48 hours in Tokyo

Last updated 05:00 02/11/2009
The Buddhist temple of Senso-ji, Asakusa, Tokyo
The Buddhist temple of Senso-ji makes an excellent first stop for a visit to Tokyo.

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Bustling and beguiling - Tokyo is one of the world's biggest, and most influential, cities and a place where old and new sit easily side by side.

Reuters correspondents with local knowledge help visitors to the Japanese capital get the most out of a short stay.

FRIDAY

1pm: Start with some traditional spirituality - the Buddhist temple of Senso-ji, in the old downtown quarter of Asakusa, has stood on the same spot for over a thousand years. Wander down Nakamise-dori shopping street toward the main temple, stopping to try the delicious sembei rice crackers.

When you reach the large smoke-engulfed bronze cauldron in front of the temple, do as the locals do and rub the smoke billowing out from incense sticks against your body for good health.

2pm: Lunch at Edokko (meaning child of Edo - the old name for Tokyo), a famous restaurant serving the Asakusa district's specialty of tempura. Be sure to try the shrimp.

3pm: A few stops away on the train is Tokyo's world-famous electronics district, Akihabara. Value for money depends on the exchange rate but its cutting edge technology that you're really looking for - gadgets that the rest of the world won't get for another 12 months. Explore the back streets as well as the main road. This is where you'll find the otaku, Japanese uber-nerds whose lives revolve around comic books and computers.

6pm: Time to head across town to another Tokyo landmark, the New York Bar at the Park Hyatt Hotel in Shinjuku. Famed for its incredible views of the city, this is where Bill Murray met Scarlett Johansson in the movie "Lost in Translation."

8pm: From the lofty heights of the Park Hyatt to the backstreets of Shinjuku station for dinner. Omoide-yokocho is a narrow alley crammed full of yakitori or grilled chicken skewer restaurants where you can sit and soak up the atmosphere with a bottle of sake. The reflection of the surrounding neon signs in the puddles of the alley apparently inspired the set design of Ridley Scott's movie Blade Runner.

10pm: Head across the street to another set of backstreet alleyways collectively known as Golden Gai. This maze of ramshackle wooden drinking dens will transport you back to 1950s Tokyo when artists and revolutionaries plotted the downfall of the government over bottles of whisky.

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12am: Emboldened by your liquid intake at the bars, head for the many karaoke boxes lining Yasakuni-dori main street. Enter your own private room and unleash the rock star within.

SATURDAY

5am: Now, either you called it a night at a sensible hour or you're still awake - either way its time to visit one the fish market at Tsukiji. Tsukiji is the world's biggest wholesale fish market handling more than 700,000 tonnes of produce a year and employing over 60,000 people. Get there for the dramatic tuna auction that starts at 5.15am.

7am: The auctions start to wind down now so explore the labyrinthine network of stalls selling over 400 different types of seafood. Foodies might want to head to the kitchen supplies section and pick up a knife or two from Aritsugu, who have been making prized handcrafted knives since 1560.

8am: As the furor of the market begins to die down, its time to grab some breakfast. Breakfast at Tsukiji of course has to be sushi. One of a number of small restaurants inside the market itself, Daiwa, is rated by many as the best place in the world. Try the line-caught tuna from the Japanese town of Oma, washed down with green tea and miso soup.

10am: After breakfast, visit Roppongi Hills - a futuristic urban planning concept built by the Donald Trump of Tokyo, Minoru Mori. Fourteen years in the making, this shopping, dining and entertainment complex is modern Tokyo at its finest. At the top of the 54-storey Mori Tower is the Mori Art Museum. Marvel at the panoramic views of the city whilst appreciating the latest exhibitions in what is Mori's attempt to bring modern art to the masses.

12pm: Lunch at Cafe 8 opposite the Grand Hyatt Hotel. A cheap and delicious alternative to the many expensive restaurants in Roppongi Hills, this is one of the few authentic Chinese restaurants. Go for the duck menu: for about $15 you'll get the whole bird served with pancakes for starters, with noodles for the main dish and finally a soup.

2pm: Jump on a bus down the hill to the main railway hub of Shibuya and catch the Inokashira line train out to the suburb of Kichijoji. Here you'll find Ghibli Museum dedicated to Japan's premiere animation studio. Founded by director Hayao Miyazaki, known as "the Walt Disney of Japan," the studio's recent releases include the Oscar-winning Spirited Away, Princess Mononoke and Howl's Moving Castle.

At the enchanting museum you can see exhibitions on the science and history of animation, watch short films from the studio and see how an animated film is made. Make sure you buy a ticket from the convenience store at the station before you go to the museum.

6pm: Catch the train back to Shibuya. By now this mecca for nightlife and entertainment will be buzzing. Spend a little while people watching in Hachiko square next to the famous "busiest street crossing in the world." This is where Tokyo's youth comes out to play and you'll see a mind-boggling array of street fashion from the super cool to the super ridiculous.

8pm: Walk past the spaceship-like 109 department store to the top of Dogenzaka hill. Enter the skyscraper behind the small police station and catch the elevator up to the 14th floor, enjoying the view. Gonpachi is a modern take on the traditional Japanese izakaya eatery. Ask for a table near the window and order a selection of dishes to share - the hand-rolled soba noodles, the prawn balls with chilli sauce and the beef skewers are good.

If you ask nicely, the staff will bring you the dragon roll sushi from the restaurant next door.

12am: The night is still young for Tokyoites. The city has some of best nightclubs in the world with top international DJs playing alongside star turns from Japan every weekend. Hop aboard the free shuttle bus from outside Shibuya station that takes you to Tokyo's biggest super club, Ageha which even boasts an open-air swimming pool overlooking Tokyo Bay. When it all gets too much, relax on the airbeds.

SUNDAY

9am: Relax after yesterday's action at an onsen - the Japanese term for hot spring. Being a volcanic country, Japan has thousands of these public bathing facilities and Tokyo has one or two natural onsen for city dwellers to enjoy.

Catch a train over to Futakotamagawa, near to Shibuya. Outside the station is a small bus stop where a free shuttle bus will take you to Seta Onsen.

The inside pools are separated into male and female sections but the outside pools are mixed, so you'll need a bathing costume. On a clear day you might just catch a glimpse of the elusive Mount Fuji.

11am: Time to do some shopping and the best place on a Sunday is Harajuku. Among the bizarrely attired teenage Goths and dancing rockabillies you'll find everything from high-end luxury at Chanel and Gucci to the latest trends in street fashion.

Head for the super-trendy La Foret building. Brands to impress when you get home: A Bathing Ape, Superlovers, X-Girl, Hysteric Glamour and Sofia Coppola's Japanese fashion label, Milkfed.

1pm: Lunch around the corner at Jangara Ramen, one of Tokyo finest ramen noodle chains. Getting a seat in the tiny store might involve a bit of a wait but it's worth it.

The ramen here is made in the Kyushu-style from southern Japan, which means the thick and creamy tonkotsu broth is made from pork bones. Order it with extra stewed kakuni pork.

- Reuters

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