TOKYO TRAVEL GUIDE
Tokyo Travel Guide – The gentle way the cotton-puff blossom petals flitter across the city in springtime belies the frenetic and all-encompassing energy that zings through Tokyo’s streets, twisting around the metallic towers and setting the neon lights fizzing. There is a charge in the air that fuels the relentless surge of humanity that throng along the pavements and therefore it seems only apt that Tokyo is at the forefront of the electronics industry. The city’s an enigma, a blend new technology with a traditional way of life and a frenetic energy with Tai Chi
The vast metropolis creeps across the Kanto Plain from Tokyo Bay, an amalgamation of mini-towns with low-wooden houses embedding themselves into labyrinthine village quarters. The central zone comprises of 23 ku (districts), and 27 separate cities with four island districts radiating out from the ku. Devastating earthquakes have racked the land throughout the ages and, as a result, Tokyo has developed in layers with the latest in modern architecture coating more ancient sites. Consequently, the city is a hotchpotch of eastern treasures that are influenced by western forms, most clearly illustrated by the Eiffel-esque Tokyo Tower. The city may not be as aesthetically pleasing as the Rio’s and Sydney’s of this world, but celebrates Progress and regeneration of life in the face of a terribly destructive power.
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The excellent public transport system criss-crosses the central district where you are most likely to be spending your time. Begin your exploration at the Imperial Palace – where the Japanese Emperor resides among carefully tended gardens – and seek some solace among the Bonsai trees. To the west of the Palace lies the faceless business district of modern Tokyo, but to the east the interesting and most ‘traditional’ Japanese quarters of Asakusa and Ueno can be found. Make sure you wonder the narrow streets crammed with markets, fragrant restaurants and corner stalls on foot to truly absorb Tokyo’s flavours. Conclude your sightseeing tour by visiting one of Ueno’s numerous and captivating meseums.
Ginza is world-famous for shopping and if your credit card hasn’t started weeping yet (Japan is an expensive country to visit) then spend your crispy notes in the upmarket boutiques, department stores and specialist shops that line the pavements. If it’s electronics rather than clothes you’re after, head for Akihabara, which is decorated with mega-wattage products or Ikebukuro with two of the world’s largest department stores. Stop and gaze at the bizarre fashions sported by Tokyo’s teens in Harajuku before enjoying Shinjuku, the very heart of the CBD, crammed with yet more shops, eating establishments and fashionable bars.
Even for the most urban-obsessed person, Tokyo can leave you craving countryside and spirituality so head north by train and visit Nikko to see the incredible temples and shrines. Set in the achingly beautiful Nikko National Park, you can hike, walk or saunter off the city-blues under cloudless skies.
Naturally, a peek at Japan’s most iconic symbol, Mount Fuji, is definitely worth a day trip. Dominating the south-west skyline, the silver-tipped peak is best seen during late autumn, winter and early spring either from the window of the shinkansen train as it passes through Fuji or by scaling the mountain yourself. Visit a Tourist Information Centre to find out more about tours in this area.
Back in the city, when darkness begins to trickle over the sky, Tokyo’s masses come out to play. Roppongi is the undisputed nightlife district, with more clubs per square metre than anywhere else in the country, although Shinjuku comes a close second. See, smile and sigh at the masterful Japanese theatre productions or sip, shimmy and sing at the drinking establishments, nightclubs and bars – either choice will leave you hankering for more. And if the earth trembles slightly beneath your feet then don’t worry - it’s probably the effects of that last potent cocktail you consumed rather than the seismic shifts that generate the city’s unique energy…