Tokyo is often referred to and thought of as a city, but is officially known and governed as a “metropolitan prefecture”, which differs from and combines elements of both a city and a prefecture; a characteristic unique to Tokyo. In 2013, Tokyo was named the third most expensive city for expatriates, according to the Mercer consulting firm, and the world’s most expensive city, according to the Economist Intelligence Unit’s cost-of-living survey. In 2009 Tokyo was named the third Most Liveable City by the magazine Monocle. The Michelin Guide has awarded Tokyo by far the most Michelin stars of any city in the world.
The city is considered an alpha + world city – as listed by the GaWC’s 2008 inventory – and in 2014, Tokyo was ranked first in the “Best overall experience” category of TripAdvisor’s World City Survey (the city also ranked first in the following categories: “Helpfulness of locals”, “Nightlife”, “Shopping”, “Local public transportation” and “Cleanliness of streets”).
So take a look at some of that categories spoken above and see by your own eyes why the rank is so high!
Whether you fancy old-time grandeur or the very best in modern design, you’re spoilt for choice when it comes to looking for a boutique hotel in Tokyo…
1. The Peninsula hotel, Tokyo, Japan | rooms from £449
In Yurakucho, with the high-end stores of Ginza and Marunouchi minutes away on foot. Not to mention the loftiest of neighbours living just opposite – The Emperor.
The 24-storey rose-tinted tower, created by Kazukiyo Sato and inspired by a Japanese lantern, is smoothly designed, with marble walkways, Japanese-inspired artworks and leafy views. It is as epic in size as it is opulent: from the 314 spacious bedrooms to the five restaurants, two ballrooms and wedding chapel.
Unwaveringly helpful from the moment you arrive – whether you are being picked up by one of the hotel’s customised green Rolls Royces at the airport or simply greeted at the entrance by the smiling bellboys dressed in dazzling top-to-toe white.
Among the city’s most spacious. Large windows frame views over the Imperial Gardens and beyond. Exquisite traces of traditional Japanese design are evident among the uniform five-star modernity – from the white lanterns to the modern calligraphy on the walls.
Food and drink
Delicate Japanese kaiseki is served in Kyoto Tsuruya while the snaking queue for its afternoon tea in the lobby is legendary. For a swisher experience, head to the top floor bar and restaurant, Peter (named after the Peninsula chief operating officer), home to chrome tree installations, futuristic seating and 360-degree views.
2. Andaz Tokyo hotel, Japan | rooms from £350
The hotel is the crowning jewel of the latest development to pop up on Tokyo’s ever-changing skyline – Toranomon Hills, a shiny new complex of offices, shops and residences. Andaz Tokyo occupies the top seven floors of the 52-storey tower (the city’s second tallest). Despite being famed for its heritage and shrines, Toranomon may feel a little businesslike for some but is earmarked for a major renaissance in the run-up to the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.
Clean, contemporary design rooted in natural Japanese aesthetics. On entering via the 51st-floor Andaz Lounge, you find high ceilings with washi paper partitions, lanterns, latticed panels and abstract sculptures. Splashes of burnt red leather, oversized bonsai trees and floating wooden sculptures (by Charlie Whinney, a British artist) are dotted throughout the Andaz Tavern restaurant, while a rooftop bar – created by the designer Shinichiro Ogata – crowns the building. The AO Spa, in an airy 37th-floor space, sees therapists designing innovative treatments – cue concoctions of pure herbs, oils and fruit for muscle-melting massages, scrubs and facials.
Forget conventional lobbies: guests are greeted by stylishly dressed “hosts”, armed with hi-tech mini tablets so check-in can take place wherever is convenient, from the lounge to the guest rooms. The overall ambience is more boutique hotel than five-star chain, with relaxed and modern service.
The 164 rooms are chic and contemporary. Among the expanses of Hokkaido walnut wood and white walls, there are carpets the colour of matcha green tea, plus tomato red leather chairs and headboards. The bathrooms are wooden enclaves, but there’s a nod to Japan’s love of bathing in the circular baths. And centre stage? The views. Pick a room on the south for vistas of toylike Tokyo Tower, or the north for Tokyo Skytree, the city’s tallest structure.
