Welcome to the biggest and most chaotic city in the world. A centre of art, culture and fashion. A city which prides itself on its wide diversity for both its own cultures and of those from around the globe. Achieving a perfect harmony between the rich past and the ever changing future. Tokyo is a city known throughout the world, and at the very top of many people’s travel list. The sheer enormity of the megalithic city can be daunting to try to fathom. This article aims to help you with everything you need to know before arriving at one of the greatest cities in the world.
Table of Contents
Tokyo is the capital city of the island nation of Japan. The city is in the south-east corner of the country’s main island of Honshu, in what’s known as the Kantō region. The city itself is so vast that it makes up one of the 47 prefectures which the country is divided into.
The city holds the title as the most populated city on Earth! Such great number of people demand a vast range to house them all. Such a wide range in-fact its the same size as Belgium! Tokyo is divided into 14 distinct districts, each of which having the ability to run as their own city. Such division and variety means each district comes with its own unique flavour.
Naturally, such a worldwide powerhouse have vast connections to the rest of the world. However as it’s an island nation, your only option to get there internationally is limited to flights.
Being much the centre of this corner of the world, flights arrive in the mega metropolis from across the globe on a daily basis. The majourity of the biggest airlines and a number of smaller ones fly regularly to one of the two airports that Tokyo has to offer. Those airports are Tokyo Narita and Tokyo Haneda.
Both airports are a while outside of Tokyo central, but have incredibly easy access from each. That combined with incredible helpful and knowledgeable staff willing to help you to get exactly where you need to go, it’s as easy as can be. Both offer a series of buses and trains from the airport to several points throughout the city.
1) Bus: A series of 3 different companies offer shuttles from the airport to different destinations in Tokyo: 1) Airport Limousine by Airport Transport Service 2) Tokyo Shuttle by Keisei Electric Railway 3) Narita Shuttle by Willer Express. There’s no need to book, just purchase the ticket directly before stepping on the bus. Which service you choose depends on the price, destinations they stop at and departure time.
2) Train: There are a total of 5 lines which leave from the airport and their networks spread throughout the city. They include the Skyliner, Access Express, Keisei Main Line, Narita Express, and JR Lines. Rather than trying to figure out the incredibly complex spiderweb of a network, ask any of the staff stationed near the ticket offices or within the airport. They’ll be able to tell you in seconds exactly which line and which stations you need.
1) Train: There are two different train options. The cheapest of which is the Keikyu Railway which sells tickets at 410 yen from a ticket counter and machines around there 2nd floor lobby. This train will head to Shinagawa Station. The second option is to take the Monorail to Hamamatsucho Station at 490 yen.
2) Bus: This may be your slowest and most expensive option however this is the only option which runs through the night. It stops at all majour hotels and stations throughout Tokyo. Prices start at 930 yen and 1,860 yen at night.
With regards to arriving at Tokyo itself, prices vary considerably by the airlines. Due to the large distances you’re likely to cover, including a stop along the way makes a big difference when it comes to price. Here are some examples:
London: £340 (one-stop)
Los Angeles: £360 (one-stop)
Sydney: £170 (one-stop)
*cheapest flight average over 3-days 3 months in advance for one-way tickets
Japan in general also has an incredible network of domestic flights stretched across 50 airports. There are several airlines both big and small that provide flights directly to Tokyo. A large supply of airlines ensures that flights remain constantly cheap. Such as:
Fukuoka – £47
Osaka – £41
Nagoya – £63
Sapporo – £44
*cheapest flight average over 3-days 3 months in advance for one-way tickets
Tokyo is well connected to the rest of the country through its extensive railway network. Unfortunately, the selection of trains available from distant cities is not as varied as you might have thought. The only type of train available is the Shinkansen; the world famous bullet train. Tokyo has direct lines to the majority of the nation biggest cities such as Osaka, Kyoto, Nagoya and Aomori. Travelling any further than these points will require a connecting train.
