By this point, you’re only an hour-and-a-half’s journey by bullet train to Yokohama, the port city located next to Tokyo, and a worthy spot on your trip for the culture and nightlife of the capital with less of a crowd. Like the Coney Island of Tokyo, its crowning centrepiece is an amusement park with a constantly glittering Ferris wheel that lights up its skyline. In the day, the centre can be a little industrial, so explore the nearby Sankeien Gardens or take a pilgrimage to the Yamatecho district a little further inland: the mishmash east-meets-west architecture inspired much of the locations in Studio Ghibli’s From Up On Poppy Hill.
Yokohama is also a city under reinvention. Underneath the Keikyu railway, a site once populated with brothels and controlled by the yakuza has now been regenerated as a hub for local and global artists. Don’t be put off by the rather clinically named Koganecho Area Management Center – the artists inside it, often sitting inside greenhouse-like structures making work in full view of passersby, makes it worth the visit. From there, you can snake back down into the inner city, grab sashimi caught fresh off the coast that morning, and finish your night at a 24-hour karaoke club.
Where to stay? Well, if you want a little quiet, The Hotel New Grand, which has hosted everyone from US politicians to Sir Charlie Chaplin, is situated a little further from the city centre, but offers a kind of old-school, immaculately presented Titanic-esque interiors. For those hoping to be a little closer to the action, The Yokohama Bay Tokyu Hotel is right by Minatomirai underground station, and 80 per cent of its rooms look directly on to a dazzling view of the aforementioned Ferris wheel.
From here, you’re a 40-minute train ride into the centre of Shibuya, diving headlong into one of the biggest and most overwhelming metropolises on Earth. By this point, you might have spent a week or 10 days leading up to this moment, but that back and forth between city life and time away from concentrated civilisation on the Golden Route is not just a prelude but the eye-opening centrepiece of the journey itself. Then, you’ll arrive in Tokyo ready to sink into it fully and see it differently. Afterwards, you’ll remember Tokyo’s stacked skyscrapers and packed public transport, sure, but you’ll find yourself looking back to what might have seemed like the smaller things: the wasabi fields and Ferris wheels, the ryokans and the koi fish, sleeping quietly in the pond.