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Kyoto Travel Guide – Deals

Quick Links:

A – Overview

B – City information

C – Attractions & Things To Do

D – Family Fun Attractions

E – Events & Entertainments

F – Kyoto Travel Deals

A – Overview

Nestled among mountains in Western Honshu, Kyoto has a reputation worldwide as Japan’s most beautiful city, boasting more World Heritage sites per square inch than any other. However, most visitors’ first impressions will be of the vast urban development of central Kyoto, which stretches in all directions from its hub at the ultra-modern glass-and-steel railway station.

 kyoto-overview

Kyoto does not have an airport, but it has the Shinkansen (bullet train) from Tokyo, which glides almost silently between the two cities in only 2 hours and 14 minutes.  For connections to points along the way, travelers can take the private Hankyu or Keihan lines to Osaka, or the Kintetsu line to Nara.

 

Kyoto was Japan’s capital and the emperor’s residence from 794 until the Meiji Restoration of 1868 when the capital was moved to Tokyo. It is the country’s seventh largest city with a population of 2.6 million people. Kyoto is still considered the center of Japanese culture and is a city of revered temples and serene gardens most of which were built for emperors, shoguns, geishas, and monks during the period of imperial power.

 

Over the centuries, Kyoto was destroyed by many wars and fires, but due to its historic value, the city was not chosen as a target of air raids during World War II.

 

Kyoto is in the Kansai region of Japan, located near Osaka and Kobe. It is famous for its 1600 Buddhist temples and 400 Shinto shrines. Kyoto features the famous Ryoan-ji temple’s zen garden and is the place where the Kyoto protocol was developed. (In 1997, Kyoto hosted the international conference that bears the city’s name, which resulted in issuance of the protocol on the limiting worldwide of environmentally harmful greenhouse gas emissions.)

 

Highlights of Kyoto include Nijo Castle with its series of ornately-decorated reception rooms within the Ninomaru complex and its “nightingale floors” : wooden flooring which makes bird-like squeaking sounds when stepped on as a result of nail placement in the floor joists. This was a warning system signaling an intruder to the resident shogun’s guards. From the donjon of the inner castle, visitors enjoy panoramic views of the castle layout, and of the entire city.

 

The Imperial Park is a large, peaceful area in the centre of Kyoto, circling the Imperial Palace. The Palace itself is only open to visitors on pre-booked guided tours. Rianji Temple is known for its Zen garden, which is considered to be one of the most notable examples of the “dry-landscape” style. Surrounded by low walls, an arrangement of fifteen rocks sits on a bed of white gravel and is designed to inspire contemplation and inner peace.

 

The Temple of the Golden Pavilion, formally known as Rokuonji is the most popular tourist attraction in Kyoto. The pavilion was originally built as a retirement villa for Shogun Ashikaga Yoshimitsu in the late 12th century, and converted into a temple by his son. Rebuilt after a deliberate fire, it has been embellished with extra layers of gold leaf and fairly blazes in the sunlight. Visitors follow a path through the moss garden surrounding the pavilion.

 

The history of Kyoto extends over 1200 years, and during this time various traditional crafts have developed. Today, these traditional crafts continue to be produced by hand and are being appreciated and passed on to the next generation. Among these treasured crafts is the construction of the Kyo-Ningyo, the Kyoto doll, Kiyomizu pottery, Tegaki Yuzen, hand dyeing, and Kyo-shikki, Kyoto lacquerware.

 

Kyoto has earned a well deserved reputation as a truly vibrant city recognized and appreciated throughout Japan and the rest of the world.

B – City information

Population: 2,644,331

Time Zone: The time is 13 hours ahead of EST time in New York City.  Daylight Saving Time is not observed.

 

Average Temperatures:

 

 Month  

   High

 Low

January  

   53F  

  40F

February

   53F

  40F

March  

   59F  

  45F

April  

   66F

  54F  

May  

   72F

  62F  

June  

   76F

  67F 

July  

   83F

  75F  

August  

   85F  

  77F

September  

   82F

  72F

October  

   73F

  63F

November  

   66F

  54F

December  

   58F

  45F

 

Local Seasons: Kyoto has a relatively mild climate with four distinct seasons. The average daily temperature, which varies from 42 F in the winter to 86 F in the summer, is 61.3 F. Average precipitation peaks during the rainy season, which is usually between late June and late July, and in September during typhoon season.

 

Holidays

January 1 – New Year’s Day (Ganjitsu)

The second Monday in January – Adult’s Day (Seijin-no hi)

February 11 – National Founding Day (Kenkoku Kinen-no hi)

March 20 or 21 – Vernal Equinox (Shunbun-no hi)

April 29 – Greenery Day (Midori-no hi)

May 3 – Constitution Memorial Day (Kenpou Kinenbi)

May 4 – National People’s Day (Kokumin-no Kyuujitsu)

May 5 – Children’s Day (Kodomo-no hi)

July 20 – Marine Day (Umi-no hi)

September 15 – Respect-for-the-Aged Day (Keirou-no hi)

September 23 or 24 – Autumnal Equinox (Shuubun-no hi)

The second Monday in October – Health/Sports Day (Taiiku-no hi)

November 3 – Culture Day (Bunka-no hi)

November 23 – Labor Thanksgiving Day (Kinrou Kansha-no hi)

December 23 – Emperor’s Birthday (Tennou Tanjoubi)

 

Getting There

By Air

From Kansai Airport:   If you arrive in Japan at Kansai International Airport (KIX) outside Osaka, the JR Haruka Super Express train has direct service every 30 minutes to Kyoto Station; the trip takes approximately 75 minutes. A cheaper,  though less convenient, alternative is the JR Kanku Kaisoku, which departs every 30 minutes or so from Kansai Airport and arrives in Kyoto 100 to 120 minutes later with a change at Osaka Station.

If you have a lot of luggage, try the Airport Limousine Bus (tel. 075/682-4400) from Kansai Airport; buses depart every hour or less for the 105-minute trip to Kyoto Station.

 

By Train

Kyoto Station is like a city in itself with tourist offices, restaurants, a hotel, a department store, a shopping arcade, an art gallery, a theater, and stage events, and is connected to the rest of the city by subway and bus.

By Train from Elsewhere in Japan:   Kyoto is one of the major stops on the Shinkansen bullet train; trip time from Tokyo is 2 1/2 hours. Kyoto is only 20 minutes from Shin-Osaka Station in Osaka, but you may find it more convenient to take one of the local commuter lines that connect Kyoto directly with Osaka Station. When taking the bullet train, be prepared to enter and exit at a high rate of speed.  The train is truly efficient, and there is only a moment’s stop before it glides on at its rapid pace. 

From Kobe, you can reach Kyoto from Sannomiya and Motomachi stations.

 

By Bus from Tokyo — Night buses depart from Tokyo every evening for Kyoto, arriving the next morning. Buses depart from Tokyo Station at both 10 and 10:50pm, arriving in Kyoto at 5:55am and 6:32am respectively, and from Shinjuku Station at 10:45, 11:10, and 11:50pm, arriving in Kyoto at 6:02, 6:32, and 7:12am. Day buses depart Tokyo and Shinjuku stations several times daily. Tickets can be purchased at any major JR station or a travel agency. Contact the Tourist Information Center (TIC) in Tokyo for more information.

 

By Cruise Ship

Large Cruise Ships dock at the Port of Kobe or the Port of Osaka.  There is excellent public transportation available at either site.

 

Getting Around

Orientation

Kyoto features a rectangular street system. Unlike the streets in other Japanese cities, most of central Kyoto’s streets are named. The main streets running from east to west are numbered in ascending order from north to south, and are about 500 meters apart from each other, with several smaller streets in between. For example:  Shijo means “4th Avenue” and Nijo means “2nd Avenue”.

Kyoto’s city center with the highest concentration of dining, shopping and entertainment opportunities, is located around the junction of Shijo-dori (4th Avenue) and Kawaramachi-dori (Kawaramachi Street). JR Kyoto Station is located south of the city center at the top of Hachijo-dori (8th Avenue).

The most prominent north-south street is Karasuma-dori (Karasuma Street), which runs from Kyoto Station via the city center to Kyoto Imperial Palace. Another north-south axis is Kamo River, about one kilometer east of Karasuma-dori.

 

Bus

Few of Kyoto’s tourist attractions are located close to subway or train stations. Instead, Kyoto has a dense bus network with direct bus lines from Kyoto Station and/or the city center around Shijo-dori (4th Avenue) and Kawaramachi-dori (Kawaramachi Street) to most major sights.

Kyoto is served by multiple bus companies. For getting around central Kyoto, the green Kyoto City Buses are most numerous and useful. The red buses by Kyoto Bus are second most prominent and convenient to access sights in more outlying areas of the city.

The tourist offices provide a superb English network map for the Kyoto City Buses, which makes it quite easy for foreign visitors to access tourist attractions by bus. Despite the good map and some English displays and announcements, however, getting off at the correct bus stop can still be stressful, especially in crowded buses.

Since buses are small and operate surprisingly infrequently even on some major routes, buses to major tourist sights can often get crowded, especially on weekends and during holidays. In addition, much time can be lost when buses get stuck or only proceed slowly in the busy street traffic.

Use subways and trains as much as possible, and use buses only for medium and short distances, for example, from the closest subway or train station to the destination.

Buses are entered through the back door and left through the front door. The fare has to be paid when leaving the bus. Inside much of central Kyoto, there is a flat rate per ride. Outside the flat fare zone, the fare increases with the distance..

 

Subway

There are two subway lines in Kyoto, the Karasuma Line which runs from south to north along Karasuma-dori (Karasuma Street) and stops at JR Kyoto Station, and the newer Tozai Line which runs from east to west and crosses the Karasuma Line at the intersection of Karasuma-dori and Oike-dori.

Japan Railways  (JR)

All JR lines including the Tokaido Shinkansen pass through or commence at JR Kyoto Station. JR trains are a good option for accessing the Arashiyama area (Sagano Line) and some attractions in southern Kyoto along the JR Nara Line, e.g. Fushimi Inari Shrine and Byodoin in Uji.

 

Hankyu Railways

Hankyu Railways connect Kyoto with Osaka. The line initially runs below Shijo Avenue from Kawaramachi westwards in direction of Osaka. It is a good option for accessing the area around Katsura Rikyu.

 

Keifuku Railways

Keifuku operates two tram like train lines in northwestern Kyoto. For train lovers, a ride on these trains is a small attraction by itself. The lines can be an option for accessing Arashiyama and the area around Ryoanji and Kinkakuji.

 

Keihan Railways

The Keihan Main Line runs next and parallel to Kamo River, but unfortunately does not connect to Kyoto Station. The line continues to Osaka and is an alternative to the JR Nara Line to access attractions in southern Kyoto.

 

Eizan Railways

The Eizan train lines commence where the Keihan Line ends, at Demachi Yanagi Station in northern Kyoto. Eizan Railways operates two lines, one to Kurama and one to the base of Hieizan.

 

Kintetsu Railways

Kintetsu offers good connections from Kyoto Station to Nara. Note that some trains on the Karasuma Subway Line continue to run on the Kintetsu Nara Line, and the other way around.

 

Taxis

Kyoto is probably the Japanese city with the highest concentration of taxis. Especially in the city center, taxis are found everywhere. Taxis can not only be a more comfortable, but also an economical alternative to buses on short to medium distances for groups of three or more people.

Most taxis accommodate up to four passengers (not including the driver), while larger vehicles are able to accommodate an additional fifth passenger.