There are 3 different types of Shinkansen: Nozomi, Hikari and Kodama, with the first being the fastest and most frequent. Sadly that’s the only option when it comes to trains. And despite trains (especially Japanese ones) being incredibly comfortable forms of travel when comparing to flights, the prices are much more steep.
Kyoto – £90.48
Fukuoka – £159.11
Aomori – £147.28
*One-way tickets, price remains the same up until departure
The capital is just as well connected with a number of bus companies linking with the city. They stretch to the furthest regions of the main island of Honshu and cover much more ground than the train lines.
Services range from daytime only to those that run through the night. There are a few companies that offer online reservations. JR buses offer the option to book, which have a total of 8 sub-companies under its banner. Another company is Willer Express. As its the all round cheapest, this is your best option.
Alternatively you could walk into any city’s majour bus station and buy a ticket headed to any large city in the country, no booking needed. However some long-distance routes will require a booking, and especially recommended during peak travel seasons. You can also arrive in Tokyo by using one of the many different bus passes on offer.
Don’t make the mistake of thinking that you’re sacrificing comfort or quality when spending less for a bus. They are incredibly more comfortable than any other equivalent bus seats in other countries. Each one has its own personal sockets as well as free wi-fi. Often the seats recline to near horizontal and some even come with a pram like hood cover to give an added level of privacy.
The most populated city on Earth combined with a nation of stringent organization comes with it a necessarily efficient and extensive network of travel options for its citizens. For all the options available, practically the entire world knows of Tokyo’s number 1 option for inner city travel.
Tokyo is home to the most well known subway system throughout the world, and for good reason. This without question is the most reliable and efficient form of travel within the city. It will also undoubtedly be your fastest way of getting from point A to B.
A quick look at a map will show you how fucking enormous and vast the system of 17 lines really is, and its easy to lose yourself in the spiderweb. However its nowhere near as head-mashing as it first seems. You purchase tickets based on whichever station you wish the get to. Each line is assigned a letter and each station its own number, forgoing the need to memorise a number of unrecognisable station names. For example, it’s simple once you know you need to go from station A12 to A6.
Finding your way within the station is made as easy as possible. Signs posted throughout point you in the direction of transfer lines, indicating the lines letter and colour. They even tell you exactly how far you need to walk. Additionally the entire line and subway stops are shown throughout the platforms to keep you in the know.
Prices range anywhere from 170 to 320 yen, however an unlimited one day pass is available from any ticket machine. At 600 yen this without doubt is the best option which will save you a lot of money in the long run.
It is always going to be recommend that you use the subways instead. They’re so much easier, more reliable and extensive than the alternative bus. Attractions in the city are spread so widely apart that grabbing a number of buses in succession can be difficult and time consuming.
It would be near impossible for me to give you a detailed breakdown of each bus route and their coverage. However if you’re determined to use them, you can always check on google which will give you the exact bus numbers you need and which station to get them from. Most buses in Tokyo charge a flat rate of 210 yen for any route or distance, which needs to be paid immediately as you step on the bus. You could also use a transport card (e.g. PASMO) for this.
Such a mega-city as Tokyo comes with it the accompanying number of attractions. They’re spread out far and wide throughout the city and fairly time consuming to get from one to another. And just like any other big city, most of the attraction comes with purely experiencing the city and the surroundings which its in rather than visiting a specific site. The good news for the budget traveller amongst you is that the majority of attractions within the city are absolutely free!
Probably the most iconic image when it comes to Tokyo, the Shibuya Crossing is the epitome of the city’s perfect harmony of fastidious organisation and total fucking chaos. No other place defines the city as much as this!
The 4-way intersection is at the centre of one of Tokyo’s busiest and most hectic shopping districts of Shibuya. Throughout its streets you’ll find the biggest hordes of crowds, the largest congregation of attractive flashing advertisements and choruses of indistinguishable noises. The crossing is where the hordes wait patiently at each end of the street waiting for the lights to turn green, at which all hell breaks loose and the swarm of ants mob the entire street.
