Discover Tokyo, Japan
Japan expands your mind with a culture that's both ancient and advanced. It tantalises your taste buds with food that's elegant and extraordinary. It lights up your nights, with non-stop energy and hi-tech creativity. And it lulls you into a state of perfect relaxation with natural hot springs, tranquil temples and unspoiled landscapes.
Air New Zealand offers daily flights on the 787-9 Dreamliner non-stop from Auckland to Narita, one of Tokyo's major airports. Domestic connections are available from Air New Zealand serviced airports. On all flights you have a choice of economy, economy skycouch™ premiumeconomy and businesspremier™. The flight time to Tokyo is around 11 hours.
Things to do in Tokyo
Japan's vibrant capital city lets you gaze into the tech-savvy future and appreciate the honourable traditions of the past. It's a sprawling metropolis renowned for twinkling skyscrapers, bustling pedestrian crossings and frenetic neon-drenched streets. Tokyo is also loved for its quiet places, like Meiji Jingu Shrine, Jindaiji Temple and Showa Kinen Park.
On your first night in Tokyo, catch your breath at the Prince Hotel's cocktail bar next to Shiba Park. You'll be treated to a close-up view of Tokyo Tower, a shimmering beacon that will look amazing on your Instagram feed.
With a population of close to 14 million, it's no surprise that Tokyo has one of the best public transport systems in the world – rumour has it there's no such thing as a train running late in Tokyo. The subway will zoom you around the city to see the sights, discover the shops and follow your nose to the best food. Or plan a walking route that takes you to the Tsukiji Outer Markets, a paradise for foodies; the district of Ginza for upmarket shopping; the Imperial Palace grounds ; and MOMAT, The National Museum of Modern Art Tokyo.
Night-time entertainment is virtually unlimited. You can see the whole city for free from the Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building Observatories, dine in a ninja-themed restaurant, catch a kabuki performance, go bar-hopping at Golden Gai, sing your lungs out in a karaoke bar, then finish up with a stroll down Omoide Yokocho for a late-night snack.
If you want to experience how the cool people live in Tokyo, put a day and night aside to discover the ultra-hip neighbourhoods of Shimokitazawa, Kichijoji, Kagurazaka and Daikanyama. Eating, shopping and relaxing like a clued-up local will add another dimension to your Tokyo adventure.
Japan's impressive high-speed rail system can zip you around the country in style and comfort. It means exploring beyond Tokyo is easy to organise and stress-free. Sit back and let the bullet train (shinkansen) do its thing, reaching maximum speeds of 320km per hour. Below are some of the destinations you can link together to build an exciting itinerary that reveals the real Japan.
Hakone for onsen resorts and view of Mount Fuji
It takes around 90 minutes to travel from Tokyo to Hakone, a mountainous town in Fuji-Hakone-Izu National Park, Kanagawa Prefecture. Here you can relax in onsen (hot springs), ride the Hakone Tozan Railway, hike and cycle along forest trails, cruise Lake Ashi, and enjoy the many moods and views of Mount Fuji.
Matsumoto, gateway to the Northern Japan Alps
Matsumoto in Nagano Prefecture is where you'll find Matsumoto Castle, a national treasure that's more than 400 years old and one of only 12 remaining original castles in Japan. Matsumoto is also an excellent base for a side trip into the Northern Japan Alps, like a visit to Kamikochi or Hakuba – and don't forget the famous snow monkeys of Jigokudani Yaen Koen!
Geisha, temples and blossoms in Kyoto
For more than 1000 years Kyoto was the capital of Japan. Today it's the cultural and historic heart of the country; the place to experience temples, shrines, gardens, geisha (known as geiko in Kyoto), traditional performances and incredible Japanese cuisine. Must-sees in Kyoto include Toji Temple, Fushimi Inari Taisha Shrine and the extraordinary Arashiyama Bamboo Grove. At cherry blossom time, around late March to early April, the city is swathed in pink – a boat ride on the Katsura River is the ultimate way to appreciate this incredible natural wonder.
Osaka for street food and a castle picnic
As one of Japan's largest cities, Osaka is loved for its street food, including takoyaki and okonomiyaki, and night-time fun. Best things to do here include a food tour, exploring the neighbourhoods of Horie, Shinsaibashi and America-mura on foot, and having a picnic at Osaka Castle Park in the heart of the city. Osaka Castle is an historic castle, originally constructed in the 1500s by the powerful feudal lord and warrior Hideyoshi Toyotomi.
Culture and deer encounters in Nara
Easily accessed from Osaka and Kyoto, Nara is a city full of cultural treasures, ancient shrines and temples. It's also home to more than 1000 deer, many of which live in Nara Park. If you love traditional Japanese architecture and wildlife, Nara should definitely be on your itinerary. South of Nara, in neighbouring Wakayama Prefecture, is the spectacular Nachi Waterfalls, a 133-metre waterfall that's one of the tallest in Japan.
Historical and intriguing Kanazawa
Loved for its historical attractions and home to one of Japan's most famous traditional landscape gardens, Kanazawa in Ishikawa Prefecture is the place for tea ceremonies, contemporary art, traditional crafts, preserved geisha and samurai districts, and fresh seafood. Special mention must go to Kanazawa Castle, which is being painstakingly restored.
The hot spring paradise of Shima Onsen
The hot spring town of Shima Onsen is a destination that contrasts superbly with the urban excitement of Tokyo. Located in the mountains of Gunma Prefecture, this town is full of ryokan (traditional inns), public bath houses, foot baths and hot spring water drinking fountains. In autumn the colours are astounding. You can get to Shima Onsen by taking the train to Nakanojo Station, then catching a local bus.
Best time to go
Japan is an all-year-round destination for travellers and each season offers something special. Spring is all about cherry blossom and flower festivals, like the Fuji Shibazakura Festival. Summer is great for experiencing traditional festivals, water sports, and exploring alpine areas and mountainous regions. September to November is the season for autumn colours and discovering the great outdoors. Winter is snow sport and snow monkey time, with over 500 resorts and countless mountains of powder snow to choose from.
How much will it cost?
Travelling in Japan is probably cheaper than you think. Prices are on par with many countries in Western Europe, especially when the exchange rate is helping you out. Every aspect of your trip offers you lots of options, whether it's accommodation or activities, so you can stick to a tight budget or splash the cash. From an $8 bowl of ramen to a $150 kaiseki (traditional multi-course) meal, there's something for everyone.