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Unlocking Tokyo: A Comprehensive Guide for the Modern Traveler

Last Updated

January 31, 2024

Our comprehensive guide to Tokyo provides an in-depth look at Japan's vibrant capital. This guide helps travelers navigate the city's diverse districts, uncover hidden gems, and understand local customs. From historical sites to modern attractions, it offers valuable insights for a memorable Tokyo experience. Whether you're a first-time visitor or a seasoned traveler, this guide is your key to unlocking the best of Tokyo.

Where to Stay in Tokyo: Top Hotels for Every Traveler

The Capitol Hotel Tokyu

Nestled in the bustling Akasaka district, The Capitol Hotel Tokyu offers a serene escape with its elegant Japanese style and proximity to the tranquil Hie Shrine. Since its grand reopening in 2010, it has maintained its status as a top choice for dignitaries and VIPs seeking privacy and impeccable service.

Hotel New Otani Tokyo Executive House Zen

For those looking for exclusivity, Hotel New Otani Tokyo Executive House Zen is a luxurious haven in the heart of Tokyo's Chiyoda district. Despite being close to major government offices, this hotel-within-a-hotel provides a peaceful garden setting and access to an array of amenities, including a health club, spa, and numerous dining options.

Mandarin Oriental, Tokyo

Elevate your stay at the Mandarin Oriental, Tokyo, where the chic décor of its 38th-floor lobby and stunning city views captivate guests. Indulge in the hotel's exquisite restaurants, unwind at the spa, and enjoy the breathtaking sight of Mount Fuji on clear days.

The Okura Tokyo

A blend of classic 1960s design and Japanese artistry, The Okura Tokyo has been a landmark since 1962. Following a lavish renovation, this historic hotel continues to charm guests with its iconic lobby, rooftop bar, and exclusive spa treatments, all while being surrounded by lush greenery.

Palace Hotel Tokyo

Overlooking the Imperial Palace, the Palace Hotel Tokyo boasts one of the city's most picturesque settings. Rebuilt as a contemporary tower in 2012, this iconic hotel combines modern luxury with stunning views of nature and the cityscape.

The Peninsula Tokyo

Designed to resemble a traditional Japanese lantern, The Peninsula Tokyo stands out with its warm glow and cultural touches. Located near the Imperial Palace, this hotel offers easy access to the city's best shopping areas and features a direct subway entrance, making exploration a breeze.

The Prince Gallery Tokyo Kioicho, A Luxury Collection Hotel

As Tokyo's first Luxury Collection Hotel, The Prince Gallery Tokyo Kioicho dazzles with its sky-high views and sophisticated design. Occupying the top floors of Kioi Tower, the hotel invites guests to experience luxury amidst the historical charm of the Kioicho district.

Shangri-La Tokyo

In the upscale Marunouchi district, the Shangri-La Tokyo presents opulence with its extensive art collection and panoramic views. Just steps from Tokyo Station, this hotel welcomes guests with grandeur and the signature scent of ginger and bergamot.

Takanawa Hanakohro

Discover a slice of traditional Japan at Takanawa Hanakohro, located within the Grand Prince Hotel Takanawa. This ryokan offers an authentic experience with its Japanese-style suites and cultural activities, all set within a garden that once belonged to royalty.

Aman Tokyo

For peace in the heart of the city, look no further than Aman Tokyo. Perched atop a skyscraper, this urban sanctuary delivers tranquility through its minimalist design and natural elements, providing a unique contrast to the bustling streets below.

Whether you're seeking traditional charm or modern luxury, Tokyo's hotels offer something for every traveler. Each property promises an unforgettable stay in one of the world's most vibrant cities.

Where to Eat in Tokyo: A Guide to Michelin-Starred Restaurants

Tokyo, the capital of Japan, is a foodie's paradise. With its rich culinary history, top-quality ingredients, and diverse food scene, it offers everything from traditional Japanese fare to high-end dining experiences. The city boasts an impressive 200 Michelin-starred restaurants, surpassing other gastronomic hubs like New York and Paris. This fact alone draws many visitors eager to explore Tokyo's culinary landscape.

Understanding the Michelin Star Rating System in Japan

A Michelin star is a mark of distinction for any restaurant. It serves as a guarantee of exceptional quality, attracting diners from around the world. Michelin inspectors, who award these coveted stars, work anonymously and independently. Their ratings are globally recognized and trusted, significantly impacting a restaurant's reputation and future.

