The Insiders’ Guide to the World’s Greatest Cities: Tokyo

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The Mikimoto building and boutique in Ginza.

City Guide: Tokyo

Virtuoso travel advisors share their can’t-miss highlights in Tokyo.

Meiji Shrine.
Todoroki Valley.

Tokyo is glamorous and exhilarating, but spiritual as well,” says New York City-based Virtuoso travel advisor Aaron Nir, who lived there for seven years. Amid the city’s labyrinth of streets, ancient shrines stand beside bustling ramen joints and lively karaoke bars. Oh, and there’s some shopping too: “Tokyo has the most incredible shopping anywhere,” Nir says, “from the best mega-brands to an endless amount of Japanese goods unavailable anywhere else.”
WHEN TO GO: “I love spring, when the cherry blossoms are in bloom and temperatures are mild and pleasant,” Nir says. “Mankai, or full blossom, only lasts for a few days – usually around late March or early April. The good news: If you miss them, it’s easy to get on a train and see blossoms in other areas of Japan.”
SPEND AN AFTERNOON: “Lose yourself in shopping bliss in Ginza, home to designer outlets and fantastic Japanese boutiques,” suggests Izumi Ogawa, a Virtuoso advisor from Tokyo who now lives in Vancouver, British Columbia. “Go on the weekend, when traffic is blocked off on Chuo-dori and the area becomes an outdoor pedestrian mall.” Nir likes Dover Street Market, a multi-story fashion house and contemporary art space.
MUST-SEE: Meiji Shrine in Yoyogi Park near Harajuku is an amazing example of Shinto architecture and a peaceful oasis in the middle of the city,” Nir says.
DIG IN: “It’s been said that there are upwards of 160,000 restaurants in Tokyo! Picking just one is nearly impossible, but Gonpachi in the Nishi-Azabu neighborhood is a fun option,” Nir says. (Quentin Tarantino fans will recognize it as the inspiration for Kill Bill’s epic fight scene.) “It’s a great spot to soak in the hip Tokyo izakaya [gastropub] scene.”
PRO TIP: “For frequent visitors, the Todoroki Valley is a hidden gem,” Ogawa says. “It’s home to several gardens, the Fudo-no-Taki Waterfall, and the Todoroki Fudoson Temple.”
BRING TOKYO HOME: Edo kiriko – cut glass – dates to the seventeenth century, when Tokyo was called Edo,” Ogawa says. “A sake glass set makes for an authentic Tokyo memory.”
STAY: The 290-room Palace Hotel Tokyo welcomes spring with a new adventure that includes a private tour of the city’s prime sakura (cherry blossom) viewing spots and a gift from artisan shop Nousaku. Two-night available through May 31, 2017.
More: The Insiders' Guide to the World’s Greatest Cities

Photos: Andrea Fazzari