Tokyo has become increasingly popular as a travel destination in recent years, but as a tourist it can be difficult to find one's way around the city with a population of more than 38 million. Foreign Cabin Crew Member Yoshika, who lives and grew up in Tokyo, shares some of her favourite spots with us – as well as a few secret tips.
Life in the Japanese capital moves at a hectic pace, and although this is exciting it can also be tiring – even better, then, if you know of some good places to slow down. Tokyo can be very hot and sticky in summer, so the best times to go are between the seasons – in autumn, when it's mild, or in spring during the famous cherry blossom time. SWISS flies to Tokyo (NRT) every day from Zurich (ZRH).
Yoshika's day gets off to a classic start with green tea at Maruyamanori. The café belongs to a tea shop that was founded in 1954. Its speciality is the green tea that is available here in every possible variation. Yoshika opts for a green tea shot: "It's a little bit like an espresso – except that it's made with green tea! Served with green tea ice cream! Perfect!" Apart from its exquisite range of teas, the other thing that makes this café so special is its location. Marujamanori is on the roof of the Kabuki Theatre of Japanese dance and drama. Another delight during breakfast is to enjoy the view of the Japanese garden, which is directly opposite.
The café is in Ginza, the main shopping and entertainment area. So it makes sense to head there for a spot of shopping after breakfast. Traditional and modern Japan meet in this lively district. Shops, some of which have their roots in the century before last, stand opposite modern multi-storey department stores. "The streets are arranged in blocks, similar to New York City," explains Yoshika. So there's no need to worry about possibly getting lost.
A good way to recover from the bustle on the streets is to visit a temple or shrine, of which there are literally thousands in Tokyo alone. Today, Yoshika is visiting the Meiji shrine, and inside she writes a wish on a piece of paper and pins it up with the many others already hanging there. "So it comes true," – a belief of Shinto, the traditional religion of Japan that that honours natural forces and the country's gods. Admission to the shrine is free, and being in the quiet rooms is relaxing, almost meditative.
Many Europeans equate Japanese cuisine with sushi – even though the little rice rolls are only a very small portion of the country's wide and varied culinary art. The various noodle soups are tremendously popular. And the city's best ramen can be found just around the corner of the Meiji shrine, at the Afuri. "You've never had ramen like this before," enthuses Yoshika. The ramen with yuzu, a local citrus fruit, is highly recommended.
The 25-year-old spends the afternoon at the Digital Art Museum and the Team Lab Borderless exhibition. "You could easily spend the whole day here," says Yoshika, laughing. "There is just so much to see: rooms with thousands of lanterns, light rain or the 'Athletic Forest'." The latter is an interactive three-dimensional room based on the principle of understanding the world through our own body. "A truly unique experience!" It's a good idea to book your tickets a day in advance.
Yoshika would probably have spent much longer at the Digital Art Museum had she not had another appointment. Because early in the evening she is going to a proper sumo wrestling session at the Nippon Budokan Arena in the district of Chiyoda. There's a charged, energetic atmosphere in the traditional Japanese wrestling arena. In fact, it's worth visiting just to experience the audience and the mood. "There are only a few Japanese sumo wrestlers left today; most of them come from abroad," explains Yoshika. "Maybe you'll find one from your country to cheer!" Of course, there are plenty of snacks and drinks available in the arena, but Yoshika decides to wait until later, because there's something very special planned for the evening meal.
The Imahan ist ein namhaftes Restaurant, das vor allem für sein Sukiyaki is a renowned restaurant that is particularly well-known for its sukiyaki. This meal consists of thinly sliced meat that is cooked in a pot with vegetables and sweet soy sauce. It is served with rice, which is cooked in the same pot. The cooking liquid is drunk right at the end. "Not only is the food first class, but so too is the service," enthuses Yoshika. "All the staff wear kimonos, and the food is prepared at your table!" It's the perfect place to linger for a while and watch the day become evening and the evening become night in Tokyo.