T+L's Definitive Guide to Tokyo

T+L's Definitive Guide to Tokyo

Tetsuya Miura
Tetsuya Miura
Tokyo has a varied cultural landscape full of futuristic skyscrapers, centuries-old temples, sophisticated hotels, and enticing restaurants.

Lay of the Land

Asakusa: Catch a glimpse of old-time Tokyo at Asakusa’s seventh-century Senso-ji Temple and family-run artisans’ shops.

Ebisu/Daikanyama: The low-key cafés of these adjacent enclaves are an antidote to glitzy Roppongi.

Ginza: Top-end restaurants and depachikas (department store food halls) define the city’s entertainment area.

Marunouchi: The business district is home to Tokyo Station, the Imperial Palace, and several hotel chains.

Roppongi: This once-gritty nightlife hub has gone upscale, with urban developments such as Tokyo Midtown.

Shibuya: Tokyo’s shopping mecca swarms with tourists and trendsetters.

Shinjuku: In this central ward you’ll find the world’s busiest rail station and a warren of lively bars.

Getting Around

Taxis, though expensive, are great for navigating the city. The extensive subway system is also convenient.


Our picks of Tokyo’s top hotels—each with a showstopping view.

The Internationals

Mandarin Oriental: Natural light floods the atrium lobby on the top floor of this gleaming tower. We love the thoughtful details, from the washi-paper lamps to the kimono-inspired wall patterns. $$$

Park Hyatt: Even if you don’t check in here, drinks at the hotel’s New York Bar are a must. The 177 rooms, five restaurants, and indoor pool all share stunning cityscape vistas. $$$

The Peninsula: The Hong Kong–based hotel group brings its tech-savvy sensibility to the Ginza. Marble bathrooms have built-in flat-screen TV’s, vanities are equipped with nail dryers, and in-room VoIP phones let guests make free international calls. $$$$

Ritz-Carlton: Crowning the Tokyo Midtown Tower complex, the Ritz puts guests in the heart of Roppongi. Guest rooms channel old-world glamour with mahogany desks and oversize armoires. $$$$

Shangri-La: At the 202-room Shangri-La, Chinese touches (gold-lacquered panels; silk embroidery) offset a more modern aesthetic (blond wood; statement chandeliers). $$$

The Locals

Capitol Tokyu: Overlooking the Hie Shrine, this Kengo Kuma–designed property is a quiet oasis in central Tokyo. $$

Hotel Okura: Understated Japanese style pervades at the 52-year-old Hotel Okura. Don’t miss the on-site art museum, with more than 2,000 Buddhist works. $$$$

Imperial Hotel: This legendary hotel is known for its large business center and prime location near Hibiya Park. $$

New Otani: It doesn’t get more authentic than the New Otani, with its 400-year-old garden, tea ceremonies, and restaurant’s traditional teppanyaki cuisine. $

Palace Hotel: Earthy elements such as gray aji stones at this 290-room property evoke the neighboring Imperial Palace grounds. Ask for a balcony room facing the royal residence. $$$$

Tokyo Station Hotel: Among the highlights at this revamped hotel, in Marunouchi: Edwardian architecture and sunlit rooms that look out on to Tokyo Station’s ornate plaster cupolas. $$$$

On the Horizon

In 2014, Amanresorts makes its Japan debut in central Otemachi; by summer, Hyatt’s Andaz brand will open in Toranomon. Come 2016, Hoshino Resorts will add an 84-room ryokan (inn), also in Otemachi.

Hotel Pricing Key
$ Less than $200
$$ $200 to $350
$$$ $350 to $500
$$$$ $500 to $1,000
$$$$$ More than $1,000


Four standouts in the style-obsessed city.

Aquvii: With locations in Daikanyama and Jingumae, this offbeat shop is a souvenir-seeker’s dream, chock-full of unique finds such as brass necklaces made with tiny lightbulbs and tote bags in the shape of Do Not Disturb signs.

Fujiya: The ubiquitous tenugui, or small cotton towel, is elevated to an art form at this third-generation store in Asakusa (whose customers often frame their purchases rather than use them). Dozens of beautiful patterns are created by hand; several were revived from the 18th century. 2-2-15 Asakusa; 81-3/3841-2283.

