Tokyo is as bizarre as it is endearing, overtly traditional yet wildly progressive. It’s a city constantly reinventing itself while never compromising its roots and, with 38 million residents, it continues to reign as the largest city in the world. After a treacherous recession, the land of the rising sun is making a strong comeback with stylish hotel openings, swelling new neighborhoods and, quite frankly, anything that’s not boring, simple or predictable. We rounded up a must-see hit list when visiting Japan’s coolest capital.
Shack Up at Andaz Tokyo
You may have never heard of Toronoman Hills, but it will soon be on your radar: By 2020, the sleepy neighborhood will be home to an Olympic Village and a street modeled after the Champs-Élysées in Paris. In the meantime, Andaz Tokyo opened this summer, putting the neighborhood on the map.
Crowning the top six floors of a 51-floor high-rise, the 164-room boutique hotel is an urban hideaway in the sky with all the amenities of a glittery resort: massive spa with a 64-foot indoor pool and a “beauty” bar; four dining outlets, including the refined Andaz Tavern; and Tokyo’s first open-air rooftop bar, with its own chapel. The spacious guest rooms flaunt stylish design, electronic toilets, comfy beds and killer sprawling city views. tokyo.andaz.hyatt.com
Try Insect Snacks at Mandarin Oriental Tokyo
When it comes to dining, Tokyo is all about outside-the-box thinking, inspiring bold travelers to step outside of their comfort zones for odd and unusual culinary adventures. Naturally, this includes the centuries-long tradition of gastronomic exceptionalism: eating bugs.
Mandarin Oriental Tokyo has become the first hotel in the world to offer insect snacks at the Mandarin Bar, a swanky den with live music, sprawling city views and fancy cocktails. The hotel worked with a 75-year-old woman from the countryside to create these unusual (yet tasty!) seasonal snacks, like sugar-and-soy-marinated locusts, honeybee larvae and silkworm. mandarinoriental.com/tokyo
Spend Hours at Tokyu Hands
One of Tokyo’s busiest and most historic rail stations, Tokyo Station is getting a major facelift that’s destined to make it the Grand Central Station of Japan. In fact, the current development is so massive and ambitious, it’s slated to be a mini-city in the next few years.
In the meantime, Tokyu Hands recently opened its doors, spanning three levels of a department store in the station complex. It’s a hot spot for lifestyle and novelty goods, including the famously weird and kitschy gadgets, gifts and accessories Tokyo is known for creating. tokyu-hands.co.jp/foreign.html
Get Lost at Golden Gai
In the zany, never-sleeping Shinjuku district, Golden Gai is a compact labyrinth of alleyways and small streets chock-full of bars that are extraordinarily tiny—even for Japanese standards. Each of the 200+ bars can only accommodate three to five people for intimate (OK, sure… cramped) nights out. The bars are quiet, often smoky and far from the madness of the neighborhood (welcome to a Sixties time warp).
While the vicinity was known to be a heavily trafficked prostitution area during the last decades, Golden Gai has lately become popular for its nightcaps… without the happy ending. Nowadays, more and more Westerners are beginning to infiltrate the area for exciting nights out.
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