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Tokyo

Japan’s whirling, technicolour capital is a temple of progress...though temples and parks offer quiet refuge within the city.

It’s a blaze; a melange of people, sub-cultures and districts colliding to form one of the most dizzying cities on the planet; a good time city where food is a religion, business is big, and shopping is serious. Yet for all its complexity, it all seems to run spookily smoothly – the term ordered chaos must surely have evolved in Tokyo. From the zippy suits of Shinjuku to the ancient air of Asakusa and the hipster hangouts in Harajuku, this is a place with many faces.

Like most great capitals, Tokyo is any number of contradictions. If you’re flying all this way we’d highly recommend stopping by to breathe it all in. We guarantee you’ve never seen anything like it before.

Tokyo INFORMATION

Population:  almost 14 million

Highlights:  Exploring the city yourself, using the circular Yamanote Line / Tsukiji Fish Market / the local cuisine / Studio Ghibli / nightlife in Kichjioji.

Access:  Tokyo has two international airports; Narita, the major international hub and Haneda, largely a domestic airport. Tokyo is linked to the rest of Japan by a wonderfully fast and efficient rail service.

Suggested Itineraries featuring Tokyo

These suggested itineraries will give you a starting point for what your ski holiday to Japan could entail. Sometimes we combine ski resorts and we often cherish the opportunity to explore and experience Japan beyond the ski slopes. We hope these itineraries will inspire, excite and inform you as we begin the planning process. They’re not set departures or tours, as every holiday we plan is completely tailor-made for you - treat them as inspiration only.

The Japanese Ski Safari

Niseko - Tokyo - Nozawa Onsen - Kyoto

Duration: two weeks

The best powder snow, a bit of culture, the mountains, onsen and the capital! We can't improve on this - the perfect ski holiday to Japan.

from £2,884 per person, including flights

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The Japanese Ski Week

Zao Onsen - Tokyo - and perhaps Hakone?

Duration: one week

A one-week ski holiday with a different flavour - there's no mistaking you're in Japan. Bullet-trains, snow monsters and neon cities.

from £1,860 per person, including flights

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Our ‘Classic’ Niseko Itinerary

Niseko - Tokyo

Duration: 10 / 12 days

Niseko has it all: on-piste; off-piste; nightlife; adventure; backcountry; cuisine. You then spend a few days in Tokyo en route home.

from £2,145 per person, including flights

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Prices are indicative only and include accommodation (low season), lift passes, transfers and – because we are ATOL-bonded – your flights from the UK. Different Snow can also include ski hire, backcountry and off-piste tours, rail passes, private transfers, English-speaking guides, cultural excursions and activities.

Accommodation

At Different Snow, we love a good ryokan, but after all the stimulation that Tokyo offers – or some might say, inflicts – even the most energetic city fiend will be in need of some replenishing downtime; and that is best served up by the famously slick and hi-tech top-end hotels. That’s why our picks might seem unusually ‘international’ – a little taste of the high life really takes the edge off the madness, so you can greet each day feeling pampered rather than weary. Plus, Tokyo really knows how to do luxury – if you’re going to splash out anywhere, do it here!

Aman

The first “urban” Aman occupies the top six floors of 38-storey Otemachi Tower.

Aman Tokyo is a luxury resort and tranquil urban sanctuary high above the bright lights and hectic streets of Tokyo; it’s a welcome contrast to the bustling energy down at street level. And as views go, these are pretty spectacular. This luxury resort and spa draws its design inspiration from traditional Japanese homes, using classic materials such as timber, washi paper and stone which are blended to great effect with modern technology and luxurious fabrics.

All of the 84 rooms and suites are presented with unique layouts, every contemporary convenience and magnificent city views - each room has a large furo, a deep soaking tub intrinsic to the Japanese ritual of bathing. The Restaurant, the Spa and The Lounge are everything you would expect from Aman....and more.

Park Hyatt

Tokyo's five-star legend, spanning the top floors of a Shinjuku sky scraper.