Food & drink
Andaz Tavern’s menu is mainly European-inspired (the chef is, after all, from Austria) but is infused with seasonal Japanese flavours. A favourite? The wonderfully homely Yamanashi herb chicken, roasted in a clay pot with a squeeze of sudachi (a Japanese citrus fruit). Lunch box sets are also available with ox tongue salads, summer truffles and fresh figs. Food is served against a backdrop of Tokyo’s skyscraper views. The Rooftop Bar, located beneath a clear vaulted ceiling, offers Japanese-inspired cocktails. For an intimate nightcap, sip hot sake from a copper pot.
3. The Ritz-Carlton hotel, Tokyo, Japan | rooms from £346
The tower – the tallest skyscraper in the capital – is located in the Tokyo Midtown development, home to a collection of high-end design stores, food outlets, cafes and galleries in Roppongi.
It’s all about luxury – from epic-sized artworks, modern chandeliers, shiny marble floors and pristine afternoon teas in the 45th-floor lobby, to the opulent bedrooms and Michelin-starred restaurants. It’s also home to one of the city’s best spas, by ESPA, complete with sweet-smelling massages and circular plunge pool with a view.Service
There’s contemporary design rooted in traditional luxury in all 248 rooms, from the opulent curtain fabrics, wood furnishings and Frette linens to the marble bathrooms. Among the most spacious in the capital, they also, of course, have fantastic views across the Tokyo skyline.
Food and drink
An array of choices: from Azure 45, specialising in French seafood, to the relaxed Towers Grill, as well as a string of Japanese restaurants, including the atmospheric wood-panelled Hinokizaka for kaiseki feasts. Not to forget afternoon tea in the lobby as a piano tinkles in the background.
4. Park Hyatt hotel, Tokyo, Japan | rooms from £346
Among the wide streets and shiny skyscrapers of the west Shinjuku district, a 12-minute stroll, short taxi hop or free shuttle ride from Shinjuku station and its famous nocturnal playground.
The 177-room hotel spans the 39th to 52nd floor of a glass tower designed by Kenzo Tange, with a ground-floor deli. One of the original modern luxury hotels in Tokyo, open since 1994, it is a firm favourite among sophisticated travellers – and famous for its leading role in the film Lost in Translation.
Pretty flawless. All sharply cut black suits and discreet walkie talkies, the staff are so efficient and omnipresent, guests may feel as though they have strayed onto a Bond movie.
Havens of clean-lined luxury, from the neutral furnishings and pale green carpets to the Egyptian cotton bedding. Walls of glass frame sensational views (ask for a room facing Mount Fuji and keep fingers crossed it is a clear day).
Food and drink
With its sparkling night views, bold modern artwork and live jazz, the 52nd-floor New York Grill is perhaps one of the city’s most atmospheric spots for a skyscraper dinner or cocktail (a heady sake and cherry blossom infused LIT of course – as inspired by Lost in Translation). Mouth-melting beefs and a 1,600-strong wine cellar give it extra brownie points. The more restrained Kozue restaurant also serves Japanese delicacies.
5. Mandarin Oriental hotel, Tokyo, Japan | rooms from £329
Right in the middle of Nihonbashi, historically the heart of the capital, and today a bustling business area. Tokyo station is nearby, as is the Marunouchi district, with its sleek retail stores and restaurants. It’s worth exploring the historical Nihonbashi shops and craftsmen (from fans and knives to lacquerware and washi paper) that still survive in the shadows of the modern business towers.
A perfect fusion of modern-meets-traditional. Like many of Tokyo’s luxury hotels, it inhabits the upper levels of a skyscraper – in this instance, the Cesar Pelli-designed Nihonbashi Mitsui Tower. Walls of glass in the 37th-floor lobby frame spectacular vistas across the capital (you can see as far as Mount Fuji on a clear day) – a fitting introduction to a hotel whose contemporary Japanese design was inspired by the concept of a “living tree”. The spa – with its epic views – is another highlight.
Mandarin Oriental staff are unimpeachably helpful. Concierge services are particularly imaginative, tapping into Nihonbashi’s heritage of old Tokyo culture and craftsmanship, including visits to sumo stables and kimono-making studios.