Special Tickets

Kyoto Sightseeing Card (one day and two day)

Unlimited usage of Kyoto City Buses, Kyoto Buses and the two subway lines in the city of Kyoto. The 2-day pass can be used on two consecutive days. 

 

Kyoto City Bus One Day Card:  Unlimited use of Kyoto City buses in central Kyoto. The area of validity is smaller than that of the Kyoto Sightseeing Card, and doesn’t include some of the city’s more outlying districts, such as Arashiyama. 

Prepaid cards don’t give discounts, but they make the process of taking trains and buses easier, as you do not need to buy a new ticket for each ride. Prepaid cards can be purchased at vending machines.

 

Surutto Kansai Card:  Surutto Kansai prepaid cards can be used on most trains and buses in the Kyoto/Osaka region with the exception of JR trains. The Surutto Kansai Card is also known under various different names, depending through which company you are purchasing it, e.g. Miyako Card (subway and city buses), K Card (Keihan) and Lagare Card (Hankyu). 

Taxis can be a worthwhile alternative when in doubt, and if time is a factor.

 

Neighborhoods (ku)

Around Kyoto Station: The southern ward of Shimogyo-ku, which stretches from Kyoto Station north to Shijo Dori Avenue, caters to tourists with its cluster of hotels and to commuters with its shops and restaurants. Kyoto Station, which was controversial when built because of its futuristic appearance, is now this area’s top attraction with Isetan department store, a shopping arcade, restaurants, a cinema, a theater, an art gallery, and a rooftop plaza.

 

Central Kyoto:Nakagyo-ku, the central part of Kyoto west of the Kamo River and north of Shimogyo-ku, is the location of Kyoto’s main shopping and nightlife districts, the major ones being on Kawaramachi and Shijo Dori avenues. In addition to its many shopping arcades, restaurants, and bars, Nakagyo-ku also has a number of exclusive ryokan  (Japanese style Inns) scattered through these neighborhoods that are typical of old Kyoto.   It is also home to Nijo Castle. Nakagyo-ku is one of the most desirable places to stay in terms of convenience and atmosphere.

 

Pontocho, a narrow lane that parallels the Kamo River’s western bank just a stone’s throw from the Kawaramachi-Shijo Dori intersection, is Kyoto’s most famous street for nightlife. It’s lined with bars and restaurants that boast outdoor verandas extending over the Kamo River in summer.

 

Eastern Kyoto:  East of the Kamo River, the wards of Higashiyama-ku and Sakyo-ku boast a number of the city’s most famous temples and shrines, as well as restaurants specializing in Kyoto cuisine and Buddhist vegetarian dishes and shops selling local pottery and other crafts. Eastern Kyoto is a great area for walking and shopping, particularly Higashiyama-ku, and has several ryokan (Japanese style inns) as well

 

Northern Kyoto:  Included are the Kita-ku, Kamigyo-ku, and Ukyo-ku wards.   Northern Kyoto is primarily residential but contains a number of the area’s top attractions, including the Kyoto Imperial Palace, Kinkakuji (Temple of the Golden Pavilion), and Ryoanji Temple, site of Kyoto’s most famous Zen rock garden.

C – Attractions & Things To Do

kyoto-attractions

Kinkakuji (The Temple of the Golden Pavilion)

Kinkakuji-cho, Northern Kyoto

Take Bus: 101, 102, 204, or 205 to Kinkakuji-michi

075/461-0013

Open Daily 9-5.

One of Kyoto’s best-known attractions, and the inspiration for the Temple of the Silver Pavilion, Kinkakuji was constructed in the 1390s as a retirement villa for Shogun Ashikaga Yoshimitsu and features a three-story pavilion covered in gold leaf with a roof topped by a bronze phoenix. Apparently, the retired shogun lived in shameless luxury while the rest of the nation suffered from famine, earthquakes, and plague. On a clear day, the Golden Pavilion shimmers against a blue sky, its reflection captured in the waters of the pond.

However, this pavilion is not the original. In his novel, The Temple of the Golden Pavilion), author Mishima Yukio tells the story of the destruction in 1950, by fire, of the original Golden Pavilion. According to this account, the fire was set by a disturbed student monk. The temple was rebuilt in 1955, and in 1987 was re-covered in gold leaf, five times thicker than the original coating. The surrounding park with its moss-covered grounds and teahouses provides a lovely setting.

 

Nijo Castle (Nijojo)

075/841-0096

On the corner of Horikawa Dori and Nijo Dori, Central Kyoto

Take the Subway: Nijojo-mae Station on the Tozai Subway Line. From Kyoto Station, take the Karasuma Subway Line to Karasuma Oike Station and transfer to the Tozai Line. The whole trip from Kyoto Station takes about 15-20 minutes.

Or connect to Bus: 9, 12, 50, or 101 to Nijojo-mae. Nijo Castle is most easily accessed from Nijojo-mae Station.

Open Daily 8:45am-5pm (you must enter by 4pm)

Note: Shoes must be removed before entering. There is a wall of numbered “cubbies” in which to deposit your footwear while inside the castle. It is suggested that you bring slipper socks to wear on the tour (especially on a cool, rainy day).

No photography is permitted. It is possible to rent an audio guide in English which describes the significance of what is being seen.

The Tokugawa shogun’s Kyoto home was designed for residential use, unlike most of Japan’s other remaining castles, which were constructed for the purpose of defense. Built by the first Tokugawa shogun, Ieyasu, in 1603, Nijo Castle is of Momoyama architecture, built almost entirely of Japanese cypress and boasting delicate transom wood carvings and paintings by the Kano School on its sliding doors.

 

The main building, Ninomaru Palace, has 33 rooms, some 800 tatami mats, and an understated elegance, especially compared with castles being built in Europe at the same time. All the sliding doors on the outside walls of the castle can be removed in summer, permitting breezes to sweep through the building. Typical for Japan at the time, rooms were unfurnished, and the mattresses were stored in closets.

One of the castle’s most notable features is its “nightingale” floors. To protect the shogun from intruders, the castle was protected by a moat and stone walls. In addition, the nails in these special floorboards were placed in such a way that the floors “chirped” when trod upon in the castle corridors. The nightingale floors were supplemented by hidden alcoves for bodyguards. Only female attendants were allowed in the shogun’s private living quarters.

Outside the castle is an extensive garden, designed by the renowned gardener Kobori Enshu. The original grounds of the castle, however, were without trees.

Ironically, it was from Nijo Castle that Emperor Meiji issued his 1868 decree abolishing the shogunate form of government.

 

Costume Museum

Izutsu Building, 5th floor, Shinhanayacho Dori, Horikawa Higashiiru (on the corner of Horikawa and Shinhanayacho sts. just northeast of Nishi-Honganji Temple), Around Kyoto Station

Phone 075/342-5345

Open Mon-Sat 9am-5pm

Transportation Bus: 9 or 28 to Nishi-Honganji-mae (2 min.), or a 15-min. walk north from Kyoto Station

This one-room museum is filled with a detailed replica of the Spring Palace as immortalized by Murasaki Shikibu in The Tale of Genji, complete with scenes of ceremonies, rituals, and everyday court life depicted by dolls wearing kimono and by miniature furniture and other objects of the Heian period. The exhibit, including costumes, changes twice a year. In an adjoining room, life-size kimono and costumes can be tried on, so be sure to bring your camera.

 

Ginkakuji (The Temple of the Silver Pavilion)

Ginkakuji-cho, Eastern Kyoto

Phone 075/771-5725

Transportation Bus: 5, 17, 102, 203, or 204 to Ginkakuji-michi; or 32 or 100 to Ginkakuji- Open Apr-Nov daily 8:30am-5pm; Dec-March daily 9am-4:30pm

Ginkakuji, considered one of the more beautiful structures in Kyoto, was built in 1482 as a retirement villa for Shogun Ashikaga Yoshimasa, who intended to coat the structure with silver in imitation of the Golden Pavilion built by his grandfather. He died before this could be accomplished, however, so the Silver Pavilion is not silver but remains a simple, two-story, wood structure enshrining the goddess of mercy and Jizo, the guardian god of children. Note the sand mound in the garden, shaped to resemble Mount Fuji, and the sand raked in the shape of waves, created to enhance the views during a full moon.

 

Heian Shrine

Nishi Tennocho, Okazaki, Eastern Kyoto

Transportation Subway: Higashiyama (10 min). Bus: 5, 32, 46, or 100 to Kyoto Kaikan Bijutsukan-mae

Phone 075/761-0221

Open 8:30am-6pm (to 5pm Nov-February)

Free admission to grounds; Admission charged to Shinen Garden

Kyoto‘s most famous shrine was built in commemoration of the 1,100th anniversary of the founding of Kyoto and is a replica of the main administration building of the Heian capital. It also deifies two of Japan’s emperors: Emperor Kanmu, 50th emperor of Japan, who founded Heian-kyo in 794; and Emperor Komei, the 121st ruler of Japan, who ruled from 1831 to 1866. Shinen Garden, constructed during the Meiji Era, displays weeping cherry trees in spring, irises and water lilies in summer, changing maple leaves in the fall. The effect is exceptional.

 

Hosomi Art Museum

Address 6-3 Okazaki

Saishoji-cho. Diagonally across from the Kyoto Museum of Traditional Crafts (Fureaikan), Eastern Kyoto

Phone 075/752-5555

Take the Subway: Higashiyama (exit 2) Bus: 31, 201, 202, or 206 to Higashiyama-Nijo

Open Tues-Sun 10am-6pm

This highly acclaimed private museum houses changing exhibits of Buddhist and Shinto art, primarily from temples and shrines in Kyoto and Nara, including Heian bronze mirrors, Buddhist paintings, lacquerware, tea-ceremony objects, scrolls, folding screens, and pottery.

The building is starkly modern and utilitarian. There is a gift shop displaying finely crafted goods.

 

 

Kiyomizu Temple (Kiyomizudera)

Eastern Kyoto

Phone 075/551-1234

Take Bus: 80, 100, 202, 206, or 207 to Gojo-zaka

Open Daily 6am-6pm (Jishu Shrine closes at 5pm)

This is Higashiyama-ku’s most famous temple, known throughout Japan for the views from its main hall. Founded in 798 and rebuilt in 1633 by the third Tokugawa shogun, the temple occupies a spot on Mount Otowa, with its main hall constructed over a cliff and featuring a large wooden veranda supported by 139 pillars, each 49 feet high. The main hall is dedicated to the goddess of mercy and compassion, but most visitors come for the magnificence of its height and view, which are so well known to the Japanese that the idiom “jumping from the veranda of Kiyomizu Temple” means that they’re about to undertake some particularly bold or daring adventure. Kiyomizu’s grounds are spectacular (and crowded) in spring during cherry-blossom season and in fall during the turning of the maple leaves.

 

The Shinto shrine behind Kiyomizu’s main hall has long been considered the dwelling place of the god of love and matchmaking. Ask for the English pamphlet and receive instructions for the ultimate test: On the shrine’s grounds are two “love-fortune-telling” stones placed 30 feet apart. If you can walk from one to the other with your eyes closed, your desires for love will be granted.

 

Kyoto Imperial Palace (Kyoto Gosho)

Kyotogyoen-nai, Karasuma-Imadegawa, Central Kyoto

Phone 075/211-1215

Take the Subway: Karasuma Line to Imadegawa; then turn left and walk south on Karasuma Dori.

Tours in English Mon-Fri at 10am and 2pm, also 3rd Sat of every month and every Sat in Apr, May, Oct, and Nov.

