areas include the Akihabara electronics Mecca, also the centre of otaku culture with shops devoted to anime and manga. Those interested in food markets should head to the Tsukiji Fish Market, also a very popular tourist attraction, which is packed full of lively stalls along its narrow lanes. Many temples and shrines also hold flea markets on Sundays which are great for browsing.
Roppongi is another area packed full of shops, cafes and the not-to-be missed observation deck on the 52nd floor of the Mori Tower, called the Tokyo City View. At night it comes alive with packed bars and clubs. Azabu-Juban is a more upmarket area where you will find embassies, cake shops, wine bars and cafes along its cobbled streets.
Global brands and high-end department stores are also to be found in Ginza during the day and at night this district is where you can enjoy the traditional Kabukiza Theatre, which stages plays most days (and offers English headsets). One of Japan’s three classic performing arts, and a Unesco Intangible Cultural Heritage, it is an art form rich in showmanship, with elaborately designed costumes, vast wigs and exaggerated actions with highly stylized movements conveying meaning to the audience.