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Tokyo - The Modern Capital of Japan

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For those of you ready for an exciting, hi-tech experience put on your funky wear, charge your digicams and make a dash for Tokyo.

There’s no doubt that you’ll feel the strength of the Japanese right in Tokyo.

Modern Capital of Japan

This major metropolis used to be a small fishing village, called Edo, back in the sixteenth century.

Imagine flimsy wooden houses cramped side-by-side and fires spreading swiftly, leaving it in cinders many times over and always being rebuilt.

The Emperor Meiji, in the nineteenth century, made Tokyo the capital and opened the doors of Japan after 250 years of isolation.

The Japanese were in a frenzy to modernize realizing that they were straggling far behind the other already industrialized countries. But an earthquake, in 1923, and the air raids of World War II, in 1945, left Tokyo needing to start from scratch again.

Since then Tokyo has become the largest city in the world and in the forefront of technology. Tokyo was built with the future in mind while still holding an essence of the old Edo.

Tokyo is new, unlike Japan’s many other historic cities like Kyoto and Nara, where you can see intricately built temples and castles.

Tokyo is crowded, lined with skyscrapers and neon lights, ramen houses and store workers screaming “irashaimase!” (welcome!). It is nearly too overwhelming and yet it is overwhelmingly fascinating.

Tokyo For Tourists

Perhaps the first most important thing to do, when visiting Tokyo, is pick up a city guide and a map. You may also want to arm yourself with a travel guide to Japan, or at least one for Tokyo.

There are many tourist information counters around where you can pick up a train and Tokyo subway map.

Kanagawa Prefecture is the nearest sightseeing area to Tokyo, with nine different information centers.

You can also get more information on Tokyo at Narita airport.

If you run into problems, call the Japan Helpline; Japan's only 24 hour non-profit, nation-wide emergency assistance service.

Tackle Tokyo One Section at a Time

There are several districts that all act like smaller cities within the major metropolis.

There is a handy train that loops around the center of Tokyo called the JR Yamanote Line. Hopping on and off this line is highly recommended for first timers.

Shinjuku or Shibuya are both great places to start.

Step off a train, even at 11pm, in the heart of Tokyo’s Shibuya district and you’ll probably be greeted by hoards of people. Fortunately, however, the Japanese are perhaps one of the most polite people in the world; save the obasans, or older women, that won’t mind shoving a few pointy elbows to make their way.

A busy train station is an interesting place to peak into today’s Japanese culture.

Aspiring J-pop stars like to seek exposure and a few yen around a station. Perhaps you'll see them singing live with small mikes and acoustic guitars; or maybe you’ll hear a violinist playing Mozart, solo.

Stroll along, listen to the music, try some takoyaki or fried octopus balls, and soak it all in before setting off to more adventures.

As you dive into the city, don’t get disgruntled by the cacophony of cars honking, advertisements over loud speakers, and music coming from several stores.

Instead, look for the idiosyncrasies in all the bustle. Women in two-toned uniforms and hats thrusting the latest Internet promotions your way; or crowds of Japanese teenyboppers with cute ponytails, dyed hair and pop-wear pounding away at their cell phones.

You may even see a geisha girl on her cell phone running to catch a train.

Keep your eyes open and have fun because Tokyo has it all: shopping, eating, drinking and best of all eccentricity.

By Janet Nakano.

About The Author

Janet Nakano has taught English at a primary school and middle school in Japan.

She's also a freelance writer, loves travelling in Japan and is fascinated by modern day Japanese culture. Janet writes about anything from big cities to small rural towns, interesting aspects of Japanese culture, as well as things to do and great places to visit around Japan.

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