Takumi: You could spend hours browsing the Japanese folk crafts in Takumi, an intimate, two-story Ginza shop that has everything from ceramics and lacquerware to textiles and bamboo baskets. Look out for rustic Mashiko pottery and wooden kokeshi dolls. 8-4-2 Ginza; 81-3/3571-2017.

Xanadu Tokyo: For a dose of edgy Tokyo street fashion, head to Tatsuro Motohashi’s boutique in Harajuku, which specializes in homegrown labels, including Tokyo’s Exist and the Osaka-based Roggykei. Best bets: eyelet lace vests and oversize leather clutches.

See + Do

A tour of Tokyo’s cultural and historical stops.

Kabukiza Theater: Samurai showdowns, damsels in distress, spirited shouts from the audience—all in a day’s performance of Japanese dance drama. The country’s most famous Kabuki theater reopened in the Ginza last spring, following a three-year renovation. Watch an entire show or buy same-day balcony seats and catch a single act

Mori Art Museum: Set in Roppongi’s Mori Tower, this museum is a hub for global contemporary talent, such as China’s controversial Ai Wei Wei and American video artist Bill Viola. Tickets include admission to the Tokyo City View observation deck—a 52-story-high outlook above the city.

Nezu Museum: Architect Kengo Kuma’s airy new wing at Nezu Museum showcases Asian antiques from a vast private collection emphasizing Buddhist and tea-ceremony artifacts. There is also a moss-covered Japanese garden filled with teahouses, winding stone paths, and maple-shaded koi ponds.

Ota Memorial Museum of Art: The late Seizo Ota spent over half a century compiling ukiyo-e Japanese woodblock prints. The more than 12,000 pieces, now housed in a diminutive gallery on a side street in Shibuya, represent such masters as Hokusai and Hiroshige—only about 100 are on display at any given time.

Sengaku-Ji Temple: This Zen Buddhist temple has a compelling past: in the early 18th century, 47 ronin (masterless samurai) avenged their lord’s death before committing hara-kiri. Here, their somber stone graves are well preserved, as is their armor in the small on-site museum.


The city’s white-hot culinary scene is heavy on just-caught seafood, complex flavors, and plenty of innovation.

Ginza Harutaka: Takahashi Harutaka worked for 12 years under sushi master Jiro Ono before striking out on his own in 2006; his first restaurant, a 10-seat sushi-ya loved as much for its exceptional raw fish as for its laid-back vibe, has earned a loyal following among local chefs. $$$$

Jimbocho Den: For fun twists on classic kaiseki (multicourse) meals, head to Jimbocho Den, where Zaiyu Hasegawa blends authentic cooking techniques with playful presentations: Dentucky Fried Chicken is stuffed with sticky rice, while a mascarpone dessert, sprinkled with ground-tea-leaf “dirt,” is served on a spade with a pair of gardening gloves. $$$$

Kozue: The 40th-floor restaurant at the Park Hyatt, in Shinjuku, is a lavish introduction to Japanese fine dining; a kimono-clad waitstaff serves chef Kenichiro Ooe’s simple yet refined dishes on handmade pottery. The changing tasting menu might include sea-urchin sashimi or Kanzaki beef. $$$$

Maisen: Inhabiting an old bathhouse in Aoyama, this popular chain’s flagship specializes in tonkatsupanko-breaded pork cutlet that’s fried golden and drizzled with an addictive sweet-tart sauce. What to order: kurobuta (Berkshire pork), so tender you can cut it with a spoon. $$

Namikibashi Nakamura: It may be hard to find this stylish izakaya, hidden on a side street near Shibuya Station, but it’s worth the effort for the standout small plates and selection of sake. Try the sardine-and-leek-topped tofu or get the omakase (chef’s choice) and let the cook work his magic. 81-3/6427-9580. $$$

Narisawa: In Minami Aoyama, the imaginative dishes of Yoshihiro Narisawa, who trained under Joël Robuchon in France, draw a diverse crowd of Converse-clad Europeans and ladies who lunch. Seasonal courses such as grilled squid with nitrogen-treated paprika pay homage to regional ingredients. $$$$

Ranjatai: You’ll find the tastiest yakitori in town at this under-the-radar gem in quiet Jimbo-cho, where prized hinai-jidori chicken is used to make everything from liver pâté to tender skewered thighs. Don’t miss the smoked duck and rich soft-boiled quail eggs. 81-3/3263-0596. $$

Tsukiji Market: Locals form long morning queues to sample market-fresh fish at Sushi Dai, but there are plenty of other options. Enjoy sashimi on beds of hot rice at Nakaya (81-3/3541-0211), oyako donburi (chicken cooked with egg) at Toritō (81-3/3543-6525), or custard buns and croissants at nearby Orimine Bakers.