No doubt being amongst the horde itself is part of the experience, however there’s nothing better than observing from a distance, more specifically from above. Luckily in an area surrounded by high-rise buildings, there are a few options available. Above two nearby buildings there are special observation decks for the express purpose of giving you a bird’s eye view of the madness. First there’s Mag’s Park found on the roof of the shopping centre Magnet (600 yen), and Shibuya Sky above Shibuya Scramble Square (2000 yen for adults).
For those looking for a bargain view, there are also some free options about, though you will have to sacrifice the quality and the privacy. There’s a starbucks and another cafe; L’Occitane near-by with a perfect view overlooking the crossing. However, the best spots against the windows will most likely be taken up most of the time. The last option is to watch from the walkway between Shibuya Station and the building Shibuya Mark City.
Getting There – The crossing is just outside of Shibuya Station, one of the biggest in the whole city and thus very well connected. The 10 different connecting lines include JR Yamanote Line, JR Saikyo Line, JR Shonan Shinjuku Line, Hanzomon Subway Line, Fukutoshin Line, Tokyu Toyoko Line, Tokyu Den-Entoshi Line, Keio Inokashira Line and Narita Express.
Although not unique to Tokyo, this is certainly the best opportunity to experience the culture. Tokyo and Japan in general is known for making the most of the very little space available. There’s no greater example of this efficiency than in the Yokocho alleyways. These narrow streets hold a collection of miniature sized bars, izakayas and restaurants which are slotted away between the streets of Tokyo’s busiest districts.
Originally serving as brothels for the over-worked Japanese business man, in modern times they have been replaced with more socially acceptable collection of establishments. Places to blow off some steam after a hard days work in the office. Their close proximity to the city’s hectic districts such as Shinjuku and Shibuya make them an ideal place to stop over after a long shift. That’s why these establishments aren’t open until the sun has fallen.
These alleyways are mainly full of izakayas; venues where you’re able to drink and eat a selection of small appetisers. Don’t expect a great big elaborate meal, they’re what you’d refer to as nibbles. Something to satisfy the palate during your drinking session.
These establishments are often marked out with red or white lanterns, elaborate neon signs or general writings across its entrance. The entrances often has some more information for potential customers. This includes whether the bar includes a cover charge or not (a payment you have to make just to enter) which can be anywhere from 500 to 1000 yen. Other places will have a simple cloth draped over the entrance and very little to no advertisement. These places are mostly members only establishments, or more often than not a non-foreign establishment. In areas that have become rife with tourist attention, these places remain as a safe refuge for locals that want to avoid the tourist horde and keep a sense of authenticity.
These are not the place for the claustrophobic amongst you, as they are incredibly compact. At the most these places might fit 10 at a time, and often as little as 4-5. The establishments might only consist of seats surrounding the bar itself, while in others (tachinomis) you’ll have to stand!
They can be found throughout Tokyo’s busiest districts however two are known above the rest: Shibuya Nonbei Yokocho (Drunkard’s alley) and the Golden Gai found in Shinjuku. Shibuya’s, like most of the other attractions in the district, is a stone’s throw away from the station. A short well-hidden alley away hidden away from the bright lights and mayhem, they provide a much needed sanctuary. The Golden Gai (my personal favourite) consists of 7 interconnected alleyways of more than 270 different bars and izakayas! Everything from the more refined wine bars to rowdy sketchy bars and everything in-between. The vast number allows you to saunter through the alleys, observing and weighing up potential bars, sampling a few as you go.
Nonbei Yokocho – Shibuya Station, take the Hachiko Exit, cross the Shibuya crossing to the right of the Hachiko statue and pass under the bridge to the right of the street. As soon as you’re under the bridge take the first left down the dark street. Once you start seeing red/white lanterns, you’re there! Be sure to check behind the ones that are on the edge of the street.
