Tokyo, Japan's capital and largest city, is on the Kanto Plain on the east coast of Honshu Island. It is made up of twenty-three city wards, twenty-six cities, five towns and eight villages and several small Pacific Islands. Its population of 12,000,000 lives in an area of 2,168 sq kms.
Along with many other countries, Japan is swept up in World Cup Fever and that is adding to the energy in Tokyo.
En route to Germany to check out where the Socceroos will be competing in the FIFA World Cup, our crew had 24 hours in Tokyo and had to hit the ground running to see as much as possible.
The Tokyo subway is possibly the most efficient people mover on earth. 5.7 million passengers ride it every day, and delays are rare. The core of the system is the Yamanote loop. It crosses most major train routes and circles central Tokyo, so if you have limited time, that's the easiest way to make the most of it. It's been said that if you conquer the subway, you have conquered Tokyo.
The Asakusai District is a must for travellers. It gives an insight into old world and traditional Japan. It has many temples and the Senso-ji Temple is the most famous. It was completed in 645AD and has an imposing Buddhist structure featuring a massive paper lantern dramatically painted in vivid red and black to suggest thunder and lightning. Buddhist pilgrims go there for purification and to pay homage.
Next to the temple is a five-storey pagoda built in 1973 honouring many people, including comedians!
Akihabara is quite the antithesis of Asakusai. It is known as Electric Town and is one of the world's largest shopping precincts for new and used electronic, computer and otaku goods. It all began after WWII when a black market in radio components began, and these days major manufacturers often try out their new products there.
The electronic Mecca covers five city blocks and is quite chaotic with the sounds of recorded sales jingles and hawkers flogging motherboards and electronic gadgets. As soon as you leave Akihabara Station there's no doubting you are headed for a retail hit.
In the Roppongi district is Roppongi Hills, one of the country's largest integrated property developments. Built by tycoon Minoru Mori at a cost of three billion dollars, the mega-complex comprises office space, apartments, shops, restaurants, cafes, movie theatres, a museum, hotel, television studio, amphitheatre and a few parks. The jewel in the crown is the 54 storey Mori Tower. Its 52nd floor observation deck is the best place in town to get a good idea of Tokyo's layout.
State-of-the-art vibration control systems are earthquake-resistant. It is said to be able to withstand not only small and medium-sized quakes and winds, but also quakes the strength of the Kobe disaster. Movement at the top of the building stays at the same level as the middle and lower floors.
It's pleasant to pop into one of the city's akachochin red lantern restaurants. They tend to have a regular clientele of locals who drop in most evenings, and a mama-san fusses over them. They may linger for hours over favourite dishes, usually specialties of the house. There are many restaurants to choose from and they are warm and friendly.
As in most countries, it's always a good idea to learn a few basic words. It makes it easier to get around and locals appreciate the effort!