A wet evening on Shibuya Crossing, Tokyo. Photo: Getty Images
A perennial contender for the unwanted title of "most expensive city in the world", the Japanese capital can still leave visitors weeping over a single bar bill. So it's a happier shock to discover how much you can do and see for free or just a few yen. Grab a couple of fresh onigiri (rice balls with meat or seafood filling) for breakfast at a branch of Omusubi Gonbei ($3 for two, www.omusubi-gonbei.com) and spend a day in the city's green spaces, from the dog parades and rockabilly dancers of Yoyogi Park (free), to the haiku-infused geometry of Rikugien Garden ($3, tinyurl.com/mzvsw7u). Towards sunset, ride the unmanned Yurikamome monorail around Tokyo Bay ($4, yurikamome.co.jp/en), then go for a cold beer and flame-grilled yakitori in Omoide Yokocho - a historic alleyway of cheap eats behind Shinjuku station (about $30) - before heading to the New Koyo Hotel (rooms from $30, newkoyo.com).
EASY DOES IT
Only a fool, a contrarian, or an unwakeable late sleeper could visit Tokyo without seeing the dawn ruckus at the Tsukiji Fish Market, or eating the freshest, wildest sushi for breakfast at one of the adjoining shops - Sushidai and Daiwa-Zushi tend to be the most packed, but for good reason (about $40, tsukijigourmet.or.jp). Entire lazy days can be spent at the Spa LaQua, a natural hot-spring complex high above Tokyo Dome, which provides great views, reclining chairs and comfy pyjamas for post-bath naps ($30, www.laqua.jp/pages/en/spa). A few bouts of sumo should shake you awake again, especially if you're around for one of the major tournaments at Ryogoku Kokugikan stadium in January, May, or September ($30, www.sumo.or.jp/eng). The Ninja restaurant in Akasaka is gimmicky but surprisingly gourmet ($100, ninjaakasaka.com), and the Andon Ryokan is a modern inn designed like a traditional Japanese lantern (rooms from $70, andon.co.jp).
The traditional Japanese breakfast can seem unappealing to those who don't crave fish, rice, tofu and miso soup in the mornings, but the Park Hyatt Hotel is the place to be converted, with deluxe versions of those dishes served high over the city in the skyscraper made famous by the movie Lost in Translation ($45, tokyo.park.hyatt.com/en/hotel/home.html). On a clear day you can see Mount Fuji, but you can get a lot closer if you're prepared to pay for a helicopter tour - it's pricey but spectacular ($1000, excel-air.com/english). When you've landed, take to the water for a dinner cruise on Tokyo Bay ($150, veltra.com/en). Back on land, have Seiji (or "CJ") mix you some whisky-based cocktails at Ginza-S, perhaps the best bar of its kind in the world (about $60 for two, ginza-s.com). End the night at the Imperial, the oldest and grandest of the city's hotels (rooms from $350, www.imperialhotel.co.jp/e/tokyo).