Golden Gai – Shinjuku Station, take the East Exit start walking east until you end up between the Hanazono Shrine and the Shinjuku City Office.
Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building
Practically in every big city you’ll visit there will be an opportunity to scale a tower to an observation deck providing a view back onto the city. A tempting offer, however they usually come with extortionate prices for the privilege. The Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building is the solution to this problem.
A 243 meter tall building which houses two observation decks with a spectacular 360 degree panoramic view of the city in all its glory. The view from the formerly tallest building in Tokyo on a clear day will include the likes of the Tokyo Skytree, Tokyo Tower and the Meiji Shrine. Best of all is being lucky enough to spot Japan’s notoriously picturesque Mount Fuji in the distance.
The observation decks open early in the morning and the northern deck remains open until later at night. This means you’re able to enjoy both the wide-cast views of the city’s expanses and the distant Mount Fuji during the day, and watching the sun set over the city and watch the lights illuminate at night; when Tokyo truly comes into its own.
The best part about this whole experience, what makes it stand out above all other observation decks within this city and any other; it’s absolutely free! Just queue up with the other patiently waiting tourists and you’ll be led to the towers elevators and zip to the top.
Getting There – Head to Tocho-mae Station on the Oedo Line which is directly beneath the Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building. Another option is a 10-minute walk west of Shinjuku Station.
Price – FREE
Also known as Asakusa Kannon Temple, Senso-ji is at the heart of Asakusa, another tourist hot-spot. The oldest temple in all of Tokyo, it attracts the greatest number of visitors with its colourful and vibrant surroundings. Sightseers are met with the vibrant crimson structures surrounding the courtyard as much as the haze of incense smoke rising from a central cauldron before the main hall. Faithful worshippers bask before it, wafting the rising stream of smoke towards them before paying their respects within.
Within the temple is the golden image of Kannon (the buddhist god of mercy), hidden away from public gazes. According to legend the figure was recovered from the nearby Sumida-gawa river by two fisherman, where it has remained within the ever-changing external structures of the temple to this day. The image is said to be hidden away in the megalithic main hall, though nobody truly knows if this is the case. Beside the main hall stands an equally adorned five-story pagoda which dominates the area with its vibrant colours.
To the right of the temples complex stands a less adorned structure, though with just as much significance. Here stands the Asakusa-jinja shrine, built in honour to the two fisherman that discovered the Kannon’s image that inspired Sensō-ji’s construction.
The approach to the temple begins at the end of a street where at a large red gate stands; Kaminari-mon. Its otherwise more commonly known as the Thunder Gate due to the statues standing guard on either side. They are Fūjin (the god of wind) and Raijin (the god of thunder). Walking through its centre you’ll pass under an enormous red lantern hanging from above before entering the market that leads to the temple. The gate has become much like a symbol for the area of Asakusa.
Through the gate is the beginning of Nakamise market. A series of consecutive market stalls decorated with red banners leads the way to the temple waiting on the other end. Its filled with all the tourist trinkets you’d expect to find; Japanese headbands, mock samurai swords, kimonos and everything in-between.
Getting There – Found within the district of Asakusa, head to Asakusa Station on the Ginza Line.
Price – FREE
The city’s most adorned Shintō shrine found in the cultural centre of Harajuku is a dedication to the spirit of modern Japan’s first emperor; Emperor Meiji and Empress Shōken. His ascension to the throne marked the end of Japan’s feudal era and restored power to the emperor. He was the man who began the nations assimilation to the rest of the world and brought the country into much needed modernization.
The grounds of the cypress wood shrine is hidden away in a densely packed forest away from the mayhem of the surrounding streets of Harajuku. Found about a 10 minute walk through the groves along a gravel walkway, starting with an enormous wooden torii gate. The forest itself consists of over 100,000 trees collected from across the country. At the end of which is a temizuya, a feature found in every Shintō shrine throughout the country. Here visitors have to purify themselves by pouring the water on their hands before entering the shrine.
