A dynamic city of contrasts, Tokyo sometimes feels like an entirely different world. It's rich cultural heritage, cutting-edge technology and vibrant street culture attract thousands of tourists every year. Tokyo is one of the richest cities in the world, and has earned a reputation as the economic and cultural center of Asia. Tokyo is so large and diverse that even several months are insufficient to visit all its attractions. No matter how many times you visit this electrifying city, it always has the ability to captivate and surprise.
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Japan is a constitutional monarchy, and Tokyo boasts the official residence of the Emperor of Japan housed in a magestic palace surrounded by exquisite gardens and parks. The palace is built on the foundation of a partially preserved Edo castle from the 15th century, which is encircled by deep moats. This unique attraction marries the traditions of the past and modern Japan, with a stunning result.
The most common religions in Japan are Buddhism and Shinto. The Senso-ji temple in the Asakusa area is one of the most ancient Buddhist temples in the city. This complex of breathtaking religious buildings leaves a lasting impression. In many ways, the temple embodies how most tourists imagine Japan - elegant pagodas, bright roofs, paper lanterns and a reverent sense of calm. There are other preserved elements of historic Tokyo in Asakusa worth a visit - ancient streets, small shops selling national souvenirs, as well as traditional Japanese hotels known as ryokans. Here, you will find staff dressed in kimonos, floors are lined with tatami, and futons in every room instead of beds. To stop for a few days in a ryokan is an opportunity to get a true taste of Japanese culture and way of life. In ancient Asakusa, many Shinto temples have been preserved, which means that it is one of the best places in the city to enjoy the spectacle of the Matsuri religious festival. Religious events take place several times a year and include processions, festivals, traditional dances and decorations.
History lovers should also visit Ueno Park. It is filled with trees from all over the country. The special attention is attracted by the hundreds of cherry blossoms that bloom in Tokyo in April. In Japanese, there is even a special word for watching and admiring the blossoming sakura - hanami. In the park there is also is the Tokyo National Museum - the largest collection of historical exhibits in the country. Animal lovers can visit the oldest zoo in Japan, which is also located in Ueno Park.
If travelers want to immerse themselves in a theatrical performance, they should look out for the opportunity to attend a Japanese tea ceremony; a samurai and ninja show; or the Japanese kabuki theater, which combines drama, dance and singing. The make-up and costumes of the kabuki actors are a veritable art on their own. According to Sergei Eisenstein, kabuki theatre allows us to really 'hear' movement and 'see' the sound.
Various other festivals and performances are held in Tokyo throughout the year, including the Japanese celebrations of the flowering of azaleas, cherry blossoms, and wisteria. Summer carnivals and holidays are held from May to August and include processions, dances, fireworks and other street entertainment.
In Japan, the term Kawaii refers to everything small, sweet and touching. Visitors will be able to enjoy the Kawaii aesthetic in Tokyo. Many things in modern Japanese culture is created to evoke emotion. For example, Hello Kitty and Pokemon, the most famous characters created in this tradition, can not only be found in children's stores, but also in clothes and accessories for adults, various electronic devices, and even airplanes. This cult of infantility is concentrated in the Hakadzyuku district, Tokyo's centre of youth fashion and pop culture.
Tokyo is famous for its unusual and diverse nightlife. A large number of restaurants, bars, nightclubs and other entertainment is concentrated in the Shibuya area. However, the centre of Tokyo’s vibrant and amazing nightlife is Kabuki-cho in the Shinjuku area, which has a reputation for the best nightlife in all of the Asia Pacific. In addition to cinemas, bars, restaurants and manga cafes, travelers will discover a lot more on offer.
In Shinjuku, there is another unusual area - Golden Guy, a place which is favoured by local musicians and artists. Here, you will find over 200 small bars in these unique double-story buildings, each bar designed for only 5-8 visitors at a time! If you are traveling as a group, you will immediately occupy the entire bar. This distinct, colorful and unusual place has been preserved despite the steep hike in the cost of housing and the accompanying tendency to high-rise buildings.
In Tokyo, there are also a huge number of themed places inspired by religious books, films or comics. Many of them offer unusual services. For example, in one of these establishments, if a visitor comes alone, a huge plush toy will be placed in front of him to keep him company at the table.
OUTSIDE THE MEGAPOLIS
If you are able to leave bustling Tokyo for a few days, you will be able to see the other facets of this unusual country. Japan hosts an incredible abundance of natural and cultural attractions, as well as leisure and sports events. One of the most beautiful places to visit is the Fuji-Hakone-Izu National Park, located near Tokyo. In addition to climbing the active volcano Fuji, with its distinctive snow-white peak that has excited the imagination of Japanese artists and poets from ancient times, travelers can also enjoy views of the five Fuji lakes and waterfalls, visit islands of volcanic origin with tropical vegetation, and enjoy local beaches. Another attraction for tourists is the opportunity to enjoy the rest on the natural hot springs - onsen -Japan boasting over two thousand of these natural treasures. In Fuji-Hakone-Izu, you will also find rich historical and cultural monuments, including the temple of Hakone from the V century, where important historical relics are stored.
Another place worth visiting near Tokyo is - Nikko National Park and the city. The sanctuaries and temples of Nikko are listed as UNESCO World Heritage sites, owing to their unique landscapes. There is also the Edo Wonderland Nikko Edomura theme park, which recreates Japan from the Edo period. Watching the samurai, geisha and ninja shows will be interesting both for adults and young travelers.