The Michelin star rating system applies universally, including in Japan, a country renowned for its extraordinary culinary scene. Cities like Tokyo, Kyoto, and Osaka lead with the highest number of Michelin-starred restaurants nationwide.

So, how does a restaurant earn a Michelin star? Japanese establishments may receive one to three stars based on five criteria:

  1. Quality of ingredients

  2. Expertise in cooking techniques and flavor

  3. Chef's distinctive style

  4. Balance and harmony of flavors

  5. Consistency between visits

The Michelin Guide is updated annually, with new stars awarded and existing ones potentially lost. Recently, the guide has also started recognizing restaurants that follow sustainable business practices with Michelin Green stars.

Top Michelin-Starred Restaurants in Tokyo

Among the numerous Michelin-starred dining spots in Tokyo, here are some standout establishments:


Owned by Chef Hiroyasu Kawate, Florilège is a two-Michelin-starred restaurant located in the Minato-ku neighborhood. Known for its sustainability initiatives and plant-based menus, Florilège offers a unique dining experience that combines Japanese warmth with French finesse.


Sazenka, led by Chef Tomoya Sawada, is a three-Michelin-starred restaurant in Minami-Azabu. It offers a unique blend of Japanese and Chinese cuisine, executed with ancient Chinese techniques.

Ginza Toyoda

Located in the prestigious Ginza area, Ginza Toyoda is a Michelin-starred restaurant where Chef Seiji Funashima showcases his passion for traditional Japanese cuisine using the finest seasonal ingredients.

Jukuseizushi Yorozu

Tucked away near the bustling neighborhood of Shibuya, Jukuseizushi Yorozu is a one-Michelin-starred restaurant known for its exquisite omakase meals.

Pierre Gagnaire at ANA InterContinental Tokyo

Pierre Gagnaire is a two-Michelin-starred restaurant located on the 36th floor of the five-star ANA InterContinental Tokyo hotel. Here, guests can enjoy award-winning contemporary French cuisine against the backdrop of Tokyo's stunning skyline.

Dominique Bouchet

Situated in the posh shopping district of Ginza, the one-Michelin-starred Dominique Bouchet Tokyo offers a delightful gastronomic indulgence with its distinctive interpretation of French cuisine using locally sourced Japanese ingredients.

Chez Olivier

Opened in 2009, Chez Olivier is a one-Michelin-starred restaurant that offers wholesome, authentic French cuisines in a relaxed atmosphere.

These Michelin-starred restaurants, helmed by award-winning chefs, are always in high demand. To ensure a seamless culinary adventure, it's advisable to book at least a few months in advance.

When it comes to discovering the best Michelin-starred restaurants in Japan, many people rely on well-known sources such as the Michelin Guide, Tripadvisor, or SavorJapan. These platforms make it easy for users to book tables at popular restaurants. By doing some research in advance and learning more about the chef and their style of cuisine, diners can fully appreciate the Michelin dining experience.

Exploring Tokyo: Top Tourist Attractions and Hidden Gems

Tokyo, the vibrant capital of Japan, is a city that beautifully blends tradition with modernity. From historical sites to futuristic landscapes, Tokyo offers an array of attractions for every traveler. Here's a guide to some must-visit locations in this bustling metropolis.

Historical Sites in Tokyo

Amidst the city's glittering skyscrapers and busy streets, you can find traces of Tokyo's rich history.

Sensoji Temple

Located in Asakusa, Sensoji Temple is a popular destination for visitors. The iconic Kaminarimon Gate leads to Nakamise Dori, a street filled with souvenir shops, which then takes you to a complex of fascinating religious structures.

Meiji Jingu

Meiji Jingu, a Shinto shrine nestled in a tranquil forest near JR Harajuku Station, commemorates Emperor Meiji and Empress Shoken. In 2020, the shrine celebrated its 100th anniversary.

Hamarikyu Gardens

Hamarikyu Gardens offers a peaceful retreat where you can reflect on Tokyo's history when it was still known as Edo. This space has been used by different feudal lords for various purposes, including recitals, rice cultivation, military training, and falconry.