Getting There – The entrance to the Meiji Shrine is right next to Harajuku Station on the Yamanote Line. Alternatively you could go to Meiji-jingu-mae Station on the Chiyoda and Fukutoshin Lines.
Price – FREE
Open – Sunrise to sunset
Harajuku & Yoyogi Park
Yoyogi Park and the surroundings of Harajuku subway station comes to life during one special day of the week, your only chance to observe a magnificent spectacle. Every Sunday these locations become the venue for Tokyo’s most eccentric and alternative crowds.
Along the bridge between the station and the entrance to Meiji Jingu you’ll find a collection of various oddities. Groups of gothic teens dressed in their finest gear, activists with banners and petitions, aspiring musical artists and a myriad of sub-cultures that collect in the area.
In the main square of Yoyogi park you’ll be sure to spot a circular herd of onlookers witnessing a unique spectacle. Sunday is the day when dedicated rock-a-billy dancers gather in there cliques dressed in personalised jackets and their finest denim jeans to dance to their hearts content to some classic 50s rock.
Each group is given their own time in the centre of the ring of onlookers, rocking some extraordinarily elaborate dance moves. Exaggerated air guitars, jumping splits and moves Presley himself would have been proud of. Made even more fascinating when you notice the majourity of the dancers must be in their 50s, which doesn’t stop them dancing to the verge of a heart-attack.
It’s not even as if its a show for the tourists, they couldn’t care less that you were there! It makes it all the better when you see these people dancing their heart out for their own sake. They dance from the early morning until the sun goes down. When one group has finally exhausted themselves, another eagerly awaiting troupe is ready to jump in and replace them.
Getting There – The park is close-by to Harajuku and down the road from the entrance to Meiji Jingu. Head to Harajuku station on the Yamanote line. From the station find Meiji Jingu nearby and head south, following the road for about 200 meters. Signs will show you the way.
The Imperial Palace stands on the former site of city’s Edo Period castle. Surrounded by a outer moat and a protective outer wall and at the centre of a large park, it represents the remnants of an Imperial history. These days it stands as the official residence of Japan’s Imperial Family. The palace was established as the Imperial Residence in 1868 when the nations capital was officially moved from Kyoto to where it remains now.
Visitors are able to view the two bridges that lead into the inner grounds of the palace, known collectively as Nijubashi. Unfortunately for us travellers, the inner grounds of the place is closed to the public other than during a guided tour. Even during which you’re unable to enter any of the buildings. They’re start regularly between 10am-1:30pm (except Mondays and Sundays).
A few lucky days of the year, the public can observe the Imperial Family from their balcony. These include January 2nd (New Year’s Greeting) and February 23rd (the Emperor’s birthday). You’re also able to walk through the Imperial Palace East Garden freely throughout the year.
Getting There – Head to Tokyo Station and walk for about 10 minutes.
Price – Tours are free but require a booking in advance.
You’ll find very little mentioned about this unassuming little temple hidden away down quiet residential streets in a relatively peaceful area of Tokyo. Surprising when considering this particular temple has one of the most intriguing and significant histories of any in the city, if not the whole country. First and foremost as this is known to be the birthplace of Sōtō Buddhism; the main form of religion practised in Japan even to this day.
The most intriguing story however is in the graveyard alongside the temple. This is the final resting place of the 47 Ronin, famous throughout the country for one hell of a story. In short, the master of the 47 samurai attacked an official for insulting the way of the samurai. As punishment he would have to commit seppuku, the Japanese form of ritual suicide. His 47 faithful samurai (now known as Ronin as they were without a master) vowed revenge. They raided the officials home, cut off his head, and brought it back to this very graveyard to lay on their masters grave. The 47 Ronin themselves were sentenced to commit seppuku which they all gladly accepted, and were laid here to rest next to their faithful master.
