The 2011 Michelin Guide to the restaurants in the area of Tokyo, Yokohama and Kamakura is out and features 46 hotels and 266 restaurants in total. A total of 320 stars were awarded to restaurants in Tokyo. Fourteen establishments received three stars, defined as having “exceptional cuisine and worthy of a special journey.” The total of 14 3-star restaurants (three more than last year) means that Tokyo continues to be the highest rated city in the world.
The Hotel Mets in Tokyo’s Shibuya district recently commissioned a group of artists to produce original and contemporary pieces sharing a common themed 'Shibuya' – creating four unique rooms with an artistic and vibrant experience for guests. Work on the rooms was completed on November 11 2010 and they are located on the hotel’s premium 14th floor.
To better serve its customers and provide an enhanced information service to foreign visitors, Tokyo Metro has been testing the use of iPads since December 1, 2010, at Omotesando and Ginza stations. The iPads provide information in English, Chinese and Korean, and offer an easy and convenient way for visitors to quickly understand how to get to where they want to go and points of interest at each location. At those two stations, the iPads have an app that allows station staff, foreign visitors and a call center interpreter to help with inquiries simultaneously. In addition to the iPad trial, other stations have, since August 2010, been assisting visitors looking for help by referring them to a call center that is open from 9 a.m. until 10 p.m.
http://www.tokyometro.jp/news/2010/pdf/metroNews20101125.pdf (Japanese only)
The Akihabara Tourism Promotion Association, a nonprofit organization, opened the Akihabara Tourist Information Center on December 9, 2010. The center promotes tours of Akihabara, Akihabara events, as well as providing information on shopping, pop culture and sightseeing. English, Chinese and Korean-speaking staff available.
A popular shopping street in Akihabara electronics and entertainment district became a pedestrian zone again on January 23 after being closed since 2008. A part of Chuo-dori street will be vehicle-free every Sunday afternoon on a trial basis that runs between 1 p.m. and 5 p.m until March and between 1 p.m. to 6 p.m from April until June.
The Palace Hotel Tokyo, which has stood near the Imperial Palace since 1961 and closed for total reconstruction in January 2009, will reopen its doors in spring of 2012. The revamped hotel, which has become a member of the exclusive LHW (Leading Hotels of the World group), will have 290 rooms, each at least 45 square meters, banquet and wedding facilities that can accommodate up to 1,500 people and a number of leisure amenities including a spa and pool. The hotel expects 60% of its guests to come from overseas.
The Super Shuttle service provides a dedicated bus services 4 to 5 times a day in each direction between Narita Airport, Ueno and Asakusa. As popular tourist locations, Ueno and Asakusa have a large number of hotels and the Super Shuttle service has announced that tickets will be just JPY1,000 (just over $10). Credit cards accepted.
Roppongi Art Night 2011 will take place March 26-27. The program will provide visitors with more diversified ways of enjoying the arts. In addition to extending the opening hours of cultural facilities, displaying installations outdoors and providing events on the streets, restaurant business hours and some bus operations after midnight will be extended for visitors’ convenience. Venues include Roppongi Hills, Mori Art Museum, Tokyo Midtown, Suntory Museum of Art, 21_21 DESIGN SIGHT and The National Art Center, Tokyo.
http://www.roppongiartnight.com (English site opens early March. )
The Tokyo Metropolitan Government will conduct city promotional campaigns in the two Spanish cities of Madrid and Barcelona. At the events, local travel agencies and businesses will interact with their counterparts from Tokyo to exchange information and promote Tokyo as a tour destination for Spanish people.
http://www.promocion-tokio2011.com/ (Spanish only)
In a move to further open up Japan’s leading medical care sector to those living overseas, the Japanese government has created a special visa category for those staying in the country for medical reasons. Previously, those wishing to take advantage of Japanese medical care were restricted in the amount of time they could spend in the country, discouraging many who needed longer periods of stay. The new visa is expected to change this and make it easier for those wishing to come for treatment.
Japan is famous for its state-of-the-art technology in many fields and Tokyo has many showrooms and museums open to the public, where you can see the latest innovations, from robots to communications devices.