Edo-Tokyo Open Air Architectural Museum

Escape the city's hustle and bustle and spend a day exploring the Edo-Tokyo Open Air Architectural Museum, home to relocated historical buildings set in a beautiful park in Tokyo’s western suburbs.

Olympic Sites

For a glimpse of history in the making, visit the Olympic sites for the Tokyo 2020 Olympic and Paralympic Games, including the New National Stadium, the Tokyo Metropolitan Gymnasium, Nippon Budokan, and Ryogoku Kokugikan.

Romantic Places in Tokyo

Whether you're on a couple's vacation, enjoying your honeymoon, or simply looking for a romantic getaway, these spots in Tokyo are worth visiting.


TOKYO SKYTREE, the world's tallest tower, offers breathtaking views on clear days. It's an exhilarating experience not to be missed by thrill-seekers.

Tokyo Tower

Completed in 1958, Tokyo Tower remains a popular lookout point offering beautiful views of the city. It's conveniently located near well-known districts like Roppongi and Toranomon.

Sumida River

A leisurely cruise along the Sumida River is both relaxing and romantic. The historic bridges spanning the river, especially when illuminated in the evening, provide excellent photo opportunities.


Ginza represents Tokyo at its most elegant and luxurious. It's the ultimate destination for shopping and gourmet cuisine.


Odaiba, a large area of reclaimed land in Tokyo Bay, offers diverse attractions. An evening stroll by the bayside, admiring the illuminated Rainbow Bridge, is highly recommended for couples.

Unique Places and Hidden Spots in Tokyo

For those seeking off-the-beaten-path experiences, these unique places in Tokyo are worth exploring.


Jiyugaoka is a stylish district filled with lifestyle stores and appealing eateries, offering a glimpse into sophisticated everyday life in Tokyo.


Just a few minutes' walk from the station, Daikanyama is a chic neighborhood known for its fashion, cosmetics, cafes, and striking architecture.


Shinbashi is the heart of old-fashioned office Tokyo. Discover how Japan’s corporate warriors unwind after a hard day at work in one of the packed izakaya pubs.


Kichijoji, a largely undiscovered gem just a 15-minute train ride west of Shinjuku, offers the contrasting pleasures of traditional eateries in Harmonica Alley and chic department-store shopping.

Anime Attractions

For anime and manga fans, IkebukuroNakano, and Akihabara are must-see locations. From big-name shops like Animate to smaller stores offering quirky souvenirs, these areas cater to every fan's needs.

Whether you're a history buff, a romantic soul, or an adventurous traveler, Tokyo has something for everyone. So pack your bags and get ready to explore this dynamic city!

The Best Times to Visit Tokyo: A Seasonal Guide

Choosing the right time to visit Tokyo can significantly enhance your travel experience. This bustling city offers unique attractions throughout the year, but certain seasons stand out for their exceptional beauty and cultural events. Here's a guide to help you decide when to plan your trip to Japan's vibrant capital.

Spring (March - May)

Spring in Tokyo is synonymous with cherry blossoms. From late March to early April, the city transforms into a picturesque landscape with cherry blossom trees in full bloom. Daytime temperatures are comfortable, ranging from the 60s to 70s, making it an ideal time for outdoor activities. However, be prepared for crowds as locals and tourists alike flock to parks to witness this spectacular event.

During Golden Week, a succession of public holidays in late April and early May, the city becomes particularly busy. Travel can be challenging during this period as residents celebrate these holidays en masse. Even in spring, it's advisable to pack a light jacket as nighttime temperatures can drop to the low 40s.

Key Events:

  • AnimeJapan (March-April)

  • Art Fair Tokyo (March-April)

  • Golden Week (April 29-May 5)

Summer (June - August)

Summer in Tokyo is characterized by high temperatures in the 70s and 80s, making the city hot and humid. June and July are considered Japan's rainy season, so expect several wet days if you visit during this time. Despite the weather, summer is peak tourist season, resulting in long lines at museums and crowded subways.

Key Events:

  • Sumida River Fireworks (Last Saturday of July)

  • Asakusa Samba Festival (Last Saturday of August)

Autumn (September - November)

Autumn ushers in colorful foliage and comfortable temperatures, making it one of the best times to visit Tokyo. Daytime temperatures usually range from the upper 70s to the low 60s. However, September and October see the most rainfall of the year, so don't forget to pack an umbrella.

