April 06, 2020

Japan: 24 Hours in Tokyo

Tokyo. Aleksandar Pasaric / Pexels.com

From futuristic skyscrapers to ancient temples, and karaoke bars to sushi joints, Tokyo has it all and it's wrapped up in manic energy which is both energising and exhausting at the same time.

Words: Joanna Hall

On the first visit, this sprawling hyper urban metropolis can be overwhelming but armed with a one-day metro pass (most train and metro stations and maps are posted in English), it's possible to get out and about and see three or four major sights in a day, although if you really want to "go local" you'll double that number.


Source: triphobo.com
If it comes from the ocean, then you'll find it here at Tokyo's central fish market which is near Ginza. Much of Tokyo's fish and seafood transits its cavernous halls, with some 14,000 retailers converging six days a week to sell their wares. It's a colourful, noisy, chaotic and a real-life workplace where workers yell, chop blocks of ice, make sushi, smoke, chatter, bone an eel, and then yell some more. More than 2000 tonnes of fish worth $15 million are sold here daily and if you're up for an early start (6am-1pm) then this is a fascinating introduction to Tokyo life. The scores of restaurants near the market serve the freshest sushi, which is a traditional Japanese breakfast.


Ginza is one of the most famous downtown areas in Japan and the main drag of Ginza-dori is famed for being the "Fifth Avenue of Tokyo", with some of the most expensive real estate on the planet and an impressive line-up of upmarket designer boutiques. On the weekends Ginza-dori is closed off to traffic and transformed into a pedestrian's haven. This elegant boulevard is lined with designer boutiques such as Prada, Chanel and Louis Vuitton and the ladies that prance along the street are desperately keen to show off their newly-purchased labels. But it's not all fashion and flouncing. There are some contemporary art galleries, excellent restaurants, traditional Japanese pubs or izakaya, traditional tea houses and interesting architecture.


In this district, the feeling of winding backstreets. But the main drawcards are the colourful market of Nakamise Dori and Tokyo's oldest temple, Asakusa Kannon Temple which is also known as Senso-ji Temple. Nakamise-dori is a street that approaches the Senso-ji Temple and is the place to stock up on souvenirs such as Japanese fans, paper lanterns, solar-powered money cats and Japanese doll key rings. Asakusa is a place of contrasts and on a Saturday afternoon, it's teeming with locals offering prayers or buying "ema" which are small wooden plaques on which people write wishes for luck in exams, health and love. The original temple was built in 645 but, like much of Tokyo, was reconstructed to the original design after being damaged in World War II.


Alex Knight / Pexels
The world-famous Akihabara or "Electric Town" is a technophiles fantasy come true. From a small group of electrical shops selling radios in the 1940s, this area has evolved into an amazing complex of retail shops selling every electronic gadget that's been invented. If you can handle the sensory overload, this is the place to try out the technology of today and tomorrow. From the minute you leave the train station, you're bombarded with flashing signs and a barrage of incessant recorded sales jingles pitching the many wonders of the latest digital camera, mobile phone or laptop computer. Even if you're Just window shopping here, you'll see what you may be buying in two years time back in Australia. And unlike Tsukiji Fish Market, you don't have to get up at the crack of dawn as the shops open late into the evening.


The palace is a short stroll northwest from Ginza, hidden behind a dense wood of trees.
It's also only open to the public on special occasions, January 2 for the New Year's Day Holiday and December 23 for the Emperor's birthday, as it's the permanent residence of Japan's Emperor and the imperial family. But you can wander around the moat and gardens that protect the palace for a serene break from the neon and chaos of Tokyo. One of Tokyo's most famous photo spots is the pretty Nijubashi Bridge which crosses one of the moats. In the vast Imperial East Garden is a stone wall that's been there since the time when the Palace was known as Edo Castle, a place where samurai warriors lived from the 17th to 19th centuries

For more information and detailed directions visit www.jnto.org.au

MORE: Luxury Guide to Tokyo (JNTO)

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