There’s a lot to do in Tokyo between meetings: from soaking away all that business tension in an onsen to checking out one of Japan’s most famous artists at the Sumida Hokusai Museum. By Kirsty Munro.
Climb to the top of Tokyo
Yes, it’s touristy but Tokyo Skytree, at 634 metres, offers impressive views over the entire city. Visit late in the afternoon after the school groups have left and you’ll get a stunning view of the sun slipping behind Mount Fuji. Below the tower, there’s a stylish shopping centre selling plenty of souvenirs. Also check out the compact, surprisingly grown-up Sumida Aquarium, where you can have a beer while watching gambolling penguins.
Soak your stress away
There’s no better way to relax than soaking in a hot mineral bath, though being naked in front of strangers takes some getting used to. Spa LaQua, next to Tokyo Dome, is open all night so you can de-stress anytime. You’ll get cotton pyjamas and a wristband that functions as your payment system for massages and refreshments. As at most Japanese pools, onsens and gyms, there’s a strict no-tattoos policy.
Take an art break
The Sumida area is known for sumo and it’s not unusual to see the wrestlers, with their signature topknots, shopping in their yukatas (robes). But it’s the new Sumida Hokusai Museum, dedicated to Sumida’s most famous artist, that’s getting all the attention. Designed by Pritzker Prize winner Kazuyo Sejima, the façade has echoes of the Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao. Hokusai’s woodblock print, The Great Wave, is prominently displayed.
Pop-up shops and souvenirs
The very cool Beams Japan in Shinjuku sells offbeat souvenirs (think Hello Kitty shower sandals) and fashion over six floors and has a constant stream of funky pop-up shops. The city’s best department store, Isetan, is just steps away; don’t miss the amazing food hall in the basement.
Serenity in the garden
You’d never guess that one of the world’s busiest business districts would also be home to a spectacular and very peaceful garden. Originally the estate of Lord Naito during the Edo period, Shinjuku Gyoen was opened to the public after World War II. It features a formal French garden and a rambling English landscape but it’s the classical Japanese garden, with koi ponds, arched bridges and traditional tea houses, that draws the most visitors, especially in spring and autumn.