Venue TOKYO, JAPAN
Probably the most populated metropolis in the world, there must be something terribly irresistible about Tokyo that appeals to foreigners and locals alike.
Despite the strong Japanese yen, many Tokyo enthusiasts still find it hard to tear themselves away from this illustrious capital. Often billed as the most modern city in the world, Tokyoites enjoy some of the most advanced technologies and practice a certain culture that the rest of the world can only hope to emulate fifty years from now.
For one, most people would have heard by now about the amazing toilets in Tokyo. Toilet seats warm up automatically when it’s cold so that users can avoid freeze shocking their posteriors. Pressing the button to produce toilet-flushing sounds covers embarrassing noises. Apart from the spray and clean functions where you can adjust temperature and speed, newer versions raise up seats on their own, come with odour eliminating option and even health dialysis functions.
While many countries are now cell phone dependent, Japan has turned their craze into something totally useful and functional. Especially in Tokyo, this little tool is more than just a communication device. It is a cash card where you can pay for vending machine purchases or train rides, an indispensable computer for emailing, a camera and video in one with good enough for print resolutions, a karaoke machine and even a vibrator for sore muscles.
With so many people living in one city, other countries might have difficulties holding it all together but not for the well-organized Japanese. Credit must go to an efficient system of transport operating in the country. Scheduled trains and buses are almost never late. On the rare occasion that they run behind schedule, something serious must have taken place to result in the delay. For tourists, getting around is generally easy with any of these transports.
In the modern world, human technology plays as big a part as its computerised counterparts. The Japanese have been trained from young to be civic minded citizens. Everyone follows the rubbish separating system, they stand to the left on escalators and they leave the public restrooms as clean as they found it. In short, they treat public property just as they would their own or even better. This may seem unimportant to the uninitiated but in reality, it helps the country save millions of dollars every year. More importantly, they are creating a conducive place to stay for their fellow countrymen.
For more obvious reasons why tourists love to visit Tokyo, take a look at some of the top attractions in this fascinating city:
One of the oldest districts in Tokyo, Asakusa is home to the famous Sensoji, a 7th century temple dedicated to the bodhisattva Kannon. The temple can be reached via Nakamise, a long shopping street that sells traditional and local snacks, souvenirs, fashion items, pharmaceutical products and where you can find both old and modern restaurants. While this street is mainly tourist-oriented, there are nooks and crannies along the way for those who know where to locate authentic Japanese food or time-honoured establishments. Those looking to stay at a traditional Japanese guesthouse are also likely to find one in Asakusa.
Shinjuku is the undisputable heart of Tokyo. Its railway station is the busiest in Japan and is served by about a dozen railway lines that handle more than 2 million passengers a day. Surrounding the station are skyscrapers, department stores, electronic stores, and the notorious red light district, Kabukicho.
From thrift stores to high end Takashimaya in Times Square, Shinjuku is practically a city of its own and to explore the main streets and stores alone would take 2 or 3 days. Because of its popularity with all ages, shops and restaurants here are catered to all age groups and budget. Aspiring musicians are often seen performing outside the Lumine building next to the train station.
Tokyo is constantly evolving and so is its cityscape. Only a few years ago, a newly developed residential cum entertainment district is formed in the self–contained Roppongi Hills. It comprises of shopping malls that carry the priciest merchandise in Japan, the Asahi TV station, state-of-the-art cinemas, an art museum, popular luxury brands and posh hotel. The Roppongi Hills Residences and the nearby Midtown Residences are the most coveted residential addresses in Japan. Rental rates for an apartment here are reputed to be between US$10,000 and US$20,000 for a 100 square metres space. Those who are not shopping inclined can still find ways to enjoy yourself in this futuristically designed town. An admission ticket to the Tokyo View observation deck on the 52nd floor of Mori Tower costs 1500yen and includes entry to the Mori Art Museum on the 53rd floor.
For the young and young at heart, Harajuku is a promising shopping district for hip and cheap fashion items and local designer pieces. In the popular Takeshita Street just across the Harajuku Station, expect to find anything from gothic and Lolita fashion to outlandish and practical accessories to exclusive socks and lingerie shops, celebrity poster shops and plenty of eateries charging moderate prices.
There’s also a 100yen shop that sells everything from cosmetics to electronic products, foodstuff and books. Those who are more extravagant can head down to Omotesando, which is further down from Harajuku. This is the famous district on which the most luxurious international brands, high end salons and classy restaurants can be found. Harajuku is densely packed on weekends but if you want to catch a glimpse of the famous Cosplayers, Sunday is the best time to do so at the Meiji Shrine near the station.
It is featured in almost every Japanese drama and is as much a romantic icon as well as a national icon. It may come as a surprise but the Tokyo Tower is in fact taller than its distant cousin in Paris. The illuminated Tower constitutes to one of the best night scenes in Tokyo while the best day and night scenes can be observed from inside the Tower. On a clear day, one can view as far out to Mount Fuji, which is more than 100km away.
At night, a sea of lights floods before your eyes, including the 570 metres-long Rainbow Bridge and the colourful giant ferris wheel in Odaiba. To enhance the enjoyment of visiting the Tower, live performances by well-known artistes happen every Wednesday and Thursday night to the tunes of jazz, R&B, and bossa nova.
Visitors can take in the beautiful scenery accompanied by beautiful music at no extra charge. With a trick art gallery, a hologram gallery, a wax museum, a Guiness World Records Museum and a selection of restaurants, Tokyo Tower is a good place to spend a day in.
Every year from late March to early April, the Sakura or Cherry Blossoms cover Tokyo like a thick coat of snow. It is during this period of 7 to 10 days that it is apparent how much the Japanese love this unofficial national flower. During non-flowering seasons, every tree in sight looks ordinary. But come Sakura season, you would be amazed by how nearly every tree in Tokyo appears to be a Cherry Blossom tree.
In Tokyo and throughout Japan, people take the art of appreciating these flowers seriously and would plan activities or outings around the blooms. Ueno Park, Shinjuku Gyoen and Chidorigabuchi are some of the best places for Cherry Blossom viewing.
Many Asian cultures revolve around food and Japan is no exception. In fact, the number of food establishments in Tokyo is higher than most metropolitan areas in the world. Many restaurants here specialise in one kind of food such as sushi, tempura, udon, tempura, ramen and curry. The cheapest meals can usually be found in vending machine-operated eateries where meal tickets are dispensed at around 300yen for a bowl of rice or noodles. A more expensive but exclusive option is omakase restaurants where the chef plans your menu consisting of 5 courses or more for an average fee of 5000yen per person. In between, there are many dining options that would not cost you more than what you are paying back home but such exquisite tastes can only be found in Japan.
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