Japan is a country of extremes. Its cities are as traditional as they are modern, with historic temples often surrounded by neon lights and skyscrapers. Tokyo, the cosmopolitan capital, is an awakening of the senses in every way – with pungent smells from buzzing fish markets to bright sparkling light displays. If you have a few leisure days just after, or prior to a business trip to Tokyo, consider these suggestions for ways to spend your 'bleisure' time.
Japan has a way of preserving the old and embracing the new. Among the city’s historic sites is the Meiji Shrine, located in a wooded area in the heart of the city. Named after a 19th-century emperor, it’s the country’s best-known Shinto shrine. Tokyo’s oldest religious shrine, the colorful Sensoji Temple, dating from the seventh century, is dedicated to the Buddhist god of mercy and happiness. For a small window into royal Japan, visit the East Gardens of the Imperial Palace which is open to the public.
Plan a visit to the Tokyo National Museum on the grounds of Ueno Park for an introduction to Japanese history. The collection of more than 100,000 pieces of art and artifacts includes calligraphy, paintings and samurai armor and swords. For a panoramic view of the city and surrounding area, head to the Tokyo Skytree, a broadcasting and observation tower that is Japan’s tallest structure at 2,080 feet.
Exploring the City
The Shibuya crossing made famous in the movie, Lost in Translation, is a must-see, as is the famous Harajuku area to check out the fashion. The Ginza is the Japanese equivalent of Fifth Avenue. You’ll find department stores, art galleries, luxury boutiques and many shops selling traditional Japanese items. Consider taking a guided, “Tokyo in a Day” tour with a local expert via our partner Context Travel.
The trendy area of Shinjuku is where you’ll discover Golden Gai, a collection of tiny alleyways and streets, which are home to more than 200 bars. Each seats just eight to 10 people, but the atmosphere is always buzzing. It’s the perfect opportunity to watch Japanese karaoke – join in on the fun by singing your favorite song.
Navigating the streets of Tokyo looking for the best food is not easy in a city with 160,000 restaurants, according to the Michelin guide. With little written English in the city, Tokyo’s charm is all about losing your way and discovering those hidden gems around the city. To fit in with the locals, sip sake at a rooftop terrace bar and try the fatty tuna from an alleyway sushi restaurant.
Tokyo is the birthplace of Edomae-style sushi, commonly known as nigiri, which has become the most dominant kind of sushi in the world. It began with fishmongers placing pieces of the freshest fish on top of little ovals of rice – a snack that they could eat on the go. Tokyo's new Toyosu Fish Market, which opened October 2018, replaced the legendary Tsukiji Fish Market, famous for decades as the best place in the world to get fresh fish.
5 Tips for Your Visit:
1. Getting Around - the metro is expansive, fast, efficient and cheap. Buy a Suica card which can be used for public transportation fares as well as vending machines. Metro station signs are in English as well as Japanese.
2. Keep Quiet - Don’t use your cell phones or talk to companions on trains or buses. Japanese usually sleep, listen to music on headphones or read to keep the environment quiet.
3. Use your Hands Wisely - Pointing to things is considered rude. But to request the check, cross your forefingers to make an X.
4. Go Left - Drive and walk on the left side of the road. Also use the escalator on the left side.
5. Don’t Walk & Eat - Walking while eating is generally a no-no in Japan. Unlike many western countries where people chew and sip on the go, Japanese people prefer to stop and savor.
Explore more on the ‘Bleisure’ concept – combining a business trip with some leisure time. Check out Bleisure Travel: What is it and how will it impact your travelers (and your bottom line).
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