Tokyo's kaleidoscopic lights, crush of humanity and sheer scale can be overwhelming for first-timers. Yet linger a while and you'll almost certainly encounter the serene side of traditional Japan. Discover graceful tea ceremonies and gardens awash with springtime cherry blossoms, a world apart from skyscraper-dotted Shinjuku or trend-obsessed Harajuku. Forget trying to make sense of this megalopolis, with its jigsaw of real estate and seething mass of people, and follow the example of the omikuji (fortune scrolls) at Senso-ji Temple — just take Tokyo as it comes.
Things to Do
Tokyo stuns with its contrasts — one minute you're lost in Shiodome's skyscraper jungle, the next in quiet contemplation beside a carp pond in the Zen-like Hamarikyu Gardens. Too vast to grasp, this city is all about delighting in the details — whether you're watching locals retrieve their fortunes from wooden drawers at Buddhist Senso-ji Temple or enjoying springtime cherry trees in bloom in Ueno Park, home to the treasure-trove Tokyo National Museum. Across the color-changing Rainbow Bridge lies artificial island Odaiba's futuristic cityscape and Edo-style hot springs.
With its neon lights and insatiable appetite for trends, Tokyo screams consumerism. The hippest styles are found on Harajuku's Takeshita Street, where young Tokyoites dress up as Goths and Manga characters. Hunt for electronic wizardry in Akihabara or traditional lacquer bowls and silk kimonos in Asakusa. Designer boutiques and interior-design stores stud ultramodern Omotesando Avenue, near the diamond-like Prada store.
Nightlife and Entertainment
Sleep is overrated in this 24-hour dynamo of a city. Roppongi attracts party-loving expats to bars reverberating with DJ beats, karaoke, and Elvis impersonators. For an alternative scene, try Ebisu's funky cafés. Sleek lounges cluster in high-rise Shinjuku, where you can sip cocktails and see the skyline glitter at Park Hyatt's 52nd-floor New York Bar of Lost in Translation fame. This wouldn't be Tokyo without Japanese kabuki dance-drama at Kabukiza Theater and sumo wrestling at Kokugikan Stadium.
Restaurants and Dining
Tokyo is a city of interiors, as seen in skyscraping Shibuya and Shinjuku, where restaurants' avant-garde designs and panoramic views are as big a draw as their menus. For a party vibe, join locals at boisterous izakaya bars in Roppongi, where yakisakana (grilled fish) and onigiri (rice balls) are washed down with copious amounts of sake. In Asakusa's narrow backstreets, kimono-clad waitresses shuffle gracefully between low tables piled high with okonomiyaki (savory pancakes), and steaming noodles.