Tokyo – the most exciting metropolis in Asia. This is a where traditions from centuries past exist side by side with the ever-moving elements of the latest in urban culture that radiate their own special heat and energy.
The Tokyo Metropolitan area is home to one-quarter of all Japanese, with 12 million souls in Tokyo proper alone.
The Imperial Palace, formerly Edo Castle, is still surrounded by its original innermost moat. Handsome gates and old guard towers are set at intervals around the grounds. The main entrance is approached by the elegant Nijubashi or Double Bridge and is open to the public on special occasions. The East Garden (Higashi Gyoen) is where the original donjon once stood. The garden is graced with flowers and blossoms of each season, open to all as an ideal place for relaxation.
Prominent on Tokyo Station’s Marunouchi side , the historical landmark Marunouchi Building, widely known as “Maru-Biru” originally constructed in 1923, newly reopened as a 36-story complex comprising restaurant, shops and offices in September 20002.
A 10-min. walk takes yu to the Ginza district, famous the world over for elegant shopping and its bright, kaleidoscopic neon lights. The Kabukiza Theater is just a stone’s throw away.
From the neon bustle of the Ginza and Yurakucho districts, turn to the spacious Ueno district where you will find Ueno Park, the largest in the city. In early April, the park turns into a paradise of delicate pale pink cherry blossoms and attracts numerous viewers and merrymakers. The park forms a great center of art and culture with its many and varied museums.
For a glimpse into Tokyo’s past, the Asakusa district is the Place. The many narrow back streets, lined with old buildings and shops, sell traditional items from kimono to hand-made combs. Asakusa Kannon Temple, with its colorful shopping lanes, is a marvelous place to buy souvenirs.
Shinjuku, on the city’s trendy west side, is home to popular and raucous nightspots, to fine and sophisticated shopping, as well as to the sedate Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden. In the nearby Hatsudai district is the Tokyo Opera City complex which features a full-scale opera house.
The Shibuya district, near the tranquil Meiji Shrine and the modish Harajuku and Aoyama district, is a popular shopping and entertainment paradise, particularly among the young set. Shibuya is a trend-setting hub from which the culture of youth is in continuous transmission. The forefront of international art and fashion is fully in evidence. People-watching from a sidewalk cafe is engaging and enjoyable.
Odaiba, built on reclaimed land in the Port of Tokyo, is one of the capital’s hottest visitor’s spots, featuring an expansive shopping mall and the Ooedo-Onsen Monogatari, exciting hot spring theme park. Its Ferris wheels, one of the world’s largest, is the symbol of Rainbow Town. The Ferris wheel is especially popular with young couples in the evening hours providing a fantastic night view from its enclosed capsules.
Side Trips from Tokyo
Tokyo Disney Resort, the most popular theme park in Japan, is in the Maihama district only 17 min. by train from Tokyo Sta.
Yokohama, Japan’s second largest city, 30 min. by rail from Tokyo, is one of the first Japanese cities that opened up to foreign residents during the Meiji Restoration (1868-1911) and is a bustling port city with numerous historic buildings and the spacious Sankei-en Garden. The “Minato Mirai 21” district on the waterfront is highly popular among younger generation, offering a most enjoyable shopping and fantastic gourmet experience. Yokohama’s China Town offers any number of excellent restaurants.
Kamakura, 1 hr. by rail from Tokyo, is a small quiet coastal town with tranquil temples. Once the seat of the feudal government set up in 1192, the town today still retains much of its ancient and historical heritage. Kamakura’s most famous attraction is the giant bronze Great Buddha. This impressive “Daibutsu” is 11.4 m. high, weighs 122 tons and sits in the open-air.
Near Kamakura Sta. is Tsurugaoka Hachimangu Shrine. A number of Buddhist temples, large and small, also dot the area. A leisurely stroll here slips you back to the 12th-century Kamakura period. Whichever temple you visit, you’ll be greeted by the beautiful flowers and blossoms of the reason.
Hakone, 1 hr. 30 min rail from Tokyo’s Shinjuku Sta., is a famous hot spring resort area set in the beautiful mountains which comprise the Fuji-Hakone-Izu National Park. A major attractionshere is the Open-Air Museum, with hundreds of sculptures. Relaxing in one of the many hot springs is simply a worthwhile experience. Take a pleasure cruise around Lake Ashi, offering marvelous views of Mt. Fuji. In Owakudani, steam and sulfurous fumes rise from crevices in the rocks.
Mt. Fuji, at 3,776 m., is not only Japan’s tallest mountain but it’s the best known symbol as well. In addition to being a favored climbing site during the months of July and August, Mt. Fuji is the center of a wide-ranging natural recreation zone. This includes the Fuji Five Lakes district to the north, which offers extensive opportunities for hiking, boating, fishing, camping, and picnicking.
The Izu Peninsula, south of Hokane, is an important recreational area known for its hot spring resorts. The Peninsula’s scenic backbone is formed by the hot spring and waterfall-rich Amagi Mountain Range.
The Seven Islands of Izu collectively form a superb resort area combining beautiful seascape attractions and hot springs as well as impressive volcanic topography. Oshima Island, for example, is a popular resort within an easy 1 hrs. 45 min. high-speed boat ride from Tokyo, allowing for eve a day trip.
Kusatsu Onsen is one Japan’s top spa resorts, situated less than four hours from Tokyo by direct bus link. The highly acidic spa water, which is potent enough to dissolve a ¥ 1 coin in a week, is extraordinary effective.
Nikko, 2 hrs. by rail from Tokyo, is both a gem of natural beauty and home to one of the must-sees of Japanese architecture. Toshogu Shrine which houses the mausoleum of the founder of the Tokugawa shogunate, is Nikko’s most famous attraction. The complex is unusual among Japanese architectural gems for its display of opulence and decorative complexity.