The peaceful retreat made famous by Sofia Coppola’s Lost in Translation is just as tranquil, slick and bamboozling in its modernity as the film conveys. All the rooms are located above the 41st floor, so wherever you stay you can watch over the city just like Scarlett and Bill. If you get tired of gazing out the window, you can kick back with a book from the library, enjoy a swim the stunning pool, take your pick from eight excellent restaurants or head to the spa and admire the views some more whilst being pampered.

The convenient location in Shinjuku means you’re readily connected to central Tokyo’s sights, sounds, smells and excitement.

Mandarin Oriental

Superlative service, Japanese-inspired design...and class. Lots of class.

The lofty heights of Mandarin Oriental’s lobby make for a memorable entrance, its floor to ceiling windows revealing panoramic views of the metropolis beneath. Prepare to be continually impressed: everything from the sky-high spa to the melt-in-the-mouth Michelin cuisine is the best in town. Design-wise, it’s earthy, uncluttered and crisp – think New York loft with a few nods East.

There are 179 rooms and suites kitted out with the obligatory technology and gadgets, but, despite its size, the hotel is incredibly peaceful – perhaps the result of its height, which makes you feel as though you’re soaring above the chaos below.

Keio Plaza

Location, location, location....and comfort, facilities, great service and location again.

Japan’s first skyscraper still holds its own amongst the towers of Shinjuku, and offers one of the best value luxury options downtown. Keio Plaza is a mind-boggling 47 storeys high, and accommodates over 2,000 people in rooms and suites sleeping up to four.

With 20 restaurants and bars, swimming pools, excellent childcare and even a convenience store. Busy Shinjuku station is close by, so when you’ve acclimatised to the fast pace of Shinjuku, the rest of Tokyo awaits.

Citadines Shinjuku

Spacious one-bedroom apartments in the heart of Shinjuku - like staying in a hotel, but better.

Hidden amidst the skyscrapers of Shinjuku we've found these colourful yet unassuming one-bedroom apartments.  They vary in size and configurations, sleeping up to three people and have sitting areas and kitchenettes, and there is also a 24-hour reception desk as well as other hotel benefits such as a gym, laundrette, bike rental, housekeeping service and daily continental breakfast served in the cafe.

You can reach the subway station in a few minutes and you’ll be a stone’s throw from all the excitement of Shinjuku, one of Tokyo’s liveliest business and entertainment areas; but the apartments are pleasantly quiet, not to mention clean and well-run.

Washington Hotel & Annex

Budget accommodation in the heart of the city, but with no compromise on facilities & comfort.

Washington Hotel is ideally located in the centre of Shinjuku, close to Tokyo's principal shopping and entertainment districts. It is a large, uncomplicated hotel we've been using for years as a no-nonsense base from which to explore the city. Having stayed here countless times over the years, we can vouch for saying what it lacks in personalty it makes up for in convenience.

The rooms include a work-desk, television, telephone, high-speed internet access, air conditioning, hairdryer, refrigerator, bath, shower and toilet. En suite toilets are small, functional small in-room plastic shells. They just about manage to squeeze that all  in - not a lot else.

Excursions

Using the reliable and easy-to-navigate trains and then simply wandering the streets of Tokyo’s various districts you’re sure to make your own discoveries – and that’s all part of the fun. But big cities (and there are only few larger than Tokyo!) can be alienating so, we’re on hand to provide tips or organise excursions. We know Tokyo at Different Snow and you'll find our tours or comprehensive self-guiding notes invaluable. If you plan to get the most from your time in Tokyo, you need a plan.

Full day sightseeing

Tokyo in a day. Using public transport and with by your own private guide, explore the Japanese capital. Tailor it to your own interests.

Tokyo is vast, and can be overwhelming. Just the logistics are confusing the public transport - whilst efficient - can be intimidating. All fears are allayed with your own English-speaking private guide to pick you up at the hotel, a show you around and then safely drop you back in the evening. You can ask questions, and we advise you to tailor the day to your very own preferences and requirements.

Different Snow have a handful of trusted guides we use, all experienced in adapting the tour to your interests.

Morning sightseeing tour

Limited time to 'do' Tokyo? Focus on either East or West Tokyo and tick off the major sights with your private English-speaking guide.

