On arrival in Tokyo, you will be welcomed by a Selective Asia representative, who will accompany you to your hotel via Tokyo’s excellent public transport system.
Tokyo is one of the most captivating cities in the world, and Japan’s commercial and political capital. Now a vast, energising urban sprawl, the city’s multitude of attractions range from the swirling nightlife of Shinjuku to millennia-old temples, and excellent museums like Miraikan. And then there are the simple pleasures - the gaudy lights at night, a superb diversity of cuisine, cherry-blossom boat rides, and an abundance of seductive shopping experiences.
Tokyo’s lively nightlife is built on thousands of cool little bars, and the emergence of a craft beer scene seemed like the next logical step. There are now countless Japanese and imported microbrews on tap around the city, with quite a few places brewing their own.
There’s a lot to take in, for sure, but our advice is not to fight it - instead, feast your eyes, sniff the air and plunge in - Tokyo will saturate your senses.
Having settled into your hotel, the remainder of your day is at leisure.
Suggested Craft Beer Bars
Akihabara and Tokyo Station Hitachino Lab
Home of the Hitachino beers, the Hitachino Lab makes its own limited edition, and has the main beers of the brand and seasonal specials on tap. Beer tasting sessions are available. Since the beer is made on the spot, you can easily ask the staff any questions regarding beer-making. In the Akihabara branch, if you are lucky, during weekdays you might see the staff making the beer themselves.
Tasting menu compares three types of beer and changes on a daily basis.
Opening times: 11:00-23:00, except for Sunday, when it opens until 21:00.
Shibuya is one of the main shopping, dining, and entertainment districts in Tokyo. It is famous for its intersection called ‘The Scramble’, one of the world’s busiest pedestrian lanes, and the statue of Hachiko, the most popular dog in Japan. A few minutes walk from the station takes you to Craftheads, a bar specializing in local craft beers, and hosting a wide variety of nationwide beers.
Opening times: closed on Mondays. 17:00-24:00 on weekdays, 15:00-23:00 on Saturdays, 15:00-22:00 on Sundays.
Overnight in Tokyo
After breakfast, your guide will meet you at your hotel and take you to Yanaka (part of the traditional Shitamachi - ‘low city’ - area and one of the oldest districts in Tokyo) for a local tour showcasing the traditional side of this famously modern metropolis.
The criss-cross streets around Yanaka are known as Yanaka Ginza, and lined with authentic craft shops, original restaurants and small coffee houses. Your guide will introduce you to some interesting temples and shrines, culminating with the lesser known but beautiful Nezu Shrine, a Shinto site established in 1705.
From the shrine, continue onwards to the Snake Road, a narrow, winding alley located deep in the residential part of Yanaka. This road is a perfect place to get a closer look at historic and modern houses, and to discover a few interesting shops, such as Shokichi, a small workshop owned and run by a local puppet-maker, who can craft a miniature puppet version of anyone.
Emerge through Yomise-dori, with the option to stop by a small but cozy cafe for freshly brewed coffee. At the end of this street is the lively Yanaka Ginza, a short, narrow lane lined with local eateries, at the end of which is Yuyake Dandan, or ‘Sunset Stairs’, known locally as a nice spot to view the afternoon skies.
Take a break from your stroll to visit the Asakura Museum of Sculpture, once the studio of Fumio Asakura, one of Japan’s most famous artists. Along with a display of some of his works, the museum also holds a stunning indoor water garden.
From the museum, head to the Buddhist temple Choan-ji and Yanaka Cemetery. Although this may not seem all that inviting, the cemetery is actually one of the most visited spots in Tokyo for cherry-blossom viewing. If the skies are clear, you may also get a good view of the famous Tokyo Sky Tree.
Emerge from the cemetery and turn onto one of the smaller alleys for Ueno Sakuragi Atari, a perfect rest stop to get a glass of beer or other refreshments.