Key Events:

  • Tokyo International Film Festival (October-November)

  • Culture Day (November 3)

  • Shichi-Go-San Festival (November 15)

  • Labor Thanksgiving Day (November 23)

Winter (December - February)

Winter in Tokyo is chilly but manageable. Daytime temperatures hover in the mid-50s and high 40s, but can easily dip below freezing at night. While winter is the low point for tourism, hotel prices remain fairly stable and expensive throughout the year. Avoid visiting during New Year's as hotel rates skyrocket and most museums are closed for a few days before and after the holiday.

Key Events:

  • Emperor's Birthday (December 23)

  • New Year's Day

  • National Foundation Day (February 11)

In conclusion, the best time to visit Tokyo depends on what you want to experience. Spring and autumn offer beautiful natural scenery, while summer and winter provide unique cultural events. Regardless of when you choose to visit, Tokyo promises an unforgettable journey filled with rich history, vibrant culture, and stunning sights.

Essential Tips for Visiting Tokyo

Tokyo, the world's largest city, is a fascinating blend of traditional and modern, with distinct neighborhoods that offer unique experiences. Navigating this sprawling metropolis can be overwhelming, but with these tips, you'll be able to explore Tokyo seamlessly and enjoyably.

Choose Haneda Airport Over Narita

While Narita International Airport is larger and more well-known, Haneda Airport is closer to the city center, saving you both time and money on commuting. Tokyo's excellent public transportation system offers easy access from the airport via trains or buses.

Consider Your Rail Pass Options

The Japan Rail Pass is a great investment if you plan to travel extensively throughout the country. However, if you're primarily exploring Tokyo, it might not be necessary. The pass only covers JR-operated trains and buses, and many other lines operate within Tokyo. Instead, consider getting a Pasmo or Suica card, which can be used on all forms of public transport.

Carry Cash

Despite its futuristic image, Japan is still very much a cash-based society. Many places, including some high-end ryokans and sushi restaurants, do not accept credit cards. ATMs in convenience stores like 7-Eleven are usually foreigner-friendly and provide an English language option.

Understand the City's Layout

Tokyo is made up of numerous districts, each with its own train station. Make sure you're heading to the right station closest to your destination. Google Maps can be a lifesaver, indicating which train line to take and which station to head to.

Pack Light and Dress Appropriately

Space is at a premium in Tokyo, from hotel rooms to restaurants. Pack lightly and check bed sizes when booking accommodation. Also, remember that most cafes and restaurants open after 11 am, so breakfast options may be limited.

Embrace the Queues

Long lines are a common sight in Tokyo, whether it's for a new store opening or a popular soba noodle joint. Don't be discouraged by the wait; it's usually a sign that the place is worth it.

Learn the Escalator Etiquette

In Tokyo, people stand on the left side of the escalator and leave the right side open for those in a hurry. This rule is reversed in the Kansai region, which includes Osaka, Kyoto, and Nara.

Be Prepared for Limited Trash Bins

Public trash bins are scarce in Tokyo due to security concerns. Carry a bag for your rubbish until you can dispose of it at your hotel or Airbnb.

Explore Tokyo's Neighborhoods

Tokyo is made up of various neighborhoods, each offering a unique experience. From the youthful energy of Shibuya and the never-sleeping Shinjuku to the artistic Ikebukuro, the classy Roppongi, and the upscale Ginza, there's a district for every interest.

Respect the Silence

Despite its bustling streets, Tokyo values quietness, especially on public transportation. Keep your voice low and avoid taking calls on board to respect the shared space.

Visiting Tokyo is an unforgettable experience. With these tips, you'll be well-prepared to navigate the city like a local and make the most of your trip.

Plan Your Trip to Tokyo With LuxRally Travel

We send clients to Japan frequently and know the ins and outs of planning a seamless trip. Our services are completely free, and we're committed to finding you the best rates while maximizing your benefits. We handle all travel logistics, taking the stress out of planning so you can focus on enjoying your trip. For those spending over $750 a night, we offer access to our in-house concierge team who can handle high-touch requests and secure reservations at Michelin Star Restaurants. Plus, you'll have a dedicated travel agent available 24/7/365 to assist with any issues or last-minute changes. With LuxRally Travel, you're not just booking a trip—you're ensuring a seamless, luxurious Tokyo experience. Get your free travel agent with just a few clicks by completing our new client form.

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