The star attraction of Toyota’s Mega Web complex in Odaiba is the 120-cm-tall Toyota Partner Robot which can play the trumpet like a human - using its artificial lungs, robotic lips and fingers. The robot is housed in the Universal Design Showcase building. On weekdays, the robot plays at 3 p.m. and 5 p.m., and on weekends, at 1 p.m., 3 p.m. and 5 p.m. Mega Web is open daily from 11 a.m. until 9 p.m., while the Universal Design Showcase is open from 11 a.m. until 7 p.m. Staff can speak English, Chinese and Korean.
http://www.megaweb.gr.jp/Event/Robot/index.html (Japanese only)
Another robot that has become world famous is Honda’s Asimo. You can meet him at Honda Welcome Plaza
in Aoyama. Several times a day, staff put him through his paces. Asimo can serve food and drinks on a tray; it can step back and yield the right-of-way or continue to walk based on the predicted movement of oncoming people. Welcome Plaza is open from 10 a.m. until 6 p.m. It is on the 1st floor of the Honda Aoyama Bldg at Minami-Aoyama 2-1-1, right by Aoyama itchome subway station, Exit 5 . English guidance is available on request for group visits. For details, call +81-3-3423-4118 (an English speaker may not always be available).
http://www.honda.co.jp/welcome-plaza/ (Japanese only)
Asimo can also be seen at Miraikan (National Museum of Emerging Science and Innovation) in Odaiba, where he works as a Science Communicator at the museum. Other robots at Miraikan include Paro, a robot in the figure of a baby seal, whose focus is on providing comfort and enjoyment through interaction with humans. You can talk to and pet Paro. Halluc II is a machine capable of flexibly adapting to and traversing a wide range of surroundings and can comfortably coexist with the environment.
An amazing robot can capture the complex human movement of recognizing a ball by visual contact and can actually catch a thrown ball in flight with its visual system and robotic hands both integrating with high-speed reactions. At Miraikan, robot scientists answer questions such as “What are the possibilities of future robots?”
At the Vstone Robot Center
, located in Akihabara, which specializes in the research, development and manufacture of omnidirect sensors and robots, you can see the two-legged Robovie-X, a hobby robot that can fire missiles, play soccer, do acrobatics and play dress-up. It is powered by 17 servomotors and controlled wirelessly. It can also be used for educational purposes for students of mechanics and engineering. The center is open from 11 a.m. until 8 p.m. on weekdays and from 10:30 a.m. until 7 p.m. on weekends and holidays.
Miraikan features many hands-on exhibits that allow visitors to interact with science. Its four permanent themes are “The Earth Environment and Frontiers,” “Innovation and the Future,” “Information Science and Technology for Society,” and “Life Science.”
“The Earth Environment and Frontiers” deals with exploration of Earth and other planets, using advanced technology to help us live and work in extreme environments such as deep sea and outer space, and building a sustainable society. “Innovation and the Future” looks at the world of robots, and how humans - from ancient times until today - have continued to advance through the repetition of the process of imagination and creation. “Information Science and Technology for Society” explains the transmission of information on the Internet and links creativity, information technology and new media. “Life Science” explores the evolutionary tree for the evolution of organisms and through a specimen of human chromosomes, as well as the function of the human brain.
Miraikan also has Special exhibitions. Current and upcoming themes are: “Theo Jansen - Creation of Life - The new possibilities created by physics and art,” The “Young Alive! - iPS Cells for a New Future” and the Tsunagari Project, which consists of a giant globe that shows the most realistic image of the Earth.
The symbol exhibit Geo-Cosmos (seen in photo at top) is undergoing renovation and will be recreated as a symbol that collects and transmits information on sustainability held by various countries and research institutes of the world. It will open in March.
At all the permanent and special exhibits at Miraikan, visitors are able to communicate with scientists and researchers. English-speaking guides are available.
Watch, listen, touch and try the latest products from the Sony showroom
in Ginza. Six floors of the building showcase Sony’s greatest technological offerings. There is an interactive consultation counter where you can get advice on how to use Sony products and connect to networks. You can learn everything from digital camera use to processing photos and editing videos on you computer. There is also a Sony store on the 4th floor where you can purchase products. English-speaking staff are available.
The Panasonic Center in Odaiba embodies Panasonic’s vision to bring about innovation in lifestyles and business with eco ideas for the earth. It serves as a vehicle for communications, receiving opinions and requests directly from customers while presenting actual products and services. Visitors can see the latest products and technologies including cameras, TV screens, computers, home appliances and concept products not yet available on the market.
