At 35 million inhabitants, Tokyo is one of the largest cities in the world. Which means no matter which of its reputations (nerd-friendly, tech Mecca, spa abundant, giant robots) made you consider it as a potential honeymoon spot, you’ll be able to indulge to an extreme. Despite having few public trash cans and an astronomical number of vending machines, it’s also one of the inexplicably cleanest cities you’re likely to visit. Street crime is almost non-existent, and the only place murder rates are lower is in the city-state of Monaco.
Find romance by the light of the neon or his and hers massages at the hotel spa. Slurp up fast food noodles (totally acceptable here) or gnaw on high-end cuts of meat. Go budget or baller or go somewhere else. Tokyo has a honeymoon for almost any price point and interest.
English speakers aren’t quite as abundant as other first world countries, particularly outside of tourist-heavy regions. But you’ll rarely find a nation so willing to wait for you while you type your request into Google Translate. Even so, visitor satisfaction is extremely high—Tokyo has regularly rated the number one city in the world for tourists. So prepare for an adventure in the big city that you’ll be unpacking and absorbing until it’s time to return for an anniversary trip. – By Laura Studarus
The Pros & Cons of Tokyo
When the Simpsons visited Tokyo, Marge famously moaned she was down to “her last million Yen.” With an exchange rate (currently) hovering somewhere around 109 Yen per dollar, this would mean that the resoundingly middle-class family could have afforded a straight-up baller Japanese vacation. But even if you don’t have Homer money, you can still live well in the Japanese capital. Aside from taxis, which are pearl-clutching expensive, the cost is similar to say, a major American metropolis such as Los Angeles.
Depending on the destination, most subway trips will cost between 200 and 400 Yen, but unless you’re heading to a dramatically different neighborhood or the weather’s crappy, it takes almost as much time to train as it does to walk a few miles.
Time of year plays a big role in your bottom line: cherry blossom season (early April) will cost you, as will autumn (around mid-November). AirBNBs are plentiful, with most options just below the $100 a night mark in major neighborhoods.
Tipping is non-existent, and many restaurants offer lunch sets. But even at dinner time some of the best curry or udon you’ll experience usually doesn’t cost much more than 1,000 yen. And some of the most interesting experiences—a walk through a shrine, or a spin through a neon-decked neighborhood—come for free.
Where To Stay Tokyo
Know your neighborhoods and plan accordingly! Akihabara is a video game nerd paradise. Shop for anime, play any number of claw games, and grab some unusually flavored Kit-Kats at Japan’s answer to Target, Don Quijote. If you’re feeling adventurous (or mildly suicidal), you can also cruise the streets in a go-cart, because the main drag with its multi-colored buildings is basically a real-life Mario Cart track.
If you’re lucky enough to go to Tokyo during cherry blossom season (advisable—although tricky as it shifts by a few weeks every year), Ueno with its numerous shrines and parks offers some of your best viewing opportunities. But even if you miss the annual bloom, it’s still worth paying a visit for the numerous museums and Ueno Zoo—where a year ago baby panda was born, breaking the country’s 50-year dry spell.
Meiji Jingu, one of Tokyo’s best-known shrines, sits in the Harajuku district—but be honest, you probably heard the name thanks to its reputation for extreme fashion. While it’s true that teenage girls use the area as their personal runway (any given day you’re like to spot a Goth Lolita or three), there’s plenty to do if you’re not accessory inclined. So after you’re done picking through the area’s abundant thrift stores (or novelty condom shop if that’s your particular banana bag) be sure to grab an elaborate doughnut at Mr. Doughnut (chain story that began in Boston but now only exists in Japan) and an Instagram op at Tokyu Plaza’s crazy, hall of mirrors entrance.
Roppongi is one of Tokyo’s many business and retail centers. You can hit up the National Art Center—but the real reason to wander into the neighborhood is the viewing platform at the top of Mori Tower. From the wide-windowed perch, you can view nearly every inch of Tokyo’s Tetris-like skyline, including Tokyo tower (aka that thing that looks like it belongs in Paris) and on a clear day, Mount Fuji.
Pro-tip: Head straight from the subway to the Shibuya district’s famous crossing to grab your iconic photo—and then get the hell out…unless you really really like rubbing elbows with humanity on the busiest street on earth. From there, go for a walk to gawk at street performers (this area really doubles down on the random), search for rare music in all five stories of Disk Union, or stroll through “Love Hotel Hill,” a hotel-heavy street where elaborately-themed rooms can be rented by the hour for…certain activities.
Prepare for a bit of red light district creepiness in Shinjuku. But if you can get around that, it’s still worth checking out this neon-heavy district. Stop by Gracery hotel, where every hour between 11 a.m. and 8 p.m. their oversized Godzilla head lets out an ominous roar, indulge in traditional sweets, or grab some department-store seaweed and rice balls. (Yes—the famous foodie was right; it really is the best place in the city to get cheap eats.)
