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About Tokyo

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Visiting Spots in Tokyo

Tokyo

Tokyo is a thriving city that serves as the heart of the country's culture, economy and government. It is a metropolis in which elegant traditional elements blend in with the bustle of modern day living, where East meets West in harmony and where the skyline and the streets continue to be reshaped by the needs and desires of its ever-growing population.

Marunouchi

Ultra-modern buildings and super chic stores line the streets of Marunouchi. One of the many cities within the metropolis of Tokyo, Marunouchi is served by many train lines that converge at the nearby Tokyo station and acts as a hub not only for upscale shopping, but also for business and government.

Imperial Palace / Nijubashi

The Imperial Palace plaza is a grand area flanked by the steep slopes of the palace moat extending from the east side of the palace to the edge of the Marunouchi business district. Take a walk by the green lawns and pine groves that line the road running through the middle of the plaza, visit the fountain on the north side commemorating the marriage of the Emperor and Empress, or view the bronze statue of Kusunoki Masashige, a 14th-century samurai warrior renowned for his loyalty to the emperor.

二重橋

How to get there

  • 5-minute walk from Nijubashimae station on the Chiyoda line
  • 5-minute walk from Exit 2 of Hibiya subway station on the Mita line
  • 8-minute walk from Exit B6 of Hibiya subway station on the Yurakucho line

Tokyo Station

The distinctive red brick architecture of Tokyo Station stands out against the glass and steel of the city. Originally built in 1914 and then rebuilt in 1947, the building has been given official status as a property of cultural importance and was finally restored to match its original appearance in 2012. Visitors can also stay at the popular hotel housed within the station building.

東京駅

How to get there

  • Tokyo Station can be reached via JR train lines and the Marunouchi line
Asakusa / Ryogoku

The City of Tokyo was originally known as Edo and the area of Asakusa and Ryogoku still retain that same historic atmosphere. Take a walk here and step back in time while visiting the many stores selling traditional items.

Sensoji Temple

Sensoji is the oldest and most impressive temple in all of Tokyo. Its main hall was built in the year 645 to house a miniature golden statue of Kannon, the goddess of mercy, which had been hauled up in a fishing net after being lost in the river some time before. This same statue ostensibly remains in the main hall today, though it is considered a sight too holy to be viewed by the masses. The present building is a reconstruction of the original, which was destroyed in the air raids of March 10, 1945 and the surrounding precincts bustle with people praying, buying o-mikuji papers bearing their fortune, shopping or sightseeing. Many others are drawn to the temple for the curative powers of the incense that burns in a giant bronze urn in front of the main hall. Such visitors can be seen rubbing the smoke on their joints in the hope of easing their aches and pains.

浅草寺

How to get there

  • 5-minute walk from the North Exit of Asakusa station on the Tobu Isesaki line
  • 8-minute walk from Exit 1 of Asakusa subway station on the Ginza line
  • 10-minute walk from Exit 4/5 of Asakusa subway station on the Asakusa line

Nakamise Shopping Street

Nakamise is one of the oldest shopping streets in Japan and extends 250 meters from the front of Sensoji temple. It dates from the late 17th century, when local people were first granted the special right to open shops selling wares such as toys, sweets, snacks and souvenirs along the promenade to the temple. The original street was destroyed in the Great Kanto Earthquake of 1923 and again in the air raids of 1945. Rebuilt once again, the Nakamise of today still features shops selling traditional knick-knacks, rice crackers and festival food and retains the same blend of color, motion, and vitality as it did in the days of old Edo.

仲見世通り

How to get there

  • 5-minute walk from the North Exit of Asakusa station on the Tobu Isesaki line
  • 8-minute walk from Exit 1 of Asakusa subway station on the Ginza line
  • 10-minute walk from Exit 4/5 of Asakusa subway station on the Asakusa line

Edo-Tokyo Museum

Established in 1993, the Edo-Tokyo Museum takes visitors on a journey through time, using life-sized replicas and detailed scale models of sights such as the Kabuki Theater, Edo Castle and Nihonbashi Bridge to show how the 15th-century village of Edo grew to become one of the largest cities in the world. What's more, the museum is pleased to welcome international visitors with English-language explanations of exhibits, headsets and English-speaking tour guides. And as if the exhibits weren't enough, the museum itself is housed in a futuristic building that stands 62.2 meters tall—the same height as the tallest tower of Edo castle. With a total area of about 30,000 square meters, it's more than twice as spacious as the playing field of Tokyo Dome!

How to get there

  • 3-minute walk from then West Exit of JR Ryogoku station
  • 1-minute walk from Exit A4 of Ryogoku subway station on the Oedo line
Akihabara / Ueno

Akihabara

Akihabara is where you'll find bustling streets of specialty shops packed with the latest electrical appliances and pop culture items. Because it's an area that blends the old with the new, it's as pleasurable to walk around as it is to shop in.

Electric Town

The Akihabara electric town is a wonderland for electronics and computer buffs. Practically any appliance you can think of can be found on sale here, from hardware to software, to parts and second-hand goods. Many of these electronics goods can be bought for surprisingly reasonable prices. And even if the prices aren't so reasonable, Akihabara is a place where you can haggle and there are many shops that offer a duty-free service to make things even more affordable for foreign visitors.

