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Tokyo Like a Local
Wining and dining, cocktails with class, clubbing and carousing—you'll find it all, and more, beneath Tokyo's neon-soaked night sky. Of all the drinking options nothing is as local as an izakaya—Japan’s answer to the English pub. These ubiquitous watering holes provide a great way to mix with locals and sample all manner of drinks and food. Shinjuku, Shimbashi, and Yurakucho are particularly good izakaya hunting grounds.
Shin Hinomoto (aka Andy’s Place), Yurakucho. There are no issues with language barriers at this bustling izakaya under the railway tracks in Yurakucho. It’s a quintessential izakaya, albeit run by a Brit.
Kamiya Bar, Asakusa. The convivial locals make this old-fashioned pub a great place to soak up the shitamachi atmosphere, especially if you loosen up with some Denki Bran, a mix of brandy, gin, and Curacao first served here in the 1880s.
Moments of Calm
Tokyo is an urban paradise for traveler and resident alike. That doesn't mean, however, that local Japanese sensibilities—steeped in centuries of cultural appreciation for nature and moments of tranquility and reflection—have been paved over. Amid the high-rises and crowds, well-groomed parks and gardens, such as Hamarikyu and Shinjuku Gyoen, provide Tokyoites the chance for some calm. Others head out of Tokyo to connect with nature. Every year roughly 300,000 Tokyoites and visitors scale nearby Mt. Fuji during peak climbing season (July and August). Thousands of others take to Nikko National Park to see Kegon Falls and other natural wonders, especially when foliage begins to change color in fall.
Mt. Fuji, in Fuji-Hakone-Izu National Park. Well within reach of the big city, beautiful, snowcapped Mt. Fuji is bound to make an impression, whether you climb to the summit or view it from afar.
Kegon Falls, Nikko National Park. You can view Japan's most famous waterfall from either the top or the bottom of the 318-foot drop and make a day of enjoying this shrine-peppered scenic park. And it's all just two hours from Tokyo.
Japan is perched on a geothermal gold mine and onsen (hot springs) are everywhere. Locals have made bathing in these hot springs a near-ritualistic experience, with unique healing properties attributed to the water. These baths are more about self-pampering than getting clean, but give yourself a thorough shower and rinse before your soak. Proper etiquette demands it. There are indoor and outdoor pools of different sizes, with varying temperatures to choose from, but the ones outside are best if you want to admire the natural setting.
Oedo Onsen Monogatari, Odaiba. This onsen at Yurikamome Telecom Center pays homage to this tradition at an Edo period–style facility with all the trimmings; it's the city's finest.
Hakone Kowakien Yunessun Resort, Kanagawa Prefecture. Just 90 minutes by train from Tokyo, Hakone is famed for its abundance of onsen resorts and inns, from the budget to the lavish. The resort offers an exquisite traditional onsen, a water amusement park, and bathing-suit-only grounds. Visitors can even soak in green tea and sake.
It's fair to say that baseball is as much a national pastime in Japan as it is in the United States. The Japanese have adopted and adapted the sport in a way that makes it a fascinating and easy-to-grasp microcosm of both their culture and their relationship to the West. The team names alone—the Yakult Swallows and the Hiroshima Carp, for example—amuse Westerners accustomed to such monikers as the Yankees and Indians, and the fans' cheers are chanted more in unison than in United States ballparks. The season runs from late March through October. Same-day baseball game tickets are hard to come by for the most popular teams, such as Tokyo’s Yomiuri Giants; try the respective stadiums or various ticket agencies. You can buy tickets for most events at convenience stores, such as Lawson, 7-Eleven, and Family Mart. Depending on the stadium, the date, and the seat location, expect to pay from ¥1,500 to ¥8,000.Updated: 01-2014
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