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1. Greetings from Manami KOBAYASHI, the Tourism Representative of the City of Tokyo in San Francisco

Hello! This is my thirteenth year as a tourism representative of the City of Tokyo based in the San Francisco Bay Area. I cover the northern California and the northwest region of the United States including Oregon, Washington, Idaho, Montana, Wyoming, Colorado, North Dakota, South Dakota, Nebraska, Kansas, Minnesota, Iowa, Wisconsin and Missouri.

2. Introduction of Tokyo

Food

As the capital of Japan and one of the top gourmet cities in the world, Tokyo has a tremendous number of restaurants available to visitors. Variety is the key point, with a wide range of cuisines - limited not only to Japanese, but also French, Italian, Chinese, Vietnamese, and Mexican - available in Tokyo.
 It can sometimes be difficult to choose where to dine with such a large number of choices nearby, so I would like to introduce one of the recent trends in the industry to help narrow down the field. In the last several years, the chisan-chishou movement has been gaining popularity in Japan. This can be translated into “locally produced, locally consumed”, and it is similar to the “locavore” movement in the US. Eating locally produced, fresh, in-season food is good in terms of both health and ecological impact. Through this movement, people also learn about the traditional and historical aspects of their local produce, and come to realize and appreciate the importance of sustainability.
 The image of Tokyo tends to be of a concrete jungle; a city of skyscrapers amid a megalopolis desert. Because of this, many people assume that there can be no farms in Tokyo, and hence, no local produce. Wrong! There are a number of farms and fields on the outskirts of town for growing vegetables, and Tokyo Bay itself is still a very productive fishery.
 
The Tokyo Metropolitan Government has started issuing certificates to restaurants which purchase and use local Tokyo produce. Restaurants who apply to and are approved by the committee receive a wooden plaque certifying their commitment to using local produce. As of November 2016, there are a total of 313 restaurants certified as users of local Tokyo produce.These restaurants include not only those specializing in Japanese cuisine, but also variety of international cuisines.
When you dine in Tokyo, why not enjoy food created with locally produced ingredients?
(If you would like to receive a list of certified restaurants, please e-mail me.)

Architecture

In addition to being the capital of the worldwide dining scene, Tokyo can also be considered the capital of architecture and design. Name any world famous architect, and you will find examples of their work in Tokyo. No matter what district or region you visit, you come across at least a couple significant architectural structures there.
 If you want to do some sightseeing, shopping, dining, and architecture touring all at the same time, I recommend you go to either the Ginza district or Omotesando in the Aoyama area. Both of these areas have high concentrations of buildings designed by well-known architects.
In the Ginza district, you can see many notable buildings, including Swarovski Ginza (by Tokujin Yoshioka), the Shiseido Building (by Ricardo Bofill), Maison Hermes (by Renzo Piano), Mikimoto Ginza 2 (by Toyo Ito) and more.
 In the Aoyama-Omotesando area, you can see GYRE (by MVRDV), Dior (by SANAA), Louis Vuitton (by Jun Aoki), Spiral (by Fumihiko Maki), Prada (by Herzog & de Meuron), Watarium (by Mario Botta), the Omotesando Hills complex (by Tadao Ando), Miu Miu Aoyama (by Herzog & De Meuron), Oak Omotesando/Entrance Hall & Sahsya Kanetanaka (By Hiroshi Sugimoto), and Sunny Hills Minami-Aoyama (By Kengo Kuma).
 It is fascinating to wander around these areas because there are endless narrow backstreets filled with sleek and modern yet small buildings, as well as houses with unique details. Exploring the area on foot and coming across your favorite architecture will definitely make your day in Tokyo a special one. 

3. Recommended route by REP

Old & New

One of the biggest charms of Tokyo is seeing how old & new co-exist side by side in perfect harmony. The best way to understand and appreciate this contrast is to walk around the various neighborhoods and interact with the local people. Let me introduce my favorite neighborhoods  and a recommended route through them.
(I strongly recommend getting a private guide who can explain the Japanese lifestyle to you in more detail)

Imperial Palace East Gardens ~ old ~

Start at Tokyo Metro Takebashi Station (T08) on the Tozai Line: Exit 1a. It is about 5 minutes’ walk to A).

Before the Emperor moved to Tokyo from Kyoto in 1868, the Imperial Palace had been the Edo Castle, the Shogun Tokugawa Family’s residence. Most of sightseeing buses stop at the Imperial Palace Plaza where you just view the Main Gate Stone Bridge. Meanwhile, the Imperial Palace East Gardens is one of very few parts of the palace which is opened to the public with free of charge.

A) Hirakawa-mon Gate


One gate has lots to be told about its purpose, style and history.

