by Dirk Baumgartl
The mix of contrasts of culture and commerce, tradition and future make Japan’s capital city of millions one of the most exciting ones on earth. Apart from one of the largest LGBTIQ* communities in the world, Tokyo also has places of quiet. Our tips for a day in Tokyo will give you an idea:
The jet lag might help. The sooner you wake up in the morning and get going, the better. An early morning visit to Tskukiji Fish Market and its spectacular tuna auction was a must. Eighty years after its opening, the market relocated to Tyoso in October 2018 – and its original flair and charm destroyed. But here are plenty of small shops and restaurants in the surroundings of the old market. Here you can still have a sushi breakfast.
Hamarikyū park is only a short walk from the old Tsukiji market. Once a hunting ground for the Japanese aristocracy, the gardens are now surrounded by glittering skyscrapers and today the park on the banks of the Sumida River is an oasis of peace and quiet. It accommodates a tea house and several lakes. With its hilly garden layout Hamarikyū is relic of the Edo period (1603 – 1868) worth visiting. Boats departing from here take visitors past the skyline to the Asakusa district.
If you want to have a feeling of what the old tradtional Tokyo was like you can still find it around Tokyo’s oldest and most important Buddhist temple Sensō-ji in the district of Asakusa. Experienced rickshaw drivers drive tourists through the small streets and past countless souvenir shops. There are also numerous restaurants here, so how about sushi, ramen or tempura for luch? Instead of pudding, allow for some time to explore the temple complex. Its origins already date back to the 7th century.
A very different world is your next point of call. The district around Harajuku railway station is considered a trendy district of the city where mostly young Japanese love to shop. On the narrow Takeshita-dōri shopping street there are some rather odd shops, including one selling cotton candy in rainbow colours and an owl café.
It is time for a break now. When looking for a hotel you should stay in the area around Shinjuku railway station. It is well connected with all other parts of the city. A walk through the entertainment district and its bright billboards, advertisements and video walls is also a real highlight at night.
Tokyo’s most famous LGBTIQ* scene area is only a ten-minute walk from Shinjuku station. Ni-chōme is home to about 300 (!) gay bars. Most are hidden in skyscrapers and have the size of a living room. The Japanese LGBTQ travel specialist Out Asia Travel offers a variety of individual tours, ranking from dinner in a LGBTIQ*-run restaurant with Japanese cuisine to nightly pub crawls through bars that you would hardly enter alone as European. You can still explore the LGBTQ nightlife on your own. The bars ‘Tokio Eagle’, ‘AiiRo Café’ or ‘Friends’ are especially tourist-friendly. Our tip: Have your nightcap at Japanese gay whisky bar ‘Uncle Uncool’.
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