Saturday, July 28, 2012

TOKYO: THE MECCA OF JAPAN


Tokyo, the super clean capital city of Japan and definitely the entertainment mecca of this nation of 127 million people, and 6852 islands in East Asia. There is just about anything you could possibly want to do or see here; museums, amusement parks, hotels, restaurants, skyscrapers, amazing views and hundreds of other sights. If you don’t mind the big city, you could spend your entire vacation in Tokyo and never be bored.

Let’s get started! Tokyo is a densely populated metropolitan area (over 11,000,000 inhabitants) and it is located on the eastern coast of Honshu, the largest of the chain of islands that make up Japan.
Founded in the early 17th century, the city was originally called Edo, a name it retained until the mid-19th century when the Meiji Emperor renamed it Tokyo, the "Eastern Capital".

Since then, Tokyo's history has been turbulent. In 1923, a major earthquake destroyed parts of the city and its suburbs.  Near the end of World War II, Tokyo was firebombed.  The number of deaths was high and large areas of the city were destroyed.  The Japanese people responded to both tragedies by rebuilding, and Tokyo's status as one of the world's leading cities is a result of their diligence and dedication.

Tokyo is a city that blends the old and the new in a seamless manner.  The country's religious and feudal past are represented by temples, shrines and palaces that sometimes seem as if they belong in a different era, but are an integral part of the Japanese culture and neighborhoods.

Conversely, the proliferation of zany trends among the youth is more widespread and startling in Tokyo than in many of the world's major cities.

Tokyo is so large and diverse that it is difficult to tour on your own.  It is an expensive place to visit and you need to optimize your time by pre-planning your visit. You can buy popular guidebook like the Lonely Planet to help with your planning before you depart. 

But one thing I must say that Tokyo is definitely a challenge for English speakers and it has a wacky address system (often no street signs) that makes it hard to find places (even for my taxi driver).  The city's mass transit system is one that some visitors from other countries may prefer to avoid during the morning and evening rush hours unless you adore sardines packed in a tin. The Japanese transit system find ways to fit so many people into subway cars that most people that aren't used to tight quarters will feel uncomfortable riding during peak hours. 
The very best way to see Tokyo in a few days is to take a tour.  Either hire a guide or join a tour group.  Both alternatives are good ways to optimize your time in Tokyo.  In either case, you should study Japanese customs and Tokyo attractions before you depart.
Forty four floors above Tokyo

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