Scott Biddick

Tokyo – Exotic, Surprising, Extraordinary

For a civilization that’s older than that of America and most other countries, Japan strikes one as a very exotic place, somewhat out of the ordinary and sometimes, short of strange itself. This culture is best personified by its premier city, Tokyo.

Tokyo has most of the things found in Japan and maybe more. The oriental mysticism, the religiosity, the dedication of the people towards what they revere the most – all these are intact and even reflects more of the Japanese culture among others.

For the people of the West who are visiting, the best way to imbibe all these is to simply accept them, and do as most Japanese do. Even the food is an adventure, but once you get the hang of it, you’ll surely hunker for more.

Like a good visitor, one needs to go with the flow in Tokyo – in customs, food, sight-seeing, leisure and many other things in their culture. Also, from a practical point of view, Tokyo is also one of the most expensive cities in the world.

Harajuku / festivals / other places

Begin your escape by strolling around the Ginko tree lined Omote-Sando, a glamorous boulevard of high-end boutiques. You can check out an explosion of art at Design Festa gallery or maybe pose (or dance along) the young people at Yoyogi Park.

Escape to the wooded grounds that encircle Tokyo’s premier Shinto Shrine, Meiji-jingū. On festival days, marvel at the men and women wearing all those gorgeous kimonos for the festivities.

Festivals

Not a week passes by when there is a matsuri (festival) of some kind somewhere in the city. They can range from the exotic viewing parties of cherry blossom-watching to some hot experiences as fire-walking (Hiwatarisai fire festival, Yakuo-in temple).

There are grand parades where costumed participants carrying aloft mikoshi (portable shrines). In Asakusa, along Nakamise-dori, follow the procession of countless pilgrims by approaching Sensō-ji, Tokyo’s most famous Buddhist temple.

Along the way, you may exercise your touristy habit of visiting colorful stalls that sell many type of souvenirs ranging from giant rice crackers to exquisite battledores.

Contemporary art

In 3331 Arts Chiyoda, there’s a score of free contemporary art galleries featuring a mix of exhibitions and some interactive installations.

Check out, too, the galleries of the Bakuchoro area. These are all housed in the Agata-Takezawa Building, including the well-known Taro Nasu Gallery.

Cheap places

Getting away from Tokyo is a great spot where one can escape for some relaxation for free – The Imperial East Garden (Higashi-Gyōen).

Some antique fairs and flea markets are usually on temple grounds. Here are some of the good ones: Azabu-jūban Antique Market, Nogi-jinja Flea Market and Roppongi Antique Fair.

Mount Fuji

This ancient volcano is one of the more beautiful ones in the world and tourists, local and foreign, still flock to it. It is the tallest mountain in Japan (12,389 feet). From Tokyo, it still can be seen on a clear.

Today, it takes on as a symbol of the country after the capital moved to Tokyo. Of course, there is more to Tokyo than Fuji and the places described here. You have to discover them yourself.

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