Take a quick peek at photographer and lifestyle blogger Claire Menary’s Instagram account and you’re likely to find her on an adventure.
Discovering the newest must-photograph spot in her hometown London, meandering the souks of Marrakesh, admiring Copenhagen’s bright townhouse-lined canal, crafting beautiful aerial shots of South Africa’s bays – it seems that Claire is forever on the go, driven by a thirst to immerse herself in something new.
“I suppose I want to see as much of the world as I possibly can” she says, “There’s endless beauty to be witnessed and so many experiences yet to be discovered.”
Last month, Claire travelled to Tokyo and she took us along for the ride.
Japan’s capital is home to a totally unique blend of old world meets new. While the Akihabara district is at the gateway to cutting-edge to the masses and bright lights flickering across sky scrapers dominate Shinjuku, Shitamachi (literally meaning “low city”), holds on to the ambience of centuries long passed.
Here Claire shares her top tips for those planning a trip to Tokyo.
When to Visit
“The most obvious time to visit Japan is during the spring when it’s Sakura season and cherry blossom is everywhere to be seen. However, Japan is beautiful all year round so you can’t go too wrong when you visit.”
What to Pack
“I visited during the winter months and at this time Tokyo is cold but not freezing. You’ll need to make sure you’re wrapped up but take lots of layers – light tops, jumpers and jackets – so when you go indoors you’re not melting. Comfy shoes are essential too as there is a lot of walking to do in this city.”
Where to Stay
“The Tokyo Station Hotel is a boutique hotel in a very handy location – it’s situated in the grandest of buildings, right above Tokyo Central station. The staff are extremely helpful and knowledgeable, and the breakfast buffet is on another level!”
What to See
“Get to Sensō-ji Temple for sunrise. It’s Tokyo’s oldest temple and holds a lot of significance in Buddhism, so people travel from all over the country – and the world – to visit it. If you make it there for sunrise, you’ll have the temple to yourself for a while before the morning’s commuters start trickling by.
From there, walk to Kappabashi Kitchen Town where you can pick up quite literally anything you could dream of. You can’t miss it – when you see the giant chef’s head (no, really!), you’ll know you’ve arrived. Return home home with a new collection of ornate chopsticks or a selection of the more outlandish plastic food on offer.”
Where to Wander
“The architecture in Tokyo’s Ginza district is incredible. It’s easy to mistake the area for New York’s Fifth Avenue with its wide roads and tall skyscrapers, but it’s the store displays that make it really worthwhile – even if you can’t afford to go in them!
Unmissable Photo Opportunities
“The world-famous Shibuya Crossing is iconic. The largest and busiest intersection in the world is best seen from the Starbucks overlooking it. Watch as hundreds (sometimes thousands) of people cross the streets every couple of minutes. It’s the perfect place to get your people-watching fix.”
Best Off-the-Beaten-Track Tip
“Away from the hustle and bustle is TeamLab Borderless, the most fascinating interactive light and sound exhibition. It’s unlike anything I’ve ever been to. I can’t recommend a visit enough – just make sure you block out a few hours as you won’t want to leave.”
Where to Eat
“It’s hard to go wrong with food in Japan. That being said, only try the traditional Japanese tasting menus if you’re feeling brave!
If you’re feeling peckish late-morning, head to Tsujiki Fish Market and pick up something fresh from the stalls there – it’s guaranteed to be delicious and inexpensive. Visit Ichiran Ramen for – you guessed it – ramen. Hearty and extremely tasty.
There are lots of places to keep you full and satisfied throughout the day. For the best gyoza of your life head to Harajuku Gyoza-Ro and Tonkatsu Maisen (who have many restaurants around the city) have the Tonkatsu market cornered too – it’s super delicious. Visit Ichiran Ramen for – you guessed it – ramen. Hearty and extremely tasty. For the most OTT sweat treat you’re ever going to see, head to Eddy’s Ice Cream
It wouldn’t be a trip to Tokyo without a very OTT sweet treat. For the ultimate, head to Eddy’s Ice Cream in Harajuku for an ice cream with all the trimmings. I can’t guarantee it’s the best ice cream you’re going to taste, but they’re so aesthetically pleasing.
For the cook-in-front-of-you experience that Japan is so well known for, head to Robata Roppongi but be warned, it’s in the gourmet centre of Tokyo with prices to match.”
Where to Drink
“Cocktails and jazz at the Park Hyatt Tokyo are obligatory. It’s where Lost in Translation was filmed so naturally draws the crowds, but it also has some of the best views of Tokyo. Visit at night to enjoy the city the best way of all – with the famous lights of Shinjuku twinkling below you and an Espresso Martini in hand.
For your coffee fix by day, visit Reissue for some of their foam animal lattes. You’ve got to see them to believe them.”
Where to Dance
“My top tip is to make friends with people who live locally – they’ll show you where the best karaoke is.”