Getting There – Head to Sengakuji Station on the Toei Asakusa Line. Another option would be walking about 15 minutes from Shinagawa or Tamachi Station on the Yamanote Line.
Price – FREE
Toyosu Fish Market
Japan is a nation of fish-lovers, and purchasing the right catch is a must. No other location throughout Japan represents this better than the scenes in the Toyosu Fish Market. The recently special built market on the man-made island of Toyosu at Tokyo Bay, it’s purpose was to replace the former city icon that was Tsukiji Market.
The market consists of 3 separate buildings, each centred a specific category of produce. One building for fruits and vegetables, the other two for the extraordinary amounts of fish that come into the market on a daily basis. Here you’re able to witness the typical Tokyo-esque mayhem of freshly caught seafood being auctioned off to the awaiting customers from observation decks above. Of which one particular fish gathers much more attention than the rest; tuna.
The tuna auction occurs in the Fish Wholesale Market Building, but be prepared to get up bright and early! The madness only takes place between around 5:30 and 6:30 in the mornings. Visitors can watch from the specially built Observation Deck, however this requires an advanced reservation by filling out an application form the prior month on a specific set of dates. Even then, participants are picked on a lottery format so there is no guarantee. Plus even then you’re only able to observe for 10 minutes. Alternatively visitors can go to the Observation Windows which don’t require any type of reservation. However he double-glazed windows block off all the sound from the market and decreases the atmosphere somewhat.
Visitors are able to sample some of the produce on offer from within a few of the restaurants housed in the market. However another good choice is to head to Tsukiji Outer Market, a row of streets beside where the once centrepiece market stood. Here vendors one after the other still sell their finest produce, some as early as the market opens.
Toyosu – Head to Yurakucho Station on the Yurakucho Line. From there you need to transfer to the Yurikamome and head to Shijo-mae Station.
Tsukiji – You can head to either Tsukiji Shijo Station on the Oedo Line or Tsukiji Station on the Hibiya Line.
Open – 5am – 5pm
The manic district of Akihabara located in central Tokyo is famous for its extensive electronic and department stores, another staple of documentaries based in the city. The extensive 7-storied department stores that surround the area contain practically anything and everything you could ever imagine. The best of which is at the very top where the extensive collection of toys and similar childish amusements are kept.
Its known to be the centre of Japan’s otaku culture; for the most dedicated die-hard fans of different aspects of entertainment. These include some of Japan’s biggest industries of anime and manga.
Getting There – Head to Akihabara Station which can be reached on the Yamanote, Keihin-Tohoku, Sobu, Hibiya lines and the Tsukuba Express. Also nearby is Suehirocho Station along the Ginza Line.
This is a spectacle popular throughout Japan, yet still worth a look during your time in the capital. These are halls stacked from one end to the other with coin operated gambling machines known as Pachinko. Purely a Japanese original, and the answer to the countries stringent gambling laws.
Gambling is indeed illegal in the country, except for small amounts i.e. coin operated machines. Thus the pachinko machine was born. Players don’t win cash, rather they win tokens or tickets. These can then be converted into cash off the premises, a clever loop-hole.
Though gambling halls aren’t specific to Japan, the sensory-overload is. Walking from a relatively respectably quiet street, you walk into total fucking madness of bright flashing lights and deafening choruses of beeps and dropping metal balls.
Its a fascinating opportunity to people watch the vast variety of life which patronise the halls. People from all walks of life; businessmen in their finest suits, young ladies in their prettiest dresses and barely legal teenagers fresh out of puberty.
Note how the Japanese usually religiously strict rules aren’t a thing in this place. Notice how the punters will freely smoke away right next to their machines, even having being given ashtrays. Though such an act is a big no no even outside on the streets of Tokyo, here there’s no issue. How? Who unofficially owns these gambling halls? A group of individuals which are known to control the entertainment industry in this part of the work; the Yakuza.
