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48 hours in Tokyo: Insider’s guide to the Japanese capital

Tokyo, the capital city of Japan, is a dazzling metropolis offering myriad experiences from cherry blossom hanami celebrations and sushi-making to pop culture and authentic tea-making ceremonies.

Words by Rebecca Barnes

There are few places on earth as exciting and progressive as Tokyo. And with 24 million visitors a year making the journey to experience this wonderfully out-of-this-world city for themselves, it seems our love affair with the Japanese capital is stronger than ever.

But with so much to see and do, make sure you factor in at least a couple of days to make the most of this truly 24-hour metropolis.

Tokyo’s calendar is brimming with festivals, while April is the month the city comes alive with color, thanks to the cherry blossom or sakura tree, coming into bloom.

With unique and fascinating cultural traditions, the city has many influences which you’ll see in its arts such as origami and ikebana (flower arranging).

There are thousands of top-rated restaurants, cafes and places to eat in Tokyo, with sushi the most iconic. As you’d expect, you’ll find everything from conveyor belt restaurants to rice robots serving your food.

Shopping is also unsurpassed – those after designer labels should head to the polished pavements of Ginza, where luxury reigns supreme. If gadgets and tech are your thing, then Akihabara, nicknamed Electric Town, is the place to be, with retro gaming stores and electronics retailers a-plenty. Here’s the Sailawaze guide to making the most of your time…

Tokyo Sky Tree in Tokyo Japan

Tokyo MizumachiDay 1

First stop is Tokyo Mizumachi, the Asian city’s vibrant waterfront destination development which opened in 2020.

With an eclectic mix of restaurants, cafes and shops, it’s located on the Kitajukken River in downtown Tokyo, just five minutes walk from Asakusa station.

While you’re in the area, take in the stunning views on floor 450 of the Tokyo Sky Tree, an observation tower with terraces located 350 and 450 metres above ground. There is also a tower illumination schedule, plus a cafe and a restaurant on site.

After all that sightseeing during the day you’re bound to be hungry, so why not join the three-hour Shinjuku Night Foodie Tour, during which you will explore three, loved-by-locals foodie locations in vibrant Shinjuku.

You’ll also watch sushi-making before a tasting, indulge in a Wagyu dinner and BBQ experience and savour an artisan Gelato while you wander around bustling Kabukicho.

Harajuku areaDay 2

Start the day with a little peace and tranquility at the residence of Japan’s Imperial Family at Imperial Palace Plaza. Enjoy a wander around the large park surrounded by moats, trees including the iconic cherry blossom tree, flowers and foreboding stone walls.

There’s also a free museum where you can view an extensive collection of traditional Japanese works.

Learn all about the trendy Harajuku area and style as well as Japanese pop culture by joining the fun, three-hour Harajuku Kawaii & Pop Culture Tour, which includes a lunch of colorful pasta and cakes in a monster cafe, and a tour of the Meiji Shrine, which features 365 species of trees and is a tranquil contrast to the lively Harajuku subculture experience.

Time for a little afternoon culture: discover the formal tradition that is the Japanese tea ceremony at Matsuda-ya.

Ideal for tea ceremony novices and something everyone needs to do at least once, you’ll sip on hot green tea and learn about the mindset in an authentic environment that’s located near Shinjuku station.

Japanese tea ceremony in Tokyo Japan

Set Sail

Tokyo to Singapore Cruise

Duration: 12 nights

Where: Tokyo (Yokohama), Japan | Mt. Fuji (Shimizu), Japan | Kobe, Japan | Cruising | Kagoshima, Japan | Cruising | Manila, Philippines | Cruising | Nha Trang, Vietnam | Ho Chi Minh City (Phu My), Vietnam | Cruising | Singapore, Singapore

Ship: Spectrum of the Seas

Price: From $2,573 pp

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Published 03.02.22