When leaving Tokyo’s borders, you can visit many amazing and interesting places in Japan - Kyoto, where ancient Japanese culture and architecture is best preserved, the medieval Himeji Castle, snow-white azure-colored beaches in Okinawa, mystical forests on Yakushima island, and much more.
The word Tokyo can be directly translated as 'The Eastern Capital of Japan.' This is certianly reflected in its status as a culinary centre in the country. For several years, Tokyo has been ranked first in the Michelin gastronomic guide, based on the number of restaurants that have received a coveted Michelin star. Tokyo is not only famous for its gourmet cuisine - delicious Far Eastern delicacies can be found in small eateries and street kiosks. Sushi, ramen, soba, poisonous puffer fish, octopus, squid, Japanese dessert made from vagasi beans and much more should not be missed. Remember that in Japan, it is not customary to tip and is even considered offensive. The best compliment you can give to the staff and the chef will be a second visit to the establishment.
TRAVEL TO THE FUTURE
In the futuristic film by Andrei Tarkovsky Solaris, there is a scene with a multi-level traffic interchange. This is not computer graphics or simulation. The scene was filmed in Tokyo, which already looked like the world of the future to the rest of the planet in the 1970s. Fifty years later, Tokyo is still ahead of its time with modern technology influencing all spheres of life. Robots can be met at every turn, unmanned taxis are currently being tested, and a variety of skyscrapers amaze even the most well-travelled. Many of the skyscrapers have city-viewing platforms that allow you to see the city from a bird's eye view. One of the most popular is Tokyo Skytree, the tallest TV tower in the world. Day and night, it offers amazing views of one of the most unique cities on earth.
With its spactacular intergalactic architecture, the man-made island of Odaiba is Japan's own imagining of the 'city of the future.' It is connected with central Tokyo via the futuristic Rainbow Bridge. On arrival, a 20-meter-long robot from the famous anime film Unicorn Gundam meets you. You can get to Odaiba by subway, taking the Yurikamome train line, which offers beautiful views of Tokyo Bay. The best viewpoint is from the driver's seat as this metro line is run automatically. Odaiba is one of the most interesting hubs in Tokyo for entertainment and shopping. It also houses the National Museum of Advanced Science and Technology Miraikan, where you can get acquainted with the famous humanoid robot, look at seismograph datas, which is updated in real time, as well as many more attractions.
Visitors to Tokyo are also intrigued by the many vending machines, which are found on every corner. The machines not only offer a variety of food and drink unavailable outside of Japan, but also unusual toys, electronic devices, books, umbrellas and whatever else you might need!
If you are going outside of Tokyo, you will most likely want to take advantage of Japan's railway network. Japan's long-nosed bullet trains are known for their speed, regularity and punctuality. Traveling on a Japanese bullet train is as impressive as the cities it will take you to.
WHAT TO TAKE FROM TOKYO
Japan is famous for its high quality, making it an ideal shopping destination. In Tokyo, you will find both Japanese and international clothing and accessory brands for every budget, from luxurious boutiques in the Ginza area to the world's largest 12-floor Uniqlo store.
Akihabara is the perfect place to buy electronics and computer equipment. It is also the best place for gamers and fans of manga and anime.
Japanese cosmetics are already conquering the Russian market, but the widest array of choice can be found in Tokyo. The Japanese have perfected the finest anti-aging technology, skin cleansing methods, facial massage techniques and more.
Other souvenirs include jewellry made from the unique, universally beautiful Akoya pearls, Japanese green tea, unusual sweets, sushi sets, kimonos, sake, plum wine, Japanese whiskey, knives, fine china and more. Whatever your taste, you are sure to find something well-made, colourful and unique.
Despite being a city of the future, not all of Tokyo's attractions and shops accept credit cards. We recommend that you always carry cash with you, just in case.
SPORTS IN JAPAN
In modern Japan both traditional sports such as sumo, judo, aikido, karate, and other martial arts and western sports such as baseball, golf, car racing, and rugby are very popular. Judo, and, as of 2020 Olympics, karate - sports that originated in Japan are included in the Olympic program. Let us, however, dwell on the historical sports of the Land of the Rising Sun, which are not included in the program of the games, but deserve the attention of travelers. First of all, there is, of course, sumo. Competitions between rikisi wrestlers have been around for over a thousand years, and therefore each stage of the fight, clothing and aesthetics of wrestlers are symbolic, and their lifestyle is strictly regulated. Professional tournaments are held six times a year in Tokyo and other major cities in Japan.
Kendo, which is translated to “sword path” in Japanese, is another spectacular Japanese sport. This is Japanese Fencing, which, in the past along with kyudo (archery) and sojujutsu (possession of a spear), was part of the training of the future samurai. Warriors fight with bamboo swords in traditional dress and special masks. A traveler can enjoy Kendo as a spectator, but just to notice that more and more sections are opening in Japan, where even non-Japanese-speaking tourists can try themselves in the art of handling a sword.
THE 1964 OLYMPICS` LEGACY
In 2020, Tokyo will host of the Olympic Games for the second time. The games were first held in the city in 1964, which was a significant event for both Japan and the entire world. This was the first Olympics held in Asia, and a chance for many Asian sports fans to watch the games live. The Japanese games took a step forward in terms of technological development. During the 1964 Olympics, computers were used to calculate statistics during the competition. The 1964 games were also broadcast in the United States using the first communications satellite, and was the first program to cross the Pacific.