Finally, if time permits, take a stroll to nearby Ueno, the wealthiest district in Japan during the Edo period, and home to the city’s best known park.
In the evening, you will have the opportunity to discover some local foodie favourites on a Tokyo Street Food Tour.
This tour will take you inside the lively street food scene of Tokyo: an exciting trip to some hidden pearls that can only be found with the help of a local, wandering around the city’s narrow streets. Your local English-speaking food expert will take you to tiny izakayas (Japanese-style pubs) and small traditional restaurants and bars – with their distinctive atmosphere, these are the heart of the traditional Japanese entertainment districts.
None of these local taverns normally accepts reservations, but your expert guide will be able to pick, depending on the evening, the right areas (always in central Tokyo) and venues to make sure you find available seats. This way, the tour can be different from time to time, but will always include some of the local izakayas recommended by your guide.
Meet your food expert at the train station and enjoy 4 to 5 different venues during the tour. Although the menu is set, your guide will ensure you leave with a full stomach, as you will have plenty of chances to eat local dishes accompanied by beer and other Japanese style drinks.
Suggested Craft Beer Bars
August Yanaka Beer Hall
Located right next to the ‘Sunset Stair’, August has mainly August beer on tap, along with seasonal selections.
Opening times: Open Tues-Fri, 12:00-20:30, Sat, Sun & holidays 11:00-20:30. Closed Mondays.
Popeye in Ryogoku
A well-known institution in Tokyo, always immaculate and offering more than 50 craft beers on tap, including Japanese and import beers.
Note: Being located in Ryogoku, Popeye might be difficult to access, depending on the location of the evening food tour. We have other suggestions covering the whole city.
Opening times: Open Mon- Sat 17:00-23:30. Closed Sundays.
Overnight in Tokyo
Today is at leisure. With so much to see and do in Tokyo, the options are limitless and can seem a daunting proposition. Your Selective Asia consultant can help design the perfect self-guided day for you, giving you the tools & freedom to explore this astonishing, easy-to-navigate and extremely safe city, and its surroundings.
This morning, explore the city utilising Tokyo’s efficient metro system.
We recommend starting the day with an early morning visit to Meiji Shrine to avoid the crowds. It’s Tokyo’s most famous shrine, and the tranquil wooded park that surrounds it contains some 120,000 trees of 365 different species, making it easy to forget that you’re in one of the world’s largest cities.
Outside the Meiji Shrine park lies Harajuku, the famous meeting place for teenagers in cosplay and eccentric outfits. Its cluster of lively boutiques and cafes are a shopping haven for all fashionistas (many Western fashion buyers start their search for new trends here). If you’re after easily carried souvenirs, it’s a great place to buy interesting socks that you definitely won’t find at home!
Beyond Harajuku is Omotesando, aka Tokyo’s Champs-Elysee. This broad, tree-lined avenue features a number of fashion flagship stores designed by internationally renowned architects. From here you can take the metro to Ginza, one of Tokyo’s most famous upscale shopping, dining, and entertainment districts, and then on to the Imperial Palace near Otemachi Station. Whilst the Palace itself is not open to the public, the Palace East Gardens are readily accessible to all visitors. Here you’ll find the ruins of the former Edo Castle and a lovely Japanese garden.
Your last stop can be in Asakusa, Tokyo’s oldest Geisha district and home to Senso-ji Temple, which is the city’s oldest Buddhist temple. The streets around Senso-ji feature many traditional shops that sell Japanese crafts and souvenirs and are a delight to wander through.
Suggested Craft Beer Bar
Baird Beer Harajuku Tap Room
15 microbrews on tap, with a snack menu of skewers and dumplings, with donburi and curry at weekends. Located in central Harajuku, just a 2 minute walk from the Takeshita-Dori exit of JR Harajuku Station.
Open Mon-Fri from 17:00 to midnight, and weekends from noon til midnight.
Overnight in Tokyo