Why I've resolved to visit Tokyo post-lockdown, despite hating cities

Annabel Fenwick-Elliott
·4-min read
tokyo - istock
tokyo - istock

The older I get, the surer I am of it: cities are not for me. Lockdown has only further confirmed this. Currently based in the countryside; there is very little I miss about my hometown of London. In fact, I am dreading the return of noisy crowds, obscenely expensive bars and the soul-sapping daily commute.

The same goes for when I travel. I see little appeal in city breaks; an immersion into slightly different versions of the same scenes, with the added inconvenience of a language barrier. The greatest adventures I’ve ever had have been situated in those alien landscapes most uncontaminated by humans; Antarctica, Lapland, the Australian Outback and the Namibian desert.

My best Covid-era forays last year were to the empty places that would otherwise have been overrun with tourists; Venice and Santorini. The first place I’ll flee to as soon as restrictions lift is to the lonesome South African bush.

But there is one metropolis I’m keen to tick off before I die, crowds notwithstanding, and that is Tokyo. It appeals to the somewhat unhealthy all-or-nothing aspect of my character. Before I write cities off altogether, it would surely be prudent to first experience the most cityish of all the cities in the world.

If I must explore by way of overpopulated public transport, let it be the fastest train in the world; Japan’s bullet service. If I’m going to subject myself to an assault of the senses, let it be the frantic, futuristic, electric billboard-studded streets of its capital. If I’m going to be short on space, why not succumb to the novelty of sleeping in the coffin-like enclosure of a capsule hotel. If my wallet is to be abused by way of an overpriced cocktail, let it be in Asia’s most expensive city, served to me by a robot. And to hell with navigating Europe on a limited vocabulary of French and Spanish, purely out of politeness; I might as well lose myself in a place where hardly anyone speaks a word of English, and deciphering a menu or map will be all-but-impossible. That sounds like an adventure to me.

Oedo Onsen Monogatari  - getty
Oedo Onsen Monogatari - getty

Five ways to experience Tokyo when this is all over

By Danielle Demetriou

  1. No visit to Tokyo is complete without indulging in one celebrated national pastime: karaoke. Pretending to be Madonna while waving a tambourine in the air has been elevated into an art form in Japan. Fortunately, many karaoke venues consist of floors of endless private rooms rented by the hour – complete with large screens, some percussion and a telephone for food and drinks orders. One such spot is the Dogenzaka branch of Uta Hiroba in Shibuya. utahiro.com

  2. The ultimate way to relax in Japan is to slip into the steaming waters of an onsen (hot spring) bath. Fortunately, there’s no need to leave the city to enjoy this - Oedo Onsen Monogatari is a popular family-friendly onsen complex inspired by old Tokyo, with wooden buildings, lanterns and 13 types of baths. daiba.ooedoonsen.jp

  3. One landmark in Tokyo that is, quite literally, impossible to miss is Tokyo Skytree. The world’s tallest free-standing broadcast tower looms over the city's skyline. Standing at more than 2,000ft, the tower has become a major tourist attraction since opening in 2012. Explore the shops, restaurants and cherry tree-lined plazas at the tower base before taking high-tech lifts to the two viewing platforms. tokyo-skytree.jp

  4. At the Ginza, flagship of family-run restaurant Kyubey, kimono-clad staff usher guests into a four-storey warren of spaces, from intimate counters to tatami mat rooms. Almost as enchanting as the sushi is elderly owner Imada San, who makes a point of speaking to every guest. One of the best spots is at the main ground floor counter, where chefs chat to guests while preparing sushi before your eyes (tailored exactly to your tastes). 00 81 3 3571 6523

  5. One standout cocktail bar among the dozens of tiny hidden old school gems in the Ginza district is Bar High Five. It’s run by Hidetsugu Ueno, a legendary cocktail maestro, whose Singapore Slings and classic dry martinis are the stuff of legend. It’s home to an expansive whisky selection as well as a long list of both classic and contemporary Japanese cocktails, from Full Bloom (with J’s Whisky, Midori and green tea liqueur) to Bamboo Cocktail (sherry, dry vermouth and orange bitters. barhighfive.com

For the full guide to Tokyo see telegraph.co.uk/tt-tokyo-guide