電気街

How to get there

  • Short walk from the Electric City Exit of JR Akihabara station
  • 5-minute walk from Exit 3 of Akihabara subway station on the Hibiya line
  • 5-minute walk from Exit 1 or 2 of Suehirocho subway station on the Ginza line

Musical Instrument Area

If making music is your passion, you can find a fantastic range of shops selling musical instruments and sheet music on the street that runs from the West Exit of Ochanomizu station to Yasukuni station.

How to get there

  • Short walk from the West Exit of JR Ochanomizu station
  • 5-minute walk from Exit 2 of Ochanomizu subway station on the Marunouchi line
  • 1-minute walk from Exit B1 of Shin-Ochanomizu subway station on the Chiyoda line

Ueno

Watch history and culture come to life in Ueno—a lively downtown spot that also features Ueno Park and a fascinating selection of museums.

Ameyoko

The streets leading from JR Ueno station to Okachimachi station are packed with stores offering clothes, miscellaneous goods, fresh fish and dried foods.

アメ横

How to get there

  • Short walk from the underground exit of JR Ueno/Okachimachi station or Keisei Ueno station
    on the Keisei line
  • Ueno-Okachimachi subway station on the Oedo line
  • Ueno-Hirokoji subway station on the Ginza line
Shinjuku / Shibuya

Shinjuku

Shinjuku is the vibrant, beating heart of the Tokyo metropolis. Its west side has towering skyscrapers, while its east side is one of the most crowded places in all of Tokyo. Shinjuku also has a south side with a scattering of tourist and entertainment spots just waiting for you to find them.

Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building

The cathedral-like Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building is a strong symbol of the Tokyo government. Designed by Japan's eminent postwar architect—Kenzo Tange—and completed in 1990, the building is Japan's fourth tallest at a breathtaking 296 meters. At the 33rd floor, the 48-storey building splits into two symmetrical towers and there are rapid elevators ready to whisk visitors up and away to the observation deck of each in just 55 seconds. Advanced technology also extends to the safety of the building, with special shock-absorbing pillars and posts specially designed to protect the structure in the event of an earthquake. There are so many reasons to visit the building, and here are just a few to get you started—the panoramic view is spectacular, Mt. Fuji and Yokohama are both visible on a clear day, and entrance to the building is completely free of charge!

How to get there

  • Short walk from Exit A4 of Tochomae subway station on the Oedo line
  • 10-minute walk from the West Exit of JR Shinjuku station

Kabukicho

Kabukicho is a unique entertainment district in Shinjuku, filled with interesting restaurants, movie theaters, games arcades and more.

How to get there

  • 3-minute walk from Seibu Shinjuku station
  • 5-minute walk from Exit B10-13 of Shinjuku subway station on the Marunouchi line
  • 8-minute walk from the East Exit of JR Shinjuku station
  • 10-minute walk from Shinjuku station on the Keio/Odakyu line

Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden

Originally created as a garden for the Royal Family in 1906, Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden is a national park that brings Japanese and European styles of gardening together in harmony.

新宿御苑

How to get there

  • 5-minute walk from Shinjuku-Gyoenmae subway station on the Marunouchi line
  • 5-minute walk from JR Sendagaya station
  • 5-minute walk from Shinjuku 3-chome subway station on the Shinjuku line
  • 5-minute walk from Kokuritsukyogijo subway station on the Oedo line
  • 10-minute walk from the South Exit of JR Shinjuku station

Shibuya

A chic part of town where the latest trends are born, Shibuya continues to capture the interest and imagination of Japan's young generation.

Meiji Jingu Shrine

Meiji Jingu is a Shinto shrine dedicated to Emperor Meiji and his wife, Empress Shoken—the great-grandparents of Japan's current emperor—who passed away in 1912 and 1914, respectively. Built in 1920, the shrine comprises three areas: the inner precincts known as the Naien, which are centered on the shrine buildings; the outer precincts known as the Gaien, which include sports facilities and the Meiji Memorial Picture Gallery; and the Meiji Memorial Hall. The shrine sprawls across 700,000 square meters of forest land containing 120,000 trees representing 365 species that were donated by people from all over Japan. The shrine is so impressive, it's no surprise that sumo wrestlers come here to give a demonstration bout to commemorate their arrival at the high rank of Grand Champion. The shrine is so beautiful and serene, it also serves as a spiritual home for the Japanese.

明治神宮

How to get there

  • 1-minute walk from JR Harajuku station
  • 1-minute walk from Exit 1 or 2 of Meijijingumae subway station on the Chiyoda line
  • 5-minute walk from Odakyu Sangubashi station
Roppongi

A creative cultural and information center where you can feel the buzz of cosmopolitan Tokyo.

Tokyo Midtown

Tokyo Midtown is like a small city inside a single building, housing around 130 places of interest including fashion stores, restaurants, offices, and even a hotel.

How to get there

  • Directly connected to Roppongi station on the Toei Oedo line
  • Directly connected to Exit 8 of Roppongi station
  • Via the Exit 4A underpass/3-minute walk from Exit 3 of Nogizaka station on the Chiyoda line

Roppongi Hills

A cultural mega-complex, Roppongi Hills boasts around 230 shops and restaurants, a multiplex cinema, residential apartments, a hotel, a TV station, an observatory, and even an art museum. You can also get one of the best bird's eye views of Tokyo from the open-air rooftop Sky Deck.