Japanese nature-inspired design themes prevail in the bedrooms, with delicate leaf-motif fabrics created by the textile designer Reiko Sudo complemented by paper lanterns and bamboo walls – all packaged within the shiny veneer of a five-star hotel. Views from the 178 rooms are another scene-stealer, with large windows framing expansive vistas across the sprawling capital, including Tokyo Skytree.
Food and drink
Guests are spoilt for choice by a cluster of Michelin-starred restaurants. There’s fine French dining with a view in Signature, exquisite fresh fish in Sushi Sora, Cantonese food in Sense and the Tapas Molecular Bar – home to a dazzling display of culinary alchemy involving around 20 bite-sized creations. Be prepared to breathe dragon fumes and suck tastebud-tampering “magic” beans.
From traditional Japanese to impressive French cuisine Tokyo boasts an impressive array of dining experiences and the elite traveler does not even have to venture out of their hotel.
1. Argento Aso
Style / Ambiance
The Italian word ‘argento’ means silver and is used to describe something that is beautiful and precious.
Situated in the heart of Ginza, the two-star Michelin restaurant serves delicious Italian food from executive chef Tatsuji Aso. Made only with the finest ingredients, the eye-catching, colorful and playful dishes offer a sensory delight. With chic black and silver decor the atmosphere is stylish yet comfortable.
FrenchStyle / Ambiance Celebrated French chef Jöel Robuchon has won more Michelin stars than any other chef in the world and the Château has earned the full three.It offers a mainly à la carte menu based on French cuisine.3. KandaCuisineTraditional JapaneseStyle / AmbianceAwarded three Michelin stars in 2009, the traditional Japanese restaurant’s cooking is guided by the seasons.Food is tailored to compliment the drinks the customer has ordered.
Style / Ambiance
This highly respected sushi restaurant was awarded two Michelin stars in 2009 and prides itself on sourcing the freshest wild fish in Japan.
GrillStyle / Ambiance
Located on the 52nd floor of the Park Hyatt Tokyo, with enormous floor-to-ceiling windows, diners at the New York Grill can enjoy spectacular views of the city – where on clear days you can see Mount Fujiyama.The restaurant serves a wide variety of quality Japanese and imported beef, market-fresh seafood and poultry roasted to perfection on the rotisserie. Chef de cuisine Stefan Resch and his team work in a stunning open kitchen which really draws guests into the dining experience. The contemporary and sophisticated interior features four substantial paintings of New York scenes by Italian artist Valerio Adami and the wine cellar, containing over 1,600 bottles, holds the largest selection of US wines in Japan. The bar offers exquisite cocktails and has more than 40 liqueurs and 15 cognacs on offer as well as a huge variety of whiskies, gins, rums and tequilas.
Style / Ambiance
With over 60 seats in a stylishly designed setting, this restaurant offers a fine dining experience – with many signature appetizers and main courses – to be enjoyed while taking in stunning views of the city.Here you can delight in fresh seafood from the Tsukiji Fish Market, such as hokkaido scallops, and succulent Japanese beef, including kobe and sendai. If you’re in the mood for sipping cocktails then try the sangria spoon, or perhaps enjoy a selection from the restaurant’s boutique New World wine list.
Tokyo has around 50 decent shopping neighbourhoods. The following neighbourhoods have something special about them. These are the shopping neighbourhoods that (Tokyo) locals are most likely to recommend to visiting friends.
Ginza is the affluent shopping district in Tokyo – one look around Mitsukoshi will testify to this. But tucked in between some of the more imposing façades are simpler pleasures like fine papers and shelves full of ingenious toys. Shopping options here truly reflect the breadth and depth of the city’s consumer culture, which is equal parts high fashion glitz and down-to-earth dedication to craft.
Shibuya is Tokyo’s busiest shopping neighborhood. It’s particularly busy during seasonal sales and on Sundays. Shibuya features numerous department stores.
Many of the department stores in the area target young shoppers (e.g. 109 Shibuya). Other department stores include Shibuya Hikarie, Tokyu, Shibuya Mark City, Seibu, Loft, Parco and several Marui. There’s also a massive Tokyu Hands in the area.
