Timeless Tokyo: A Journey Through Tradition, Innovation, and Culture in 48 Hours

May 15, 2024

To the discerned traveller, Japan will stand out as a destination that seemingly exists in the past, present and future. Especially in Tokyo, ancient shrines and pagodas are part of the same cityscape as contemporary buildings rising to dazzling heights across the city’s skyline. You’ll also find small family-run restaurants standing shoulder to shoulder with ones operated entirely by robots, and hi-tec gaming arcades and virtual reality enclaves at a stone’s throw away from gardens and parks that allow you cut off from technology and connect with nature.  

All of this is to say that no matter how many adjectives you have at your disposal, Tokyo is an enigma, an all-consuming experience that cannot possibly be defined in words. Whether you are here for two days, two weeks, two months or even two years, one can be ambitious enough to try and uncover the essence of this place and still not scratch the surface. This is simply because there is so much to see and do, and in this case, intention and a sense of unbridled curiosity matter way more than the time you have at hand.  

If 48 hours is all you can spare in Tokyo before you move on to another place in Japan or elsewhere, let Discova be your guide in exploring its distinctive neighbourhoods that will mesmerise you with their historical, cultural, fashionable, quirky and even retro offerings.   

On the first day, we check out key landmarks which hark back to ancient times and enjoy the dynamic city which Tokyo has evolved into. The first stop on this four-hour excursion is Asakusa, a historic entertainment district, which is now home to charming shops and restaurants, and the oldest temple in the city, Sensoji.  

Sensoji Temple

We then take a stroll along Nakamise Street, a centuries-old souvenir street, to buy that perfect souvenir or try a local delicacy. Afterwards, we travel across Tokyo to Meiji Shrine, one of the most famous Shinto shrines in Japan, which was built to honour Emperor Meiji and Empress Shoken, the founders of modern Japan. Known for its incredible architecture and serene grounds, would you believe that this peaceful monument is in Shibuya, the pulsating and fashionable centre of Tokyo? We will, of course, have the opportunity to explore Shibuya which is not just a major business district but also boasts of some of the best entertainment in town.   

Day two starts at the crack of dawn, or as early as you can head out the door during a vacation. We head to Tsukiji Fish Market which used to be the biggest fish market in the world and is still one of the best places in Tokyo to get fresh seafood. Although the wholesale operations and fish auction have now moved to the Toyosu Market, this part of town is still home to delicious restaurants and shops, some dating back over 100 years or more! In fact, some of the culinary specialities in this area cannot be found anywhere else.  

Street food delicacies at Tsukiji Fish Market

Most of the food stalls in the outer market open at 5 am and remain operational until early afternoon, which is why it is crucial to get here early to feast on the day’s freshest catch for breakfast. This tour will cover all the hidden gems and the must-see places in this historic market to help visitors discover the many flavours that make up the heart and soul of Japanese cuisine. 

After the day starts on the right note with a sumptuous first meal, we head back to Shibuya again on the city’s efficient public transport system. Now, we delve further into the bustling shopping district that is considered the birthplace of many fashion and entertainment trends in Japan and is also well-known for its famous five-way crossroads! From here, we head to Harajuku, and the famous Takeshita dori (Cat Street) – another mecca of fashion.  

A thrift store in Tokyo

We also visit a popular Gaming Centre, where you can get your hands on classic claw machines and thrilling racing simulators. Here, you should try out Taiko no Tatsujin, a wildly popular rhythm game featuring a traditional Japanese drum, which is guaranteed to bring forward a more electric and lively side of Japan which will thrill and excite you in equal measure.   

At the end of the two days, our signature experiences will make you realise that Japanese culture is not a monolith. And nowhere is this more evident than its capital, which is hailed as one of the most modern cities in the world. Amid the urban chaos, there is peace to be found along shrines, parks and riversides. Here a convenience store onigiri sparks similar joy as a Michelin-star Omakase joint in a traveller, who is enamoured by the quality and quantity of food available to sample and relish regardless of one’s budget. Same goes for fashion as here luxury shops are generously punctuated with vintage and thrift stores.  

So, 48 hours in Tokyo is like experiencing the tasting menu at an acclaimed restaurant. You like what you see and can’t wait to return for more.      

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