How to get there

  • Exit 1C of Roppongi subway station on the Hibiya line
  • 5-minute walk from Exit 3 of Roppongi subway station on the Oedo line
  • 5-minute walk from Azabujuban Subway station on the Oedo line
  • 8-minute walk from Exit 4 of Azabujuban subway station on the Namboku line

The National Art Center

A new concept in art spaces, the National Art Center has no collections of its own, but it does offer one of the largest exhibition spaces in the whole country (14,000 m2). However, this is more than just a space. Think of it instead as a place with incredible capacity to bring together people, share information, and promote learning—all in the name of art!

How to get there

  • Exit 6 (directly connected to the center) of Nogizaka station on the Tokyo Metro Chiyoda line
  • 5-minute walk from Exit 4a of Roppongi station on the Tokyo Metro Hibiya line
  • 4-minute walk from Exit 7 of Roppongi station on the Toei Oedo subway line
Shiodome / Shiba / Takeshiba

The bay area provides a special vantage point from which you can take in the sights of modern Tokyo and traditional Edo at once. Take a cruise across the bay and begin your journey to even more shopping and dining destinations.

Tokyo Tower

At a height of 333 meters—a full 13 meters more than the Eiffel tower—Tokyo tower is the world's tallest self-supporting iron structure. Its uppermost observation deck offers a spectacular view of Ginza, Tokyo Bay, Yokohama, and Mt. Fuji and it was originally built as a broadcast tower in 1958. The tower still remains functional today as a relay tower for five FM radio stations and nine TV stations, while attracting visitors to its many attractions such as the aquarium on the first floor, the waxworks museum, and the mysterious zone of hologram technology on the third floor. Beautifully illuminated and visible from far away, the tower acts as a familiar landmark both day and night.

東京タワー

How to get there

  • 5-minute walk from the Akabanebashi Exit of Akabanebashi subway station on the Oedo line
  • 6-minute walk from Exit A1 of Onarimon subway station on the Mita line
  • 7-minute walk from Exit 1 of Kamiyacho station on the Tokyo Metro Hibiya line
  • 10-minute walk from Exit A6 of Daimon Subway station on the Asakusa line or Oedo line

Zojoji Temple

Founded in 1393 as a fundamental nembutsu seminary of the Jodoshu School in east Japan, Zojoji later became the family temple of the Tokugawa shogunate. The wooden gate of the temple remains as an original piece crafted in the early 17th century and has been designated as an important cultural property of Japan.

増上寺

How to get there

  • 3-minute walk from Exit A1 of Onarimon subway station on the Mita line
  • 6-minute walk from Exit A6 of Daimon subway station on the Asakusa/Oedo line
  • 10-minute walk from JR Hamamatsucho station

Water Bus

The water bus whisks you off across Tokyo bay, passing by a number of key spots along the banks of the Sumida river.

How to get there

  • Hinode Office: 2-minute walk from Hinode station on the Yurikamome line
  • 8-minute walk from the South Exit of JR Hamamatsucho station
  • 10-minute walk from Exit B2 of the Daimon subway station on the Asakusa/Oedo line

Hamarikyu Gardens

These beautiful gardens were originally created for the Tokugawa Shogun family and are famous for the "Shioiri-no-ike" pond and two duck ponds within. These are the only remaining examples of tidewater ponds in Tokyo, with the Shioiri pond having been cleverly designed to achieve a landscape that transforms with the ebb and flow of the tide.

How to get there

  • 7-minute walk from Tsukiji-shijo subway station or 5-minute walk from Shiodome Subway station
    on the Oedo line
  • 5-minute walk from Shiodome station on the Yurikamome line
  • 15-minute walk from JR Hamamatsu-cho station
  • 12-minute walk from JR/Subway Shimbashi station on the Asakusa/Ginza line
  • By Water-bus (from Asakusa to Hamarikyu)/Water line (Ryogoku – Hamarikyu)
Odaiba

One of the most breathtaking places from which to view the Tokyo bay, this waterfront complex offers all kinds of entertainment, a multitude of shopping opportunities, and an incredible range of dining options.

Rainbow Bridge

Cross the water to Odaiba and enjoy the view by taking the promenade of the 918 meter Rainbow suspension bridge.

How to get there

Access to the promenade entrance:

  • Shibaura side/5-minute walk from Shibaura Futo station on the Yurikamome line
  • Odaiba side/15-minutewalk from Odaiba Kaihin Koen station on the Yurikamome line

Fuji TV Headquarters

Enjoy an incredible 270-degree panorama of Tokyo bay from the 100 meter high spherical observatory of the Fuji TV headquarters and take home a souvenir or two from one of the shops inside.

How to get there

Access to the promenade entrance:

  • 3-minute walk from Daiba station on the Yurikamome line
  • 5-minute walk from Tokyo Teleport station on the Rinkai line

PAGE TOP

Visiting Spots in Another City

KANTO: TOCHIGI / NIKKO

Toshogu Shrine

After consolidating its power, Japan's ancient shogunate began embracing the most sophisticated techniques in architecture, engineering and numerous other crafts. The Toshogu shrine is a shining example of these advances. Completed in 1636 by Iemitsu, the third Tokugawa shogun and dedicated to Ieyasu, the founder of the Tokugawa Shogunate, the shrine's opulent design employing gold and silver reflects the desire for the shogunate to sparkle for an eternity in the Japanese memory. Be sure to take a look at the panel above the sacred horse stable, which bears the well-known carving of three monkeys covering their eyes, ears, and mouth to symbolize the saying, "See no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil." Take in the beauty of the area for yourself and you'll understand why the Japanese say, "Don't say kekko (wonderful) without seeing Nikko."

