|Tokyo Travel Information|
Tokyo is really, really big, and depending on who you talk to, the largest city in the world. It consists of 23 different inner cities (ku), 26 suburban ones (shi), five towns (chō), eight villages (mura), over 300 islands, two major island chains, and various other bits, each with their own special attractions. Since it doesn't make too much sense to tell about all of these different cities as if they were one city, we have subdivided Tokyo in the following way. Tokyo has been the capital of Japan since 1868 when it replaced the old capital of Kyoto (just north of Osaka, the 2nd largest city in Japan). Tokyo was previously called Edo before it became the capitol.
Tokyo is Japan's cosmopolitan, bustling metropolis. Its broad causeways and labyrinthine neighborhoods are packed with electronics bazaars, arcades and pachinko parlors, modern skyscrapers and high fashion, and tons of busy restaurants, bars and clubs. To the uninitiated it can seem like the bewildering alien environment of Lost In Translation, but if (unlike Scarlett Johansson) you get out of your hotel and get to know the city, you'll be rewared with an appreciation for Japan's unique culture: a fascinating mix of formal, time-honored traditions and an enthusiastic adoption of the new and foreign.
Greater Tokyo is 239 square miles (618 square km) and is home to more than 17 Million people in the day time and 12 Million at night... which means that 5 Million people commute to and from work from the outer bedtown cities daily.
Akasaka is the posh high class district which is home to over 3725 companies (as of Jul 2006). There are plenty of reasonable establishments in the area, but some of them can cost you an arm and a leg, so check the menu(s) out before you walk inside. If you see no prices posted outside and only Visa, MasterCard and a few other credit card companies stickers on the wall next to the entrance... expect to pay an enormous amount for what ever it is they offer.
The sheer level of energy is the most striking aspect of Japan's capital city. Tokyo is a place where the urgent rhythms of consumer culture collide with the quieter moments that linger from older traditions. It's hectic madness leavened by the most Zenic of calms.
While it's true the exciting vibe has a somewhat depressing flip side - shoebox housing estates and office blocks traversed by overhead expressways crowded with traffic - Tokyo remains a glittering example of the 'miracle' of post-WWII Japan.
In 1638, after massacring a number of Christians, Ieyasu's grandson closed Japan to almost all foreign trade. This radical isolation policy remained in place for almost three centuries. Despite the isolation, Edo thrived and by the early 17th century was the largest city in the world, with over one million people. The city was organised geographically by profession and philosophically by rank and status. In modern Tokyo there are still remains of this structure, with small enclaves specialising in specific wares.
The turning point for Edo - and all of Japan - came in 1853 when Commodore Matthew Perry's armada of 'black ships' arrived to demand that Japan open treaty ports. With the arrival of Westerners came a far-reaching social revolution. The Tokugawa regime was powerless to halt the flood of progress and power was handed - though not without a fight - back to Emperor Meiji. In 1868 the seat of imperial power was moved from Kyoto to Edo, which was renamed Tokyo (Eastern Capital) in the process.
At noon on 1 September 1923, the Great Kanto Earthquake struck Tokyo. For 40 hours, fires raged, laying waste to the expanding city. Although rebuilding began almost immediately, opportunities to improve and further transform old Tokyo were lost. A little over 20 years later - and also in tragic circumstances - Tokyo was to get a second 'chance' to rebuild.
Around 80,000 lives were lost in the Tokyo air raids during WWII, and about two-fifths of the city was flattened. The raids were at least as destructive as the atomic bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Following the Japanese surrender, Tokyo again rose quickly. Transformed into something of a honky-tonk town during the post-war occupation years, the capital thrived on profits from the Korean War and has not looked back since. Awarded the Olympic Games in 1964, Tokyo grew like never before, and firmly established itself as a real power player in the world economy. The 1980s saw Tokyo bask in the shine of the 'bubble economy', but its burst in 1989 hit the city hard - many say it still has not fully recovered.
Tokyo kicks off its year with high, cold winter days and, occasionally, snowfalls. Though temperatures sometimes drop below freezing, in general the winter months are reasonable with the right kind of clothing. Spring brings pleasant, warm days. Summer is hot and muggy. The temperature and humidity are at their worst in August and late June can see torrential rains that pound the city during some monsoon seasons. After spring, autumn is the most pleasant season. Temperatures cool down to a cosy level and days are often clear and fine.
The city of Tokyo's climate is in large part influenced by the mountains and sea. The climate is sort of like the coastal regions in the Southeastern United States. So things will change from season to season and you need to be aware of that when planning your trip.
Tokyo is Japan’s capital and the center of fashion, politics, literature and more. Everywhere you look Tokyo is right up there with the best in terms of cultural events and exhibits. Some of the cultural pursuits for their area are sado (Japanese tea ceremony) and ikebana (flower arrangement). You will enjoy learning all about these and taking part in them too. There are even classes for them located around the city. The Japanese culture is so fascinating and you will want to learn so much more.
Tokyo is vast: it's best thought of not as a single city, but a constellation of cities that have grown together. Tokyo's districts vary wildly by character, from the electronic blare of Akihabara to the Imperial gardens and shrines of Chiyoda, from the hyperactive youth culture mecca of Shibuya to the pottery shops and temple markets of Asakusa. If you don't like what you see, hop on the train and head to the next one, and you will find something entirely different.
