4am Ok, I confess – I didn’t actually do this one. But it’s a Tokyo institution and if you can drag yourself out of your warm bed, it’s said to be an unforgettable experience. Each morning the Tsukiji Fish Market opens well before dawn and visitors can watch the famous tuna auction where fisherman throw giant fish across the selling floor to eager buyers. Finish the morning with a breakfast of super fresh sushi (and possibly a quick nap).
9am This is the time when I actually emerged from my hotel into a sparkling spring morning. I was staying in Asakusa, one of the more traditional areas of Tokyo that consists mainly of low rise buildings and the famous Sensoji Temple. I spotted an impeccably dressed woman leading two impeccably groomed giant poodles in matching outfits – this was going to be my kind of city. Tokyo is renowned for its exceptional public transport system – the trains are clean, bright and mind-bogglingly punctual (9.01am means 9.01am, and not a second later). But it’s also a great city for walking. I caught the subway over to Shibuya Crossing, arguably the world’s most famous intersection. I crossed over it twice, swept along by a sea of people, grateful that I am considerably taller than the average Japanese person and so wasn’t lost in a maze of coats. I began walking back across the city, marvelling at the neon signs, creative window displays and myriad restaurants (I was especially intrigued by the Panda Restaurant and quite disappointed that it wasn’t open yet). Tokyo is, without a doubt, the most foreign city I have ever been to. Much of Asia has developed a veneer of western culture but here, even with the inevitable Starbucks outlets, feels like another world.
11am The Japanese love to shop (they are generally regarded as the world’s largest consumers of luxury goods) and Tokyo seems to be equal parts stores and office blocks. There are more branches of Zara, H&M and local label UniQlo than you can count as well as a healthy sprinkling of designer labels – for example, there are more than a dozen Louis Vuitton outlets across the city. I happily wandered in and out of stores as I came across them, though I imagine it would be easier to shop in Japan if you are of a petite inclination. If you really want to hit the designer stores head to Ginza. It’s said to have the most expensive commercial real estate in the world and is home to enormous flagship stores from the likes of Chanel and Gucci (which occupies an entire eight-storey building).
1pm I had ended up in Harajuku, famous the world over for the quirky Harajuku Girls who wear brightly coloured, over the top outfits with crazy styling. I was a little disappointed not to see any, though large groups of impeccably dressed Japanese teens were artfully draped across benches and garden railings. I had lunch at a sushi train restaurant I chose at random and gorged on far too many plates of delicious, fresh sushi. I finally dragged myself away from the intoxicating rotations to pop into the official Hello Kitty store down the block. Four floors of pink perfection and an endless cast of Kitty co-characters – I have never had so much fun in a store.
3pm I made my way back across the city towards Asakusa and Tokyo’s newest monument, the Tokyo SkyTree. I am constantly intrigued by the touristic impulse to climb tall structures in foreign cities and politely look through large glass windows at the toy box city below. But I had been looking at the SkyTree from my hotel window just that morning, so climbing it seemed the thing to do. And the view is indeed very impressive, particularly the red-roofed shrines dotted humbly among the huge skyscrapers.
5pm As the sun dipped low, I finished the day with a cocktail at the bar of the Conrad Tokyo, another easy subway ride away close to the harbour. The bar is huge yet feels snug and intimate, with wraparound windows looking out over the sparkling lights of the Minato district.