Mike's Japan by Mike Dixon - HTML preview
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I have friends who left well-paid jobs in Tokyo for a more relaxed lifestyle but they make frequent trips back. It’s a great place to visit. Whether you are a teenage tearaway or a serious-minded intellectual, you’ll not be disappointed. There’s a lot to turn you on so long as you have time to enjoy it.
When my wife and I go to Tokyo we generally stay in one of the many inns that specialise in taking foreign guests. On our last two visits we stayed in Asakusa. That’s a famous temple area and it has a lot of character. I’m reminded of parts of London that have retained something of their Cockney heritage. There are stalls selling things, guys with rickshaws, priests, nuns and girls in kimonos.
During the day, Asakusa is overrun with tourists. When night falls the tourists leave and the atmosphere changes. Side streets light up. Shutters are opened. Tables are brought out onto pavements and suddenly it’s like a small town where everyone knows one another and every night is party night.
Getting around in Tokyo is easy. You go to the nearest Metro station and take a train. Timetables and maps are in Western (ABC) script as well as Japanese. You can buy a ticket from a machine or use the ticket office. Many railway staff know enough English to tell you what to do. If you look suitably lost, there's a fair chance some nice person will come to your aid.
If you want to take a look at top department stores and chic restaurants then the Ginza is the place for you. For the latest in electronic wizardry, go to Akihabara. If you want to see where the kids have their rave parties, try Shibuya and Harajuku. The photo on the cover was taken at Shibuya.
The nation's top art galleries and museums are at Ueno. You will also find the ancient shrine of the Tokugawa family (of Shogun film fame) in the park there. The famous Ueno markets are next to Ueno station. Hang on to your wallet and see if you can spot any Yakuza.
Sumo enthusiasts should visit Ryogoko, which is where the wrestlers live. Go just after breakfast when they are walking to their training sessions in full regalia. You'll make the day of some young guy if you photograph him and ask for his autograph.
For books, private art galleries, and shops selling old prints and manuscripts go to leafy Kanda.