Tokyo’s Best Noodles

Hototogisu: Devotees line up at this no-frills, eight-seat joint for its ramen—made with an intense pork- and clam-based broth. The dish topped with thin slices of chashu pork and nori is a house specialty. 2-47-12 Hatagaya; 81-3/3373-4508. $

Kamachiku: Noodles are made by hand each day at Kamachiku, set in a century-old restored granary in Yanesen. Order kamaage udon, served with an umami dipping sauce, then take a stroll to the Edo-era Nezu Shrine nearby. $$

Teuchisoba Narutomi: Masaaki Narutomi crafts his unique version out of pure buckwheat. Try the cold seiro soba and pair it with seasonal tempura. $$

T+L Tip: For a bespoke insider’s tour of Tokyo’s food scene, hire guide Yukari Sakamoto.

Restaurant Pricing Key
$ Less than $25
$$ $25 to $75
$$$ $75 to $150
$$$$ More than $150

Local Take

Three insiders share their favorite places in the city.

Yoshihiro Narisawa

Chef, Narisawa

Isetan, spread out over eight buildings in Shinjuku, is my favorite department store in Tokyo. I love the selection of international products (French macarons; German cakes) in its basement food hall. When I’m in the mood for seafood, I head to Ubuka (2-14 Araki-cho; 81-3/3356-7270; $$$), also in Shinjuku; it has delicious shrimp and crab at reasonable prices. For a late-night bite, Renge (2F, 3-12-1 Shinjuku; 81-3/3354-6776; $$) stays open past midnight and serves tapas-style Cantonese classics such as shu mai dumplings and roast duck.”

Limi Yamamoto

Designer, Limi Feu

“In the Ginza, I always stop by Kyukyo-do (81-3/3571-4429) for stationery and Japanese washi paper. I especially love the scented versions and often slip them into envelopes when sending a personal letter. If I’m in need of a midday pick-me-up, my go-to spot is Toraya Karyo, in Akasaka, for kakigori (shaved ice)—uji kintoki (green tea with sweet adzuki beans) is one of their better flavors. Daikanyama T-Site, in the trendy Daikanyama district, is the city’s best bookstore, with more than 140,000 titles covering most genres.”

Koichi Nezu

Director, Nezu Museum

“Shibuya’s iconic Meiji Jingu, a Shinto shrine near Harajuku Station in the Shibuya neighborhood, is the perfect place to learn about Japanese history and culture. My top places to eat are Sushi Zen, a restaurant group that originated in Hokkaido, and Ten-ichi, in the Ginza, where I get my tempura fix. After work, it’s great to unwind with a cocktail at the chic Lounge Bar Privé on the Palace Hotel Tokyo’s sixth floor, in Marunouchi; order a martini and take in the skyline view.”

Where to Drink After Dark

Ant ’n Bee: Japan’s craft-beer scene is having a moment; at this cellar bar, you’ll find a wide variety of local brews on tap. Try the Shiga Kogen Miyama Blonde, made in Nagano. 5-1-5 Roppongi; 81-3/3478-1250.

Bar High Five: There are no menus at this tiny space in the Ginza. Instead, the bartender recommends cocktails with telepathic precision: a Moscow Mule, say, chilled with diamond-shaped ice cubes.

Bar Ishinohana: Shinobu Ishigaki infuses classic drinks with fruit concoctions in his convivial Shibuya bar. The menu is extensive; when in doubt, order the signature Claudia martini.

Gen Yamamoto: Yamamoto’s seasonal creations (such as peach- and wasabi-infused shochu) use ingredients sourced from farmers across the country and are served on a 500-year-old Japanese oak counter.

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