The sheer size and frenetic pace of Tokyo can intimidate the first-time visitor. Much of the city is a jungle of concrete and wires, with a mass of neon and blaring loudspeakers. At rush hour, crowds jostle in packed trains and masses of humanity sweep through enormous and bewilderingly complex stations. Don't get too hung up on ticking tourist sights off your list: for most visitors, the biggest part of the Tokyo experience is just wandering around at random and absorbing the vibe, poking your head into shops selling weird and wonderful things, sampling restaurants where you can't recognize a single thing on the menu (or on your plate), and finding unexpected oases of calm in the tranquil grounds of a neighbourhood Shinto shrine. It's all perfectly safe, and the locals will go to sometimes extraordinary lengths to help you if you just ask.
It's easier than ever for English speakers to navigate their way around Tokyo without speaking any Japanese. Signs at subway and train stations include the station names in romaji (Romanized characters). It can be helpful to know some tips for ordering in restaurants, shopping in stores, and asking for directions. Learning the katakana script is not difficult and most words written with it can be understood by English speakers so it can be useful even for people with no Japanese vocabulary. If you plan on asking for directions to Tokyo destinations, it especially helps to carry the name of the destination written in Japanese characters.
The Tokyo subway system is without a doubt the most efficient way to get around the city. (Not only are taxis unbelievably expensive; they also get caught in the tangle of traffic.) True the system is complex. The secret to using it is to know the color code of the line that stops closest to your destination. If you have one of the free color-coded maps with you you’ve solved the majority of the problem.
Try to avoid the subway at rush hour however unless you want to see the legendary pushers literally pack as many people on the trains as possible.
A subway company provides information in English on the website and map is available in English, Spanish, German, French, Chinese(simplified and traditional) and Korean.
Japan is one the most expensive countries in Asia, if not the world for travel, but there are ways of keeping the outlays to a just-about bearable level. A skeleton daily budget, assuming you stay in the cheapest hostels, eat modestly and travel short distances, would work out to US$60.00 . Add about US$10.00 for extras like snacks, drinks, admission fees and entertainment. Staying in business or deluxe hotels and eating in pricey restaurants can easily have the ticker tipping US$200.00 . Long-distance travel is a real budget buster in Japan - if you intend to travel around to different places, it's well worth investing in a Japan Rail Pass. At the other end of the spectrum, high rollers will have no problems off-loading their cash. Japan specialises in establishments catering to the ostentatious flattery of business accounts - the higher the bill, the greater the prestige of the guests
Disney Resort - 1-1 Maihama, Tokyo, 13 279-8511, Japan, JP
Dome City - 1-3-61 Koraku Bunkyo-ku, Tokyo, 13 112-8562, Japan, JP
Get dressed up and go out on the town and try one of the clubs in the area. The Castillo is a really fun disco where you can dance the night away. Or try Salsa Sudada for dancing to the Latin sounds this place is a lot of fun. Do you like Rock and Roll? Try the Rolling Stone for a fun night out. If you are really ready to hit the scene try the Velfarre. It has a strict dress code so wear your finest attire and be prepared to pay a high cover charge at the door. This place is a disco palace and will keep you dancing throughout the night.
This city of Tokyo has on of the world’s most highly successful transportation systems. The rail service covers all possible places that you might need to go. There is also a national highway system. You will find getting around the Tokyo area to be stress free and convenient. For more information on the rail service you can contact them at Narita Express, phone:03-3423-0111 (JR East), http://www.jreast.co.jp. Keisei Railways, phone:03-3831-0131 http://www.keisei.co.jpEidan (TRTA) Subway Information: phone:03-3837-7111, http://www.tokyometro.go.jp and for the buses JR BUS KANTO Highway Bus, http://www.jrbuskanto.co.jp. All of theses transportation offerings are convenient and efficient.
For non-Shinkansen services, Shibuya and Shinjuku stations offer local connections to the west. Ueno and Ikebukuro stations connect you to the northern suburbs; and neighboring prefectures.
By car or thumb
Hitchhiking into Tokyo is pretty easy, but hitchhiking out is considerably more difficult. It's definitely possible for determined cheapskates though, see Hitchhiking in Japan for a detailed list of tested escape routes from the city.
Long-distance buses use a number of terminals scattered throughout the city, but the main JR depot is at Tokyo Station's Yaesu-minamiguchiexit, while Keio and some other private companies use the Shinjuku Highway Bus Terminal , opposite Yodobashi Camera near the West Exit.
The JR Bus Group (Japanese Website) is a major operator of bus services to and from Tokyo. Seat reservations for JR Buses can be made in train stations at the same "Midori-no-Madoguchi" ticket windows used to reserve seats on trains. Moreover, the Japan Rail Pass is valid on all bus runs between Tokyo and Nagoya, Kyoto and Osaka.
123bus  is a company that has nightly bus services to and from Tokyo. Its bus services link many cities in Japan. Online booking available in English.
The main long-distance ferry terminal is Ariake Ferry Terminal, located on an artificial island adjacent to Odaiba in Tokyo Bay. The nearest station is Kokusai-Tenjijo-Seimon on the Yurikamome line, but it's still a bit of a hike. You can also take a direct bus from Shin-Kiba station on the Metro Yurakucho line. The main services from this terminal are:
Tokyo-Tomakomai (Hokkaido): Kawasaki Kinkai Kisen, 03-3528-0718. This ferry has no passenger facilities, so it can only be used if you have a car; fares for a car and driver start at ¥25,820.
|Map of Tokyo|