Swept up in the frenetic pace of cosmopolitan Tokyo, you may find it hard to believe that Japan's bustling capital of 13 million blossomed from the tiny fishing village of Edo. However, that's Tokyo at its core: a city that embraces the spirit of reinvention and interweaves gleefully the old and the new. How else do you explain ancient Shinto shrines standing shoulder to shoulder with the electric glare of colorful billboards?
Cities will naturally change and grow; as a traveler, you have the rare opportunity to experience those shifts in urban personality firsthand, especially if you have the luck to return more than once. Amid the unceasing motion of a city in constant flux, perhaps you'll find inspiration to reinvent yourself, or at least rotate your perspective to examine the world—and yourself—from a new angle. Go ahead: decide where to stay in Tokyo such as one of Tokyo’s 5-star hotels, and hurl yourself into the flurry of sound, smell, and color.
Things to Do
Meaningful experience almost never comes pre-packaged or clearly delineated. Luckily, in a city that boasts districts this distinct and diverse, a preconceived game plan of things to do in Tokyo isn't always necessary. Simply wandering the labyrinth of streets after heading out of one of the business hotels in Tokyo is sure to deliver one-of-a-kind adventures. Don't be shy: follow the tantalizing scent of yakitori (Japanese kebabs) on the street, deliberate over the various prints in a shop full of tenugui (traditional hand towels), or wander into an animal cafe to sip on tea surrounded by anything from cats to owls to snakes.
Of course, there may be just a few famous places you might want to incorporate into your route! The Meiji Jingu is one of many beautiful shrines in the city, and it provides a seamless pocket of serenity away from the hustle and bustle around many of the hotels in Tokyo. You might even witness a Japanese wedding ceremony and have the opportunity to admire the beautiful traditional costumes of the wedding party.
Not far to the east lies the Imperial Palace, surrounded by imposing stone walls and a moat. Home to the Imperial family, the palace itself is off limits, but the grounds, especially the beautiful East Garden, are definitely worth a look. Later, explore the artifacts and art housed within the Tokyo National Museum, or pay tribute to the famous animator Miyazaki and spend an afternoon exploring the whimsical Ghibli Museum. Don't forget to ogle the Tokyo Sky Tree, the world's tallest tower. If its sheer size makes your head whirl, relax; it’s close to some of the best hotels in Tokyo. Retreat and regroup.
The Great Outdoors
Many of the world’s great cities had the foresight to preserve aspects of their older areas even as they grew, incorporating swathes of greenery into the network of buildings and streets that form the cityscape. A visit to one of these enclaves of verdure, secreted within the steely hum of Tokyo, is all you need to rejuvenate the mind when you tire of the urban landscape.
Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden is a favorite for fresh air expeditions. Each spring, it draws millions of visitors who come to view the famous pink cherry blossoms, and the autumn boasts vibrantly hued maple trees as the leaves change color. There's still plenty to draw the eye if you're visiting at another time of year, including elaborate rose gardens, an elegant tea house, and meandering shaded paths. As the name would imply, the garden is located conveniently in the Shinjuku district, widely considered to be one of the best places to stay in Tokyo, and features easy access to luxury hotels, shopping, nightlife, and incredible skyscrapers.
A visit to Tokyo is also a great opportunity to experience a traditional Japanese hot spring, or onsen, as they're called locally. Ease yourself into the relaxing outdoor springs, and allow the water to breathe warmth and comfort into your weary muscles (it's been a long day of walking!). Watch specters of steam rising up into the open sky as your body is enveloped in heat: it's one of the most pleasant sensations in the world.
Food & Drink
Like anything else, cuisine traditions shift with the growth and development of a city; you're bound to find just about anything your taste buds desire. If you’ve booked cheap hotels in Tokyo, you’ll have plenty of money to spend on what you’re really here for: magnificent Japanese dishes. Start your day at the sprawling Tsukiji Fish Market and witness one of the live tuna auctions if you manage to get there early enough for a coveted viewing spot. Afterward, take a seat at one of the ubiquitous sushi counters, and request the omakase menu—who better than the chef himself to choose the best and freshest rolls of the day for your gustatory delight?
Elsewhere in the city, enjoy the cuisine at one of the many izakaya, small hole-in-the-wall establishments where you can order a variety of small plates with your sake or Japanese beer. Ramen shops are always a delicious standby for something more filling. We bet the presentation is so beautiful you'll be tempted to take a picture or two for the record!
Nightfall is no exception to Tokyo's endlessly fascinating blend of old and new. You'll find modern nightclubs alongside traditional geisha bars, where Japanese gentlemen exchange repartee with young women highly trained in music and conversation. Karaoke bars are popular with people of all ages; strut up onstage and belt your heart out into the microphone, or just watch others do the same. If you want to rub shoulders with the locals, check out the clubs in Ginza or enjoy a performance at Kabuki-za Theater.
The pulsing hub of Tokyo demands attention and admiration, but beyond the city boundaries is a country full of fascinating history, natural bounty, and adventure. No landmark in the country is quite so recognizable as the awe-inspiring Mt. Fuji, the nation's highest peak and an active volcano that last erupted in 1708. Admire the snow-shrouded peak from a distance; colder weather generally promises a clearer view, although the mountain has a certain mysterious beauty when peeking out from behind a veil of clouds. Seeking a more intimate view? Rest assured, novice hikers can manage to climb its slopes in the summer.
Ready to immerse yourself in the intriguing (and sometimes confusing) culture of Japan's ever-changing heart? Travelocity can help you find great Tokyo hotel prices for your stay—all the better to have more spending money for that extra-elite sushi establishment! Live it up while you're here, since there's no other place in the world quite so unique.