Best Honeymoon Hotels in Tokyo
Given the absolute sprawl of the city, one of the greatest joys of Tokyo is exploring and making up your schedule as you go along. Instead of going the honeymoon package route, consider booking lodging with extra amenities. Despite being located in the middle of the city Chinzanso is surrounded by elaborate gardens (complete with a three-story pagoda, because Japan) that act as a noise buffer from the rest of the world. Without leaving the property you can sample matcha/red bean sweets from the bakery, eat at one of their nine restaurants, soak at an on-site onsen, or surprise your partner with flowers and champagne sent directly to the room. (You can even stage a destination wedding in its elaborate wedding floor—should you be in the mood to bring the whole family along.)
Likewise, Keio Plaza, Japan’s first skyscraper hotel, offers additional amenities that include Japanese, Korean, French, and Chinese restaurants, a pool open in the summer months, and cultural experiences that include flower arrangement, kimono wearing, and tea ceremonies.
Best Attractions and Activities in Tokyo
Bathhouses are a part of Japanese life, and an excellent way to destress if you’re not afraid of a bit of (gender segregated) public nudity. For the best results, look for a bathhouse that calls itself an “onsen” which means the water comes from natural hot springs. Yama no yu Onsen features delicate wall art, an original from its opening in 1960. Niwa no Yu’s rock-lined outdoor baths are considered some of the most beautiful in the city. And Saya no Yudokoro (a name meant to evoke relaxation) also has a series of bedrock baths, which they claim can cure a host of health issues.
Although not as famous for its shrines as Kyoto, Tokyo’s temple game is strong—to the point that it can seem like there’s one on every corner. (Not a totally incorrect statement, officially the city hosts several hundred, which doesn’t account for the numerous mini versions found in many people’s front yards.) Without knowing the story behind each one, it can quickly become difficult to tell one elaborately curved roof and beautiful courtyard from the next. For a viewing experience that won’t be easily forgotten, take the train to Setagaya and pay a visit to Gotokuji Temple. (Many tour books will make it sound like this is a massive undertaking. It isn’t.) It was built in honor of a cat that a starving monk asked to bless his struggling temple with money and good fortune. Now the grounds are filled with thousands of tiny, now-iconic cat sculptures.
The English have their tea times, but they don’t hold a candle to the Japanese tea ceremony, a traditional way of serving powdered matcha that’s used to foster connectivity between hosts and guests, and plays out like an elegant dance. (It’s also an excellent way to take a break from the city’s intensity.) Enjoy your tea while wearing a traditional kimono at Nayashiki, or visit Hamarikyu Garden’s Nakajima No Ochaya Tea House for a tea ceremony and traditional Japanese sweet.
Best Restaurants in Tokyo
Thanks to Lost in Translation, you’re likely heading to the New York Grill at the Park Hyatt Tokyo in hopes of making it a Suntory time. But while the former filming location does offer an array of high-end Japanese whiskeys, there more to this restaurant than an opportunity to quote Bill Murray. In addition to some of the most remarkable cityscape views, the 52nd-floor restaurant offers an open kitchen where you can watch executive chief Steffan Heerdt prepare steak from their deep bench of locally sourced meats. In case that alone isn’t enough food, their weekday menu also offers an appetizer and dessert bar with the kind of quality options that might as well be flavored with the tears of foodies.
While Tokyo leads in Michelin starred restaurants, it can be a tough location for anyone with dietary restrictions—particularly vegetarians. Because they observe the tenants of Halal cooking, Shinjuku Gyoen Ramen Ouka is also a haven for anyone who’s vegetarian or vegan. (Or just dining with one—the restaurant also offers chicken options.) It’s also just straight-up some of the best ramen in the city. Be sure to make reservations since their narrow counter space only allows for about a dozen people at any given time.
Japan goes hard on culinary escapism. Going to one of their plentiful themed restaurants isn’t so much about getting fed (even though yeah, sure, they’ve got food) as it is absorbing a truly bizarre cultural experience. Whether it’s ingesting curry shaped like Sanrio character Pompompurin, diving into the culture of cute at the Kawaii Monster Cafe, or ordering cocktails by banging on the side of your cell at The Lockup, you’re likely to come away with a story. Even if that story starts with “What the hell?”
Deep in the Shinjuku neighborhood is Golden Gai, a handful of streets with the tiniest bars and ramen houses you’ll ever visit. Think you and four of your closest friends. Because space is a premium (climbing steep ladders to second story waterholes requires some serious Dutch courage and the proper supplies), many of the bars require a cover fee. But it can be worth it because sipping sake while literally sitting face to face with your bartender-turned host is a singular experience.