A local's guide to Tokyo, Japan

Local expert and Insight Guides trip planner Joy shares his local knowledge to help you plan an unforgettable adventure in Japan's ultra-modern capital city
Japanese cherry blossoms picnic. Photo: Shutterstock
Japanese cherry blossoms picnic. Photo: Shutterstock

When should we plan our holiday to Tokyo and why?

Plan your trip at the end of March to experience the world-famous Japanese cherry blossoms. Alternatively, October until early December provides a pleasant experience with generally mild temperatures and good weather.

Where would you recommend we stay?

The Palace Hotel, with its balcony rooms overlooking the Imperial Palace (not accessible to the public) offers a unique touch of luxury in the heart of Tokyo. Located in the heart of the city and offering guests impressive panoramic views, the Conrad Hotel makes a great base too.

Where is a great place for dinner?

Washoku-en, located on the 42nd floor of Shiodome City Center offers a very traditional izakaya experience (Japanese style dining bar) together with an astounding view of the city from one of its most contemporary neighborhoods. A great place to experience Tokyo’s contrasts.

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A chef preparing sushi at Tsukiji Outer Market sushi bar.

Tsukiji Outer Market sushi bar. Photo: Shutterstock

Is there a ‘must-try’ dish while we’re in the city?

Make sure you don't miss a plate of the freshest sushi at one of the hidden traditional shops at the Tsukiji Outer Market, also known as Japan's 'Food Town'. You'll find this is one of Tokyo's most unique breakfast experiences.

Is there an ‘unmissable’ experience while we’re in Tokyo too?

For a slightly more surreal dining experience, visit the Robot Restaurant – this show of Japanese drums, glitzy lights and dancing robots says as much about the Japanese spirit as a more traditional tea ceremony or a geisha dinner.

Where is the most romantic spot?

Have a cup of matcha green tea in the traditional tea house at Hamarikyu Gardens: a tiny island of peace, right in the middle of skyscrapers is the perfect urban getaway spot.

Where can we hang out with locals?

Visit a local izakayas in the Shiimbashi district – don’t be scared by the lack of English menus, these casual old-style dining bars offer a relaxed atmosphere where Japanese people like to chill after work and talk casually in front of a beer and yakitori snacks.

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Shoes left outside a Temple.

Shoes left outside a Japanese temple. Photo: garberus/Flickr

Do you have any additional ‘insider’ tips?

Wear shoes that are quick to take off as in many restaurants and sightseeing spots you might need to remove them – it is always a slightly embarrassing experience for foreigners to take so much time tying up their shoes while all the Japanese around them magically slip into their shoes.

What souvenir should we bring home from our trip?

If you're taking a trip with Insight Guides, leave the traditional souvenirs to Kyoto. In Tokyo, look for the most unusual things: at shops like Don Quijote you will find a wide range of unexpected snacks: from dried squid to wasabi flavored Kitkat, lots of things to surprise your friends at home.

Wasabi Kit Kat. Photo: agelalcantara/Flickr

Wasabi KitKat. Photo: agelalcantara/Flickr

Looking for a little-more inspiration?

Let Joy take you on a trip to Tokyo, Kyoto and beyond: discover ready-made trips online now

Alternatively, talk to Joy to create a holiday to Japan suited to your exact interests: submit a trip enquiry online now

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