Nonstop excitement on whirlwind Tokyo tour

By Ben Roussel
Last summer, I boarded American Airlines' inaugural nonstop Flight 135 from New York Kennedy to Tokyo Haneda.

Tokyo Ginza Shopping DistrictI spent the weekend in Tokyo before returning on another nonstop flight 72 hours later.

The first tip for those seeking to do Tokyo in three days is this: Don't do it.

Tokyo, among the world's most modern and sensory-laden cities, rests in the heart of a country with centuries of rich history and tradition as well as cutting edge in design and technology. It is worthy of a longer visit.

That said, for business travelers looking to tag a weekend of fun to a work trip or if you find yourself in Tokyo with 48 hours to kill, here are a few ways to spend them.

Most international flights to Tokyo, especially those flying nonstop from the U.S., are routed into Narita, located a good 35 miles from downtown Tokyo. Depending upon when you arrive, that can easily add two hours to your trip.

American's new flight to Haneda, much closer to downtown Tokyo, meant I could get off work at 5 p.m. on a Friday in New York, land 12 hours later and luxuriate at the Shangri-La Tokyo within an hour of touching down.

The hotel's lobby lounge sports a perfect, unimpeded view of the Tokyo cityscape from 27 floors up. The hotel pool on crisp days offers a stunning view of the Fuji mountainside.

The 37th-floor Horizon Lounge offers guests complimentary breakfast each morning.

Visitors might notice that the lights that define Tokyo are on a tight schedule since the tsunami in 2011 and no longer remain lit all night long, in an effort to conserve energy and air conditioning.

The Shangri-La Tokyo is right next to the Tokyo Train Station and only blocks from the Ginza shopping district, Tokyo's quieter, calmer version of Madison Avenue.

Tokyo Tsukiji Fish MarketSo much of experiencing Tokyo is taking in the wackiness of it all. If you've ever wondered what a $200 cantaloupe looks like, then the food court in the basement of the Matsuzakaya department store might be for you. (I learned later that farmers choose the largest melons and cut the rest from the stalk, so a single cantaloupe receives all the nutrients and can then be sold at a premium.)

A must in Tokyo is getting up at 5:30 a.m. for a tour of the Tsukiji Fish Market, where a single tuna can be auctioned off for thousands of dollars.

Asakusa, an area known for its old-town atmosphere and Buddhist temples, is a metro ride from the Shangri-La. Because the overwhelming majority of Tokyo was destroyed by fire-bombing during World War II, you won't find much that dates back much further than the 1950s.

The oldest monument to Japan's history is the Emperor's Palace and gardens, which remain occupied by the emperor and are therefore closed to the public.

Another metro ride takes you to the super-trendy (and increasingly touristy) area called Harajuku. Takeshita Street runs through the heart of Harajuku and provides a real-world runway for the Harajuku girls, a rebellious lot known for their wilder-than-wild fashions, with looks running the gamut from Batgirl to Strawberry Shortcake to punk-rock goth Catholic schoolgirl.

Leaving Tokyo was also easier flying on American's new flight from Haneda; the airline offers complimentary shuttle service to its business-class passengers to and from the airport.
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