At the East Gardens you can observe many remains of the Edo Castle era. The Hirakawa-mon Gate is a good example to see how the Shogun Tokugawa protected them from enemy raid. There are two separate gates surrounded by stone walls and this style is called “Masugata-mon”. You also find the small gate at the northeast corner. It is called “Fujoh-mon”, and any criminals and dead persons were carried out from this gate.

B) Bairin-zaka (Plum Tree Slope) ~ Tenshu-dai (the foundation of the main tower) ~ Honmaru Palace (where residential and governmental buildings were spread)

I recommend going up to the Tenshu-dai, and viewing the Honmaru Palace lawn area. If you have visited the Edo Tokyo Museum and saw the replica of Honmaru buildings beforehand, the images will be linked dramatically at here.

C) Ninomaru Garden
It is said that Enshu Kobori, who was Shogunate contractor, designed this garden. The style of the garden is called “Chi-sen-kaiyu-shiki”, which means that a pond in the center, and a path around the pond. It is beautifully maintained with many seasonal flowers. It is certainly an oasis in the middle of city. 

D) Ote-mon Gate
It was the main gate to the castle. The latest reconstruction took place in 1965-1967.

(Total approximately 40-60 minutes)


Ninomaru Garden, in the end of May. The combination of irises and azaleas is divine.

Yanaka-Nezu-Sendagi “YaNeSen”  ~ old ~

By Train:
From Tokyo Metro Ote-machi Station (C11) on the Chiyoda Line
Get off at Nezu Station (C14): Exit 1.  It is about 10 minutes’ walk to E).

I believe that the old & new concept cannot be fully experienced without paying a visit to Tokyo’s YaNeSen neighborhood. Unlike in the rest of the city, the Yanaka area was not affected by the WWII air raids, so many old houses, temples, and shops remain standing there unchanged.

E) Nedu Jinja (Nezu Shrine)
It is one of the best kept secret shrine in Tokyo. Its Chinese style gate, the two-story gate, the main sanctuary, the worship hall, the offering hall and Sukibei (lattice-windowed wall) are all original since 1706, hence are designated as Nationally Important Cultural Properties.
The highlight for visitors would be the Torii path. It is a great photo-ops spot. 


Torii path at the Nezu Shrine. This shrine is also famous for its massive azalea garden (in the mid-end of April).

F) Nezu Back Gate Street ~ Hebi-michi (snake-shape path) and other backstreets
Along the backstreets of this neighborhood, there are many small houses in which locals reside. The way in which the Japanese people living in this neighborhood cherish the life is evident from the tiny collection of potted plants arranged around each entrance. You might also be amazed by the Japanese parking ability when you come across cars parked in extremely tiny spaces.
You also find traditional/historical shops on the way. “Isetatsu” (Edo-era Paper) and “Kikumi Senbei”(rice cracker) are particularly famous and popular.

You can feel the locals’ everyday life by walking backstreets in YaNeSen neighborhood.

G) Finger Puppet Shokichi Studio
Since some TV programs (both in Japan and US) have featured; the Finger Puppet Shokichi Studio by Mr. Tsuyuki has gained its popularity quite a bit. But the uniqueness of his puppets and the quality of his performance are never changed. The performance (about 25 minutes long) is mostly done in silent motion with some BGM. So, non-Japanese speakers can also enjoy. (Closed: Mondays, Tuesdays and when Mr. Tsuyuki is on his business trip)

H) Yanaka Ginza
The name Ginza is often used for the main shopping strip of a local area. Yanaka Ginza is an approximately 200 yard length of street markets. Before big supermarkets appeared, this type of street market could be found in every neighborhood throughout Japan, but nowadays very few remain unchanged. Yanaka Ginza is among these. You are guaranteed to see many interesting local Japanese foods here, so plan enough time to explore and enjoy the local specialties!

Shibuya ~ new~

By Train:
From JR Nippori Station on the Yamanote Line, Inner Circle
Get off at Shibuya Station. 27 minutes’ ride.

By Taxi:
Catch a taxi at JR Nippori station to Shibuya. It costs about 4,220 JPY (41 USD). Some taxis accept payment by SUICA transportation card.
What is SUICA? It is a pre-paid e-money card which you can use for riding the JR lines, subways, buses, and even the monorail. SUICA can also be used for shopping at many registered shops and vending machines.

I) Shibuya scramble crossing ~ Hachi Statue
Because of its size, density of people and its chaotic atmosphere, the Shibuya scramble crossing is now a world famous visiting spot. My recommendation is that first you go to the see-through pedestrian roof inside the Shibuya station to view down the crossing, then go to the crossing and dive into the crowd.
If you have seen the movie “Hachi: A Dog’s Tale”, you would like to see the statue of Hachi which is at the Shibuya Station plaza. The nearest exit to the statue is also “Hachi-ko Exit”, so you never be lost.


