the sunday guide to // tokyo
A dream destination for many, Tokyo is drastically different to anywhere else in the world, championing new technologies and displaying exciting sights. It may not be the first destination that you consider for a relaxing getaway, but there are plenty of ways to indulge in a little downtime in between negotiating the Shibuya crossing and enjoying shopping sprees.
Conjuring up images of karaoke bars, skyscrapers and cat cafes, the Japanese capital offers a diversity of experiences. Although by all means a city break, Mt Fuji and its surrounding areas all offer relaxing respites from the busy streets and hectic pace of life. But how can you enjoy a day of relaxation within the city itself?
Soak in an onsen pool
Dotted around the city you will find a variety of natural hot spring bath houses, where you can soak in silence and indulge in several hours of relaxation. Don’t be put off by the sight and aroma of the water (it’s likely to be black or brown in hue and to smell quite sickly sweet), just lie back and enjoy the experience. The majority of the bath houses also offer spa and massage treatments, saunas and bubbling massage pools.
photo: by fumiaki yoshimatsu from tokyo, japan (akita) CC BY-SA 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons
Admire the statues at Jourenji Temple
Although there are better known giant Buddha statues in Japan, the Tokyo Daibutsu is located in the grounds of the peaceful Jourenji Temple, making a visit a pleasant and relaxing experience. Stroll around the temple at your own pace, discovered not just the 13-metre tall Buddha but all of the other unusual statues in and around its grounds. The small temple itself is quiet and peaceful, offering a calmer experience that some of the more touristy alternatives.
Swing from the ceiling in a hammock café
Although Tokyo is known for its themed cat and maid cafes, we recommend a slightly more relaxing concept café. Mahika Mano has no seats, instead it offers a variety of hammocks in all shapes, sizes, materials and heights for its guests to lounge in as they sample the food and drink menu. Whether you visit for the novelty or seek a short nap in the middle of your day, head here for an hour or two or soothing swinging.
Stroll around Kiyosumi Teien gardens
Avoid the more popular traditional Japanese gardens and head to Kiyosumi Teien. No less beautiful but much more tranquil, the gardens are the perfect place to unwind and wander at your own pace. Ensure that you cross the stepping stones over the water to try to spot the colourful fish and turtles swimming in the centre of the pond, and don’t miss the traditional Japanese restaurant, designed to resemble a teahouse in the centre of the gardens.
photo: by hotsuregua (own work (投稿者撮影) GFDL http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html
Take in the views from above
There’s plenty of places in Tokyo where you can ascend up to staggering heights to take in the views of the surrounding city and Mt Fuji in the distance. The Sky Tree and the Metropolitan Government Building are both popular choices for getting up high, but we prefer the open-air roof deck on the 52nd floor of the Mori Tower. The top floor is conveniently the entrance to the renowned Mori Art Museum.
Embrace the heat at a Ganbanyoku
Getting hot and sweaty may not seem synonymous with relaxation, but a visit to one of Tokyo’s hot stone spas is not to be missed. Rumoured to have a variety of health benefits and to help to refresh your mind, body and soul, participants simply lay on the hot slabs of granite (heated to between 40 and 50 degrees Celsius), relax and sweat. A respite in the cool down room is recommended every 15 minutes, and it is recommended that you experience the hot room 3-5 times in each session to feel the benefits.
Explore the city by bike
Whether you decide to go solo or join a small group tour, cycling in tokyo will show you a whole other side to the city. Meander through the less popular streets and take in an insider's view. Soshi Kuwata and team run a series of tours exploring the bay, old town and centre of Tokyo. They also do special early bird and night tours so that you can see the city through from dawn 'til dusk.
photo: ed lo via unsplash
Dine under the stars
Known amongst locals for its relaxing atmosphere, The Planetarium STARRY Café offers indoor dining under constellations and the northern lights. Although the restaurant offers delicious traditional Japanese delicacies, all eyes are on the ceiling for the 360 degree projections of the night sky.
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