Besides department stores, Shibuya is well known for it’s three shopping streets: Koen Dori, Spain Slope (Supeinzaka) and Center Gai. It’s difficult to think of another neighborhood in the world that has more shopping than Shibuya.
A few stops east of Shinjuku, the height of buildings descend to a more human scale. A stroll up the Kagurazaka slope from Iidabashi Station will turn up several shops selling geta (traditional wooden sandals) and drawstring purses made from lavish kimono fabric. Elsewhere in the area, wedged in unexpected places between pharmacies, groceries and pachinko (vertical pinball-game) parlours, are shops carrying goods like Czech puppets and hand-painted kites. Jimbōchō is the place to go for rare books, both Japanese and English.
Though Roppongi is best known for wild bars and pick-up joints, it’s also home to a few of the city’s most interesting and idiosyncratic shops and showrooms and its new shopping megamalls, Roppongi Hills and Tokyo Midtown. Of special interest in Roppongi are the Axis showroom, showcasing contemporary design, and Japan Sword, which displays and sells the exquisite weaponry of the samurai.
Omotesando is Tokyo’s second largest upscale shopping neighborhood after Ginza. Many top brands have massive flagship stores in Omotesando. There’s also a 6 storey toy store called Kiddyland (perhaps Japan’s most famous toy store). Additionally, there’s a large shopping mall in the area — Omotesando Hills.
Art & Culture
Tokyo, the capital of the Land of the Rising Sun, is a mixture of ancient Japanese culture and modern technological innovation. Founded as the city of Edo some 400 years ago, it is now the face of Japan and its most populous city with over 8 million residents. While modernity has caught up with the city, it still has not lost sight of its traditional roots, and its fascinating culture serves as a trip back in time.
This museum houses five exhibition galleries, all focusing on specific areas of Japanese and Asian culture and art. This is the oldest museum in the country, having been opened to the public in 1872. Since then, it has risen to become one of its most prominent museums.
This venue focuses on the city’s history from beginning as a rural village to becoming the seat of the empire. Reconstructions of important structures, such as the Nihonbashi Bridge, the Rokumeikan, and the Choya Newspaper Company building, are displayed in this 30,000-square-meter structure. You can get a glimpse of daily life and experience some of it yourself in this one-of-a-kind exhibit. Traveling through 400 years of city history has never been so real.
This is Tokyo’s foremost cultural center, and it includes the Orchard Hall, which was built in the tradition of the biggest concert halls in the world and has been a performance venue of the NHK Symphony Orchestra, the Tokyo Ballet, and the Moscow Stanislavsky Ballet. Its Theatre Cocoon is perfect for dramas and musicals, and its Le Cinéma is a top choice for feature films in the city. This all-inclusive cultural approach has made Bunkamura the leading cultural center in the country.
Is a vital part of traditional Japanese life, and there is a strict sense of etiquette when entering a public onsen bath. These traditions are strictly followed in the O-edo Onsen Monogatari. This large venue recreates the settings for a public bath during the time of Edo.
5. Azabujuban onsen
Anyonsen bath follows strict etiquette, and visitors should know that no clothing, swimwear, or jewelry is allowed in the baths. Anyone visiting Tokyo should try this unique experience to gain a sense of one part of Japanese tradition.
By day, Tokyo is arguably one of the least attractive cities in the world. Come dusk, however, the drabness fades and the city blossoms into a profusion of giant neon lights and paper lanterns, and its streets fill with millions of overworked Japanese out to have a good time. If you ask me, Tokyo at night is one of the craziest cities in the world, a city that never seems to sleep. Entertainment districts are as crowded at 3am as they are at 10pm, and many places stay open until the subways start running after 5am. Whether it’s jazz, reggae, gay bars, sex shows, dance clubs, mania, or madness you’re searching for, Tokyo has them all.
A newly-opened club in the chic high-end districts of Azabu/ Roppongi Area, where you might easily bump into a celebrity! Roppongi is famous for its rich and foreigner patrons but don’t hesitate to make a trip to Village and join the tribe!