Although more redevelopments are ongoing in Shibuya, this scramble crossing will never be gone, I believe.

J) Shopping and dining
Shibuya is packed with many department stores, shops, theatres, cafes and restaurants. Walking around the town is just fun. If you do not want to walk around so much, then go to Tokyu Department Toyoko Store (adjacent to JR Shibuya Station) and Shibuya Hikarie. You will be amazed by the variety of foods & sweets sold at the basement of these complexes.


It would be a good idea to have dinner at one of the restaurants at Shibuya Hikarie with nice night view of Shibuya.

4. Other recommended areas

【Aoyama, Harajuku】

Tokyo Metro Omotesando Station (C04/Z02/G02) on the Chiyoda, Hanzomon and Ginza Lines:  Exit A5, B3 or B4.

Nezu Museum

Sleek interior of the Nezu Museum

The Nezu Museum, which re-opened in October 2009 and exhibits pre-modern art from both Japan and other Asian countries, has two distinctive characteristics which make it a must-visit stop on your itinerary.
One of these is the new building. Designed by renowned Japanese architect, Kengo Kuma, the new building showcases the beauty of harmony between Japanese tradition and modernity. It is simply a stunning architectural achievement.
The other characteristic is the museum's garden. It is amazing to see this size of well-maintained Japanese garden in the middle of the metropolis. A long, narrow pond, many trees, stone-built ornaments, 4 historical tea houses (for pre-arranged tea ceremony only. Not open to the public), and a sleek café are situated within the garden grounds. Visitors can admire the beauty of their surroundings by strolling on stone-paved paths, and fully enjoy the seasonality and tranquility present here.


Beautiful garden of the Nezu Museum

● Minami-Aoyama ~ Omotesando

Minami-Aoyama (South Aoyama) is a high-end residential area, and the many commercial buildings alongside the main street are home to sophisticated high-end brands. The main street becomes Omotesando after intersecting Aoyama Street. Omotesando, which literally means “the front approach,” has been the main approach to Meiji Jingu since 1920. Now this boulevard, lined with zelkova trees, is home to many major high-end brand shops. As I mentioned previously, it is also a fascinating strip for lovers of architecture.
If you are looking for a break to enjoy something sweet, I recommend visiting R style Fine Japanese Confectioneries in the Omotesando Hills complex.

It is about a 20 minute-walk from the Nezu Museum to Omotesando Hills.

● Harajuku


The world-famous “Takeshita Dori” street

Take a right at the corner of Omotesando when you reach the white Ralph Lauren building. This street is known as Cat Street, and it is lined with many small shops and boutiques. You might notice a slight change in fashion among the people along this street.
This is because you are getting close to Harajuku, which is a mecca for the younger generation.
Take a left at the first small intersection and you will hit a major street, Meiji Dori. Across Meiji Dori is the start of the world-famous street Takeshita Dori (Takeshita Street).
Many young Japanese and visitors from overseas stroll along this street, and the atmosphere is one of upbeat excitement. You may be amazed at how the Japanese youth in this area dress. You may also be surprised to find how quiet and relatively deserted it is just one block off to the side of this street.
It is about a 15 minute-walk from Omotesando Hills to Takeshita Dori.
At the North end/entrance of Takeshita Dori, you will come across JR Harajuku Station, and Tokyo Metro Meiji-jingumae Station (C03/F15) on the Chiyoda and Fukutoshin Lines is also nearby.

【Tsukiji Market】

Tokyo Metro Tsukiji Station (H10) on the Hibiya Line: Exit 1 or 2
Toei Subway Tsukiji-shijo Station (E18) on the Oedo Line: Exit A1

The true charms of Tsukiji Market can be found in the Tsukiji Outer Market , the area north of the wholesale market. Here, there are more than 400 retail shops packed into an 8x3 block section. The outer market is open to both professionals and the public, and they handle not only seafood but also all kinds of food-related products. Since most professionals come to the Outer Market in the early morning, and the majority of popular products sell out quickly, I recommend that you visit the Outer Market in the morning. It is truly a foodie's paradise. Pick up some samples to try, and don't forget to talk with the shop workers while you are there. You will be fascinated with the variety, diversity, and versatility of Japanese food culture on display here.

(Although the wholesale market is going to be moved to the new location eventually, the Tsukiji Outer Market will stay strong at the same location.)


There are more than 70 shops selling seafood at the Tsukiji Outer Market.


Visitors see not only seafood but also all kinds of products,
like this ultra-fresh Wasabi roots.

 

1USD =  102.98 JPY
Monthly-Average TTS as of September 2016 on the Bank of Tokyo-Mitsubishi UFJ, Tokyo

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