metro tour can be the best way to take in the sprawl­ing Ja­panese cap­i­tal

Business Traveler (USA) - - MEETING MATTERS - By Tom Ot­ley


Tokyo is a huge city (845 square miles) and for the new­comer, ini­tially daunt­ing. The trick is to mas­ter the trans­port sys­tem, start­ing off with the sub­way and the JR (Ja­panese Rail­ways) lines, par­tic­u­larly theYa­man­ote line, from which point the me­trop­o­lis sud­denly be­comes far more man­age­able. This tour starts at one of its old­est spots – the Im­pe­rial Palace in the center of the city. It takes its name from the fact this has been the home of the Ja­panese em­peror since 1868, though Edo Cas­tle oc­cu­pied the area for cen­turies be­fore­hand. The cur­rent em­peror, Ak­i­hito, and his wife still live in the palace, though you are un­likely to spot them, not least since the gen­eral pub­lic are only al­lowed into the Im­pe­rial Palace Grounds on Jan. 2 and Dec. 23 (the em­peror’s birth­day), two dates uni­ver­sally un­pop­u­lar for busi­ness travel. Still, de­pend­ing on the weather, you can wan­der around the outer gar­dens, take pic­tures of Ni­jubashi bridge, and then head off to­wards the high rises for your whis­tle-stop tour of the city.


Take the south­bound Marunouchi line and get off at the next stop, Ginza sta­tion. The Sony build­ing is a Tokyo land­mark and, in­side, the many stair­cases, be­wil­der­ing lay­out and sheer vol­ume of prod­ucts on dis­play make it a must-see. For any­one keen on elec­tron­ics, its eight floors of­fer more than enough to while away an af­ter­noon, and the fourth floor is the tax-free shop­ping zone. 531 Ginza; sony­build­


Leave the Im­pe­rial Palace Gar­dens to the east and you’ll be in the shop­ping and busi­ness dis­trict of Marunouchi. An easy-on-the-eye in­tro­duc­tion to Tokyo, this isn’t the neon bustling fu­ture­opo­lis that you may have been ex­pect­ing, but long, straight streets filled with of­fices, the odd fives­tar ho­tel and in­ter­na­tional brand shops. For vis­it­ing bankers, it will be a home away from home, but as­sum­ing you can re­sist the lure of the shop­ping, it’s the ren­o­vated Tokyo sta­tion you are head­ing for. It looks de­cep­tively western, though ap­par­ently the guide­book story of it be­ing mod­eled on Am­s­ter­dam’s Cen­traal sta­tion isn’t true. Still, with the ad­ja­cent Tokyo Sta­tion ho­tel hav­ing been re­fur­bished and re­opened last year, you are see­ing it in all its unique glory for the first time in decades.

Be ex­ploratory, and en­ter the sta­tion via the ho­tel. Walk through the lobby and out into the sta­tion it­self, then head to the metro (Tokyo) to buy tick­ets for the rest of this tour. Buy a pack of 11 coupon tick­ets (¥1,900/$20) to cover you for all metro jour­neys up to 7 miles., thetokyo­sta­tion­ho­, toky­


You’ve been to the ge­o­graph­i­cal center, now find the city’s real center – the Senso-ji Tem­ple in the Asakusa dis­trict. From Ginza sta­tion, take the north­bound Ginza metro line to Asakusa sta­tion. The tem­ple is a liv­ing, breath­ing place where rit­u­als are still per­formed, and ev­ery­one from lo­cal stu­dents to old ladies comes to ask for good for­tune.

Con­sider ar­rang­ing a guide be­fore your trip – Via Ja­pan can help, and can pro­vide sim­ple in­struc­tions on how to ne­go­ti­ate the city, along with notes on what you are see­ing. A guide will ex­plain that hold­ing op­po­sites in dy­namic ten­sion is the Ja­panese way of do­ing things, hence the stun­ning jux­ta­po­si­tions of an­cient and mod­ern you will see in the city. The ap­proach to the tem­ple pro­vides yet another con­trast – small stalls sell­ing tra­di­tional gifts and the an­cient Kam­i­na­ri­mon Gate set against the back­drop of the strik­ing Asakusa Cul­ture Tourist In­for­ma­tion Cen­tre and Asahi build­ing. The lat­ter’s de­sign, by Philippe Starck, is a celebration of the beer, with the strange golden wave es­cap­ing from one side sym­bol­iz­ing the Asahi flame.


If you have a pre­con­ceived no­tion of the Ja­panese hav­ing a strange af­fec­tion for sci­ence fic­tion and fan­tasy dolls, Ko­to­bukiya is the place to have those ideas con­firmed. To reach it, hop back on the Ginza line and travel south, change at Ueno, and take the Hibiya line to Ak­i­habara, Tokyo’s elec­tronic dis­trict. This one-of-a-kind store has ev­ery­thing from Star Wars to Godzilla and Howl’s Mov­ing Cas­tle. Many are col­lec­tor’s items, in­clud­ing painted resin Fine Art Stat­ues, Bishoujo (pretty girl) Stat­ues and One Coin Mini Fig­ures. Step out­side and check out the food vend­ing ma­chines where you can pick up com­plete meals. ko­


Take the Hibiya line back to Ueno, then take the Ginza line west­wards to Shibuya, a cou­ple of min­utes’walk from Omote­sando Hills. High-end shop­ping malls aren’t in short sup­ply in Tokyo, but this is some­thing spe­cial. Ja­panese ar­chi­tect Tadao Ando’s de­sign gets around the fact that the mall is on a hill with an in­ge­nious se­ries of ramps, es­ca­la­tors and stairs, which re­ally en­livens the place. Shops in­clude Es­cada, Black Fleece by Brooks Brothers, and Dolce and Gabbana. Af­ter dark, the façade acts as an LED ad­ver­tise­ment. omote­san­do­ /english

Via Ja­pan Hol­i­days spe­cialises in be­spoke pro­grams to Ja­pan for sin­gle trav­el­ers or small groups. Tel +44 (0)20 7484 3328; vi­a­ BT

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