Part of the center is RiSuPia
, which is an experience-oriented museum for visitors to experience the fun of science and mathematics. In the Quest Gallery, you can view models depicting the principles and rules of science and mathematics. Turn Risu-Earth and you'll meet many different inventors. Explore the history of scientific and mathematic discoveries from ancient times until the present day. On the Discovery floor, you can enjoy hands-on exhibits of sound and illumination. At the Magical Performance Theater, you jump into the world of numbers and figures. Experience the worlds of science mathematics with three-dimensional image and learn how many different rules of mathematics are hidden in the world of nature.
English and Chinese-speaking staff are available.
The Toto New Material Design Showcase
has all the latest innovations for high-tech kitchens, plumbing and bathrooms that give you a great idea of what a contemporary Japanese home looks like, if you can’t visit one yourself. There’s lots of automation; the toilet lids that automatically lift when you approach are cool. The washlet technology incorporates a unique wand that allows water to be used for personal cleaning in a way that leads to a completely new level of hygiene and comfort. The warm water cleans far more effectively than paper ever could. Its temperature and flow are easily adjusted by remote control, and the wand self-cleans before and after every use. The showcase is open daily, except Wednesdays, from 10 a.m. until 5 p.m. English-speaking staff are not available, but foreign visitors are welcome. It is located on the 27th floor of Shinjuku L Tower at Nishi-Shinjuku 1-6-1, near Shinjuku
Station’s west exit.
http://www.toto.co.jp/products/tnm/showroom/ (Japanese only)
At NTT InterCommunications Center near Shinjuku, the exhibits and exhibitions utilize the newest electronic technologies to create virtual and interactive art works such as digital films, online interviews and performances, and computer generated art. English-speaking staff are available. The center is open daily from 11 a.m. until 6 p.m., except Mondays.
Sony Explora Science
is a high-tech entertainment center at Mediage at Aqua City near Odaiba Station. In the hands-on science hall, you can learn how technologies are applied to electronic items, as well as games, music and film. You can see face recognition methods using a computer, experience shadow puppets, experience a change in your perception of color, try SmartSkin, a sensor technology that measures the positions of the people touching a table and interacting with your image on a mirror. Group reservations are OK and there are staff available who speak English, Chinese and Korean.
Exhibitions at TEPIA Plaza’s Machine Industry Memorial Foundation
focus on how advanced technology is applicable to modern living. There are five main exhibits – Communications in Our Lives, Health and Medical Care, Cities and Mobility, Environment and Energy/Resources, and A Small World and High Performance materials. In the lobby, visitors can view a thermographic camera that lets them see their own body surface temperature, a home assistance robot and a hands-on exhibit featuring the latest in face recognition technology, as well as gender and age analysis techniques. There is also a Techno Studio where visitors can take part in experiments and try out innovative gadgets. English speakers are available. The hall, which is located near Gaienmae Station, Aoyama, is open from 10 a.m. until 6 p.m. from Monday to Friday, and from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturdays, Sundays and holidays.
Of all Tokyo's many great fireworks festivals, the Sumida festival is the oldest, stretching back to the Edo period. Japanese people who attend today still wear traditional yukata and jin bei (traditional clothing worn by men in summer) and the festival itself features 2 famous fireworks companies, Hosoya and Marutamaya, competing for the eyes of onlookers with their respective displays. It will be held in late July.
This festival, which takes place in early August, is one of the most spectacular displays to take place during the summer season. The main viewing site in Harumi is restricted to those who purchase tickets. However, the fireworks are clearly visible from a number of other vantage points in the vicinity.
Bringing a touch of carnival to the streets of Tokyo, the Asakusa Samba Festival takes place close to Sensoji Temple. Held at the end of August, it is an all-day event that celebrates the ties between Brazil and Japan and features colorful street parties and parades, food stalls and a variety of sideshows.
http://www.asakusa-samba.jp/top.htm (Japanese only)
Ever wondered about names of areas in Tokyo?
For example, Roppongi was named around 1660 for six large pine trees used to mark the area. But another legend has it that the name comes from the fact that six daimyo (feudal lords) lived nearby during the Edo period, each with the kanji character for “tree” or a kind of tree in their names.
Then there is Ochanomizu (literally meaning “tea water”), which was named after the nearby Kanda River, from which water was extracted to make the shogun’s tea during the Edo period. A stone monument and bamboo tube near the police box in front of JR Ochanomizu Station, West exit, marks the spot.
Visitors to Ginza may not know that it was named after the silver coin mint established there in 1612. A monument to the mint stands on the main Ginza street just 3 minutes’ walk from Ginza station on Subway Ginza, Hibiya and Marunouchi lines.
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