日光東照宮

Rinnoji Temple

Built in 1648, Rinnoji is one of the few original temples remaining in Nikko. It is located by the side of the main approach to Toshogu Shrine and its main hall is the largest historical structure in the area. Inside the expansive main hall are three gilded wooden Buddhist images—each standing more than 8 meters tall. There is also the thousand-handed Kannon to your right as you enter, Amida-Nyorai in the center, and Bato Kannon on the left. Surprisingly, this is also the place where Ulysses S. Grant stayed for eight days during a round-the-world trip in 1879.

Kegon Falls

Fed by Lake Chuzenji, Kegon Falls sends water cascading down a 97-meter sheer rock face. The falls are reputed to be among the most spectacular and most photographed in all of Japan and visitors can even take an elevator all the way down to the bottom. The falls also have a dark side, becoming known as a place for suicides ever since a philosophy student jumped from the top 1893. In the years since, as many as 1,600 other people have leapt to their deaths and some visitors have even claimed to find ghostly images in their photographs of the falls.

華厳の滝

Lake Chuzenji

Nikko became a popular summer retreat for Western envoys and merchants living in Japan after the country opened its borders to trade in the 19th century. Soon enough, members of the Imperial Family and other aristocrats began building their houses there and Nikko was transformed into a center for cross-cultural socializing during the hot summer months. Eventually, as the summer population moved progressively further from the center of Nikko in search of tranquility and better views, the area around Lake Chuzenji became popular as a resort and fishing spot. This lake is typical of the many high-altitude lakes that can be found in Japan and is especially noted for the beautiful leaves that line its shore in autumn. It's not surprising that the lake has always been popular among Europeans since many feel it resembles the Lake District of England in terms of both climate and scenic beauty.

Futarasan Shrine

Just a short distance from Toshugu Shrine is Futarasan Shrine—a spiritual place dedicated to the three Shinto deities. It features a bronze torii gate that stands 6.6 meters high as well as an Oratory and a Main hall that have both been declared Important Cultural Properties. There is also an antique bronze lantern—called the Goblin Lantern—that stands at the southwest corner of the fence around the Main Hall. According to legend, it used to transform into a goblin, and received a couple of slashes from a swordsman while in goblin form. Those scratches can still be seen on the lantern as proof of the legend. What's more, there is also a large umbrella pine that stands by the oratory which is purported to have been planted by Saint Kobo.

KANAGAWA / YOKOHAMA

Chinatown

Yokohama's Chinatown is the largest in Japan, with roughly 200 restaurants and 18 million visitors per year! It is also the home of oldest temple, the Kuang Di Miao Temple, which was rebuilt after a fire in 1986. The Chinese first settled in the area in the 1860s, not long after Yokohama was opened to trade with Western nations in 1859. These original Chinese settlers ran businesses that catered to the foreign merchants and it's only been in the past few decades that restaurants have become the mainstay of the area. The oldest restaurant in the area is the Heichinro, which has been in continuous operation since 1887. You can also find several branches of restaurants made famous in Hong Kong and other places. But it's not all classic Chinese fare. In fact, the dishes of Beijing, Shanghai, Szechuan, and Taiwan are all well represented here, too.

横浜中華街

Landmark Tower

In 1993, the 296-meter high, 70-story Yokohama Landmark Tower opened as Japan's tallest building. Take a trip skyward in the world's fastest elevator, which will whisk you up to the 69th floor observatory in just 40 seconds. From there, you can take in glorious views of Mt. Fuji, the Tanzawa Mountains, the Boso Peninsula, and Tokyo while feeling secure in the knowledge that the tower has been specially designed to withstand the region's many earthquakes. When you are ready to descend again, it's worth visiting the Old Yokohama Dock No.2 building that stands by its base. Built in 1896, this old warehouse has since been transformed into an event plaza renamed Dock Yard Garden.

横浜ランドマークタワー

Sankeien

Sankeien is a garden in which you can make your own walking tour around a range of architectural masterpieces. A silk merchant by the name of Hara Tomitaro originally created the garden in the image of the Nara countryside and the garden was officially opened to the public in 1906. Over the years, the garden's attractions grew as Hara scoured the ancient capitals for buildings. In 1907, the 16th century Tokei-ji temple was moved to the garden. In 1914, the oldest pagoda in Kanto the three-storied pagoda of Kyoto's Tomyo-ji arose from the tip of the garden's high ground. This latter addition is particularly remarkable as it is the oldest pagoda in the Kanto region, dating back to the mid-15th century. Sankeien also offers the chance to see Hara's own private garden, which he created under the inspiration of the eminent priest Muso Kokushi (1275-1351) and which was opened to the public in 1958.

HAKONE

The Komagatake Ropeway

Travel to the top of Mt. Komagatake via a cable car on the Komagatake Ropeway for an unrivalled view of Mt. Fuji, Lake Ashi, Mt. Futago and the mountains of the distant Izu Peninsula. At the summit of the 1,327-meter-high mountain is the Hakone Komagatake Skating Center, with both indoor and outdoor rinks. There is also the Hakone picnic garden at the western base of the mountain with lush grassy hills of alpine plants, wild azaleas and rhododendrons.