A trend which began right here in Japan with the introduction of the revolutionary cat cafes, the concept has spread worldwide and extended to all kind of animals. Starting from your more ordinary cat and dog cafes, the species range extends to the more exotic owls and mini-pigs to the truly unique of hedgehogs and capybaras.
In these establishments you may have to pay a cover charge to enter, or may have to buy a priced-up drink in liue of it. Either way after payment you’re free to observe and interact with the wildlife that usually roams the area freely.
Other than specific attractions to go and see, there are a number of streets worth walking down just to observe the variety of establishments and people that surround them. These include the likes of Takeshita Street and Ameya Yoko Market.
Being such a cultural and worldwide centre comes with it the appropriate number of accommodation options. Bad news is that bargains are very hard to come by. This is true for much of Japan and naturally the capital isn’t any different.
Top tip: for the cheapest accommodation, your best bet is finding one on Air BnB. For majority of destinations across Japan this site will have the cheapest accommodations available.
The city isnt short on options, with over 120 different hostels scattered across the vast expanse of the city. Bad news for the budget travellers amongst you, prices often do not start below £11 each night and start rising very quickly. The cheapest I was able to find was £7 a night however it was an hour or so away away from the centre of the city. For the best prices, check on Air BnB.
In a city of Tokyo’s calibre, naturally there a pleathora of hotel options, and they’re not as expensive as you might think. Paying for a hotel for the night is a big industry, particularly within Japanese businessmen. Picture the scene where a hard-worker after a stressful stint in the office heads to a yokocho alley for a few which quickly turns into a bit too much. The subways arn’t running, and no wish to pay through the nose for a taxi. Why not stay in a cheap hotel for the night, grab a quick shower in the morning and head to work near-by bright and early in the morning?
Thus there are more than enough bargain rate offers. Not only your standard single hotel room, but also capsule hotels; a Japanese-staple. Yet again making the most of the little space available, these are tiny sealed off booths one atop the other, closing you out from the rest of the world. In some ways they are very similar to those in hostels but rest assured in Japan they’re hotels in their own right.
Prices start for as little as £10 a night for these type of hotels with a steady number of options below the £20 mark. From here there’s a steady increase in price, but cheap enough considering they are hotels
Tokyo’s influence on the nation and the greater world has has an effect on many aspects of Japanese culture, it’s cuisine being no different. So much so, that dishes we would naturally associate with Japan as a whole are actually Tokyo specialities. Many dishes that me recognise originated from this very city.
Some of these unique dishes are sometimes known as Edo-mae; “Edo” being the former name of Tokyo and “mae” meaning in front. Reference to the fact that their seafood dishes originate from Tokyo Bay.
First and foremost, the single item any living human will associate with Japan, sushi! More specifically nigiri-zushi is the country’s healthy alternative to fast food. As it takes less time and effort to prepare than traditional sushi, this version is sold throughout the city. The common site are sushi restaurants with conveyor belts rotating the available dishes around awaiting customers to pick up to their hearts content.
Another iconic type of Japanese cuisine which roots began in Tokyo is tempura. Originally only using deep-frying vegetables in batter, it was the pioneers in the capital that began using fresh seafood in the same process. This gave birth to the wide variety of dishes we see today.
The city also popularised the used of soba (buckwheat) noodles, of which there are several restaurants found throughout which provide such a dish. Most noodle establishments will even ask you beforehand which type of noodles you’d prefer for your ramen.
Other dishes include chankonabe; a dish of fish/chicken and a mix of vegetables, particularly popular in sumo wrestlers diet. Monjayaki is a pancake filled with cabbage and pieces of meat. Tsukudani are small treats mixed with soy sauce and preserved in sake.
A Welsh university drop-out on a mission to travel the world for as little money as possible. My adventures have taken me through over 30 countries across Europe, Asia and Oceania, and the list keeps on growing! From classic backpacking to working and volunteering, I have found all sorts of ways to maintain a life on the road.