Tokyo Free Walking Tour
They are conducting a free walking tour starting at Tokyo Station to the East Gardens of the Imperial Palace (the remains of Edo Castle).
Tour Time: Every Saturday 13:00 (Except December 28-31, January 1-3)
Meeting Place: Tokyo Station Marunouchi Central Gate (ground floor)
Participation Fee: Free
Reservation: Not needed
Participants: Foreign tourists and residents, and their accompanying Japanese friends, families, etc.
Website : http://tfwt.sharepoint.com/Pages/default.aspx
Eat a sushi breakfast at the Tsukiji Fish Market
The world's largest, busiest fish market has long been a favorite destination for jet-lagged tourists with predawn hours to fill. But the main reason for going at 5 a.m. is to catch the live tuna auctions. Before you go, however, be sure to check this website to see if public access is permitted that day. If so, it will be on a first-come, first-serve basis, and limited to 120 people, admitted in two shifts of 60. You can register starting at 4:30 a.m. at the fish information center inside the Kachidoki Gate off Harumi Street. If you prefer to do your exploring at a more reasonable hour, keep in mind that by 9 a.m., business will have already started to wind down. You'll still see fishmongers filleting the day's catch, but you won't have to dodge so many trucks and trolleys.
Address : 5-2-1 Tsukiji, Chuo, Tokyo Prefecture 104-0045, Japan
Forget kabuki; sumo is better theater. If you happen to be in Tokyo during one of the three grand tournaments — 15-day events in January, May and September — you can catch some of the action at Ryogoku Kokugikan, Tokyo's National Sumo Hall. Bouts, scheduled throughout the day, usually last for just a few intense seconds (bodies lock, twist, ripple, drop) with a lot of posturing (stretching, stomping, salt-tossing) in between.
Try to be inside the arena at the start of a new round, when the rikishi parade into the arena wearing ceremonial aprons over their loincloths, and sometimes a former champion demonstrates some classic moves. Note: The morning and midday contests are not usually well attended, so the hall will be quieter, the competition less stimulating, but tickets are easier to come by. Book ahead if you want to go on a Friday or Saturday evening, when the place is packed with cheering spectators who like to throw their seat cushions after a particularly heated match.
If it's not tournament season, try to catch an early-morning training session at a beya, or sumo stable. Some are more foreigner-friendly than others; recent scandals (including charges of bout-fixing) have put many on the defensive. Have a Japanese speaker call the afternoon on the day before you want to go, to make sure the team is not on tour and that visitors are permitted. You might ask the staff at your hotel if they have an in with one of the teams. Sessions might start as early as 6 a.m. and are usually over by 8 or 9 a.m. Inside the stable, keep quiet and out of the way; you may have to sit on the floor, legs crossed. And don't take flash pictures. You might be expected to make a small donation.
Ryogoku Kokugikan 1-3-28 Yokoami, Sumida-ku, Tokyo, Japan; 81-(0)3-3623-5111
Kokonoe Sumo Stable 4-22-4 Ishiwara, Sumida-ku, Tokyo, Japan; 81-(0)3-5608-0404
There's a lot going on at and around the popular Roppongi Hills complex — a garden, a cinema, loads of shops, cafés and restaurants — but if you stay focused, you can be in and out in an hour and hit all the highlights. Start at Louise Bourgeois's giant spider sculpture, Maman, then move on to the Mori Tower for the 52nd-floor observation deck called Tokyo City View. The $15 ticket includes admission to the Mori Art Museum, where exhibits range from the intriguingly modern to the truly bizarre (one recent show had my kids running for the door). For an extra $3, you can go up to the 54th floor Sky Deck, which runs the perimeter of the rooftop heliport. There's a bilingual photographer on hand who will take your picture, Tokyo Tower behind you, with his nice camera. Purchasing the $15 print, which will be waiting for you downstairs, is entirely optional.
Regular adult admission to the Mori Tower observation deck is $15 ($10 for students, $5 for children). It includes entry to the Mori Art Museum, which is open daily 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. (Tuesday until 5 p.m.), and usually closes for two weeks between shows. If that is the case, the combo ticket will include admission to the separate Mori Arts Center Gallery, which normally costs an extra $5. To get to Roppongi Hills, take the Hibiya or Toei Oedo line to Roppongi station
1. Tokyo Metropolitan Government Offices 2-8-1 Nishi-Shinjuku, Shinjuku, Tokyo, Japan; 81-(0)3-5321-1111 metro.tokyo.jp/ENGLISH
2. Zauo Fishing Boat Cafe 3-2-9 Nishi-Shinjuku, Shinjuku Washington Hotel, 1F, Tokyo Japan; 81-(0)3-3343-6622
3. Tokyo City View Roppongi Hills Mori Tower, 52n, 6-10-1 Roppongi, Minato-ku, Tokyo Japan; 81-(0)3-6406-6652 roppongihills.com/tcv/en
4. Mori Art Museum Roppongi Hills Mori Tower, 53r, 6-10-1 Roppongi, Minato-ku, Tokyo Japan; 81-(0)3-5777-8600 mori.art.museum/html/eng
5. Pintokona kaiten-sushi Roppongi Hills-Metro Hat/Holly, 6-4-1 Roppongi, Minato-ku, Tokyo Japan; 81-(0)3-5771-1133
Dinner and Drinks in Ebisu
You can easily spend a fortune on meals in this city, but it's more fun to rub elbows with salarymen at a standing bar or drink in some local color on the cheap at a small izakaya. Ebisu, a trendy neighborhood in Shibuya-ku, is full of these establishments, which specialize in grilled meat and vegetables, sashimi and other casual fare, cooked in tiny kitchens and served on petite plates. Almost by definition, they also have extensive drink menus, and are easy to spot by the doorway curtains (called noren,) and chalkboard menus propped up out front. You won't have to venture far from the train station to find side-street blocks full of them, and the neighborhood is easily accessible — just one stop away from Shibuya on the JR Yamanote line, and two stops from Roppongi on the Tokyo Metro's Hibiya line.