Village offers some of the top-shelf drinks, friendly staff and good music- Hip-hop, R&B, Reggae and more! Indulge in the latest destination for an urban nightlife!
Place: B1F, Fukao Building, 1-4-5 Azabujuban, Minato-kuAccess: 2walk minutes from Azabujuban Station (Oedo line of Toei Subway)
2. Bar High Five
Hidetsugu Ueno worked as the head bartender at legendary Ginza cocktail spot Star Bar before opening his own place nearby. The interior at High Five is as drab and functional as the drinks are exquisite, emphasising precise technique (and even more precisely carved ice) over flashy mixology. There’s no menu, of course – Ueno and staff pride themselves in being able to tell what customers want to drink – but you’d do well to try their famous White Lady (Beefeater gin, Cointreau and lemon juice). Oh, and one of the hot dogs.
Place: 26 Polestar Building 4F, 7-2-14 Ginza, Chuo-ku, +81 3 3571 5815.
Feria is another stylish night club that takes up all 5 floors of the entire building in Roppongi. Feria is a popular spot for both Japanese and foreigners who are looking to make friends, or just dance.
Ristorante offers delectable cuisine such as sushi, drinks, and a wine lounge on the first floor. On the second floor, enjoy groovy R&B music at the Midas. Proceed to the sophisticated Crystal lounge third and fourth floor if you are looking to relax and chill out. There is also a bar at the rooftop if you are seeking for a romantic night scenery of the city.
Place: 7-13-7 Roppongi minato-ku Tokyo
Access: 5 walk minutes from Roppongi Station
The biggest club in Tokyo where you might find yourself lost in the crowds of 5000 people! Three dance floors, an outdoor swimming pool and numerous chill-out areas and bars: take your pick and groove to the blasting music.
It is located at Shin-Kiba, which is not exactly the most central spot in Tokyo, but you can take a free shuttle bus from Shibuya (Roppongi-dori street) that comes every 30 minutes. Remember to flash your photo ID for age confirmation!
Once you reach ageHa, down a few shots and prepare for all hell let loose!
Place: 2-2-10 Shinkiba, koto-ku, Tokyo
Access: 4 walk minutes from Shinkiba Station ( JR line, Tokyo Metro, Rinkai line)
There are free shuttle bus from Shibuya during the whole night.
Looking for a slightly more formal and classy type of night club? Here is one that fits your description! Genius is located in Ginza, the high-end district of branded boutiques and chic restaurants.
Look out for dandy men in their suits and ties and stylish ladies in their glittering dresses and accessories. This is not a place for the casual party-goer, so do dress up a little lest you get denied entry to the club!
Place: 6-4-6 Ginza, Chuo-ku
Access: 5 walk minutes from Yurakutyo Station (JR line or Tokyo Metro)
Tokyo hosts many festivals throughout the year. Each religious shrine also celebrates its own festival in the warmer months from June to September. Most local festivals involve a procession in which the shrine’s deity is carried through the town in a parade..
Asakusa is best known for it’s temples and Geisha houses. Once a year, this conservative Japanese neighborhood is transformed into a Samba Carnival.
There are close cultural ties between Japan and Brazil. Samba is remarkably popular in Tokyo. The festival attracts 500,000 spectators.
2. Summer Sonic (Chiba)
Summer Sonic is a large rock festival featuring top Japanese and international acts. The two day event is held in Chiba and Osaka at the same time. Most of the artists perform one day in Osaka and the next in Chiba (or vice versa).
3. Tokyo International Anime Fair
The Tokyo International Anime Fair (end of March) is otaku paradise. It’s the largest anime trade show in the world featuring 100s of booths and the Tokyo Anime Awards. The event is four days. The first 2 days is open to industry insiders and press only. The last 2 days is open to the public.
Tokyo Bay Fireworks (2nd Saturday of August) can be viewed from Odaiba or on the other side of the Bay at Harumi Pier (Chuo-ku). Tokyo Bay and the Tokyo skyline are an excellent canvas for a fireworks show.
One of Tokyo’s many sakura matsuri that take place at the end of March or beginning of April (when the sakura bloom). There are dozens of good spots to enjoy sakura in Tokyo.