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Port Of Call: Tokyo, Japan

By: Ben Hall
 
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Overview

 

From futuristic skyscrapers to ancient temples, and karaoke bars

to sushi joints, Tokyo has it all. It’s also a city wrapped up in a manic energy, which is both energising and exhausting at the same time. On first visit, this sprawling hyper-urban metropolis can be overwhelming but armed with a one day metro pass (most train and metro stations and maps are posted in English), it’s possible to get out and about and see three or four major sights in a day.

 

The Details

 

Location: In the Kanto region on the southeastern side of the main island Honshu.

 

The Language: Japanese, but English is spoken.

 

Currency: Yen.

 

Docking/anchoring: Cruise ships that fit under the Rainbow Bridge dock at Harumi Passenger Ship Terminal on Harumi Island. Bigger ships dock at Yamashita Park, Yokohama, which is Japan’s second biggest city and 44 kms from Tokyo.

 

Transport: Shuttles to central Tokyo are offered from Harumi and there are usually taxis at the terminal. The nearest metro station is Kachidoki Station on Toei Oedo Subway Line which is 20 minutes on foot or about 5 minutes by taxi.

From Yokohama, shuttles are usually offered by cruise lines as it can take an hour to get into Tokyo. Taxis are available but will be expensive. The nearest station is Nihon-odori Station on the Minato Mirai Line which is a seven minute walk.

 

Don’t Miss

 

Ginza is one of the most famous downtown areas in Japan and the main drag of Ginza-dori is famed for being the “Fifth Avenue of Tokyo” with some of the most expensive real estate on the planet, and an impressive line-up of upmarket designer boutiques. On the weekends Ginza-dori is closed off to traffic and transformed into a pedestrian  haven. 

 

The Asakusa Kannon Temple is Tokyo’s oldest temple, and is in a district where the feeling of “Old Edo” prevails among the winding backstreets. The main draw cards are the temple itself and the colourful market of Nakamise Dori which is a street nearby. Asakusa is place of contrasts and on a Saturday afternoon it’s teeming with locals offering prayers or buying “ema” which are small wooden plaques on which people write wishes for luck in exams, health and love. 

 

Best Photo Op

 

There are two places to take in panoramic views of the city. The first is free of charge, and from the 45th floor observatories at the Tokyo Metropolitan Government Buildings in Shinjuku; on a clear day, you can see Mt Fuji. The other is from the Mori Tower at Roppongi Hills. Occupying the the 54th floor, Tokyo City View is a vast, glass-enclosed observation deck, but it comes with a fee.

 

Shopping

 

One of the first things you notice about Tokyo is that it’s a city that’s bound up in retail shopping. Shopping malls are everywhere, even in underground stations, and one of the most famous retail areas, along with Ginza, is the world-famous Akihabara or “Electric Town” which is a technophile’s fantasy come true. From a small group of electrical shops selling radios in the 1940‘s, this area has evolved into an amazing complex of retail shops selling every electronic gadget that’s been invented. Nakamise Dori is the place to stock up on souvenirs such as Japanese fans, paper lanterns, solar powered money cats, and Japanese doll key rings. 

 

Eating And Drinking

 

Although Tokyoites are always on the move, eating is always a serious business. From the simplicity of a depachika meal, in a department store food hall, to high-end restaurants, it’s one of the world’s great cities for eating out. Tsukuji Fish Market is the place to go for the freshest sushi, while the Asakusa district is famous for tempura. Tokyo’s multitude of markets are also great places find cheap eats, including handmade ice cream (especially the delicious green tea variety), “stick food” such as skewered, grilled chicken, sweet bean dumplings called manju, and simple noodles.

 

Pick of the Excursions

 

One of the best introductions to Tokyo is an all-day tour that takes in Imperial Palace Park, the historic Meiji Shrine and the Asakusa Kannon Temple. The palace is hidden behind a dense wood of trees. It’s also only open to the public on special occasions but you can wander around the moat and gardens that protects the palace for a serene break from the neon and chaos of Tokyo. 

 

Tours to Mt Fuji begin with a scenic two and a half hour drive to Japan’s famous Hakone National Park for a gondola ride over the area’s thermal springs and a cruise across Lake Ashi where you can see the majestic peak of Mt Fuji.

 
 

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