Tokyo just might be the largest city in the world, comprised of 23
individual wards, all with their own unique characteristics.
Foreigners are easily intimidated by the sheer expanse of Japan's
capital city and its 17 million inhabitants (5 million are commuters); however, due to
this volume alone Tokyo has developed an unmatched public transportation system and an
intricate network of visitor friendly information resources.
The best way to travel Tokyo's frantic bustle is to allow the subway
to lead the way. A loose itinerary will draw you into true Japanese life through
unexpected encounters and more intimate experiences.
It may be ironic that one of the most expensive cities in the
world also has one of the most rampant and flamboyant consumer cultures.
Tourist attractions in Tokyo consist of many gargantuan shopping
complexes in addition to the cultural favourites. The Ginza shopping district reigns
supreme for ostentatious spending habits, with thousands of mega-stores, boutiques and an
excessive array of non-functional novelty stores for the easily amused within us all.
For a dose of New York in Tokyo, visit Shibuya, which is rife with
higher-end shops, shrines, King-Kong-sized plasma TV screens and the busiest pedestrian
street crossing in the world.
There is a tendency to become inundated and desensitised by the neon
lights that line the city streets like masts in Japan's ocean of technology.
While these electric temples serve to extol a hyper-modern age, Tokyo
also possesses some of the most idyllic and serene shrines and pagodas in the country.
is the most impressive of Tokyo's Shinto shrines; built with Japanese cypress and copper
plates for the roof. Even though the shrine was destroyed during World War II, the
reconstruction has not lost any of the grandeur.
Just north of the city, Bonsai Park treats visitors to the zen-like
art of cultivating these meticulously placed miniature trees and experiencing the calming
of the mind.
An essential experience for anyone travelling to Tokyo is the view of
Mount Fuji in the early hours of dawn. This is possible from within the city, atop one of
the massive skyscrapers such as the Government Building in Shinjuku.
Directly in the centre of Tokyo, the Imperial Palace (Kokyo) is an
inner-city sanctuary that is home to the Imperial Family. The public can visit the
surrounding East Gardens and walk along the double bridge over the tranquil moats of the
palace grounds, but the palace buildings and inner courtyard are closed to visitors.
Travel to Tokyo with a willingness to get lost among the hustle and
perhaps find yourself again in the silence of a shrine. The expansive city and system of
subways make it nearly impossible to make a wrong turn.
By Frank Johnson.
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