A three hour long morning sightseeing tour, offering orientation and context for the first-time visitor. We can organise there tours on a private basis – with the itinerary flexible to match your interests – or book on to a group coach tour, where the route will focus on Meiji-Jingu, the Imperial Palace Plaza, & Senso-ji Temple in Asakusa.

Full day coach tour

The most economical and pragmatic way to to tick off all the main sights is to join a bus tour, but one with an English-speaking guide.

If you want to do it all within a day, without the expense of private guide or the complication of negotiating the local transport, then this is the ideal solution. Tokyo Tower, the Imperial Palace Plaza, Sumida River Cruise, Senso-ji Temple....all included.

Its an eight-hour day and they also include a tea ceremony.

Tsukiji Fish Market

With a knowledgeable local guide visit to the world's largest fish market, the earlier the better! Sushi breakfast to follow...

The biggest fish market in the world; and also one of the oldest, having been in business since the 1600s. You need to get up early – seriously early – to see it at its most frenetic. It’s not easy to get to – we’ll provide directions, and a guide if you want one. A sushi breakfast is an essential part of the experience.

It all seems quite hectic, but don’t be fooled: everyone knows their game – it’s a well-rehearsed performance, utterly fascinating to see. Visitor numbers are limited and open days change, so do let us help you plan your visit.

Cycling in Old Tokyo

Shitamachi is Tokyo as it used to be - little pockets of atmospheric streets and traditional back-street shops. Best explored on two-wheels.

Hire a bike for the day and, at your own pace, explore the traditional atmosphere of old 'Edo', as Tokyo was formally known. Shitamachi literally means "lower town" and the area where we'll direct to is one of the few districts of the capital that has survived wars and earthquakes. You can visit  Shinto Shrines and Buddhist temples that the most of the tourist guidebooks don't mention, peddle down quiet neighborhoods and see daily routines of local people.

This is a self-guided tour - we provide all the pragmatic information you need in our 'How To...' guides and you then take yourself off for the day. Bikes will cost circa ¥3,500 for the day and we'd suggest you also hire a helmet for ¥500.

Evening gourmet tours

With a local guide, discover yakitori, okonomiyaki, sashimi, udon noodles and Japanese ice cream. Visit restaurants, izakayas & markets.

There are several options - but the aim is to head out with a English-speaking local who'll unlock the culinary delights of Tokyo. Many want to visit 'yakitori alley' in Yarakucho, where you join the salary-men for beer ands chicken on sticks. Other options include visiting the basement of Mitsukoshi Department Store, where the food hall is something to behold, and tasting monjayaki in Tsukishima, a dish consisting of a flour and vegetable batter with different toppings.

In the mid-evening your guide will drop you off wherever you wish, ready to continue in to the evening.

Mario Go-Karts

Ever fancied a Super Mario style go-kart drive through the busy streets of central Tokyo? Of course you have! Who hasn't?

Each person has a go-kart, each person dresses as a Super Mario character. Then, you head out for a three-hour drive around the streets of downtown Tokyo, through Shibuya and Roppongi. It's as much fun as it sounds.

We need to make sure you travel with an international driving licence (which you can simply pick up from a Post Office in the UK) and off you go.

Sumo Training

When there is no tournament on, it's possible to visit a sumo stable in Tokyo and watch them train. Participation not expected!

Morning tour to the Ryogoku District in Tokyo. You visit a heya – a Sumo Stable – and watch them during their morning training session. Your guide will explain how these wrestlers have dedicated their lives to their art, and a traditional sport that has a history spanning centuries.

This is a morning tour and can only take place as and when the sumo are in town. They travel around the country to various basho (tournaments) and, consequently, it's not always possible to visit them in Ryogoku. It is imperative that we have plenty of notice to put this excursion in place, numbers are limited.

Hakone & Mount Fuji

A days' excursion to the National Park in the shadow of Japan's most famous volcano. Scenic trains, lake cruise & cable car.

Either as part of a larger group or with your own private guide, head out of the city in to countryside and visit Hakone National Park. The day involves a ride on the train (and we can use the bullet-train!), a scenic ride on a local railway (passing through several switch-backs), a cruise across Lake Ashi, a ropeway over thermal activity, a funicular track and to the 5th station of Fuji itself (if you'd like).

This is a full day - you are on the go for about 11-hours.