A local’s guide to Tokyo


Born and raised in Tokyo, Blacklane’s Chauffeur of the Month Chiaki has some insider tips to make your trip to Japan’s capital one to remember.

Take time to enjoy this beautiful Japanese city. Image credit: Mlenny/iStock
Take time to enjoy this beautiful Japanese city. Image credit: Mlenny/iStock

Chiaki said the language barrier in Tokyo can be tricky to deal with without assistance and he highly recommends hiring an interpreter for your visit. 

Beyond just the language, your Blacklane chauffeur can help you navigate some of the cultural and even infrastructural differences you’ll face on arrival. For example, did you know that buildings aren’t always numbered sequentially in Japan, but in order of when they were built? 

See Tokyo from the top

According to Chiaki, the best way to get an overview of Japan’s capital is to get a literal overview from the top of Tokyo Tower. You can enjoy a beautiful view from the main observation deck or visit the building’s top deck, which opened last year for the tower’s 60th anniversary. The interior of the top deck is lined with fragmented mirrors, making it just as photo-worthy as the view.

Visit the Emperor’s palace

Whether you’re fascinated by Japan’s history or more interested in the current emperor and his family, you’ll want to pay a visit to the Imperial Palace, which was originally built in 1888 and restored after being destroyed in World War II. 

While the section of the grounds where the imperial family lives is not accessible to the public except for special occasions, you can still wander the East Gardens or get a little closer by joining a guided tour. If you opt for the tour, keep in mind that it’s only in Japanese, so be sure to download the free audio guide app for iOS or Android before your visit to hear it in English, Chinese, Korean, French, or Spanish.

A defense tower at the Imperial Palace. Image credit: Leonid Andronov/iStock
A defense tower at the Imperial Palace. Image credit: Leonid Andronov/iStock

The happiest place in Japan

If you’re traveling with family or you’re just a kid at heart, Chiaki recommends spending a few days at Tokyo Disney Resort, which is made up of a Disneyland Park and the DisneySea Park, which is the only Disney theme park with an ocean theme. 

You can go on a Disney-fied gondola ride, catch their new Pirates of the Carribean show, and explore attractions based on their water-based properties, such as The Little Mermaid and Finding Nemo. 

Enter the city’s oldest temple

Sensoji Temple in the Asakusa district comes with an intriguing legend. Back in 628 C.E., two men caught a gold statue of Kannon, a Buddhist deity characterized by mercy and compassion, in their net. Every time they tried to get rid of it, it would come up in their net again, so they took it into town. The other villagers recognized its significance and eventually built a temple around it. The statue is supposedly still hidden within the temple to this day.

Though it has been rebuilt or restored many times over the years, you can expect to feel as though you’re walking through history (albeit with a crowd of other onlookers). You can fit your visit into any gap in your schedule, as it’s just as beautiful lit up and night as it is in full sunlight.

Enjoy some tasty treats

Ramen comes in many different flavors with many different toppings. Image credit: FilippoBacci/iStock
Ramen comes in many different flavors with many different toppings. Image credit: FilippoBacci/iStock

When it comes to Japanese food, sushi tends to get the most love, but the country has an incredibly diverse array of delicacies. In particular, you should try ramen. Far from the instant noodles beloved by college students, fresh ramen is a labor of love with a wide selection of broth and topping combinations. Try Azabu Ramen right by Azabujuban Station. It’s a small establishment, but Chiaki highly recommends it for their hearty, flavorful broths. 

The other cuisine you should try probably isn’t what you think of when you hear the word “cuisine”: junk food. Japan takes snacking to a whole other level, and you can find sweet and sour snacks in all kinds of shapes and flavors you won’t get anywhere else. Try some seafood-flavored chips, dessert pizza, or even fish jerky. 

Find the best accommodations

Of course, before you visit any landmarks or try some new food you’ll need a place to stay. Luckily, we’ve got you covered with the best hotels by neighborhood in our article on where to stay in Tokyo and the best spots for those traveling for work in the best business hotels in Tokyo. Enjoy your trip!

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Marlys Klossner

Marlys, a journalism major from Canada, now calls Germany home. She spends her days writing punchy copy and lovely long-form articles, and spends her evenings watching so-bad-it's-bad reality TV. Her prized possessions? Medals from her days as a synchronized swimmer.