How Best To Spend 48 Hours In Tokyo

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How Best To Spend 48 Hours In Tokyo

Sunday, 23 June 2024 | Sharmila Chand

How Best To Spend 48 Hours In Tokyo

Glitz, Glamour, Neon lights secretly protect a soul that resonates profound Japanese traditions and heritage in Tokyo, discovers SHARMILA CHAND

Landing at the international Haneda Airport, I headed straight to Hotel The Peninsula Tokyo which I chose for its location -- right opposite The Imperial Palace and Hibiya Park in Marunouchi district; just a walk away from the famous  Ginza, the shopping hub. The hotel’s captivating vibes are an added attraction, a seamless blend of traditional Japanese charm and contemporary luxurious elements.

From the charms of the centuries-old active volcano Mt Fuji, and the quaint village -- Oshino Hakkai, to soaring edifices such as Tokyo Sky Tree, the capital city of Japan packs multiple surprises at every corner. It may not be on top list of travelers as heritage Kyoto but believe me, once you start exploring this city, you will be surprised at its vivacious character, unmatched by any other place in the world. There is an unbeatable synergy between rich Japanese culture and hyper modern metropolitan landscape in Tokyo.

So if you have only 48 hours in this delightful eclectic city, then let’s cover it in such a way that you get to see both the East and West side; highlighting tourist trails as well as local hideouts to get a glimpse of real life. I call these my selection which will make an interesting potpourri to explore.

The Iconic Skytree

Start your morning with a visit to the cconic Skytree, the world’s tallest freestanding tower, rising above the Azuma Bridge. A perfect venue that offers an unparalleled bird’s-eye view of the city’s vistas, particularly the red-roofed shrines dotted humbly among the huge skyscrapers.

Tsukiji Outer Market

Now sushi for breakfast may seem a bit unusual, but when in Tokyo, it is a done thing. Trust me, this is an experience worth giving a shot. The market is packed with top-notch sushi options, vegetarian and non-veg both. I thought it was the most exciting way to start my day of Tokyo exploration.

Akihabara for Tokyo Flavour

If not sushi then have a hearty breakfast of your choice and then start with Akihabara. It gives you the real peek into what Tokyo is associated with. In this kitschy district you will find skyscraping arcades, Manga stores, video game stores and a lot more. That’s the much talked about

Spend An Hour In Shinjuku Gyoen

Tokyo’s most spectacular gardens are in Shinjuku Gyoen. Tourist hotspot, much loved during cherry blossom season as it is home to over 400 cherry trees. You will get to see perhaps the most beautiful sight with baby pink petals all around. Accentuated with coy fish ponds, fruit trees, and exquisite flower beds. Take a quick look at the Art Gallery here and then a cuppa of coffee at the pretty cafe.

Tokyo’s Oldest Buddhist Temple

Senso-ji temple is the oldest Buddhist temple in Tokyo which showcases the rich culture of Japan’s Edo Period. Undoubtedly this was my best sojourn. It enshrines a golden image of Kannon -- Buddhist Goddess of mercy. Legend has it that she was miraculously pulled out of the nearby Sumida-gawa by two fishermen in AD 628. The image has remained on the spot ever since but is never on public display. The main entrance to the temple complex is via pretty red Kaminari Mon and Busy shopping street Nakamise-d?ri. When you enter the gate, do not miss to see statues of F?jin (the God of wind) and Raijin (the God of thunder), and a stunning carved dragon under the giant red lantern. At the end of Nakamise-d?ri is the temple itself.  The 55m-high five storey Pagoda is a sight to behold. Walk to the eastern edge of the temple complex. Here you will see Asakusa Jinja, a shrine built in honour of the brothers who discovered the Kannon statue that inspired the construction of Sens?-ji.

Immerse yourself in a vibrant atmosphere adorned with colorful hanging lanterns.  Have a look at various temples and then walk towards Nakamise bustling market that offers a delightful array of traditional Japanese snacks and souvenirs. And yes, don’t forget to make a wish at the famous Senso-ji Thunder Gate!

Day 2: 10.30 am Coffee at Shozo

It is always nice to discover special cute small places to have a coffee break. So after winding up breakfast at the hotel, it is a good idea to go to Aoyama district. You will find this area fascinating with plenty of shops and art galleries. My local friends had already told me - a pretty hideout, the Shozo Coffee Store should not be missed and I agree with them. A wooden hut done up with plants was my coffee corner where I had the best caramel latte with a delicious cheesecake. And that set my mood right to start exploring.

The Grand Meiji-jing?: History and Heritage

Tokyo’s grandest Shint? shrine is dedicated to the Emperor Meiji and Empress Sh?ken. Their reign (1868-1912) coincided with Japan’s transformation from an isolationist, feudal state to a modern nation. Constructed in 1920, the shrine was destroyed in WWII air raids and rebuilt in 1958. The main shrine is built of unpainted cypress wood with a copper-plated roof. It is in a wooded grove accessed via a long winding gravel path. The shrine occupies only a small fraction of the sprawling forested grounds, which contain some 120,000 trees collected from all over Japan. Of this, only the strolling garden Meiji-jing? Gyoen is accessible to the public. It is said that The Meiji emperor himself designed the iris garden here to please the empress and the garden is at its best when the irises bloom in June.

Traditional Japanese Tea Ceremony

If you are not exhausted after lunch, I suggest attend a beautiful tea ceremony at Happo-en. Where on earth you will get to immerse in a real Zen garden in the heart of Tokyo? Happo-en is one of Tokyo’s exclusive secrets. Off the touristy beat, hence tranquil, with hundred year old bonsai trees and  Japanese carp and cherry trees swimming in a pond. Attend the serene tea ceremony, a lifetime experience, you will not forget.

A Bowl of Ramen Is Quintessential

Ramen and Tokyo go together. A bowl of Ramen is absolutely essential. Stop by at any Ramen joint, as you will find them after every 50 m. There’s no shortage of delicious, steaming hot bowls of rich broth, mounds of noodles and toppings of your choice to be found throughout the city.

Visit Golden Gai in the evening

One evening go to Golden Gai and see the spectacle. Narrow alleys will take you to the buzz of bars, karaoke joints, and sizzling yakitori spots. Have a bite  at Omoide Yokocho. It’s an uber-narrow strip lined on both sides with hole-in-the-wall yakitori joints. I kept looking at bandana-clad chefs flipping skewers by the dozen over fiery charcoal. That day I was totally immersed in the environs, looking nonstop at the locals, without blinking an eye and also ate like them, shoulder to shoulder. Amidst the heavy smoke and aroma of the grilled food, I was in a bustling and lively world.

Learn Origami Craft

The Happy Origami Crafting Lesson teaches participants how to create intricate figures from traditional washi paper. Beginners can join, no prior experience with origami is required. With this one-of-a-kind experience, you’ll be able to learn the ancient Japanese art of origami with the help of an experienced paper folding pro.

Seal Your Memories and Bid Farewell To Tokyo

Immersing myself in the traditional Japanese culture, exploring the capitals unique character of effortlessly blending tradition and technology, admiring pagodas comfortable next to neon signs, experiencing authentic ‘Forest Bathing’, my 48 hours were like a fairytale dream!

(Sharmila Chand is an author and independent journalist who writes on Travel and Food

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