Max Veenhuyzen sets his sights on Japan’s capital.
Experience traditional Japanese theatre
From the flamboyant aragoto style to the more grounded drama and realism of wagoto, kabuki has a special place in Japanese culture. Although performances can be seen in theatres throughout Tokyo, Ginza’s Kabukiza is the art form’s spiritual home. New programs are released monthly and tickets are available for individual acts as well as entire shows. If your Japanese language skills are a touch rusty, rent a captioning device or ask for an English program.
Kabukiza, Ginza 4-12-15, Chuo, Tokyo
Go book shopping
It’s a telling detail that the walls at Jimbōchō subway station are adorned with books. In the same way that Kappabashi is famous for kitchenware and gadget fanciers flock to Akihabara, this neighbourhood in Chiyoda is Tokyo’s epicentre for book buying. Stores here carry everything from hen’s-teeth-rare first editions and art books to vintage magazines and cut-price manga. At the end of October, the neighbourhood holds the annual Kanda Used Book Festival, a week-long celebration of the published word that sees the streets lined with bookshelves.
Jimbōchō Station is serviced by the Mita, Shinjuku and Hanzōmon lines.
Visit the National Museum of Modern Art
Since its establishment in 1952, the National Museum of Modern Art has been one of the key players in Japan’s contemporary art movement. In addition to the museum’s permanent collection of important Japanese works, a vigorous exhibition program covers plenty of ground – from single-artist retrospectives to shows exploring and celebrating the tourism art of inter-war Japan. The museum’s sister gallery, the National Film Center (3-7-6 Kyobashi, Chuo, Tokyo) is a must for movie buffs.
National Museum of Modern Art, Tokyo; 3-1 Kitanomaru-koen, Chiyoda, Tokyo
“Climb” Japan’s tallest building
Standing 634 metres tall, Tokyo Skytree offers arguably the best views of the city from its observation deck at 450 metres. The only dilemma: do you visit during the day in the hope of getting a clear sightline to Mount Fuji, or do you go in the evening to see the metropolis’s glittering lights? Whatever you do, try to visit on weekdays when crowd numbers are down and don’t forget to bring your passport to take advantage of the Fast Skytree Ticket, which lets you bypass the queue. When you’ve had your fill of the views, the tower’s attached Solamachi shopping centre offers eating and retail options galore.
Tokyo Skytree, 1-1-2 Oshiage, Sumida, Tokyo
Tour Tokyo’s department stores
Or, more specifically, their basements. While the shelves of high-end department stores such as Isetan and Takashimaya groan under the weight of luxury goods, their below-ground depachikas (food halls) are all about celebrating gustatory pleasures. While it’s entirely possible to spend a morning cooing at dazzlingly fresh fish and catwalk-ready strawberries, booking a bespoke market tour led by former depachika employee Yukari Sakamoto will enrich your experience (her book, Food Sake Tokyo, is an invaluable resource for the Tokyo-bound eater). Make sure you arrive hungry.