Note: Permission to tour must be obtained in person from the Imperial Household Agency Office (075/211-1215), on the palace grounds near the northeast corner (open Mon-Fri 8:45-noon and 1-4). Foreign visitors can apply in person in advance or on the day of the tour (before 9:40am for the 10am tour, before 1:40pm for the 2pm tour), but tours can fill up (especially in spring and fall); 1-day advance application required for Sat tours. You must be 18 or older (or accompanied by an adult) and you must present your passport. Parties of no more than 8 may apply.

The residence of the imperial family from 1331 until 1868, when they moved to Tokyo. The palace was destroyed several times by fire but was rebuilt in its original style. The present buildings date from 1855. The palace is constructed in the design of the peaceful Heian Period. The emperor’s private garden is available for viewing.

The palace may be visited only on a free, 1-hour guided tour. Tours are conducted quickly, and only view buildings from the outside, though they do provide information on court life and palace architecture.

 

Kyoto Museum of Traditional Crafts (Fureaikan)

9-1 Seishoji-cho

075/762-2670

In the basement of the Miyako Messe (International Exhibition Hall), Okazaki, Eastern Kyoto

Take the Subway: Higashiyama (5 min.). Bus: 5, 32, 46, or 100 to Kyoto Kaikan Bijutsukan-mae (2 min.)

Open Daily 9-5

This excellent museum is near Heian Shrine and is dedicated to the many crafts that flourished during Kyoto’s long reign as the imperial capital. Displays and videos demonstrate the step-by-step production of crafts from stone lanterns and fishing rods to textiles, paper fans, umbrellas, boxwood combs, lacquerware, Buddhist altars, and Noh masks. There are explanations in English. Crafts are sold in the museum shop.

 

Kyoto National Museum (Kokuritsu Hakubutsukan

527 Chaya-machi

Across the street from Sanjusangendo Hall, Eastern Kyoto

075/541-1151

Take Bus: 100, 206, or 208 to Hakubutsukan Sanjusangendo-mae (1 min.)

Open Tues-Sun 9:30-5

This museum features changing exhibits of the ancient capital’s priceless treasures, many of which once belonged to Kyoto’s temples and the imperial court. Japanese and Chinese ceramics, sculpture, Japanese paintings, clothing and kimono, lacquerware, and metal works are on display.

 

Museum of Kyoto (Kyoto Bunka Hakubutsukan)

At Sanjo and Takakura sts, Central Kyoto

075/222-0888

Take the Subway: Karasuma-Oike (exit 5)

Open Tues-Sun 10-7:30

This museum presents Kyoto’s 1,200-year history from prehistoric relics to contemporary arts and crafts. Architectural models depict a local market, merchants’ homes, and a wholesale store, and even the vermilion-colored Heian Shrine model with its holographic display of construction workers. The third floor features changing exhibitions of Kyoto arts and crafts as well as a Japanese-style room and garden. The annex houses archaeological finds and folk crafts.

Explanations are in Japanese only, but the museum does offer free English guides every day from 10-5. Personal tours last between 30 and 60 minutes. I is wise to make a reservation fro a tour in English. The guides are museum volunteers. Movies from the extensive Japanese film collection are shown twice a day on certain days.

 

Nishijin Textile Center (Nishijin-Ori Kaikan)

On Horikawa Dori just south of Imadegawa Dori, Central Kyoto

075/451-9231

Take the Subway: Imadegawa Bus: 9, 51, 59, or 101 to Horikawa Imadegawa

Open Daily 9-5

About a 10-minute walk west of the Imperial Palace is this museum dedicated to the weavers who for centuries produced elegant textiles for the imperial family and nobility. The history of Nishijin silk weaving began with the history of Kyoto itself back in 794; by the Edo Period, there were an estimated 5,000 weaving factories in the Nishijin District. Today, the district remains home to one of Japan’s largest handmade weaving industries. The museum regularly holds weaving demonstrations at its ground-floor hand looms, which use the Jacquard system of perforated cards for weaving.

There is a free Kimono Fashion Show, held six or seven times daily, showcasing kimono that change with the seasons. There is also a shop selling textile products and souvenirs.

 

Ryoanji Temple

Goryoshita-cho, Northern Kyoto

Take Bus: 59 to Ryoanji-mae; or 12, 50, or 51 to Ritsumeikan Daigaku-mae

075/463-2216

Open March-Nov daily 8-5; Dec-February daily 8:30-4:30.

About a 20-minute walk southwest of the Golden Pavilion is Ryoanji, the best known Zen rock garden in Japan. It was designed at the end of the 15th century during the Muromachi Period. Fifteen rocks set in waves of raked white pebbles are surrounded on three sides by a clay wall and on the fourth by a wooden veranda. The interpretation of the rocks is up to the individual.

After visiting the rock garden, take a walk around the temple grounds. They features a 1,000-year-old pond, on the rim of which is a beautiful little restaurant, Ryoanji Yudofuya, with tatami rooms and screens. There is also an attractive landscaped garden.

 

Sanjusangendo Hall

Shichijo Dori

Eastern Kyoto

075/525-0033

Take Bus: 100, 206, or 208 to Hakubutsukan Sanjusangendo-mae

Open April to mid-November daily 8-5; mid-Nov. to March daily 9-4.

No photography is allowed in the building.

Originally founded as Rengeoin Temple in 1164 and rebuilt in 1266, Sanjusangendo Hall has 1,001 wooden statues of the thousand-handed Kannon. Row upon row, these life-size figures, carved from Japanese cypress in the 12th and 13th centuries, make an impressive sight; in the middle is a large seated Kannon carved in 1254 by Tankei, a famous sculptor from the Kamakura Period. The hall stretches almost 400 feet, making it the longest wooden building in Japan. In the corridor behind the statues, archery competitions were held.

D – Family Fun Attractions

Toei Uzumasa Eiga Mura (Toei Uzumasa Movieland)

10 Higashi-Hachigaokacho 

Uzumasa, Ukyo-ku, Northern Kyoto

075/864-7718   

Take the  Train: JR line to Uzumasa or Hanazono Station (8 min.) or Keifuku Line to Uzumasa (5 min.). Bus: 75 to Uzumasa Eigamuramichi

Open Daily 9am-5pm (9:30am-4pm Dec-February)  Closed Dec 21-January 1

Admission charged.

A studio park for one of Japan’s three major film companies and where most of the samurai movies are made. This is not a theme park, but an actual, working studio with indoor and outdoor movie sets re-creating the mood, setting, and atmosphere of feudal and turn-of-the-20th-century Japan, with “villages” lined with samurai houses and old-time shops. Stagehands carry props, hammers and saws, and rework sets. You may even see a famous star walking around dressed in a samurai outfit , or come upon a scene being filmed.

There is a museum tracing the history of the film industry, a 20-minute Ninja show four times a day Monday through Friday, a special-effects show, a haunted house, a games arcade, and indoor rides and play areas for children. You can also have a photo taken of yourself in a kimono or samurai gear. Note: Back lots are open only on weekends when there is no filming, but children will prefer a weekday when there are Ninja shows and filming. Plan to spend a morning or afternoon as there is much to see and do.

E – Events & Entertainments

Early January

Toka Ebisu

Join the throngs of people who flock to Osaka’s Imamiya Ebisu Shrine to pray for prosperity and luck in business during this boisterous, colorful three day festival.

Ebisu is the God of Wealth and one of the ‘Seven Gods of Good Fortune’ (‘shichi-fukujin’). He is the patron saint of those in business and commerce and is usually portrayed carrying a fishing rod and a large fish – a symbol of abundance. Those in business never fail to make an annual visit to the Ebisu Shrine during this festival to purchase a lucky ‘fukusasa’ (good fortune bamboo branch) from Shrine Maidens who call out the promise “Buy branches and your business will prosper”!

”Toka Ebisu’ means the Tenth Day Ebisu, and indeed the highlight, a colorful parade of palanquins bearing geisha and famous celebrities, takes place on the 10th. Other attractions include geisha dances, traditional performing arts and rice cake making. The festivities each day last well into the evening, when the streets are illuminated with colored lanterns and lights.

More than a million people pass through the shrine during these three days

+81 (0) 6 305 3311

 

Early February

Setsubun (Bean Throwing Festival)

In Japan, the ritual driving out of demons, bad luck and evil spirits in preparation for the lunar New Year is achieved with boisterous mame-maki (bean throwing ceremonies), performances by colorfully dressed oni (goblins and demons) and high-profile celebrity appearances at shrines and temples across the country.

Roasted soy beans are the weapon of choice against the oni, which appear on this day in homes, schools, kindergartens and in temple and shrine precincts. As colorful “devils” wearing grotesque masks rush threateningly around, lively crowds pelt them with beans while shouting “Fuku-wa-uchi, Oniwa-soto!” (“Good luck in, devils out!”), finally vanquishing them and chasing them away. The beans are said to symbolize the sowing of seeds and the impregnation of the Earth with new life.

 

Late February-Late March

Nitten: The Japan Fine Arts Exhibition

The Japan Fine Arts Exhibition at the Osaka Municipal Museum of Art is the largest and most comprehensive of its kind. On display are carefully selected pieces of art, sculpture and calligraphy from the finest of Japan’s established modern artists, as well as talented newcomers.

With a history going back almost a century, the Nitten has certainly built a reputation for itself. Its Japanese-Style Painting category features modern interpretations of traditional styles, whereas Western-Style Painting uses foreign techniques to produce a modern representation of Japan’s natural features. Sculpture, Craft as Art and Calligraphy add variety to this already diverse blend..

+81 (0) 6 6771 4874

 

Mid March

The March Basho

The greatest Sumo wrestlers in Japan, and therefore the world, meet at the Osaka Municipal Gymnasium for the March Basho, one of the year’s six Grand Tournaments.

Sumo is one of Japan’s most popular sports, steeped in legend, history and ceremony. To the outsider it can seem like a mere battle of strength and power, but it should be remembered that this is a sport with over 70 different throws, trips, forms and tricks. Only when these are mastered will the wrestler stand a chance of becoming a Yokuzuna (grand champion).

The best seats in the house are those situated closest to the dohyo (the ring).  Make sure that you order tickets early though, as they can sell out quickly.

+81 (0) 3 5211 2171

 

Late March-Mid April

Osaka Mint Bureau – Cherry blossom viewing

No flower has a greater place in the hearts of the Japanese than the cherry blossom – the national flower of Japan

The Ministry of Finance’s Osaka Mint Bureau is situated on the Yodo Riverside Promenade.

The promenade can be walked along freely at any time, but in a tradition dating back to the late 19th century, the Mint Gardens open to the public for just one week a year during the peak blossom period. As an added bonus, the cherry trees are illuminated in the evenings. The Mint Bureau blossoms are so famous that the people of Osaka even have a special phrase, “zoheikyoku sakura no torinuke“, which means “viewing the cherry blossoms while strolling through the Mint Bureau gardens”.

The Mint Bureau gardens boast 400 cherry trees, including examples of almost 100 different varieties, some very rare. Particular attention is paid to a variety that produces light green flowers, and another where the petals are pale yellow.

+81 (0) 66351 5361

 

Early July

Tanabata Star Festival

Wish upon a star and roam streets festooned with colorful decorations during the lively traditional Tanabata Star Festival, inspired by a romantic legend and held throughout Japan.

The event, which is thought to date back to the 8th century, is based on an old Chinese legend of two lovers. Separated by the milky way, the cowherd Kengyu (the star Altair) and the weaver Orihime (the star Vega) are permitted to meet only on one night of the year, the seventh day of the seventh month.

