The Heart of Japan

Tokyo, the heart of Japan, stands between modernity and tradition, making this a dream destination for people from around the world.

I was captivated by Tokyo from the time I landed at Narita International Airport. After a red-eye from Jakarta, I landed in the morning and continued the journey to downtown Tokyo, which took another 90 minutes. My hotel was in Akasaka and it became my base to explore Tokyo. So, come with me and discover the city formerly known as Edo.

Iconic Shibuya
It’s not officially a trip to Tokyo if you don’t visit Shibuya. This famous intersection, with its cool spectacle of giant video screens and neon, includes Shibuya Station and the iconic Hachiko statue. I couldn’t help but smile as I walked around this fabulous area. Shibuya lets you know that you are really in Tokyo as you cross what may be the busiest intersection in the world. Shibuya is unique, with every street having a completely different atmosphere. Shibuya Centre Street is crowded with a multitude of shops, including youth fashion shops, fast-food restaurants and game centres, and it is famous as the place where new trends are born and quickly spread among youth nationwide. It is always crowded day and night, mostly with teenagers, and you can get a feel for today’s Japanese fashion trends here. Not to be missed is Hachiko Square and its statue of the loyal dog Hachiko, who spent nine years waiting for his master outside Shibuya Station. His inspiring story brings many visitors to the square for a picture in front of the statue.

Sacred Sensoji Temple
Tokyo is home to numerous temples that are not only places of worship, but also tourist destinations. Sensoji Temple is Tokyo’s oldest temple and one of the most visited spots in the city. Located in Asakusa, Sensoji receives almost 30 million visitors each year. Sensoji is a Buddhist temple built in the seventh century. Two fishermen brothers found a statue of Kannon, the female goddess of mercy, on one of their fishing trips on Sumida River. The temple was completed in 645. As you approach Sensoji, you will pass along a street called Nakamise Dori, which stretches from the outer gate to the temple’s second gate. This street is lined with shops selling souvenirs, handicrafts, snacks and trinkets. In the surrounding neighbourhood, you can find man-powered vehicles called jinrikisha, or pulled rickshaw, which are ideal for exploring Asakusa.

View From the Top
Tokyo Tower is a popular destination, but there is an even more majestic tower in the city. Tokyo Skytree, the tallest tower in the world, displacing Canton Tower in Guangzhou, with a total height of 634 metres. Standing proudly in Sumida district, this multi-use tower is home to a restaurant and observation decks. The colour of Tokyo Skytree is based on aijiro, the lightest shade of the traditional Japanese indigo blue. The colour of Skytree also replicates the technique of indigo dyers, with a hint of blue added to the white, giving it a delicate pale blue glow, like that of white celadon ware. Colours created by indigo dyers represent the legacy of Japanese traditional craftsmanship as conserved in the downtown area housing the tower. Dressed in Skytree white, the tower stands tall against the blue sky in downtown Tokyo and transcends time with eternal brightness. The tower’s highest point, Sorakara Point, at 451.2 metres, offers great views of the city.

DisneySea Escape
Tokyo DisneySea Park is a fun park that will dazzle with its marine attractions. DisneySea was inspired by legends of the sea. The theme park is the only one in the world offering seven zones, each with a unique design and fun rides. You also have to check out the live entertainment including Fantasmic, The Legend of Mythica, Big Band Beat and Mystic Rhythms. And don’t miss the DisneySea fashion show with Disney cartoon characters. Each zone at DisneySea has a popcorn booth offering unusual flavours such as milk tea, curry and black pepper.

Day Trip to Kinugawa
Kinugawa, a city outside Tokyo, is famous for Edo Wonderland and Tobu World Square, which transport visitors back to the Edo era, with its typical villages and depictions of ninja life. To reach Kinugawa, you can catch a trail from Asakusa Station, with the trip taking about two hours. From Kinugawa-Onsen Station, you can take a shuttle bus to the tourist sites. Entering Edo Wonderland, there is a path to the wooden traditional houses, restaurants and souvenir shops. There are street performances and live performances in a special arena showcasing ninja action, complete with fighting moves and techniques. This park was inspired by the Edo period, or the Tokugawa period. The Edo period was between 1603 and 1868, when Japanese society was under the rule of the Tokugawa shogunate. Another attraction in Kinugawa city is Tobu World Square, about 10 to 15 minutes from Edo Wonderland. Tobu World Square is home to the world’s most famous structures in miniature.

Text and Photos by Priscilla Picauly

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