Whether you are embarking on a career change, considering starting a family or just needing to take a little time for yourself, Kirsty Liddle explains why a trip to Tokyo, Japan is the perfect destination
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At this time of year Japan is especially beautiful as the numerous Cherry, or ‘Sakura’ blossom trees burst into flower throughout the country in a magical display of rose pink and white petals. The Japanese refer to this special time as ‘Hanami’ and celebrate with feasts, festivals and most importantly family and friends. In larger cities like Tokyo the parks are hung with paper lanterns and filled with countless people enjoying the beauty of the Yozakura literally translated as Night Sakura. ‘Hanami’ is a time that many Japanese people look forward to as it often coincides with the beginning of the new school semester and return to work after vacation. Welcoming parties are often held for new arrivals and sake is normally drunk in celebration.
Weather in Japan can often vary although typical temperatures for this time of year are fairly steady. Average daytime temperatures in Tokyo are about 23ºC (73ºF) falling to a balmy 15ºC (59ºF) during the evening. Statistics show that you are more likely to have sunny rather than rainy weather during this period, but pack an umbrella just in case as rainstorms can be fast, furious and frequent. A word of caution, even though May is the best time to visit, prepare for it to be super busy as it coincides with ‘Golden Week’, where no less than four national holidays happen within seven days.
The country really is a wonderful fusion of ancient tradition and cutting edge modernity with a globally recognised reputation for being a leader in technology and business. People flock to the neon 24/7 city of Tokyo to experience everything the capital has to offer from shopping, shrines and sake bars to the more experimental aspects of Japanese culture. Why not visit a ‘Maid’ cafe? One of the many costume play or cosplay restaurants, named after the maid outfits the hostesses wear. Or spend some time drinking coffee among our feathered friends in the, so cute you could scream, Owl cafe. If you are looking for a city to lose yourself in then Tokyo is the answer as it is the world’s busiest metropolis and consists of no less than 23 separate districts, or wards. Central Tokyo offers highlights such as the premiere shopping district of Ginza, the techno paradise streets of Akihabara and if you want to catch a concert or performance head to the Tokyo Dome City, which is the entertainment epicentre.
There are also plenty of museums and gardens within the city limits despite the common belief that Tokyo is a living, breathing behemoth of endless glass and steel. Head to the Yasukuni Shrine, a building dedicated to the souls of Japan’s war dead or visit the Imperial Palace, the main residence of the Japanese Imperial family. Green spaces are also incredibly important in Japanese culture as they provide opportunities for quiet contemplation. Northern Tokyo provides some of the best landscape parks and gardens including Ueno Park, which is a bustling city park containing museums and it’s very own zoo! Northern Tokyo is also home to the incredible Tokyo Skytree, a stunning 634-metre tower complete with observation decks guaranteed to give fantastic views that also has its own shopping complex, restaurant and aquarium on site.
Options for staying in the city are endless, with countless hotels and resorts to suit every budget, but many travellers like to stay in Shibuya, a district in Western Tokyo, otherwise known as the birthplace of modern Japanese fashion and style. Shibuya is the busiest and most colourful district in the whole city and many techno fashion trends have been discovered within its streets. It is filled to the brim with shops, restaurants, karaoke bars and nightclubs catering for the endless swarms of people that pass through everyday.
Japan really is a country of contrasts and if your time and plans allow it is always good to get away from the hustle and bustle of the city. Head out into the countryside and you will find that life in rural Japan runs at a much slower pace. One of the traditional and ever popular Japanese pastimes is to head up into the mountains to an ‘Onsen’ or Japanese bath house to relax, reflect and most importantly recharge. If you can’t manage to leave Tokyo don’t panic, as there are plenty of well renowned bathhouses only a short train ride away. In fact the Saya no Yu Dokoro with its elegant gardens, flexible hire times and onsite restaurant was voted one of the best in the city.
Overall Tokyo offers you a quiet place to reflect on choices made and, if you need some time out, the chance to make future plans. However, if thinking is the last thing you want to do it will also take you out of your comfort zone and throw you into a whirlwind of unforgettable experiences, must see locations, and beautiful memories.