Lake Ashi Excursion Boat

At the beautiful lake Ashi, you can take a trip across the water on large vessels modeled after European pirate ships. The lake itself is actually a volcanic crater with a circumference of nearly 18 kilometers. In the days of autumn, the deck is an ideal place from which to drink in the view of the russet leaves on the many trees that line the shore and cover the surrounding mountains. The lake also attracts many fishermen due to its abundance of trout and black bass, and photographers who come to capture the reflection of Mt. Fuji. Apparently, the best shots can be taken at the dawn of a clear, calm day near the torii gate along the road between Hakonemachi and Moto-Hakone.

The Owakudani Ropeway

At 4,035 meters, the Owakudani Ropeway is the longest in Japan and the second longest in the world. It runs between Togendai, on the northern shore of Lake Ashi, and Mt. Soun, taking 13 passengers every minute on a half-hour trip up to 130 meters above ground. Passengers can also take a break at two places along the way. At Owakudani Station a revolving platform affords a bird's-eye view of the Owakudani Valley, where natural sulfur billows from fissures in the volcanic rock. And at Ubako, there's a secluded spa at an altitude of 900 meters, where bathers can enjoy soothing rocky pools of natural hot spring water.

Hakone Barrier

The Hakone barrier was created in 1619 when the Tokugawa Shogunate divided Japan into 53 regions. Strategically located on the main road between Edo and Kyoto, it allowed the Shogunate to regulate all travelers passing between the two destinations, and crossing the border without permission was a serious offense. When the Tokugawa Shogunate collapsed in 1869, the barrier and others like it were taken out of service. But a monument has been erected to mark the spot and a replica of the barrier guardhouse has been built nearby. Here you can also find the Hakone Checkpoint Museum, which displays weapons, armor, documents and other historical materials relating to the Hakone barrier.

KANSAI / MIE / ISE

Ise Jingu Shrines

The Ise Jingu Shrines are the most sacred Shinto shrines in Japan and are famous for their distinctive thick pillars, straight roofs, and projecting ornamental crossbeams. They are also built from hinoki (Japanese cypress) with the exception of the roofs, which are thatched. The style of the shrines predates the introduction of Chinese architecture and is believed to be related to the style of ancient granaries with elevated floors. Each of the two shrines are dedicated to Shinto deities—the inner shrine to the Sun Goddess and the Outer Shrine to the Goddess of Harvest and silk farming—and hundreds of Japanese can be seen making a pilgrimage to the shrines at the beginning of the new year.

伊勢神宮

KYOTO

Kinkakuji

Kinkakuji is a world famous temple that dates back to the Muromachi period (1336-1573). The temple is dedicated to the Buddhist Goddess of Mercy and it was listed as a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1994. Though the temple is commonly referred to as Kinkakuji which translates as Temple of the Golden Pavilion, its real name is Rokuon-ji (Deer Park Temple). Ashikaga Yoshimitsu (1358-1408), the third of the Ashikaga Shoguns, built a retirement estate there in 1398. After his death in 1419, the grounds were turned into a Buddhist temple for the Rinzai sect. The only building to remain of Yoshimitsu's estate was the Golden Pavilion with its upper levels covered in gold leaf and its roof topped by a bronze phoenix, both of which shimmer majestically in the waters of the rock pond below.

金閣寺

Ginkaku-ji

Ginkaku-ji, the Temple of the Silver Pavilion, was built on the site of an old Amidst temple in 1482 as a villa for the eighth Ashikaga Shogun, Yoshimasa. His grandfather, Yoshimitsu, built the Golden Pavilion in 1398 and covered its top two stories with gold leaf. But after the devastation of the Onin wars, Yoshimasa did not have the resources to cover his villa in silver. Nevertheless, the unadorned wooden buildings blend in well with the atmosphere of the area and Ginkaku-ji also boasts a tranquil rock garden by Soami (1455-1525).

Heian Shrine

The Heian Shrine is a famous structure dedicated to Emperor Kammu (founder of Kyoto) and Emperor Komei (last emperor to reign at Kyoto). It was built in 1895 to commemorate the 1,100th anniversary of the founding of Kyoto. With the exception of the ferroconcrete torii gate, the shrine comprises buildings that are miniature replicas of the first Imperial Palace built in Kyoto in the year 794. There is also an elegant garden behind the shrine renowned for its water lilies, irises, azaleas, maples and drooping cherry trees.

Kiyomizu Temple

Kiyomizu Temple is noted for its cliff top Main Hall with its broad wooden veranda that faces the sacred Otowa Falls and affords a panoramic view of Kyoto and its surroundings. The veranda is supported by a towering wooden scaffold and seems to almost hang in midair due to its location on a wooded hillside. When you look down and see the depth of the valley below, it's easy to understand the origin of the Japanese expression, "To jump from the veranda of Kiyomizu Temple", which means to do something daring. The present temple structures were built in 1633 at the behest of Iemitsu, the third of the Tokugawa shoguns and the main hall has been designated as a National Treasure.

