See Tokyo's Ancient and Modern Sides


I have always wanted to go to Japan and Tokyo was high on the list of one to the places to visit but nothing can prepare me for the sheer scale of the city. It is home to over 13 million people, making it one of the most populous cities in the world and a thriving centre of commerce and culture, which is both futuristic and steeped in tradition.

The Japanese capital is towering too. From the soaring 1950s Tokyo Tower, a replica of Paris's Eiffel Tower, to the Tokyo Skytree, the tallest free-standing structure in the world, it is worth starting your tour up high to enjoy some truly spectacular views out over the busy, bustling and bright lights of Tokyo city.

In addition to its modern Monoliths, Japan is also renowned for it cutting-edge technology. The vibrant computer town of Akihabara - known to locals as Akiba - is another must-see, simply because you will not find anything like this anywhere in the world.

Dense with electronic shops, where you can check out latest gadgets and games, it is home to arcades, anime and manga shops and the maid cafes (just look for the cute waitresses in French Maid outfits),  Cosplay (custume + play) dress is another cultural highlight - head to the district of Harajuku every Sunday to see the girls and boys hanging out hoping to have their photos taken.

Manga, Japanese comics read by all ages with a history that dates back to the late 18th century, is also the inspiration for the futuristic Himiko boat designed by famous manga artist Leiji Matsumoto. Hop on the cruise Tokyo Bay for a different view of the city.

However, Tokyo also has a quiet side, it is a city of the ancient as well as the modern, whether it is a traditional tea ceremony, Kabuki (Japanese performing arts) or a Sumo wrestling tournament, geisha or the historical temples and shrines.

Start with the largest, the beautiful Meiji Jingu Shrine, whose grounds take up over 170 square acres and include dense forest, a lily garden and traditional teahouse.

The Gokokuji Temple is the most picturesque but perhaps the most famous is the Sensoji Temple - giant Chochin at the Kaminari gate (a big hanging red ball with back Japanese characters) and the five storey pagoda are iconic images of Tokyo.

Shrines include the gelfry on the tiny hill of Benten-jama, a shrine to the goddess of good fortune - and the Hanazono Jinha, where people pray for success in business.  The Asakusa plays host to the Sanja Festival in May.

Tokyo is also a city where you can eat the most unbelievably mouth-watering fresh food.  Not just sushi and sashimi but delicacies such as gindara saikyo-yaki, a dish of black cod slow-grilled so that it is flaky, moist, sweet and savoury at the same time. And, of course, there are the more famous Japanese culinary export such as a ramen and tempura.  With more Michelin stars than any city in the world, as well as low-cost street yatai stalls, there is something for every taste.

To discover more, visit Tsukiji, Tokyo's giant-open air wholesale food market; or for fish and fruit (as well as everything from watches to shoes), there is the Ameya Yokocho market.

While there are so many unique sights to see and experience to enjoy, Tokyo is also, surprisingly, a city where you can relax and unwind. In addition to the tranquil tea ceremony, Marvel at ikebana, the art of wild flower arranging.