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1. Greetings from Shin KAWAI, the Tourism Representative of the City of Tokyo in TORONTO, CANADA

Konnichiwa! Hello. Through this section, I hope to help you discover the many fascinating faces of my hometown of Tokyo. Over the years, Tokyo has evolved into one of most exciting travel destinations in the world. Let me take you on a journey of discovery.

 

2. How to Best Plan Your Visit to Tokyo

It’s difficult to sum up tourism in Tokyo in few words. Tokyo is a constantly evolving city with many faces and deciding how to enjoy yourself can present a real challenge. My suggestion is to come up with your favourite travel theme and build a bespoke itinerary. For those seeking to enjoy the numerous charms of the city, I suggest developing a number of themes before starting your journey.

For example there’s SUSHI. Food is a mirror that reflects a country’s culture. A sushi tasting tour of Tokyo is one way to spend your time and it’s exciting just to think about such a trip! GO TOKYO, the official Tokyo tourism website, would be a good place to start your search or dig deeper and scour popular Japan travel blogs. If sushi is not enough, try pairing that up with YAKITORI or RAMEN.

Even if only a bit of English gets through, you may end up with a new friend after a drink with your neighbour at a Japanese-style char-grilled chicken shop. And connecting with the locals over food and drink will surely make for a memorable experience. At almost any popular tourist spot (Shinjuku, Shibuya, Ueno, Ginza), ramen noodle shops and izakayas line the streets. You can easily drop into one while sightseeing.

In line with the theme of “food”, there is ORGANIC FOOD. Organic food has become somewhat of a trend in Tokyo. There are more and more restaurants in Tokyo using healthy ingredients directly sourced from local organic farms. A quick net query for “Organic Restaurants in Tokyo” will yield plenty of information.

PEOPLE is another theme with endless possibilities. Mingling with the locals – friendly and kind strangers, salespeople who pride themselves on their impeccable service, spirited young izakaya patrons, and summer festival goers decked out in yukatas, is one of the best aspects of travelling. Stroll through “Shitamachi”, the old districts, where you will find unique artisan shops, apothecaries, and perhaps a small 5-seater café boasting the best coffee in Tokyo. As you explore Shitamachi and catch a glimpse of the locals’ daily lives, you might unexpectedly stumble upon a fresh face of Tokyo.

For those who crave more thrilling encounters, people-watching at Shibuya Crossing is a must. Also not to be missed is the “World Fastest Cleaning Crew” at Tokyo Station; they clean an entire Shinkansen (bullet train) to perfection in a mere 7 minutes. Witnessing Japanese morning rush hour in Shinjuku around 8 a.m. might also be interesting; the experience will certainly be uniquely Tokyo and not found anywhere else.

Interactions with animals can also be the focal point of your trip. Where else in the world does a cat get to become stationmaster but in Japan? In popular tourist destinations such as Kichijoji and Shibuya, there are many cat cafés. These are popular with young women and couples, but they have also garnered attention overseas and are now routinely frequented by tourists. In addition to cat cafés, owl cafés have also gained popularity. Enjoying your book over coffee with an owl sounds like a lovely way to spend some time in Tokyo.

People think of Tokyo as a cosmopolitan city packed with soaring skyscrapers, but there is another side of the city - NATURE. There is lush nature to be found in the Oku-Tama area, located in the western portion of Tokyo towards Yamanashi. Mount Takao is a renowned tree-watching mecca where you will find the widest variety of trees in the world. It has long served as a sacred spot, with a shrine at its peak where it is said people prayed to the sacred Mount Fuji. The lesser-known Ogasawara Islands are a UNESCO World Heritage Site. These islands are a haven for outdoor enthusiasts where you can enjoy whale watching and diving.

You can also take in the arts and theater, travel through history, and visit areas famed as movie shoot locations.

You may be surprised to know it’s also possible to enjoy hot springs in Tokyo! Start your search with GO TOKYO.

MUSIC is yet another theme that is not to be overlooked. Kichijoji and Shimokitazawa are popular hangout spots for young people. Here, you will find several places to casually enjoy live music. And don’t forget to find out who is playing at the Budokan! You may catch that BABYMETAL concert you missed in Toronto. There are numerous events in Tokyo where traditional shamisen, shakuhachi, and Japanese classical gagaku music performers collaborate with musicians from various genres. Music makes it possible to enjoy communicating without words.

And, of course, you can’t forget POKEMON. Why not play Pokémon GO while visiting Tokyo? You will have a chance to meet Pokémon GO players from around the globe.

First, chose your theme, do a little digging, and discover “Your own TOKYO”.

 

3.Exploring Old Tokyo: Shitamachi

The old town of Tokyo Shitamachi is a historical area amid the modern city, situated along the Sumida River. It will take at least a day to fully explore the bustling and charming districts originally settled by merchants and working class people during the Edo era (1600’s to 1800’s).

Shitamachi is where the old and new gracefully coexist.

Located in Sumida, the 634 meter tall Skytree is a new broadcasting and observation tower that opened its door to the public in 2012. Visitors ascend to the Tembo Deck at 350 m above the ground, where they can see up to 70 km away on a clear day. At 450 m, the Tembo Galleria will have the visitors believe that they are “walking in the sky.”

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Asakusa is one of the most popular tourist destinations in Tokyo, known for Sensoji, a Buddhist temple built in the 7th centry. The temple is best approached through the Kaminarimon (Thunder Gate) and Nakamise-Dori, a street lined with merchants that have been providing visitors with old-fashioned, local snacks and souvenirs for centuries. If you venture off into another alley, you will find small eateries serving traditional fare. This is where you will find the best unagi (barbequed freshwater eel) restaurants, whose menus typically consist of just three items: Small, medium and large Unaju (unagi on rice in a box).

Visitors can also experience traditional entertainment such as a Kabuki performance at Kabukiza Theatre in Ginza and a sumo wrestling match in Ryogoku Kokugikan.

Ueno Park is an urban green oasis known for its cherry blossoms (late March – early April) with over 1000 cherry trees lining its main pathway. There are several museums, including the National Science Museum, as well as a zoo and the picturesque Shinobazu Pond within the park.

Tsukiji Market, known as the Tokyo’s kitchen, is a large wholesale market for fish, fruits and vegetables, where over 2,000 tons of marine products are handled each day.

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