清水寺

Nijo Castle

Nijo Castle was built in 1603 by Ieyasu, the founder of the Tokugawa Shogunate. It is officially recognized as a World Heritage site and contains Ninomaru Palace, which was designated a National Treasure on account of its splendid architecture and magnificent interior decoration. Ieyasu built the castle as his Kyoto residence. But, it came to hold much greater significance as a symbol of Tokugawa power in the Kansai region. An excellent example of the "shoin-zukuri" style, the palace comprises four sets of buildings—each staggered to allow as many as possible to front a garden or courtyard. Inside the palace are murals created in the Kano school style of painting. Meanwhile, underfoot you will notice the "bush warbler" floorboards, which were specially designed to squeak when stepped on to warn the occupants in case of an approaching assassin.

二条城

Sanjusangendo

Erected in 1164, destroyed by fire and then rebuilt in 1266, the Sanjusangendo temple is an official National Treasure with more than a thousand Buddhist statues in its main hall. The principal image inside the temple is a National Treasure of a seated Thousand-Handed Kannon carved by the famous sculptor Tankei. There are also 1,001 smaller images, each of which is considered an Important Cultural Property in its own right, and each of which was carved either by Tankei or one of his assistants. As for the name of the temple, this is derived from the 33 spaces between the pillars in front of the main altar since the number 33 has symbolic importance in Buddhism—relating to the bodhisattva Kannon who was incarnated in 33 different forms during missions of mercy.

Ryoanji

Ryoanji is a temple that has become famous for having one of the best dry gardens in Japan. A masterpiece by the Zen-inspired artist Soami (1455-1525), the rectangular garden is covered with white sand and surrounded by earthen walls. Inside the garden are 15 rocks arranged in three groups with not a single flowering plant in sight. Yet the garden succeeds in resembling a landscape, with the rocks representing islands in the ocean and the moss on their surfaces representing bushes or forests. When viewed from one angle, the islands appear to approach one another. When viewed from another, they appear to diverge.

Gion Corner

Gion Corner is a small theater that offers the chance to enjoy a range of traditional Japanese arts. The theater is located on the first floor of Yasaka Kaikan Hall in Gion, a traditional entertainment district on the east bank of the Kamo River. The arts on show include the tea ceremony, flower arrangement, bunraku puppet plays, Kyomai (Kyoto-style dance) koto music, gagaku (court music) and kyogen (classic farce).

NARA

Todaiji Temple

The Todaiji Temple was originally built in the year 752, before being blown down by a typhoon in 962 and then rebuilt in 1199. But despite its setbacks over the years, it offers a wealth of impressive sights. At its entrance stands a gate supported by eighteen 25-meter-high pillars. The current Hall of the Great Buddha dates back to 1709 and is the world's largest ancient wooden structure. As for the Great Buddha itself, this National Treasure was cast in bronze in eight sections over three years. Finally assembled in 749, the 16.2-meter-high figure is seated on a huge bronze pedestal 20.7 meters in circumference.

東大寺

Kasuga Taisha Shrine

The Kasuga Taisha Shrine is located at the heart of a forest and conveys an atmosphere of unmatched peace and sanctity. Founded in 710 by Fujiwara-no-Fuhito, the shrine has been diligently reconstructed every 20 years. The buildings, painted vermilion, show the Kasuga style of architecture. Some 3,000 lanterns line the road east from the second torii gate and are lit twice a year during the Mantoro festivals, on February 3 or 4 and August 15. Through the south gate, visitors enter spacious precincts. And beyond a floorless structure known as the Heiden, the main hall can be seen flanked by four other impressive buildings, each of which has been recognized as a National Treasure.

春日大社

Nara Park

Created in 1880, this famous park is commonly referred to as "Deer Park" because of the twelve hundred deer that live there. Not only are these deer extremely tame, but they have also been deified and given protected status as messengers of the gods of the Kasuga Taisha Shrine. In 1992, Nara Park was designated as a place of scenic beauty by the National Government, not just for its 660-hectare grounds but also for the Todaiji Temple, the Kofukuji Temple, and the Kasuga Taisha Shrine located within.

Horyuji Temple

Horyuji Temple was founded by Prince Shotoku in 607 and is a repository of one of the largest collections of Buddhist art in Japan. Its collection includes 135 National Treasures and 1,759 Important Cultural Properties. It also features a 36-meter-tall pagoda on the west side, and a 16-meter-tall golden hall on the east side along with a cloistered courtyard. Interestingly, the distance between the pagoda roofs decreases from top to bottom, bringing a delicate sense of harmony to this simple, but sturdy structure.

法隆寺

OSAKA

Osaka is the second largest city in Japan and the biggest merchant city in western Japan. It is divided into two distinct areas—kita (the north) and minami (the south). But no matter which side of the city you are in, the streets are always teeming with life. A city known for its prowess in business and culture, Osaka has more than its share of skyscrapers and things to see. It is also a unique place where traditional buildings such as Osaka Castle and the Sumiyoshi Grand Shrine coexist with the most modern surroundings.

Osaka Castle

Osaka Castle is a monumental piece of architecture constructed, on the orders of Toyotomi Hideyoshi, to be the strongest and most beautiful castle in Japan. Records state that an incredible 30,000 to 40,000 people a day labored for three and a half years to build the castle and its 12-kilometer long walls. In 1615, the castle was completely destroyed in a war with Tokugawa Ieyasu, who then rebuilt the castle only to see it struck by lightning and burned to the ground in 1665. Today, the rebuilt castle stands a little sturdier, with a new ferroconcrete foundation to support its 40-meter towers that provide a fantastic view of the city.

