It would take a lifetime to get to know every facet of Tokyo, a city so large that it spreads as far as the eye can see. But look closely and you will find a city of exceptional charm and breathtaking efficiency. The Japanese capital is a fascinating tangle of opposites: the latest technology and traditional arts; crowded stations and quiet backstreets; concrete highways and green parks. Yet it all works like a dream.

Need to know

Get to grips with the basics

  1. City sticklers: Etiquette rules here – when riding escalators stand on the left, don’t cut to the front of a queue and be mindful about where you smoke in public.
  2. Table manners: Avoid chopstick taboos: don’t point the tips at anyone, never leave them planted vertically in your rice and never use them to pass food to someone else.
  3. Stand-up socks: It’s customary to remove your shoes when entering someone’s home. If you want to avoid the embarrassment of padding around in socks with holes, stock up on a few new pairs before you arrive or head down to sock specialist Tabio.
  4. Cash out of hand: When paying, don’t hand money to the cashier: you will only be asked to place it in the tray. Don’t worry about tipping either; it’s not part of the culture.
  5. All hail the cab: Tokyo’s taxis are spotless, seats come with embroidered covers and drivers are courteous.They even open and close the back door for you (from their seat) so don’t try to slam it shut or even open it.

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Hospitality at its finest

  1. Park Hyatt Tokyo, Shinjuku

    Sky-high boutique

    Views are an obligatory feature of Tokyo hotels and this one has some of the best. If you want to wake up to Mount Fuji, ask for a Park Deluxe room.

  2. Cerulean Tower Tokyo Hotel, Shibuya

    Centrally located convenience

    Book the spacious 19th-floor washitsu: a traditional room with a wooden bath. The turndown service involves laying out the futon mattresses and quilts on the floor.

  3. Palace Hotel Tokyo, Marunouchi

    State-of-the-art renovation

    For lunch or dinner with a view book a private tatami room at the Wadakura kaiseki restaurant. Try the house saké 1-1-1, made for the hotel by famed Niigata brewer Hakkaisan.


Local lingo

  1. Conbini: Convenience store
  2. Famiresu: Family restaurant
  3. Gochisosama: Thanks for the meal
  4. Jihanki: Vending machine
  5. Kaado: Credit card
  6. Nama: Draft beer
  7. Okawari: Second helping of rice
  8. Oomori: Big portion (food)
  9. Suimasen: Please/excuse me/sorry
  10. Toire: Toilet

Food and drink

Smart bites and top stops

  1. The Monocle Café

    Coffee and katsu sando

    At our café in Hankyu Men’s department store you can read the latest issue while enjoying a cappuccino, a taco rice or katsu sando (pork-cutlet sandwich).

  2. Ginza Maru, Ginza

    Lunchtime favourite

    Chef Keiji Mori sources the best seasonal ingredients and even the standard elements of a Japanese meal – the rice, pickles and miso soup – are superior.

  3. Sushi no Midori, Shibuya

    Chain with charm

    For an unfussy, satisfying meal try Sushi no Midori. This casual restaurant’s Ultimate Sushi Assortment is a popular choice: fatty tuna, shrimp, eel, urchin and a few seasonal specialities.

  4. Tamawarai, Jingumae

    Bucking the trend

    Masahiro Arakawa is one of the city’s most revered artisans of soba: noodles made from buckwheat. At his restaurant he mills about 5kg of buckwheat daily from eight farms in Ibaraki, and some from his own fields in Tochigi.

  5. Akaoni, Sangenjaya

    Top selection

    Opened in 1982 by Satoru Takizawa, this restaurant has 80 types of premium saké and a fish menu that changes daily.


Shop talk

  1. 45rpm, Aoyama

    Committed to craft

    Japanese fashion label 45rpm started out as a small operation about 40 years ago and is now best known for its indigo cottons and denims. However, the full collection runs from T-shirts to overcoats.

  2. Cibone, Gaienmae

    Made in Japan

    Since opening in 2001, interiors shop Cibone has been a beacon for imaginative retailing with an emphasis on products made in Japan.

  3. Postalco, Shibuya

    Duly noted

    The main shop for Tokyo stationery brand Postalco has a retro feel – think Mad Men in Shibuya – and sells everything from notebooks, wallets and bags to envelope holders.

  4. Daikanyama T-Site, Daikanyama

    Home entertainment

    Tsutaya Books, at Daikanyama T-Site, is a bookshop with few equals. Designed by Tokyo-based architecture firm Klein Dytham, the shop consists of three two-storey buildings with more than 140,000 book and magazine titles.


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  • The Foreign Desk