Flights to Tokyo: Japan's cacophonous cartoon capital

Experience Tokyo

Tokyo is a cartoon megalopolis of blaring screens, looping jingles and swarming crowds. It's also an elegant city of tea-ceremony aesthetics and extraordinary attention to detail. Experience both sides in Ueno, where the treasure-laden Tokyo National Museum is a short stroll from Ameyoko, possibly the city's rowdiest food-and-fashion street market.

Get cultured

Catch a colourful, eccentric kabuki show at the Shinbashi Embujo Theatre, where excitable audiences yell their opinions at the stage. Or watch masked performance at the National Noh Theatre. Glaciers move faster than Noh dramas, but they aren’t nearly as beautiful. Sports fans have sumo, of course, where irresistible forces meet immovable objects in loincloths.

Eat and drink

Sorry Paris. And apologies to London. But Tokyo is the dining capital of the world. Sample delicate sashimi that was alive when you ordered, or a bowl of ramen that will challenge your dexterity with chopsticks. Michelin has splashed its stars across the city, though you’ll find just as much passion in a stick of street-stall yakitori. Some say Tokyo has the world’s best Italian, French and Chinese food too. We're not touching that debate, but let's say it's worth a flight to Tokyo just to eat here.

Back to nature

Yes, there’s nature. If you know where to look. Try Rikugien, a park in northern Tokyo with over 21 acres of greenery, including a classic Japanese garden. If you've time to spare during your Tokyo holiday, take the one-hour train journey west to Mount Takao. At 2,000ft it's an easy ascent for inspiring views of snow-capped Mount Fuji and the dazzling Tokyo skyline. Feeling weary? Opt for the funicular railway or cable car to cut your climbing (and puffing) time in half.

Fast facts

Population: Nearly 35 million people cram into metropolitan Tokyo, at least 10 million more than any other metropolis on the planet.

Getting about: Want to arrive in style? Book the Hermes helicopter from Narita Airport to central Tokyo. It’s 95 times pricier than the train, but you get to sit on calf leather.

Key dates: Tokyo became Japan's official capital in 1868, but it has been the true seat of power since 1603 when powerful shogun Tokugawa Ieyasu made it his base.

Did you know? Some still say that Tokyo isn't the capital of Japan. Though home to both the Emperor and government, there was never an Imperial edict to officially declare it capital. Thus, to a legal pedant, Kyoto still rules.

Tokyo Hotels

Our favourite Tokyo hotels range from sky-high luxury to futons on the floor. Some have the city on their doorstep, at least one looks out to Mount Fuji, and all are much better than a capsule hotel.

Tokyo Restaurants

As you may have heard, Tokyo likes to eat. Here’s where you brave a blowfish dinner served to the sounds of a shamisen. It's also where you'll find raw horsemeat, marinated locusts and the boiled nether regions of a pig. Tuck in!

Shopping in Tokyo

Souvenir shopping? Start with cultural classics like kimonos, woodblock prints and ceramics, or edible treats from the huge food halls lurking beneath major department stores. Then head for the truly bizarre, only-in-Japan novelties. Mouth-shrinking exercise stick, anyone?

Tokyo Nightlife

Sip high-class cocktails in a high-rise bar, or guzzle beer in a converted brothel. Warble your favorite tunes, or pay someone else to do it properly. Rounding out our nightlife picks is the timeworn drinking haunt of Tokyo’s literati.

Tokyo Attractions

Get cultural, arty, or downright fishy. Our attraction picks take in a gargantuan art museum in the sky, a temple with more than a millennium of history, Tokyo’s biggest Shinto shrine, and a market selling more marine species than you knew existed.

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