大阪城

The Floating Garden Observatory

Located on a special platform bridging the tops of two 40-storey skyscrapers, this rooftop observation deck complete with trees and flowers at the Umeda Sky Building is open to the public and offers a panoramic view of Osaka with Awaji Island and Kobe in the distance. In the basement of the building is the Takimi Koji restaurant mall that uses alleys and signage to recreate the atmosphere of Osaka from the Taisho era to the early Showa era (1915 - 1935).

HYOGO / KOBE

Kobe, along with Yokohama City, is a historic Japanese harbor town. It is the place where foreign culture first made its entrance to Japan and the cuisine here still bears distinctly cosmopolitan hallmarks.

Mt. Rokko

With an elevation of 931 meters, Mt. Rokko is the highest peak in the 30-kilometer long mountain range that extends southwest past Kobe, Ashiya, and Nishinomiya. From its summit, you can look over Osaka Bay and see the distant Awaji Island. There is also plenty to do at the summit, with ponds and thickets scattered around, an alpine botanical garden, a ranch, hotels, and even golf courses. In fact, its 18-hole golf course built in 1903 is the oldest in Japan.

CHUGOKU / SHIKOKU

HIROSHIMA

Hiroshima is the capital of Hiroshima Prefecture and serves as the center for many governmental, economic, educational and information services for the entire Chugoku District.

The Peace Memorial Museum

The Peace Memorial Museum is a powerful and moving reminder of the destruction left by the atomic bomb that was dropped on Hiroshima on August 6, 1945. Exhibits in the East Building depict the history of Hiroshima before the bomb, the restoration of the city, and Hiroshima's involvement in the peace movement. The West Building exhibits disturbing remnants left behind after the blast, such as twisted roofing materials, charred school uniforms, and the haunting shape of a human body left imprinted on a set of stone steps. At the end of the visit, the museum encourages visitors to make a vow for world peace.

Atomic Bomb Dome

Formerly known as the Industry Promotion Hall, the Atomic Bomb Dome has been preserved in the same state it was left in by the atomic blast of 1945. The explosion produced a fireball with a temperature of a million degrees centigrade and approximately 35 percent of the energy of the explosion was released in the form of heat. Though the dome was situated a full 580 meters from the center of the blast, its concrete exterior was melted clean off, exposing its steel skeleton to the elements. This is the only building in Hiroshima to have survived the explosion and it has been designated as a World Heritage site so that it may stand to warn future generations of the evil mankind is capable of.

原爆ドーム

Miyajima

Miyajima is a small island in the inland sea and home to the Itsukushima Shrine with its famed "floating" torii gate. The shrine was first established in 593 in the first year of the reign of the Empress Suiko. It was then remodeled in the "shinden-zukuri" style by the tragic warlord of the late Heian Period, Taira no Kiyomori (794-1191). Of particular interest is its elegant corridor with beautiful vermilion hand rails that stretches into the calm Inland Sea. Then there's the famous torii, which rises 16 meters above the sea and has camphor columns 10 meters in circumference. In 1996, Itsukushima Shrine was designated as a UNESCO World Heritage site. When you see how the tori and shrine appear to float magically on the sea, it's easy to see why.

宮島

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Travel Tips

Money

The official currency of Japan is the yen (JPY), which can be easily obtained at the currency desks of major airports around the world. Yen can be conveniently obtained upon your arrive at Tokyo International Airport (Haneda), Narita International Airport, and other international airports in Japan. Or if you prefer, you can change your money at one of the many currency exchange shops in Tokyo, at a bank, or in major hotels. But for peace of mind, we recommend that you purchase your travelers' checks or cash in Yen or U.S. dollars before leaving your home country. Don't forget, you may be required to show your passport when using traveler's checks or exchanging money.

In terms of the actual bank notes, the highest denomination in yen is the 10,000-yen note. Despite having a relatively high value, you will notice 10,000 yen notes being used a lot. This is because Japan is still a cash-based society that is also quite safe. After the 10,000-yen note, there is also a 5,000-yen note, a 2,000-yen note, and a 1,000-yen note, although you seldom see the 2,000-yen notes.

As for coins, there are four silver-colored coins: the 500-yen coin, the 100-yen coin, the 50-yen coin with a hole through its center, and the 1-yen coin. The 10-yen coin and the 5-yen with a hole through its center are both bronze.

Credit cards

Most hotels, major department stores and restaurants accept VISA, Master, JCB, Amex and Diners Club cards. However, smaller shops like train station kiosks, convenience stores, vending machines and train ticket machines do not tend to accept credit cards, so it is always wise to make sure you are carrying some cash.

Traveler's checks

Traveler's checks are accepted at most hotels and banks.

ATMs

Cards from Cirrus, PLUS, Maestro and VISA Electron networks can all be used at post office ATMs. Usually you can find a post office located close to a train station.

Business hours

  • Banks are open from 9:00 am to 3:00 pm and are closed on Saturdays and Sundays.
  • Currency exchange desks at airports are open from 6:00 am to 10:00 pm 365 days a year.
  • Supermarkets are generally open from 9:00 am to 8:00 pm, although this can vary from store to store.
  • Convenience stores are generally open 24 hours a day.
  • Post offices are open for 9:00 am to 5:00 pm and are closed on Saturdays and Sundays.
  • Department stores are open 7 days a week from 10:00 am to 8:00 pm.
  • Some restaurants are open 24 hours a day. Others are open from 9:00 am to 11:00 pm.
  • Bars are generally open from 6:00 pm to midnight.