Streets are decorated with lanterns and colorful streamers, and bamboo poles festooned with paper strips inscribed with wishes (tanzaku), origami, talismans and colored threads are erected along the streets and outside homes.

Carnival parades, beauty contests and firework displays also take place in many areas.

+81 (0) 3 5211 2171

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Tokyo Travel Guiden – Deals

Quick Links:

A – Overview

B – City information

C – Attractions & Things To Do

D – Family Fun Attractions

E – Events & Entertainments

F – Tokyo Travel Deals

A – Overview

Tokyo, Japan’s capital, is a place of vast proportions where the old and the new merge into a fabulously detailed cityscape. Upon arrival, visitors are confronted with the sheer energy that radiates from within Tokyo. Tokyo’s city center is a kaleidoscope of exotic sights and sounds. The night view brings forth a seemingly endless, delicate tapestry of Tokyo lights. Despite two major disasters, Tokyo, located at the mouth of the Sumida-gawa River, has remarkably transformed into a modern Japanese metropolis. Tokyo is an example of a success story in action.

 tokyo-overview

 

A visit to Tokyo brings a collection of sights and provides for an animated experience. In such a city there is so much to see and do, ranging from visits to shrines, temples, and excellent museums, to trips throughout the various shopping areas.

Tokyo, in fact, is a shopper’s paradise. An amazing variety of high-quality goods and brand designer products can be found in elegant specialty shops located in Shinjuku, Harajuku, Shibuya, Yurakucho, and Ikebukuro. The dazzling lights of Ginza, Japan’s answer to New York’s Fifth Avenue, and Tokyo’s most celebrated shopping district, attracts both the avid shopper and the window shopper alike.

 

In the sports arena, baseball is big business in Tokyo. The spectacular Korakuen Dome, home of the popular Giants, features Japanese professional baseball games which are held regularly. Sport fans will be drawn to Tokyo’s four biggest spectator sports:  professional baseball, rugby, sumo and soccer. Although not among the four, Yankee style football and martial arts are also quite popular.

 

If you enjoy sightseeing, make sure to embark on a relaxing and fascinating 40 minute day cruise on the Sumida River between Asakusa and the Port of Tokyo. A choice of five routes are offered: the Canal Cruise (canal district and Shinagawa Aquarium), the Harbour Cruise (Rainbow Bridge and Tokyo Port), the Kasai Sea life Park (including a stop at Tokyo Big Sight), the Museum of Maritime Science (Odaiba Seaside Park and museum of ships complete with swimming pool and palms), and the Sumida River (passing beneath a dozen bridges).

 

In this city of twenty-four-hour shops and ancient shrines, there is always a showcase performance for visitors to enjoy. For the art enthusiast, Tokyo offers many forms of entertainment. In fact, Japan is focused on the arts and, with excellent facilities such as the National Theatre and Opera City in the Shinjuku district, Tokyo appeals to individuals and groups interested in drama, opera, and the ballet. For theatregoers there are three unique and powerful forms of entertainment: Kabuki, Takarazuka, and Noh. As a standing form of ancient Japanese tradition the Kabuki features only male performers, whereas Takarazuka is an all-girl revue.

 

For a more thorough view of Japan’s history, visitors can tour the many excellent museums scattered throughout Tokyo. The most modern is the Edo-Tokyo Museum, complete with an intriguing 52-meter escalator supported by four colossal pillars.

Closely tied to the culture of Japan, the traditional Japanese gardens of Tokyo take visitors a step back from the frenzied pace of modern life. They find themselves entering a world of tranquility, an enchanting setting of gardens outlined by wooden houses landscaped with neatly clipped bonsai trees. Cobbled lanes lead to tiny neighborhood shrines shrouded in foliage.

 

A major advantage of visiting Tokyo is to participate in the many festivals that take place around the year. Each year a festival is held during which the passing seasons are observed by visits to local shrines or temples. With over 500 annual events, the festivals provide visitors tangible links to the past and present. The upbeat atmosphere is one of the things that makes Tokyo so appealing. This vitality has become part of the popular culture, a culture which seems to be constantly in the midst of a celebration of life.

B – City information

Population: 8,280,000.

Languages: Japanese. English is spoken by many people in Tokyo and is considered a language necessary for international business. Most people in the hotel and travel industry will speak some English. Very few taxi drivers or people working in restaurants and stores will understand it. Many signs in the Tokyo area also list the roman spelling (romaji) of Japanese place names as a courtesy to visitors.

 

Predominant Religions: Buddhist, Christian, Shinto.

Time Zone: 9 hours ahead of Greenwich Mean Time (+9 GMT). 14 hours ahead of Eastern Standard time. When it is 12:00 noon EST in New York City, it is 2:00 in the afternoon of the following day in Tokyo. Daylight Saving Time is not observed.

 

Weather

Average Temperatures:

 

Month

High

Low

January

47F

29F

February

48F

31F

March

54F

36F

April

63F

46F

May

71F

54F

June

76F

63F

July

83F

70F

August

86F

72F

September

79F

66F

October

69F

55F

November

60F

43F

December

52F

33F


The temperate climate brings dry and mild to cold winters, warm and humid summers and pleasant springs and autumns. Rainfall is common March-October. The best times to visit are April-May, for the blooming cherry blossoms and pleasant weather, and October-November for changing leaves and similarly enjoyable weather. It can get hot and muggy in August. Winter seldom brings snow, but temperatures usually drop below freezing for a few days.

What to Wear
Very few places have a dress code. When visiting a shrine or temple, it’s best to dress in a respectful manner. T-shirts are OK, but don’t go in cutoff jeans or shorts. Take along warm socks in winter, because shoes are removed when visiting many places, and central heating is not common. Hotels may provide slippers, but they’re tailored for smaller people, so you may be more comfortable if you bring your own.

 

Holidays

O-Shogatsu – New Year’s day and the first few days of the New Year are the most important Holidays of the year. They are filled with customs and traditions to make sure that the year ahead will be a good one.

Golden Week – several days at the end of April and/or the beginning of May which include observed holidays and other celebration days that together make up a full week of holidays.

O-Bon – the Buddhist summer festival to honor the dead or welcome the spirits of the dead on their annual visits to the earthly world (July 13-16 in Tokyo and parts of eastern Japan). O-Bon can also coincide with O-Chugen, the annual summer gift-giving time.

 

New Years Day – January 1st.

Coming Of Age Day – January 15th, in honour of all those who have their 20th birthday in the new year. All ‘new adults’ are legally allowed to smoke, drink and vote after this day.

National Foundation Day – February 11th, in commemoration of the founding of the Japanese nation. Said to be the day the first Emperor ascended the throne.

Spring Equinox – March 20th or 21st, an important period in the Buddhist calendar for paying respect to one’s ancestors.

Greenery Day – April 29th. The late Emperor Showa’s birthday was left as a national holiday.

Constitution Day – May 3rd. Commemorating the establishment of Japan’s present constitution in 1947, based on democratic principles and peaceful provisions outlawing the possession of armed forces or military power.

Children’s Day – May 5th, in celebration of the children of Japan. Huge carp streamers are hung from flagpoles outside of houses and appear to be forging their way upstream. The fish represent the courage and perseverance that young boys should have in life.

Respect For The Aged Day – September 15th. To honour the elderly and pay respect to their knowledge and experience.

Autumn Equinox – September 23rd or 24th and similar to the Spring Equinox in its festivities.

Health – Sports Day – October 10th. To promote health and physical development. Also in commemoration of the 1964 Olympics which were held in Tokyo.

Culture Day – November 3rd, established in 1948 as a day for appreciating peace and freedom and to promote culture.

Labour Thanksgiving Day – November 23rd. A day to appreciate and thank all those who support society by their work. Originally, it was a thanksgiving for the harvest.

Emperor Akihito’s Birthday – December 23rd, the birthday of the present Emperor.

It should be noted that holidays may not be observed on the actual date, and for example, if the holiday falls on a Sunday, it may be observed on the Monday following.

 

Voltage Requirements: 100 volts AC, 50 cycles. Outlets require the type of plug used in the U.S. Appliances designed for use in North America usually can be used with no adapter; however, the difference in cycles means that they’ll run about 15% slower. Many of the larger hotels have a choice of electrical outlets or can supply adapters.

Telephone Codes: 81, country code; 3, city code (dial 03 within Japan).

 

Money

Japanese Money is called Okane. [pronounced oh-kah-neh]

The Yen is the basic coin in Japan just as the cent is the basic coin in America.

The 5 Yen coin has a hole in the middle of it as does the 50 Yen coin. [In times past, men carried these coins with a hole in the middle of them around their necks tied together with a string] There is also a 10 yen, a 100 yen, and a 500 yen coin. Japanese paper money usually comes in 1,000 yen and 10,000 yen amounts. urrency Exchange
Although foreign currency can be used for some transactions at shops and restaurants that cater to foreign tourists, the yen is preferred. The most convenient place to exchange money is at the exchange desk in your hotel. The next easiest place is at a bank displaying the “Authorized Foreign Exchange Bank” sign. Most banks in Tokyo can exchange your currency quickly and with minimum hassle. Many of the larger stores have their own foreign-exchange counters offering competitive rates. Passports usually are required when converting currency.

You can extract yen at the going rate of exchange, using either a bank or credit card, at an ATM. All of Citibank’s ATMs are tied into the CIRRUS network. They have English-language menus and operate 24 hours a day.

Remember to choose a numerical PIN: There are no English alphabet keys on Japanese cash machines.

Taxes
There is a consumption tax of 5% on all purchases. Technically, foreigners are exempt from the tax, but if you’re not dealing with a shop that has a rebate counter for foreign tourists or you don’t have your passport with you, you’ will have to pay the tax.

Tipping
Tipping isn’t practiced. However, restaurants add on a 10%-15% service charge. Porters aren’t as common as they once were, but expect to pay a few hundred yen per bag. Taxi drivers don’t charge extra for handling baggage.

Communication

Telephone
Public telephones are common, and you’ll see many that have data ports. Some will only accept coins, but newer models take prepaid phone cards, too. Buy phone cards at vending machines or kiosks.

If you’re calling a number in Tokyo from inside Japan but outside the city, add the Tokyo area code (03) to the number. If you’re calling Tokyo from outside Japan, you’ll need to dial the country code (81) and the area code (3) without the leading zero. Toll-free numbers begin with 0120 or 0088.

Internet Access
Surfing the Internet is expensive because of high telephone charges. For that reason, Internet cafes aren’t that common in Tokyo. You’ll notice special phone booths on the city streets that provide high-speed data lines: You plug your laptop directly into them.
Mail and Package Services
Japan has an extensive and efficient postal system, and all hotels will provide mail and package service

 

Transportation
The subway and surface train system is the most efficient way to get around Tokyo. It is a much better option than taxis, which are very expensive and get caught in traffic. The secret to the rail system is knowing the color code of the line that stops nearest your destination. Just point out your destination on an English- and Japanese-language map or show fellow passengers your destination (written out in Japanese by your hotel staff). They’ will almost always help you buy your ticket and direct you to the right platform.

Air
All international flights to Tokyo, except those of China Airlines, land at New Tokyo International Airport (NRT) in Narita. Narita is located some 41 miles east of Tokyo, but because of the heavy and unpredictable traffic, it takes about 90 minutes to get into the city. During heavy traffica drive to or from the airport can take three or more hours. Always plan four to four-and-a-half hours between the city and Narita to ensure catching an international flight, or book a room near the airport for your last night. Most domestic flights and China Airlines’ international flights land at Tokyo International Airport (HND) in Haneda. Haneda is conveniently located between Tokyo and Yokohama, about a half-hour bus or monorail ride from downtown Tokyo.

