As the sun falls beyond the horizon and the glow of the city lights begins to illuminate the streets, the nights are when the city of Tokyo really comes to life and much like Cinderella and her pumpkin, the city transforms.
Those Tokyo areas that were once chaotic with businessman rushing to where they need to be turn into chaotic masses of people who are out and about to enjoy city life. In case you didn’t know- this is a 24/7 city. Here’s how to make the most of your evenings here.
A Skyline to Remember￼
Tokyo boasts an impressive skyline that rivals the world’s best; think Hong Kong, London, New York or Dubai. Skyscrapers rise high into the air, jutting high and low as far as the eye can see. The twinkle of city lights contrasts strongly with black, this is a budding photographer’s dream. Elevated views from one of the city’s numerous observatories such as the Government Building or Tokyo Skytree are popular spots for couples, however, a stroll downtown will rival those views in a heartbeat. And if you don’t feel like using two feet, pick up a Yakatabune cruise along the bay. This traditional form of Japanese boating is the perfect way to say you’ve embraced one of the city’s long standing traditions and you’ll see the city’s best bits along the way.
Food, food and more food
￼Capital cities are burgeoning hubs for all things edible. You’ll find cuisine from almost every country under the sun here, but when in Japan, eat Japanese. The food is fast, fresh and packed full of flavours. Any country where it’s standard practice to eat what you might consider dinner (beef & rice) for breakfast is always a hit in my books. The ramen joints dotted around the city all fiercely compete to be the best. Locals will tell you that there’s a real difference between good and bad noodles and you can normally gauge a good ramen joint when you see one as there’ll be a line out the door. Hang out at the local Yatai (that’s a street food stall) for a true taste of Japanese flavours. Classics such as Okonomiyaki (Japanese pancakes) and Nikuman are available on street corners the city over and shouldn’t be missed. Street food doesn’t cost the earth either, so if you’re travelling on a budget, fill up on a few snacks and you’re good for the day.
Visiting one of the city’s most popular temples during the daytime is an all toe treading and shoulder bumping experience, but during the evenings the major temples can be almost deserted. Although they will be closed, they’re still illuminated, and this is when they’re at their most photogenic. So if you’re not worried about venturing inside, this is the time to go.
Tokyo is a vibrant city at the best of times, but step foot into the neighbourhoods of Roppongi and Shinjuku and you are in for a wild night. There are some incredible bars and clubs that spring into life when the night-time comes, with the party going on until the early hours of the morning. Comedy nights are up and coming in the city and jazz music is surprisingly popular. To be in with a chance of seeing either of these art forms whilst in the city check the latest listings before you arrive and plan ahead.
Explore on two feet
A good old fashioned stroll around Tokyo’s downtown area will remind you why you came to this magical city. Live in the moment and just take a walk. You can easily lose track of time exploring these maze-like streets. Discover alleyways that lead to hidden places and paths that lead to local gems.
A popular activity amongst friends, couples and work colleagues alike; if karaoke was an Olympic sport, Japan would hold gold, silver and bronze. Hiring out a private room, having a few drinks and singing until your lungs are sore is a huge part of Japan’s modern-day culture. It’s not all bouncy J-Pop and sickly ballads though. The song list will more than likely have a lot of your favourite songs too, as American and British music is popular amongst teens. You’ll also find karaoke booths in the most public of places just in case you have a sudden urge to sing in a small room with little to no sound insulation.
If you love big name labels and bank-rinsing prices, you’ll adore Ginza- Tokyo’s flashiest district. But for a more down to earth shopping experience, make your way to Harajuku. Takeshita Dori is brimming with shops pioneering the latest underground Japanese fashion and the herds of teenage girls that flock here on a weekend are testament to the area’s ever-rising level of ‘cool’. If you don’t consider yourself a pro when it comes to picking up the latest trends or you’re worried about the language barrier, then many award winning 5 star hotels in Tokyo such as Palace Hotel Tokyo can offer you a helping hand. Their exclusive Palatial Pursuits: Couture Tokyo package provides access to a personal shopping concierge to help you navigate Mitsukoshi Nihonbashi, Japan’s oldest and grandest department store.￼
Games Arcades may be a thing of the past back home, but in Tokyo they still hold a place in the hearts of teenagers with free time all over the city. Hours can be spent in Tokyo’s arcades gaming and scoring points. And once you’ve gamed until you’re blue in the hands, preserve the memory forever with a trip to the arcade’s Purikura (that’s a photo booth) where when it comes to editing the snaps, anything goes.
The Golden Gai is set deep in the heart of Shinjuku. Comprised of 200 bars that are set in the realm of six alleyways, this is the place to come for an intimate, Japanese drinking experience. Most of the bars are barely big enough to swing a cat, but it all adds to the ambience. You’ll also find a series of alleyways over in Asakusa that are known as Yokocho, where you can enjoy traditional Japanese Izakaya. These are the longest standing drinking establishments in Tokyo and will give you the most genuine experience- the sake flows like water here. If you like the idea of enjoying a drink in more exuberant surroundings, then Jicoo, Tokyo’s floating bar, offers panoramic views of the skyline from the bay, alongside music and flashy lights- what more could you want? The floating bar runs to and from Hinode Pier and Odaiba every half an hour.