Electricity

Appliances in Japan run on 100V A.C. and plug in to a 2-flat pin, Type A socket. It is difficult to find sockets compatible with 3-pin plugs or supplying 120V, 200V, and 220V electricity, so we recommend you to bring an adapter with you.

Water

Unless otherwise stated, tap water is safe to drink all over Japan. If you prefer, you can also buy mineral water at convenience stores, supermarkets, and station kiosks.

Smoking

Smoking is prohibited inside most buildings and stations, except in designated smoking areas.

Travel visas

For information on visas, who requires them, and how to get them, please refer to the website of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Japan at the following URL: http://www.jnto.go.jp/eng/arrange/essential/index.html
VISA Support Request

Taxes

In Japan, the consumption tax is 5%. When shopping, note that the price that you see on the tag already includes the tax.

Tipping

Fortunately, there's no need to think about tipping in Japan as it not customary and is generally not done in any situation. However, on rare occasions, you may encounter a service charge of 10% to 15% on your hotel or restaurant bill.

Cellular phones

The major cell phone carriers in Japan are NTT DoCoMo, Softbank, and au KDDI. Please contact your own cell phone carrier to find out whether you can use your cell phone in Japan.

Japan Rail Pass

The Japan Rail Pass is offered by the six companies that make up the Japan Railways Group (JR Group) and offers an exceptionally economical way to travel around the country (via JR Group lines; not valid on subways and private railways). Please be aware, however, that some restrictions may apply. Please refer to the Japan Rail Pass official website for more details: http://www.japanrailpass.net/

Official language

Japanese is, of course, the official language of Japan. But, you may find that some English is spoken, especially in larger cities.

Religion

Shintoism and Buddhism are the two most common religions in Japan.

Climate

The weather is a common topic of conversation in Japan, which is not surprising considering the fact that Japan spans 20 degrees of latitude resulting in a complex climate. Weather varies a lot by region, from the harsh winters and mild summers of Hokkaido to the sub-tropical climate of Okinawa. But even in the same city, there can also be a wide range of weather in the same year. For example, in Sapporo (located in Hokkaido), temperatures can fall to minus 10 degrees in the winter yet reach 30 degrees in heat waves during the summer.

On the mainland, summer temperatures are generally between 20 and 30 degrees centigrade. It is also worth noting that there is a rainy season in early summer lasting for a few weeks from mid-June to mid-July, although this season also has its fair share of days of fine weather. In the late summer, rains can come again with the occasional typhoon, but these usually blow over in a day.

Communications

Telephone / Fax: International direct dialing services

Should you wish to receive a phone call of fax from overseas, please note that the country code
for Japan is 81.
For outgoing international calls, dial either 001 010 (using the telephone carrier KDD) or 0033 010 (using the telephone carrier NTT) followed by the country code, then omit the first zero from the telephone number. You will need an international telephone card to make calls from certain public telephone boxes as regular telephone cards cannot be used to make international calls.

Post offices

Tokyo Central Post Office has some English-speaking staff. Post office hours are from 9:00 am to 5:00 pm Monday to Friday, and from 9:00 am to 12:00 pm on Saturdays. Tokyo Central Post Office is open on weekdays until 7:00 pm and on Saturdays until 5:00 pm.

Newspapers

English language newspapers are available in most cities. They include The Daily Yomiuri, The Asahi Evening News, The Japan Times and The Mainichi Daily News.

Health and safety

Although Japan is a clean and relatively safe country, it is always advisable to buy travel insurance for the length of your stay. Note that malaria is not an issue in Japan, so there is no need to take any malaria-related precautions or medicines.
Although food and drink in Japan are generally prepared to high standards of hygiene, there can be a small risk of parasitic infection or toxins when eating raw seafood.

Luggage forwarding service (Takuhaibin)

Japan has a number of companies that offer excellent luggage forwarding services—referred to as 'Takuhaibin' in Japanese. These can be a great way of getting your vacation off to a relaxing start, enabling you to send your baggage ahead to your hotel or airport. This is a very common practice in Japan and hotels are happy to keep your bags safe until you arrive. Remember, if you do send your bags to the airport ahead of you, be sure to allow enough time to pick them up when you get there and be sure to bring your receipt to prove which bags are yours. You can send your bags from most convenience stores and some hotel lobbies. To be sure your bags arrive at their intended destination, be sure to use Japanese addresses, or simply ask the shop or hotel staff to fill out the necessary forms for you.

Emergencies

If you are in need of the emergency services, you can call 110 for the police or 119 for the fire brigade or an ambulance. Language should be no problem as the operator should be able to understand simple English.

Other facts about Japan

Area : 377,829 km2 (145,877 square miles)
Population : 126,065,000 (as of 1997)
Population density : 333.7 per km2
Capital : Tokyo
Population : 7,967,614 (as of 1995)
Time zone : GMT + 9

Further Information

For further information to help you make the most of your stay in Tokyo or Japan in general, please visit the "GO TOKYO—Official Tokyo Travel Guide" Website at http://www.gotokyo.org/en/index.html
Information is available in English, Chinese, Korean, German, Italian, Spanish and French.

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