Futuristic and fascinating, Tokyo is a world city that should be on everyone's travel agenda.
One of the world's largest cities – 30 million people call Tokyo home – is a city of contrasts. Few other places in the world are such a jumble of science-fiction-style skyscrapers bristling with modernity next door to narrow alleys packed with dark, smoky restaurants and ancient temples. Though Tokyo was shaken badly by the March 2011 earthquake, the city sustained remarkably little damage, and now life is fully back to normal.
The first Tokyoites settled here around 10,000 BC and Edo, as it was known, remained a sleepy fishing village for thousands of years. But Edo was to grow to become the world’s largest city. In 1868, Edo was renamed Tokyo, meaning Eastern Capital, as the country embarked on a massive round of empire building, which eventually led to the calamitous World War II. Half the city was completely destroyed in air raids, and what was left now coexists with a thoroughly modern city.
On arrival, the first thing you should do is head up to the top of a skyscraper to get the lay of the land. From the Rainbow Bridge, Tokyo Tower, Mori Tower and Tokyo Skytree, you can admire the city's iconic landmarks and even see all the way to Mount Fuji.
Tokyo's fascinating street life is one of the city's highlights: head to the city's liveliest district Shinjuku to experience its atmosphere. The Roppongi Hills complex in the heart of the city is another unmissable sight with great nightlife and entertainment options galore.
Although thoroughly modern, Tokyo has not forgotten its past. The Tokyo National Museum has a vast collection with some artefacts dating back 12,000 years. Learn more about Japan's emperors at the Tokyo Imperial Palace, which has been home to shoguns and emperors for centuries. Visit the Yasukuni shrine, which commemorates the 2 million citizens who gave their lives for their country during the Meiji Restoration. Traditional Buddhist spirituality dates back thousands of years and can be explored at the Sensoji Temple
Despite its huge population, Tokyo has plenty of open spaces. The world-famous cherry blossoms are in bloom in late March and early April, and Shinjuku Gyoen is a popular destination if you want to admire the blooms.