Connecting Transportation

Travel between Tokyo and Narita is using the commercial shuttle buses (called limousines). The Limousine Bus Service counter is in the arrivals lobby, and the staff speaks English. Destinations to all major hotels, train stations and the Tokyo City Air Terminal (T-CAT) and Yokohama City Air Terminal (Y-CAT)—actually bus terminals—are displayed prominently.

Car

Driving is not convenient in Tokyo. Traffic jams that back up 20-30 miles, lasting an entire day, are not uncommon, especially during peak travel seasons.

Bus
Few foreign travelers use the intercity buses in Japan. Tokyo can be reached by bus from most major cities on Japan Railways (JR) highway buses. These leave distant cities in the evening or late at night, arriving at Tokyo station and a few other locations around the city early in the morning. For information in English, phone 3423-0111.Public Transportation
Tokyo’s public transportation is fast, clean, safe and convenient to use. Most of the yellow and black directional signs are in both English and Japanese. Start with good maps of the rail and subway systems. You can pick them up from the Japan National Tourist Organization (JNTO) or in most subway and train stations.

Taxi
Taxis are clean, safe and readily available everywhere in Tokyo. Most hotels and all train stations have a taxi stand. You also can flag down a taxi by holding out your hand. However, the taxis may pass you by to pick up Japanese people—most drivers do not speak English, and they’re afraid of communication problems with foreigners. Because traffic moves on the left-hand side of the street, enter and leave the taxi using the left-hand door. But don’t open it yourself—it’s operated automatically by the driver.

Train
Japan has some of the best train networks in the world—fast, safe, efficient and clean. The main network is operated by Japan Railways (JR), and there are many other privately operated lines. Stations in the city include Tokyo, Ueno, Shinjuku, Shibuya and Yurakucho.

C – Attractions & Things To Do

Tokyo Disneyland – Amusement Park
1-1 Maihama, Urayasu-Shi
Chiba-Ken, 279, JAPAN
81-4-73 54 0001, 81-33-366 5600, Fax: 81-473-545240
It is a re-creation of Disneyland in California. Open every day 9 am to 10 pm April through August and from 10 am to 6 pm September through March. (From September through November it closed on Tuesdays, and from December through February it is closed on Tuesdays and Wednesdays except holidays.

 tokyo-disneyland

Imperial Palace
The Imperial palace is home to Japan’s Emperor and the imperial family; you can walk around the outside of the moat of the Imperial Palace, and admire the luster of the ancient centuries. The grounds, however, are only open on two days: on the Emperors birthday (Dec 23) and Jan 2.

 

Ueno Park
Surrounding the Tokyo National Museum and Ueno (Tokyo) Zoo, this park encompasses true Japan in its temples, shrines and it even features an aquarium. It is well known for being the prime cherry-blossom-viewing spot.

 

Tokyo Sea Life Park (Kasai Rinkai Suizokukan)
6-2-3 Rinkai-cho,
Edogawa-ku, Tokyo
3869-5152
Tokyo Sea Life Park is a giant aquarium that simulates life in the depths of the ocean. Exhibits featured include the spectacular rooftop glass shark tanks and much more.

 

Edo-Tokyo Museum
1-4-1
Yokoami, Sumida-ku
3626-9974
Edo-Tokyo Museum is the newest and one of the best historical museums, depicting life in Tokyo from the 17th century through the end of World War II. Open Tuesday-Saturday 10- 6  (Thursday and Friday until 8 pm). Closed Dec 28-Jan 4.

 

Wild Blue Yokohama
Heian-cho, Tsurumi-ku,
Yokohama
045-511-2323
Wild Blue Yokohama is an indoor beach that is open year round. It is a perfect example of Japan’s ability to harness the forces of nature in new and innovative ways.

 

Tokyo National Museum
13-9 Ueno Koen, Taito-ku, in Ueno Park
3822-1111
The Tokyo National Museum is the nations largest display of Japanese history and culture, with more than 100,000 treasured artifacts and artworks. Exhibits include Chinese and Indian art as well.

 

Azabu Museum of Arts and Crafts
4-6-9 Roppongi,
Minato-ku
5474-1371
Azabu Museum of Arts and Crafts emphasizes Japanese artworks, including glass, ceramics, clothing and paintings.

 

Drum Museum Taikokan
2-1-1 Nishi Asakusa, Taito-ku
3842-5622
Drum Museum Taikokan presents a hands-on exhibit of drums from around the world. Very small but interesting personal collection, housed upstairs in a traditional festival costume-and-instrument store in an old district of Asakusa.

 

Fukagawa Edo Museum
1-3-28 Shirakawa, Koto-ku
3630-8625
Fukagawa Edo Museum looks at life during the Edo period (19th century)

 

Japanese Sword Museum
4-25-10 Yoyogi, Shibuya-ku
3379-1386
Visit the Japanese Sword Museum for a display of modern and ancient swords.

Kogeikan National Museum of Modern Art
3 Kitanomaru Koen, Chiyoda-ku
3214-2561
The National Museum of Modern Art offers a collection of Japanese art created since the Meiji era (AD 1868-1912). Nearby Crafts Gallery displays Japanese handicrafts.

 

Paper Museum
The Paper Museum displays the process and equipment used in hand-making Japanese paper.

 

The Silk Museum
1 Yamashitacho, Naka-ku
045-641-0841
The Silk Museum (Yokohama) illuminates the silk-making process and also displays fine silk fabrics.

 

The Sony Plaza
3573-2371
Visit the fascinating showrooms of the Sony Building. Visitors can test many products, as well as some products, which have yet to be released

 

Nippon Budokan
2-3 kitano maru Koen
Chidoya-ku
03-3216-5100
The Budokan was built as a martial arts arena for the Tokyo Olympics of 1964. It still hosts tournaments and exhibitions of judo, karate, and Japanese fencing, as well, as concerts.

 

Kotsu Hakubutsukan Transportation Museum
1-25 Kanda Sudacho
Chidoya-ku
03-3251-8481
This is a great place for children! Exhibits explain the early development of the railway system and include a miniature layout of the rail services. This museum also features Japan’s first airplane.

 

Kite Museum
1-12-10 Nihombashi
Chuo-ku
03-3275-2704
Kite flying is an old tradition in Japan, and the kites in this museum include examples of every shape and variety. For the children, the museum offers a special kite-making workshop.

 

Kokuritsu Kagaku Hakubutsukan (National Science Museum)
7-20 Ueno Koen
Taitoku
03-3822-0111
Everything from dinosaurs to moon rocks is on display at this conventional natural history museum.

 

Goto Planetarium
2-21-12 Shibuya
Shibuya
03-3407-7409
The planetarium has daily shows displaying the movements of the solar system, the constellations, and galaxies projected on a dome 65 ft. in diameter. Adjacent to the planetarium, visitors can explore the museum of astronomy.

 

Koraku-en Amusement Park
1-3-61 Koraku
Bunkyo-ku
03-3811-2111
This amusement park offers attractions that the kids are going to love! The chief attractions of which are a giant roller coaster and a “circus train”.

 

Toshima-en
3-25-1 Koyama
Nerima-ku
03-3990-3131
This large amusement park has four roller coasters, a haunted house, and seven swimming pools. It also features an authentic Coney Island carousel, refurbished and rescued by a Japanese entrepreneur.

 

Tama Dobutsu Koen
7-1-1 Hodokubo
Hino-shi
0425-91-1611
This wildlife park gives animals freedom to roam, and most exhibits are separated by moats. Visitors can also take an adventurous tour of the Lions’ Park on a minibus

D – Family Fun Attractions

Tokyo Disneyland – Amusement Park
1-1 Maihama, Urayasu-Shi
Chiba-Ken, 279, JAPAN
81-4-73 54 0001, 81-33-366 5600, Fax: 81-473-545240
It is a re-creation of Disneyland in California. Open every day 9 am to 10 pm April through August and from 10 am to 6 pm September through March. (From September through November it closed on Tuesdays, and from December through February it is closed on Tuesdays and Wednesdays except holidays.

 

Ueno Park
Surrounding the Tokyo National Museum and Ueno (Tokyo) Zoo, this park encompasses true Japan in its temples, shrines and it even features an aquarium. It is well known for being the prime cherry-blossom-viewing spot.

 

Tokyo Sea Life Park (Kasai Rinkai Suizokukan)
6-2-3 Rinkai-cho,
Edogawa-ku, Tokyo
3869-5152.
Tokyo Sea Life Park is a giant aquarium that simulates life in the depths of the ocean. Exhibits featured include the spectacular rooftop glass shark tanks and much more.

 tokyo-sea-life-park

Edo-Tokyo Museum
1-4-1
Yokoami, Sumida-ku
3626-9974.
Edo-Tokyo Museum is the newest and one of the best historical museums, depicting life in Tokyo from the 17th century through the end of World War II. Open Tuesday-Saturday 10 -6 (Thursday and Friday until 8 pm). Closed Dec 28-Jan 4.

 

Wild Blue Yokohama
Heian-cho, Tsurumi-ku,
Yokohama
045-511-2323.
Wild Blue Yokohama is an indoor beach that is open year round. It is a perfect example of Japan’s ability to harness the forces of nature in new and innovative ways.

 

Drum Museum Taikokan
2-1-1 Nishi Asakusa, Taito-ku
3842-5622.
Drum Museum Taikokan presents a hands-on exhibit of drums from around the world. Very small but interesting personal collection, housed upstairs in a traditional festival costume-and-instrument store in an old district of Asakusa.

 

Japanese Sword Museum
4-25-10 Yoyogi, Shibuya-ku
3379-1386.
Visit the Japanese Sword Museum for a display of modern and ancient swords.

Kogeikan National Museum of Modern Art
3 Kitanomaru Koen, Chiyoda-ku
3214-2561.
The National Museum of Modern Art offers a collection of Japanese art created since the Meiji era (AD 1868-1912). Nearby Crafts Gallery displays Japanese handicrafts.

 

Doll Museum
8 Yamashitacho, Naka-ku
045-671-9361
The Doll Museum (Yokohama Ningyo no le) houses a large collection of Japanese dolls and dolls from 130 other countries.

 

The Sony Plaza
3573-2371
Visit the fascinating showrooms of the Sony Building. Visitors can test many products, as well as some products, which have yet to be released

 

Children’s Castle
3797-5666
Children’s castle is an activities center for children. Featured are playrooms, AV rooms, a swimming pool (children only), library, computer room, and so much more.

 

Nippon Budokan
2-3 kitano maru Koen
Chidoya-ku
03-3216-5100
The Budokan was built as a martial arts arena for the Tokyo Olympics of 1964. It still hosts tournaments and exhibitions of judo, karate, and Japanese fencing, as well, as concerts.

 

Kotsu Hakubutsukan Transportation Museum
1-25 Kanda Sudacho
Chidoya-ku
03-3251-8481
This is a great place for children! Exhibits explain the early development of the railway system and include a miniature layout of the rail services. This museum also features Japan’s first airplane.

 

Kite Museum
1-12-10 Nihombashi
Chuo-ku
03-3275-2704
Kite flying is an old tradition in Japan, and the kites in this museum include examples of every shape and variety. For the children, the museum offers a special kite-making workshop.

