If you’re looking for a great city break but are tired of visiting the same old European capitals and have a yearning to journey a little further afield, Tokyo could be the perfect destination for you.
Tokyo is a very lively, metropolitan city that retains the essence of Japanese culture and customs. It is a place of bright lights and skyscrapers, but wander away from the city life and you will find beautiful parks where you can take a break from the hustle and bustle. Take a trip further off the beaten track and you’ll discover local neighbourhoods, where there might be a little bakery, a traditional craft shop or a tiny but picturesque park to sit and eat a pastry.
On your bike
The easiest way to get around Tokyo is by bike. The pavements and terrain are ideal for cycling and this is how local people travel from A to B. There are probably more bicycles than cars here and when you wander into some of the smaller neighbourhoods you can see why. The roads outside the main city centres get much narrower, sometimes only wide enough for one car. A number of businesses have bikes available to rent and you can also find a tour guide who can take you on a bike ride through the city.
Hiking versus biking
Tokyo is a great base from which to take adventure tours into the mountains. You can explore Mount Fuji, which is about 60 miles from Tokyo and a train ride of around 60 minutes will take you into a quiet mountain location where you can take a hike. You’ll find a range of hikes that are as easy or as difficult as you like and many can be completed within a day, so you can return to city life refreshed and ready to try a great Japanese night out.
Food and culture
Tokyo has an astonishingly diverse culture, including world-famous art galleries and a thriving music scene. Whether your tastes are classical, pop, rock or techno, you’ll find a gig to suit you. If you are visiting Tokyo on one of your family vacations and want to see something a little more traditional and family friendly, there’s Kabuki theatre, a Japanese dance drama, where the performers wear elaborate make up and act or dance out a particular story.
For eating out, there are several reasonably priced traditional Japanese restaurants dotted around Tokyo and its suburbs. An izakaya, a type of establishment where food is sold to accompany the drinks, caters for groups of people and the dishes are shared, rather like Spanish tapas. The food served is not limited to one particular style, so the menu is quite varied. Prices are pocket friendly too, with a selection of 8 dishes costing around £14.
Ramen is a traditional Japanese dish of noodles and soup served together and there is something of a ramen trend happening in Tokyo recently, with ramen bars opening up all over the city. There is a whole range of ramen here, from traditional flavours like shoyu (soy), shio (salt) and miso, to wilder flavours like squid ink or lobster.
There’s also tsukemen, which is a bowl of noodles and a separate bowl of soup so that you can dip the noodles yourself. Both are extremely satisfying and tasty and are relatively cheap, at around £4 per dish. Japanese eateries tend to be very family focused and are therefore ideal for those on family vacations in Tokyo.
With a bustling city centre, thriving traditional and modern culture, great night-life and fantastic food, Tokyo is a perfect holiday destination for all the family. It can make memories that will last a lifetime.
Ramona Wilding is a retired travel consultant who specialised in adventure tours. She now writes on travel for a range of publications, websites and blogs.