Want to make this year stand out? Make it the year you do something completely different! With many flights departing from London and other cities in the UK, Tokyo is much more accessible than its exotic location would suggest. Hop on a non-stop flight and it is twelve-hour flight – just as far as you might travel to get to California, but a world away!
Tokyo is a metropolis with many options. From bargain to luxury, there are deals to be had by all. Tokyo is a unique city that offers amusement for any taste and any desire.
What to Do
You can spend the day strolling between temples and shrines, taking in ancient traditions, and perhaps even running into a geisha on her way to her next engagement. Everywhere you look, you’ll see salarymen and schoolgirls alike studying their mobiles intently. Japan is a country of dichotomies and Tokyo is the epicentre of this divide. From the oldest world heritage sites to the newest technology, you’ll find it all in this city.
For old world delights, head to Shibamata in the northeastern part of the city, made famous by a movie series that ran for nearly thirty years. The main character, Tora-san, longs to return to Shibamata, his home town. You will long to return there as well, after spending a day strolling the Edo-era markets and shopping arcades, eating delicious homemade soba (noodle soup), scrumptious dango (sweet rice cakes), and visiting the temples and shrines that dot the streetscape.
If the new world is more your speed, Tokyo is the centre of all things high-tech. Akihabara Electric Town is your source for cheap electronic gadgets and toys, as far as the eye can see. Be prepared to bargain for your goods – this is how the best deals are had!
For those with a taste for more luxurious pursuits, the Ginza district is where to find the high-end designer labels. It’s not only clothing however; Ginza is host to jewellery shops, art houses, gourmet restaurants, and upmarket department stores.
When night falls, Roppongi is the place to be with its many restaurants and clubs. Arrive a little earlier and take in the shopping at Roppongi Hills.
Travelling with a family comes with a completely different set of challenges and goals for travel. Tokyo Disney Resort and its sister attraction, Tokyo DisneySea, are just a short train ride away from any major station in Tokyo. They will be sure to amuse the family for at least a couple of days!
Head over to Tokyo Dome for all manner of activities located in one convenient area. From a natural hot spring to a Hero Action Show (and everything in between!) there truly is something for all family members here.
Where to stay
As with its attractions, Tokyo offers every level of accommodation that you could want.
For those who are looking for cheap options, capsule and business hotels offer the best deal. Capsule hotels are just as they sound; they offer the guest a “capsule” or a small room which is essentially a furnished bunk. Usually outfitted with a television, alarm, and electrical outlets the capsules offer a safe, cheap, if cosy, alternative to more expensive hotels. Bathing facilities are usually communal and lockers are typically available.
Business hotels offer a better bargain to those who may feel they want more room to manoeuvre. Usually Western-style, these rooms are full-size with an ensuite bathroom. There are very few frills, which is reflected in the cheaper price. There is usually no restaurant on-site, but you can typically find a convenience store nearby which will stock snacks and meals to go.
Ryokans offer great deals to those who wish to have a truly Japanese experience. These are traditional Japanese-style inns and can vary from budget-friendly to luxury. They are sometimes all-inclusive with dinner and breakfast included, but may only include breakfast. They are a great alternative for families as the rooms are typically larger than those in a business hotel, and the Japanese-style accommodations mean there is more floor space.
Many tour companies in the UK operate package tours of Japan and Tokyo. If all-inclusive is more your speed, make 2012 the year you finally take the plunge and join a tour. Most packages will include airfare, hotels, tours, and breakfasts. The host will often help you choose where to eat lunch and dinner, or leave you to explore when you’re feeling more adventurous. This a great way to travel if you want to get in many activities in a short period of time or if the idea of planning two-weeks of activities is intimidating or overwhelming.