 

Kokuritsu Kagaku Hakubutsukan (National Science Museum)
7-20 Ueno Koen
Taitoku
03-3822-0111
Everything from dinosaurs to moon rocks is on display at this conventional natural history museum.

 

Goto Planetarium
2-21-12 Shibuya
Shibuya
03-3407-7409
The planetarium has daily shows displaying the movements of the solar system, the constellations, and galaxies projected on a dome 65 ft. in diameter. Adjacent to the planetarium, visitors can explore the museum of astronomy.

 

Koraku-en Amusement Park
1-3-61 Koraku
Bunkyo-ku
03-3811-2111
This amusement park offers attractions that the kids are going to love! The chief attractions of which are a giant roller coaster and a “circus train”.

 

Toshima-en
3-25-1 Koyama
Nerima-ku
03-3990-3131
This large amusement park has four roller coasters, a haunted house, and seven swimming pools. It also features an authentic Coney Island carousel, refurbished and rescued by a Japanese entrepreneur.

 

Tama Dobutsu Koen
7-1-1 Hodokubo
Hino-shi
0425-91-1611
This wildlife park gives animals freedom to roam, and most exhibits are separated by moats. Visitors can also take an adventurous tour of the Lions’ Park on a minibus.

E – Events & Entertainments

Events


Many of Tokyo’s festivals, drawn from ancient roots, are scheduled according to the lunar calendar.  Although many of Japan’s holidays remain fixed from year to year, some are subject to change and should be confirmed.

 

January
1 January: New Year’s Day. Public holiday. Special foods:  broth, herring roe, black beans, dried chestnuts and seaweed—are served. Throughout the week, families visit shrines and temples. Everyone strives to pay debts incurred from the previous year.

2 January: Kokyo Ippan Sanga. The Imperial Palace opens its grounds to the public for one of only two open houses during the year (the other is 23 December, the emperor’s birthday). The royal family makes an appearance before great crowds. 1 Chiyoda, Chiyoda-ku. For information, call 3213-1111.

6 January: Dezomeshiki Parade. Firemen perform acrobatic tricks atop tall bamboo ladders. The parade route is along Harumi Chuo-dori (Ginza Station on the Hibiya, Ginza or Marunouchi lines). For information, call 3212-2111.

10 January: Coming-of-Age Day. Public holiday. Young people who have turned 20 during the preceding year are honored.

Late January: Plum Blossom Festivals. These red and white flowers are believed to offer protection against evil and various diseases. The plum-blossom festivals reach their peak mid February-mid March at parks, gardens and shrines throughout the Tokyo area. For more information about projected times and viewing sites, call 5321-3307.


Throughout January: Performance. The New National Theatre is home to many opera, ballet, contemporary dance and theater performances. 1-1-1 Honcho, Shibuya-ku (Hatsudai Station on the Keio/Shinjuki line). For information, call 5351-3011. For tickets, call 5352-9999.


Early January: New Year Holiday Season. Government offices and some businesses close during this time. Some companies close as early as 23 December and do not reopen until the second week of January. Concludes early January

Early January: Tokyo Millenario. This New Year’s festival centers around a dazzling light sculpture and gallery. Tokyo International Forum, near Tokyo Station. For information, call 5447-0954.

 

February
Early February: Setsubun. According to the lunar calendar, this day marks the end of winter. Temples and shrines throughout Tokyo hold bean-throwing contests to scare away the devils and bad luck.

Early-Mid February: Tokyo Marathon. Prize money for this 26-mile race through Tokyo suburbs is more than US$50,000. For information, call 5245-7085.

11 February: National Foundation Day. Public holiday.
 

March
Early March: Hina Matsuri. During the Doll Festival, traditional Japanese Hina dolls and miniature household articles are typically displayed in homes with young girls and at other locations throughout the city. The dolls represent the emperor, empress and other members of the court dressed in ancient costume.

20 March: Vernal Equinox. Public holiday. Buddhist temples hold special services, and people pray for the souls of the departed.
 
Late March: Tokyo International Anime Fair. This annual event draws approximately 15,000 industry members and 50,000 fans. Weekend events for the public include a competitive film festival, character shows, live performances, voice-actor lessons and exhibits from nearly 150 businesses. Tokyo Big Sight, 3-21-1 Ariake, Koto-ku. For information, call 5530-1111. For tickets, call Ticket Pia at 983-222.

Late March: Cherry Blossom Viewing. Generally, the cherry trees in parks and shrines around the city reach full bloom during late March and the first two weeks in April. Friends and colleagues gather under the trees to eat, drink and sing traditional songs into the night hours. The best viewing spots are the Imperial Palace, which opens its front road for bicycling on Sundays (phone 3211-5020), and Ueno Park in Taito-ku (Ueno Station, phone 3827-7752 or 3832-0084). Chidorigafuchi Minakami Park in Chiyodaku (Kudanshita station, phone 3264-2111) offers viewing by boat. Sumida Park in Asakusa (Asakusa Station, phone 5608-1111) is almost as famous as Ueno Park. For more information about projected times and sites, call 5231-3307. Continues through early May

 

April
Early-Late April: Baseball. Three professional baseball teams play in Tokyo. The popular Yomiuri Giants  and the Nippon Ham Fighters share the Tokyo Dome (phone 5800-9999). The Yakult Swallows play at Meiji Jingu Stadium (phone 3404-8999). Advance tickets are sold by many hotels’ front desk or concierge and travel agents. Continues through late November


8 April: Hana Matsuri. On the birthday of Buddha, statues of the diety are shown in temples, and sweet tea (amacha) is poured over them in a gesture of devotion. Children place flowers next to statues of the infant Buddha.

29, 30 April: Golden Week. This week of continuous national holidays includes Greenery Day (April 29), Constitution Day (May 3), Nation’s Holiday (May 4) and Children’s Day (May 5). This is one of Japan’s busiest holiday seasons, and many government offices and businesses are closed. Continues through 5 May

Throughout April: Cherry Blossom Viewing. The cherry trees in parks and shrines around the city reach full bloom during late March and the first two weeks in April. Friends and colleagues gather under the trees to eat, drink and sing traditional songs into the night hours. The best viewing spots are the Imperial Palace, which opens its front road for bicycling on Sundays (phone 3211-5020), and Ueno Park in Taito-ku (Ueno Station, phone 3827-7752 or 3832-0084). Chidorigafuchi Minakami Park in Chiyodaku (Kudanshita station, phone 3264-2111) offers viewing by boat. Sumida Park in Asakusa (Asakusa Station, phone 5608-1111) is almost as famous as Ueno Park. For more information about projected times and sites, call 5231-3307. Continues through early May.

 

 

May
Mid May: Kanda Matsuri. This biannual festival commemorates the establishment of the Tokugawa shogunate in Edo more than 400 years ago. Marked by parades with elaborate portable shrines and costumes. Celebrated on the weekend nearest 15 May. Kanda Myojin Shrine, 2-16-2 Soto Kanda (Ochanomizu Station). For more information, call 3254-0753.

1-5 May: Golden Week. This week of continuous national holidays includes Greenery Day (April 29), Constitution Day (May 3), Nation’s Holiday (May 4) and Children’s Day (May 5). This is one of Japan’s busiest holiday seasons, and many government offices and businesses are closed. Concludes 5 May.

21, 22 May: Sanja Festival. This three-day celebration at Asakusa Shrine is filled with excitement as portable shrines in lacquer and gold are hoisted and carried around the Asakusa district by happi-coated men and women. 2-3-1 Asakusa, Taito-ku. Phone 3844-1575..
 

June
Early-Late June: Iris Blooming Festivals. Though not as famous or as widely celebrated as the cherry blossoms, the irises in parks and gardens throughout the city should not to be missed. A highlight is the 820-foot trail framed by approximately 1,500 Edo irises that reach their peak bloom in mid June at Yoyogi Park, 1-1 Yoyogi-kamizonocho, Shibuya-ku (JR Harajuku station). Phone 3379-5511. Continues through mid July
 

July 
Mid-Late July: Obon. Most people take a week off during this time to visit their hometown and pay homage to ancestors or to vacation overseas. Many shops in Tokyo are closed. This holiday is based on the lunar calendar, so its date varies between mid July and mid August. Bon-dance festivals continue throughout the monthlong period. Continues through mid August

18 July: Maritime Day. Public holiday. Third Monday of July.

30 July: Fireworks. Tokyo’s grandest fireworks display of the year is launched on the last Saturday in July over the Sumida River in Asakusa. The best places to watch are between the Kototol and Shirahige bridges or at the Komagata Bridge. For information, call 5388-3141 or 5608-1111.
  

September
15 September: Respect for the Aged Day. Public holiday.

23 September: Autumnal Equinox Day. Public holiday.

 

October
Early-Late October: Tokyo International Film Festival. The largest film festival in Asia markets itself as one of the top 12 major festivals in the world. Features competitive screenings of international and Asian features, along with works by new directors, world cinema and classic Japanese films. Also star guest appearances, industry forums, symposiums, exhibits and other events. Bunkamura and other cinemas in the Shibuya district. For information, call 3524-1081.

11 October: Health and Sports Day. Public holiday.

Mid October: Oeshiki Festival. A Buddhist festival commemorated by a procession toward the Honmonji Temple. Participants carry large lanterns decorated with paper flowers. 1-1-1 Ikegami, Otoku (Ikegami station on the Tokyu Ikegami line). Phone 3313-6241.

 

November
3 November: Culture Day. Public holiday.

Mid- November: Shichi-go-san. During the Children’s Festival, children ages 3, 5 and 7 are dressed in traditional kimonos and taken to shrines by their parents so that prayers may be said for good health and future blessings.

23 November: Labor Appreciation Day. Public holiday.

Mid November: Tokyo International Women’s Marathon. Course begins and ends at the National Stadium, 10 Kasumigaoka-machi, Shinjuku-ku (JR Sendagaya Station). For information, call 5411-7050 or 3542-2682.

Mid November: City Marathon. In conjunction with the Tokyo International Women’s Marathon, the city hosts a marathon open to the public, both men and women. Participants begin at Jingu-Gaien circle and join the Women’s Marathon course on Gaien-Higashi Road. For information, call 5411-7050 or 3542-2682.
 

December
23 December: Emperor’s Birthday. Public holiday. One of only two days in the year when the Imperial Palace is open to the public. 1 Chiyoda, Chiyoda-ku.

25 December: Christmas. Though not a public or official religious holiday, it is widely observed in Japan.

14 December: Gishi-sai. To commemorate a famous 1702 samurai vendetta, businessmen costumed as warriors proceed along Sotobori Street to Sengakuji Temple, where the samurai are buried. A memorial service also takes place at Honjo Matsuzaka-cho Park, which was owned by the avenged samurai master. Sengakuji Temple, 2-11-1 Takanawa, Minato-ku (Sengakuji Station on the Tozi Asakusa line). Honjo Matsuzaka-cho Park, 3-13-9 Ryogoku, Sumida-ku (Ryogoku station on the JR Sobu Line). For information, call Sengakuji Temple at 3441-5560 or Honjo Matsuzaka-cho Park at 5608-1111.

Mid- December: Hagoita-ichi at Asakusa Kannon Temple. This “ornamental battledore fair” takes place in the compound of the temple. In the evening, look for the brightly colored paddles used in the ancient shuttlecock game of hanetsuki; they’re especially beautiful when lanterns illuminate them. 2-31-8 Asakusa, Taito-ku (Asakusa station). Phone 3842-0181.
 
