As a tourist, it is imperative that while you are in Tokyo you reserve time to experience the vibes and lifestyle of one of the most modern and different metropolis in the world, enjoying the high altitude views, with layers of high – tech, fabulous architecture and urban style.
According to Wikipedia, Tokyo’s official name is Tokyo Metropolis (named so in 1943, result from the merger of the former Tokyo Prefecture and the city of Tokyo).
Tokyo was originally a small fishing village named Edo. One century after another, Tokyo has increased in power and size and became the capital of Japan when Emperor Meiji moved the imperial palace from Kyoto to Edo in 1868; this is when Edo was renamed Tokyo.
Tokyo currently has the largest metropolitan economy (with more than 38 million people in the greater Tokyo area) and is a major international finance center with several headquarters of some of the world’s largest banks and insurance companies in the world. Tokyo is also a hub for Japan’s transportation, publishing, high – tech and broadcasting industries.
In 2016 Tokyo ranked third in the Global Economic Power Index and third in the Global Cities Index and the city currently hosts 52 of the Fortune Global 500 companies.
As any big city, Tokyo has had its ups and downs and has been challenged geo-politically and by nature disasters. Most recently, Tokyo has been affected by the 1923 Great Kanto earthquake and was left in ruins by the firebombing in the second World War.
These two major events have caused Tokyo to be re-built. As such, Tokyo’s urban landscape is mainly modern and contemporary architecture, as an earthquake-resistant infrastructure, which has protected Tokyo. Tokyo features many internationally famous modern architecture landmarks, including the Rainbow Bridge, Tokyo International Forum, Asahi Beer Hall, Mode Gakuen Cocoon Tower etc.
The Mode Gakuen Cocoon Tower is a spectacular building in Shinjuku. Shinjuku is one ‘must visit’ areas while in Tokyo, which is relatively close to Shibuya (please see Tokyo chapter 2 which talks about Shibuya more extensively). It has amazing modern architecture, shopping and gaming facilities. Here, you can also spot the Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building. Visiting Shinjuku at night gives an amazing perspective of the neon-lighted streets and you surely must visit Golden Gai, with tens of drinking dens which are squeezed around seven derelict alleys and small streets. Each place has a unique vibe; some are more modern than others (some are quite rough and maybe you should be a bit careful to get in).
At some point during my trip, I have stayed in one of the middle range hotels, Hotel MYSTAYS Premier in Akasaka (I enjoyed the hotel mostly for the gym which has an adjacent library and lounge and an outside terrace; otherwise is pretty basic and minimalistic, but very clean and new). Placed relatively close to Roppongi, Toranomon and Otemachi areas, Akasaka is also one of the areas that one must revel in and visit. The little streets are home to amazing culinary choices from fresh oysters to sushi and sashimi, Scandinavian bars, Spanish Tapas and Cuban salsa… and an Irish pub… All you have to do is go eat and dance the night away.
Akasaka is also quite close to some of the most important Tokyo architectural high rise landmarks.
The Tokyo Tower (pretty much a copy of the Parisian Eiffel Tower, but 13 meters taller and the second tallest structure in Japan at 333 metre (1,091 feet), is one of the most coveted tourist attractions and one of the traditional visits that Tokyoites do as part of the New Year’s Eve celebrations. Hundreds of local people and tourists queue to climb into the tower to watch the sunrise of the first day of the New Year, every year (Japan is after all the Land of the Rising Sun). The sunrise over Roppongi is indeed spectacular!
The Tokyo Tower is also one of the places recommended for buying Tokyo souvenirs – although a little pricey, here you can find items that are unique to this place.
Akasaka is also close to the tallest building and third-tallest overall structure in Tokyo, the Toranomon Hills, which was completed in June 2014 and stands at 256-metre tall (838 ft).
Toranomon Hills is a walking distance from Akasaka and is home to one of the best hotels and bar/lounges: Andaz.
Although the cuisine on offer is of European origin, utilizing wonderful quality Japanese products makes this very tasty and special. The only warning is that the view and the beautiful food may get you a bit ‘out of pocket’. But definitely worth it for me!
Another high rise tower that you should not forget to visit is the Roppongi Hills Mori tower, a 54 storey building designed by Kohn Pedersen Fox This houses the Mori Art Museum, restaurants, cafes, clinics, stores and offices.
Located on the 52nd floor of the Roppongi Hills Mori Tower, there is the Tokyo City View with panoramic views of the city. This observatory has an impressive 360 degree bird’s-eye view of Tokyo, including landmarks like the National Diet Building, Tokyo Tower and the Tokyo Skytree. Heading there before sunset will give you the most stunning vistas – the sunset watching at the Roppongi Hills Mori Tower was one of the most magic moments during my Japan trip.
Other place to watch sunset in style is, of course, the 33rd floor lounge and restaurant by Aman at the sleek Aman Tokyo Hotel which occupies the top six floors of the 38-storey Otemachi Tower in the heart of the Tokyo financial district, Otemachi (close to both to the Tokyo Station and the Imperial Palace). The interior is quite opulent, with dark tones and fully open space from one side to another. You should enjoy the amazing fusion cuisine European – Japanese and the amazing list of Martini’s – based on ume and plum vodka flavor, sake, green tea, berry, chamomile flavors of vodka and spirits etc. Just get a drink and enjoy the sparkling night through the glass walls; dream with the view that unravels under your eyes, the steel and glass urban panorama.
And visiting the Aman hotel itself is a huge lesson in modern Japanese interiors – light wood and panels separating the vast rooms, with sliding glass screens, Japanese calligraphy scrolls and tatami mats, all combined for the perfect environment to relax. Opulent!
As this is the last chapter I write about visiting Tokyo during my 2016/ 2017 trip, I have to remind you that the three blogs are by no means exhaustive of the things that you should enjoy in Tokyo. What I think I should definitely mention for you to visit is of course, the Akihabara Electrical Town, the stunning quarter of high tech, manga culture and gaming – visiting at night will definitely fill you with joy – the modern neon lights, the buzz and feel of Akihabara is unique and another ‘must see’.
And of course don’t forget a tour to the Studio Ghibli anime center (for which you should book your ticket online at least one month in advance of your estimated visiting date), as well as visiting museums such as the Tokyo National Museum, which houses 37% of the country’s national art treasures.
As my literary trip to Tokyo comes to an end, from next week on, I’ll write about my experiences in the rest of the places I have visited in Japan.
Run fast, run strong, run free! Always! ❤
The Running Blogger
Aman Tokyo Hotel, Restaurant and Lounge, The Otemachi Tower, 1-5-6 Otemachi, Chiyoda-ku, Tokyo 100-0004, Japan, Phone: +81 3-5224-3344
Andaz Tokyo Hotel, Rooftop Bar Andaz Tokyo , Toranomon Hills, 1-23-4 Minato-ku. Toranomon, 〒105-0001 Tokyo, Phone: +81 3-6830-1234
Roppongi Hills Mori tower, 6 Chome-11-1 Roppongi, Minato, Tokyo 106-6108, Japan
Tokyo Tower, 4 Chome-2-8 Shibakoen, Minato, Tokyo 105-0011, Japan,
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