IN JAPAN FOR
Ahead of Tokyo 2020, we bring you the most spectacular things to
experience in this extraordinary country
words: jennifer small
Synonymous with sushi, shopping and sumo wrestling, Tokyo will play host to the 2020 Olympics, so if you’re planning a visit, why not try soaking up a little Japanese culture as a side dish to the games? With a plethora of awe-inspiring highlights and a glittering array of Michelin-starred restaurants, the city and its surrounds could keep even the keenest adventure-seekers amused for months on end.
1. SOAR OVER MT. FUJI
Take a helicopter flight over the breathtaking Tokyo skyline, then leave the glowing lights behind for the infamous Fuji-san and volcanic Lake Ashi.
Secure a lesson with
2. TAIKO DRUMMING
Enjoy a personal performance of Taiko
drumming before donning a ‘haori’ and
learning the ancient art form with a leading
instructor. For added exclusivity, guests can
privately hire Hamu Rikyu gardens
or Tokyo Skytree viewing platform.
Down a buzzing Tokyo backstreet is a dining
experience of a lifetime. There’s no menu,
and all the food is bought fresh at the
market. A few seats are arranged around the
counter and chefs entertain as they cook.
4. TSUKUJI FISH MARKET
Visit the biggest fish market in the world with
top sushi chef, Tsutomu Taisho Oba. Marvel
at the 2,000 tons of weird and wonderful
fish. For dinner, head to chef Oba’s
restaurant, Sushi. Kokoro, to eat
what you selected.
5. SUITE DREAMS
Complete with grand piano and 12-seat dining room, the Peninsula Suite is perfect for a private kaiseki. Or relax on the sun-drenched private balcony with spectacular views over Tokyo’s Imperial Palace. peninsula.com
6. BECOME A SAMURAI
Secure a lesson with world-famous sword master Tetsuro Shimaguchi’s choreography team, of Tarantino’s Kill Bill. Enjoy at the historical Nogi Jinha Shrine, closed to the public for your family. originaltravel.co.uk
7. FUSHIMI-INARI SHRINE
Walk through a 4km tunnel of thousands of
vermillion ‘torii’ gates to reach the FushimiInari Shrine where worshippers flock to pray.
8. MIYAKO ODORI DANCE
Head to Kyoto’s geisha quarters for beautiful
song and dance performances in the ornate
Kaburenjo Theatre. The cream of the tickets
include access to a private tea ceremony,
performed by geisha-in-training maiko.
9. GORA KADAN
Japan’s most luxurious and stylish traditional
ryokan, Gora Kadan, offers a private onsen
experience, perfect for introducing children
to the wonders of thermal hot springs.
10. SING FAREWELL
Belt out goodbyes from a plush karaoke booth in the Roppongi Hills Observatory Tower, just like Bill Murray and Scarlett Johannsen, but don’t get Lost In Translation.
11. SNOW MONKEYS
Hang out with the Macaques of Yudanaka, the northern-most living primates (apart from us!) are the only wild monkeys known to bathe in hot springs, making them truly unique.
12. THE NEXT KARATE KID
Learn to be a karate kid with a bespoke two-hour session at one of the oldest dojos in Tokyo, conducted by professional Shihan Kudaka.
13. PICNIC UNDER THE PETALS
Ueno Park is the quintessential destination for ‘hanami’ – so stretch out on a picnic rug under the spring cherry blossoms and enjoy provisions from your hotel chef.
Exquisite dishes including Tokyo delicacies
blowfish, snow crab and fresh sea urchin
await at 3-Michelin star Ishikawa, where the
eponymous chef-owner personally presents
diners with their food. tableall.com/
15. TAKESHITA-DORI STREET
Where Lady Gaga gets her edgiest gear.
Harajuku’s pedestrian shopping heaven is
awash with identically-dressed Tokyo youth.
Check out ‘purikura’ photo booths for a
totally teen-approved selfie.
16. OPEN AIR
Combine art with child’s play at the Hakone
outdoor gallery showcasing 300 works by
Picasso alone, as well as sculptures by Henry
Moore, Rodin and Miro. hakone-oam.or.jp
17. SUMO STYLE
Anyone can book a seat at the main Sumo
tournaments, but a more exhilarating
intimate experience is to observe
professional wrestlers’ morning practice at a
stable. You may even get an invite to join
their classic lunch of ‘chanko’ hot pot.
18. BULLET TRAIN
Ride the Shinkansen to Kyoto, home of the Geisha. Forget the eight-hour drive between Tokyo and Kyoto, the Nozomi bullet train can zoom you there in a G-force-defying 2hrs 20mins.
19. TURNING JAPANESE
The Women’s Association of Kyoto welcome you into their homes for immersions in Japanese culture. Learn to write your name in Sumi calligraphy, prepare sushi or fold origami like a master. wakjapan.com
20. GHIBLI STUDIO TOUR
Breezing through the conventions of Japanese anime, Ghibli Studios is world-renowned for movies like Howl’s Moving Castle and Spirited Away. It’s essential to book tickets well in advance. ghibli-museum.jp