Late December: Tokyo Millenario. This New Year’s festival centers around a dazzling light sculpture and gallery. Tokyo International Forum, near Tokyo Station. For information, call 5447-0954. Continues through early January. 

Late December: New Year Holiday Season. Government offices and some businesses close during this time. Some companies close as early as 23 December and do not reopen until the second week of January.

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Hong Kong Travel Guide – Deals

Quick Links:

A – Overview

B – City information

C – Attractions & Things To Do

D – Family Fun Attractions

E – Events & Entertainments

F – Hong Kong Travel Deals 

A – Overview

Whether flying over the city or navigating into the port via the temperamental South China Sea, the magnificent islands suddenly take form as if in a mirage, enticing the traveler to a closer look at this oasis of ancient tradition commingled with sleek, corporate towers . 

 Hong kong overview

Hong Kong Island, (originally named Victoria Island in honor of the queen), covers only 30 square miles and has a population of 7 million.  Its two islands, Hong Kong and Kowloon are separated by Victoria Harbor.  Most of the cultural attractions, restaurants, and shopping areas are located along the northern shore of Hong Kong Island and at Kowloon’s southern tip.  Between Hong Kong and the border with the rest of China are the New Territories which provide a mountainous scenic backdrop to a number of modern suburban towns.    The other major islands in the area are Lamma, Cheung, Chau, and Lantau (site of Hong Kong’s vast and impressive airport as well as Hong Kong Disneyland.  Beyond these is Macau.  There are actually more than 266 islands in all. 

 

With 150 years of British colonial influence woven into 5,000 years of Chinese culture, Hong Kong is a city of contrasts. From the ancient Chinese temples, to an upbeat entertainment district with its karaoke bars, Hong Kong truly enchants visitors with everything from food, art, architecture, to the traditional festivals. Since reunification with China, Hong Kong has been classified as a Special Zone operated by China under a “one country, two systems policy.”  This has eased the transition and has kept the economy thriving. 

 

The Central District of Hong Kong is a glittering, modern business center.   It features the stock exchange, deluxe hotels, and up market shops. The Western District is filled with visitor delights such as bountiful markets, shopping, restaurants, and traditional shop houses.

 

Rising high above downtown is Victoria Peak, an exclusive residential area located on the highest (1,805 feet) range of hills on the island. The Peak offers visitors a varied selection of restaurants and spectacular views. Ride the 1888 tram to the summit.  Located east of the Central district is the Wanchai District, famed for its nightlife and the perfect place for a night on the town.

 

The city is built on steep terrain offering many outstanding views as well as walking challenges.    One of the city’s most unusual commuter routes is a half-mile series of escalators known as the Mid-Levels Escalator Link which brings workers from he Mid-Levels district to the Central district in the morning and back at night.  The route passes the green Jaima Mosque and fashionable Staunton Street.

 

The Hong Kong Museum of Art displays a fine collection of Chinese art and Man Mo Temple is a classic Taoist temple dedicated to Man, a god of literature and Mo, a god of war.  Located on the northeast corner of the island, the area offers a wide range of markets, cafes, and a ferry pier. While visiting Hong Kong, make an escape to the beaches of Shek O. Shek O, a pleasant seaside village, offers hiking excursions on hilly trails and a stunning view of the coast.

 

There is simply is no other place quite like Hong Kong! The sounds, scents, and excitement will leave a vivid impression. Hong Kong has a reputation as one of the world’s greatest shopping cities and is an amazing urban bazaar and  a shopper’s paradise. Hong Kong offers a rich nightlife, diverse sightseeing, and a tradition of cultural heritage.

 

Experience a journey to Hong Kong, and be sure to plan to spend at least a week to explore its wonders.  You will partake of a mosaic of thrilling experiences, memorable adventures, and pure serenity

B – City information

Population: 7 million

Time Zone:  Hong Kong is 13 hours ahead of New York City and 16 hours ahead of Los Angeles.  When it is 12:00 noon in New York City, it is 1:00AM the following day in Hong Kong. 

 

Average Temperatures:

 

 Average Temperatures:

Month

High

Low

January

64F

56F

February

63F

55F

March

67F

60F

April

75F

67F

May

82F

74F

June

85F

78F

July

87F

78F

August

87F

78F

September

87F

78F

October

81F

73F

November

74F

65F

December

68F

59F

 

When to Visit

From October to mid-December, the days are warm and the nights are cool and comfortable.  From June to September the weather is very hot and humid, and typhoons sometimes develop from July-September. There s an average of nearly 16 inches of rain during this time. January- March brings pleasant, slightly cooler weather with occasional cold spells.  From March-June the weather is warm, but it is often rainy. 

 

Holidays

 

January 1                      New Year’s Day

January/February:          Chinese Lunar New Year

Spring                          Good Friday; Easter Monday

April or Early May:         Birthday of Lord Buddha

Early April                     Ching Ming Festival

1 May:                          Labor Day

Mid-Late June               Dragon Boat Festival

1 July                           Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (SAR) Establishment Day

Early-mid August           Sino Japanese War Victory Day

Late Sept./early Oct.      Mid-Autumn Festival

1 and 2 October            China National Day

Mid-late October           Cheung Yeung Festival

25 and 26 December     Christmas Day and Boxing Day

 

Opening Hours:  Offices are open Monday-Friday from 9-5 and on Saturday 9-1.

Banks are open Mon.-Fri. 9-4:30 and Sat. 9-12:30.

Post Offices Mon-Fri. 8-6; Saturday 8-2.

Stores:  Daily 10-6 and often 10-9 in tourist areas

 

Currency

The unit of currency is the Hong Kong dollar and comes in denominations of 10, 20, 50, 100, 500, and 1,000.  Coins are in 10, 20, and 50 cents. 

hong-kong-currency

Electricity

The current is 200/220.  US appliances require a converter and a plug adapter.

 

Emergencies:  Call 999

Language:  Hong Kong has two official languages:  Cantonese and English.  While English is spoken widely in business and in tourist areas, it is not always understood by taxi drivers, bus drivers, or when asking directions.  It is advisable to ask the hotel receptionist or concierge to write out your destination in Chinese. 

 

Getting There

By Air

All flights land at Chek Lap Kok Airport on Lantau Island, 24 miles west of Hong Kong City.  The ultra modern facility consists of eight floors and includes three banks, a money changing facility, several ATMs, a tourist information office, and literally acres of restaurants, shops, and bars.

Airport Express

The Airport Express train (2881 8888) is an efficient and pleasant way of getting into the city.  Trains depart every 10 minutes from 5:50AM to 12:50AM for a low fare.  A same day return costs  the same as a one-way fare. 

By Bus

There is bus service to and from Kowloon, Hong Kong Island, Lantau Island, and the New Territories.

By Cruise Ship

Cruise ships dock in Victoria Harbor on the island of Kowloon near the Star Ferry Pier and the Ocean Terminal. 

By Train

High-speed trains travel from Hung Hom station to Guangzhou several times a day.  There are also rail links to Shanghai and Beijing.  Tickets can be booked up to 60 days in advance from the station in Hung Hom or by phone.

 

Getting Around    

MTR Train

The MTR train network is fast and easy to use.  Stations have instructions in English and Chinese.  MTR maps are readily available at hotels, the airport, and at the cruise teminal.

 

Star Ferry:  Salisbury Road, Tsim Sha Tsui (Kowloon).  Edinburgh Place, Central (Hong Kong Island).  Sea Front Road, Wan Chai.  The ferry has operated since 1898 and can travel between Kowloon and Hong Kong Island in less than 10 minutes.  The views of the city are spectacular.  Daily 6:30AM-11:30PM.

 

Trams

Trams run only on Hong Kong Island’s north side.  Destinations are marked on the front in English as well as in Chinese.

 

Buses

Traveling on buses is not recommended as MTR and Ferry service are said to be more efficient and safer.  If a bus is taken, be sure to have correct fare as change is not given.

C – Attractions & Things To Do

Victoria Harbor

+852 2807 6543

One of Hong Kong’s star attractions and one of the deepest container ports in the world, the harbor is shielded on both sides by stunning skyline:  by skyscrapers and Victoria Peak on one side, and the Tsim Sha Tsui shoreline on the other. Everyday, hundreds of ferries, tugs, junks, speedboats, cruise ships, and barges pass up and down the shore, carrying people and cargo and only pausing briefly for typhoons. Each evening the harbor is the vantage point for an 18 minute (8PM-8:18PM) Symphony of Lights.  The exteriors of 18 buildings along the waterfront glow with a wide range of colors from architectural lights designed to draw the eye along the waterfront.  A narration and music accompany the display.  The narration is in English on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday.  Fireworks sometimes accompany the show.

 hong-kong-harbor

Victoria Peak  (Che Kei Shan)

+852 2849 7654

Peak Tram runs 7:00AM-Midnight

All visitors to Hong Kong usually go to the Peak for panoramic views of the city, which are among the most spectacular in the world, especially at night. A walk around the Peak reveals further scenic vistas over the greener western parts of Hong Kong Island, and the viewing platforms on top of the Peak Tower and Peak Galleria are a must. A tram takes you to the top. The prices depend  on the kind of ticket purchased.

 

Peak Tram

+852 2849 7654

Peak Tram runs 7:00AM-Midnight

The Peak Tram (funicular) ascends the steep incline of Victoria Peak, offering visitors a convenient way of getting to the peak and all its sightseeing amenities. The Tram, which is itself an attraction, dates back to 1888.  New, larger cars were installed in 1989. Passengers sit back for a literally vertical ride enjoying panoramic views as the car steadily makes its way to the top. Trams leave every 10-15 minutes from the Peak Tram Station between 7am and midnight. Admission charged.

 

Disneyland Hong Kong

Lantau Island

+852 1 830 830

Located on Lantau Island (as is the airport), Disneyland Hong Kong opened  for business in the Fall of 2005. Mickey Mouse, along with his friends Donald Duck, Aladdin, Peter Pan, and Buzz Lightyear, offer something different for travelers in Hong Kong: a Disneyland theme park.  Rides include Space Mountain, Jungle River Cruise, and the twirling Tea Cups . A Magic kingdom with an  Eastern flair,  the park is designed with the principles of feng shui in mind and  is filled with waterfalls and fountains. Experience the magic of Disneyland, Hong Kong.

 hong-kong-disneyland

Star Ferry

+852 2366 2576

The Star Ferry takes just ten minute to cross Victoria Harbor, either to the Kowloon or Central side. Enjoy Hong Kong’s majestic skyline as you travel.   The nighttime views, when Hong Kong glitters, are dramatic

 

Nathan Road

+852 2807 6543

Nathan Road, named after governor Sir Matthew Nathan, runs directly up to Boundary Street, the northern limit of the British colony prior to the leasing of the New Territories in 1898.  Nathan Road was once known as “Nathan’s Folly.”  Today, it is one of the busiest commercial roads in Hong Kong.  The lower end of the road is known as the Golden Mile because of the many storefront neon signs. A walk along Nathan Road leads to many boutiques, camera shops, street markets and restaurants side-by-side, occupying every inch of available space.

 

Mid-levels Escalator

+852 2807 6543

This 800-metre hillside escalator starts from Connaught Road Central, runs to the Hang Seng Bank Building on Des Voeux Road Central, then passes through the Central Market and continues to climb past Hollywood Road to the prime Mid-levels residential district. The free ride from Central to Conduit Road takes about 20 minutes and is much faster than walking and climbing.  This is the longest covered outdoor escalator system in the world, and it took two and a half years and more than HKD205 million to build.