1. Saiki 1-7-12 Ebisu Nishi, Shibuya-ku, Tokyo, Japan; 81-(0) 3 3461 3367
2. Momotaro Ogawa Ebisu Building, Floor B1, 1-8-8 Ebisu-nishi, Shibuya-ku, Tokyo, Japan; 81-(0)3-5428-5707 japanchickenfoodservice.co.jp
3. Buri 1-14-1 Ebisu-nishi, Shibuya-ku, Tokyo, Japan; 81-(0)3-3494-7744
4. Honoji 1-5-8 Ebisu-nishi, Shibuya-ku, Tokyo, Japan; 81-(0)3-3770-8381
5. Toraji 1-6-9 Ebisu, Shibuya-ku, Tokyo, Japan; 81-(0)3-3447-4466
6. Ippudo 1-3-13 Hiroo, Shibuya-ku, Tokyo, Japan; 81-(0)3-5420-2225
In Japan, karaoke usually happens in a private room with your friends or colleagues, with a waiter delivering drinks. But at Smash Hits, located at the west end of the Hiroo shotengai (neighborhood shopping street), you perform on stage before a random, rowdy audience. There's a thick catalog of English songs to choose from, and emcee Saito-san is known to shuffle the order in favor of newcomers, so you won't have to wait long to make your evening debut. Cheer the salarymen taking turns at the mic — many are practiced regulars who favor Billy Joel, Guns 'N Roses and Queen — and they'll show you love in return. Inside these cozy basement quarters is stadium-style seating and endearingly grubby décor. The walls are papered with album covers (remember LPs?) and Polaroid snapshots of patrons from years gone by. Smash Hits is open Tuesday through Saturday nights, from 7 p.m. to 3 a.m.; the $40 cover charge includes two drinks. It's a 5-minute walk from the Hiroo stop on the Hibiya line; take Exit 2, turn right, then round the corner at the wine shop and walk to the end of the block.
1. Smash Hits 5-2-26 Hiroo, Shibuya-ku, Tokyo, Japan; 81-(0)3-3444-0432 smashhits.jp
2. Jan Ken Pon "Oldies Live House" 1-4-5 Ebisu-nishi, Shibuya-ku,, Tokyo, Japan; 81-(0)3-3719-6303
3. Gigabar Tokyo H-T Minami Aoyama Building B1F; 7-11-4 Minami Aoyama, Minato-ku, Tokyo, Japan; 81-(0)3-6427-5777 gigabar.jp
Daimaru's Kimono and Yukata
Most departing visitors leave town from Tokyo Station. Before you go, check out the Daimaru department store next door — just outside the station's Yaesu entrance. The kimono shop on the 10th floor is not geared to tourists; it's where Japanese ladies come to order custom-made ensembles. The samples on display, and the price tags attached, will take your breath away. The shop also stocks a full range of accessories — obi, hair combs, toe socks, thong sandals, purses, fans — all nice to look at it, some even affordable. Ask the salesladies about yukata, the lightweight cotton robes that you'll find in the closet of every ryokan (traditional Japanese inn). The store stocks lovely, traditional blue-and-white geometric patterns for men and orchid and bamboo prints for women, in a full range of sizes, including American XL. Prices are $50 to $60, belt included. To buy yourself more browsing time, direct impatient friends to the samurai swords on display down the hall.
Oriental Bazaar, a tourist magnet on Omotesando Street, offers a much bigger selection of yukata (along with all sorts of other souvenirs) and robes there go for $10 to $15 less than Daimaru's, but the place can get mobbed on weekends. After braving the basement, which has kitsch galore, head upstairs to the much quieter second floor for a look at the vintage and antique items, including classic woodblock prints from the ukiyo-e masters. The store is closed Thursdays.
1. Daimaru 1-9-1 Marunouchi, Chiyoda-ku, Tokyo, Japan; 81-(0)3-3212-8011 More Info
2. Oriental Bazaar 5-9-13 Jingumae, Shibuya-ku, Tokyo, Japan; 81-(03)-3400-3933
3. Performing Arts venerable Shinjuku B1F, 3-14-20 Shinjuku, Shinjuku-ku, Tokyo
Stay in a traditional Japanese home
In a backstreet on the northern side of Ueno Park, Katsutaro is a small, friendly ryokan with good-sized rooms and the atmosphere of a real family home (which it is). Rooms can be occupied by up to four people, at an extra charge of roughly ¥4,000 per person. The owner speaks a little English, but have a phrasebook handy if you want the conversation to progress. Just a short walk away is the Annex (¥6,000 single, ¥10,000-¥12,000 double), which is more modern and has more facilities.
Address 4-16-8 Ikenohata, Taito-ku, Tokyo
Telephone 03 3821 9808
Admission Rates ¥5,200 single (no bath); ¥8,400-¥16,000 2-4 people (no bath); ¥9,600-¥17,200 2-4 people (with bath).
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