Sylvia Huang grew up in the beautiful garden city of Singapore, but the explorer in her brought her to glittery Tokyo, where she has spent the last 7 years studying Japanese and working in investment management. With time, Tokyo has become a second home and her Japanese friends are like family. Check out Sylvia’s picks before visiting the city that never sleeps — or if you’ve been there before (or live there), tell us a few of your favorite things about Tokyo in the comments section below.
Tokyo is My City
The first place I take a visitor from out of town is Shibuya Crossing, the Tokyo version of NYC’s famous Times Square intersection.
When I crave fresh sushi, I always go to Tsukiji Fish Market. The only challenge is getting up early enough!
To escape the city, I head to Mount Takaoand join troops of families and elderly for a leisurely hike.
If I want to relax, I go for a weekend stay in a ryokan (hot spring resort) where I get to soak my stress away and enjoy good Japanese food in a traditional Japanese setting.
For complete quiet, I can hide away in my home because anywhere else would be teeming with people!
If you have to order one thing off the menu from an izakaya restaurant (a common Japanese drinking establishment where food is served), it has to be ochazuke (rice soaked in tea) to end the meal or as the perfect hangover snack.
Don Quijote is my one-stop shop for great discounted finds. They carry just about everything under the sun.
For a huge splurge I go to a nice kaiseki restaurant (Japanese fine dining) dressed in my prettiest kimono.
The most random thing about my city is how any foreign import, such as tempura or curry, takes on a Japanese life of its own over time.
My city has the most fashion-forward men.
My city has the most elegant and girly dressed women.
My city’s best museum is the Tokyo National Museum. Established in 1872, it has more than 87 Japanese National Treasures and 610 Important Cultural Property holdings.
My favorite jogging/walking route is around the Imperial Palace, where a charming 5 km run starts from Sakuradamon and continues into the inner moat, passing the Imperial Palace Public Square, Takebashi, Chidorigafuchi (the best spot for viewing sakura), the British Embassy, the National Theatre and finally the National Diet Building before coming full circle back to the starting point.
To find out what’s going on at night and on the weekends, read Metropolis Tokyo.
You can tell a lot about my city from taking the subway during rush hour or dining in an izakaya, where Japanese from all walks of life unwind with friends and colleagues after a long day of work.
In the spring you should go for hanami (cherry-blossom-viewing parties) in a park with a big group of Japanese friends, some beer, and some sushi.
In the summer you shouldattend a matsuri (festival) in a yukata (summer kimono) and enjoy all the tasty Japanese street food.
In the fall you should go to Kyoto and catch the gorgeous autumn colors towering over beautiful Japanese temples.
Like clouds in midautumn.
– Haiku by Yamaguchi Seison (1892-1989)
In the winter you should go for a hot spring in the countryside or ski in Hokkaido.
- Nat Geo Expeditions
A hidden gem in my city is the ukon drink (a tumeric-based beverage). It cures all hangovers!
For a great local breakfast, try the convenience stores for fresh onigiri (rice balls).
Don’t miss the annual Sapporo Snow Festival in Hokkaido, where dream-like snow castles and ice sculptures come to life!
Just outside my city, you can visit Kamakura to see the second tallest bronze Buddha statue in Japan.
The best way to see my city is on a Sumida River Cruise from Asakusa to Hinode Pier route, alighting at Hamarikyu Garden to marvel at the beautifully landscaped garden sitting on a 17th century Shogun Tokugawa villa.
If my city were a pet it would be a chameleon.
The best movie about my city is Lost in Translation by Sofia Coppola.
Passing out drunk on the streets and waking up with your wallet intact could only happen in my city.
My city should be featured on your cover or website because it is a city that never sleeps and constantly reinvents itself. It’s fascinating to locals and travelers alike.
All Photos: Geoffrey Lang