 

Stanley Street

+852 2508 1234

Home to Stanley Market, famous for the wide variety of relatively inexpensive goods such as Chinese souvenirs, rattan products, handicrafts and designer labels,  Stanley offers more than just shopping. It also has a relaxing beach, numerous waterfront restaurants and bars, and the 18th century Tin Hau Temple. Stanley Prison, which is still in use today, is also historically important, as this is where Hong Kong civilians were held during the Second World War.

 

Mongkok

+852 2508 1234

No matter what the time of day, this marketplace is always full of people. It is the center of bargain shopping and trendy products. Bargains to be had include electronic appliances, CDs and DVDs, backpacks, travel gear and sports shoes. There is also a Tung Choi Street Ladies’ Market and other specialty shops selling all the latest fashion in town. The Bird, Goldfish and Flower Markets are also in this area.

 

Lan Kwai Fong

+852 2807 6543

Lan Kwai Fong was once an “expatriate hangout” but locals have gradually joined in the party fun. Centered around an L-shaped cobble-stoned lane just above the Central business area, Lan Kwai Fong houses some of the trendiest pubs and entertainment hangouts in town. Every year, during Christmas, New Years, and Halloween, many people dress in costume and parade through the streets, but whatever time of year, Lan Kwai Fong is definitely a  place to see and to be seen.

 

Sam Tung UK Museum

2 Kwu UK Lane

New Territories

Tseun Wan, New Territories

 

Wong Tai Sin Temple

+852 2320 2883

Probably the best known and busiest temple in the city, Wong Tai Sin was built in 1973 on the site of a previous temple dating back to 1921. The current temple is an excellent example of a traditional Chinese temple. Wong Tai Sin himself was a shepherd boy from Zhejiang province in China, who was thought to have mystical healing powers. Most people visiting the temple come to assess their fortune by using fortune sticks, and there are even some English speaking “seers” who can help visitors interpret the fortune sticks. Admission: Free (donations welcome).

 

Po Lin Buddha

Lantau Island

Temple and Museum open daily 10:30-5.

Monastery open daily 9-6

Ferry from Queen’s Pier (45 minutes)

+852 2805 1234

Although this is some distance from central Hong Kong (a ferry trip and a long, at times frightening, bus ride), it is well worth the excursion. A taxi could be considered for the journey. If the goal is to view the Buddha and the monastery without climbing the 288 steps, it would be worthwhile to hire a taxi and have the driver wait while the Buddha is viewed and photos are taken. Envisioned by the community of monks on Lantau Island, it took more than ten years to build. It is 112 feet tall, made entirely of metal and consists of a steel framework covered by a steel and bronze skin, as well as over one ton of gold amalgam. It weighs 250 tons.  Note, however,  that there are 268 steps to get to the Buddha.

 

Ngong Ping Tea Gardens

Located above Po Lin Monastery on Lantau Island

This is Hong Kong’s only tea plantation. It’s on top of a mountain with only one road up and down. It offers horseback riding, barbecue pits and a roller-skating rink. The ferry for Lantau Island leaves from the Outlying Islands Ferry Pier, west of the Star Ferry terminal in Central. On the island, directions to the Tea Gardens are available at the ferry pier.

 

Hong Kong Zoological and Botanical Gardens

+852 2530 0154

Located near the Old Government House, the Zoological and Botanical Gardens is a popular place for parents to bring their children on the weekends. The gardens are divided into two main areas: plants and aviaries in one area and animals in the other. Although the zoo is not large, it is one of the world’s leading centers for careful breeding and nurturing of endangered species.  It is also a great place to take pictures of the family with the various animals on display.

Family Attractions

 

Lei Yue Mun Park and Holiday Village

+852 2568 7455

The first holiday village in an urban area, Lei Yue Mun Park offers both day and overnight accommodation for campers. It provides a wide range of indoor and outdoor activities, such as soccer, gate ball, basketball, tennis, archery, indoor bowls, a swimming pool, climbing, and badminton, plus barbecue sites. There is also a horse-riding school.

 

Kadoorie Farm and Botanical Gardens

+852 2488 1317

Set at the foot of Tai Mo Shan this farm consists of more than just a few fields and some livestock. In the late 1940s, brothers Sir Horace and Lord Lawrence Kadoorie, set up what was to become the current farm and botanical gardens. As well as helping with local and international aid projects, the organization is involved in pioneering organic farming and educating about the environment. A multitude of displays and refreshment areas, as well as a beautiful location, make this worth a visit for kids and adults alike.

 

Mai Po Marshes

Shenzen

+852 2471 8272

Open daily 9-6

Make a reservation in advance as numbers are limited. 

The marsh, on the edge of Deep Bay, in the northwest of the New Territories covers about 3,706 acres of wetlands.  A 939 acre nature reserve attracts as many as 300 species of migratory birds.  The visitor center provides a tour and maps explaining he ecology and history of the site.

 

Bird Market

Hong Lok St, Mongkok, Kowloon

This street market specializing in birds, singing crickets and intricate cages gives a glimpse into the traditional Chinese way of life. Note: Visits to the Bird Market are not recommended at this time due to the possible threat of Avian Flu.

 

Cheung Chau Island

Cheung Chau

This little island offers walks, temples and traditional fishing villages, as well as markets and seafront, seafood restaurants.

 

Museum of Art:  Hong Kong Cultural Centre

10 Salisbury Rd, Tsimshatsui, Kowloon

Art Museum featuring Calligraphy, scrolls and colonial-era art, as well as an excellent, well-presented collection of Chinese antiquities.

 

Wong Tai Sin Temple:  Taoist temple

Wong Tai Sin, Kowloon

Huge, colorful Taoist temple dedicated to a god of healing. A constant throng of petitioners and fortunetellers.

 

Ocean Park

On the south side of Hong Kong Island, near Aberdeen.

Ocean Park Road

2552-0291

Open daily 10-6

An amusement park where a cable car takes you to the best rides: the Dragon roller coaster, the Octopus and the Crazy Galleon. Or you may enjoy the Raging River, a lovely cruise on a sturdy boat. Ocean Park also contains the Shark Aquarium, the Japanese Garden for relaxing and the Ocean Theatre, where killer whales, seals and dolphins act out high-quality drama.

 

Space Museum

10 Salisbury Road

Hong Kong

2734-2722

Open Mon, Wed-Fri 1-8 (longer on Fri.) and Sat,Sun 10-9.

This museum has one of the largest and most advanced planetariums in the world.  It has many hands-on exhibits including the actual Mercury space capsule piloted by Scott Carpenter in 1962.  The Space Museum is the massive white dome in Tsim Sha Tsui, a short walk

from the Star Ferry. It’s in three parts: Planetarium, Exhibition Hall and Hall of Solar Sciences. Short films run in the theater.

 

Government House

Central, on Upper Albert Road

The Government House is the official residence of the governor of Hong Kong under British rule. The tower was added during the Japanese occupation of Hong Kong in World War II. The Chief Executive of the SAR (Special Administrative Region) has elected not to live in the building.

 

Hong Kong Museum of History

100 Chatham Road South

Kowloon Park, Tsim Sha Tsui,

2367-1124

Open Mon-Wed. 10-6; Sunday 10-7

This museum set in a park includes a replica of a sampan, the interior of a Hakka home, and a full scale replica of a street in the City of Victoria (as Central was once called).  The exhibits bring history to life.  Also an excellent collection of local photographs from the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

 

Botanical Gardens

Albany Road

Hong Kong

2530-0154.

The Botanic Gardens are also above Central, but to the west. Lively monkeys and

orangutans enjoy watching their visitors.

 

 

Middle Kingdom

2555-3554

Middle Kingdom offers replicas of temples, pagodas and street scenes, as well as exhibits and demonstration stalls. Get your name written in Chinese characters and see the Lion Dance in front of you!

 

St. John’s Cathedral

On Garden Road

Central, Hong Kong

St. John’s Cathedral is a handsome building, the oldest Anglican church in East Asia. It was constructed in1849.

 

Tsui Museum of Art

2A Des Voeux Rd.

Central, Hong Kong

2868-2688.

Rotating exhibitions drawn from its collection of more than 3,000 Chinese antiquities, predominantly Chinese ceramics.

 

Water World

Ocean Park Road

Aberdeen, Hong Kong

2555-6055

Contains water slides (you plunge down at 28 mph/45 kph), a wave pool, the Lazy River and a children’s area for those under age 6.

 

Hong Kong Science Museum

2 Science Museum Rd

Tsim Sha Tsui East, Kowloon

2732-3232.

Hands-on exhibits that will interest adults as well as children.

 

Temple of 10,000 Buddhas

Close to Tai Pau Street, New Territories

Above Shatin railway station (go by Kowloon Canton Railway). 30 minutes outside Hong Kong

Open daily 8-6

To reach the Temple there is a climb of 431 steps.  Known locally as “Man Fat Sze  Temple”, this Buddhist shrine was built in the 1950s.  Grateful worshippers have donated thousands of small statues over the years.  Each shows the Buddha in a different pose.  From the edge of the courtyard there are magnificent views over Sha Tin.  The courtyard contains a beautiful tiered pagoda. Higher up is a set of four temples.  One contains Hong Kong’s second tallest Buddha statue; another the embalmed remains of Yuet Kai who founded the monastery.

 

University Museum and Art Gallery

University of Hong Kong,

94 Bonham Road Hong Kong Island

+852 2859-2114.

Open Mon-Sat 9:30-6; Sunday 1:30-5:30.  Closed on public holidays.

Large collection of bronze ware from the Yuan Dynasty as well as artifacts from the Warring States Period and Indian Buddhist sculpture. The museum houses an enormous collection of ceramics dating back as far as Neolithic times. 

 

Kat Hing Wai

Kam Tin

Kat Hing Wai also known as Kam Tin Walled Village is the original 10th-century homestead of the Tang clan, the first of the Cantonese “Five Great Clans” to migrate to the New Territories from China. The village may be modern inside, but it’s still surrounded by a moat and walls with four corner guardhouse towers. Contributions to the donations box are expected, as are handouts to the costumed Hake women before camera shutters can be pressed.

 

Hong Kong Arts Centre Pao Galleries

2 Harbour Rd.

Wanchai

2582-0200

Hong Kong Arts Centre Pao Galleries showcase for contemporary art, with major international and local exhibitions of paintings, photography, crafts and design staged regularly.

Flagstaff House, Museum of Tea Ware

 

Lei Cheng UK Branch Museum

41 Tonkin St., Sham Shui Po,

Kowloon

2386-2863

Lei Cheng UK Branch Museum is the Han Dynasty tomb dating back some 2,000 years, the oldest historical monument in Hong Kong. Also a Han Dynasty (206 BC-AD 220) exhibition of dress

D – Family Fun Attractions

Peak Tram

+852 2849 7654

Peak Tram runs 7:00AM-Midnight

The Peak Tram (funicular) ascends the steep incline of Victoria Peak, offering visitors a convenient way of getting to the peak and all its sightseeing amenities. The Tram, which is itself an attraction, dates back to 1888.  New, larger cars were installed in 1989. Passengers sit back for a literally vertical ride enjoying panoramic views as the car steadily makes its way to the top. Trams leave every 10-15 minutes from the Peak Tram Station between 7am and midnight. Admission charged.

 

Bird Market

Hong Lok St, Mongkok, Kowloon.

This street market specializing in birds, singing crickets and intricate cages gives a glimpse into the traditional Chinese way of life. Visits to the Bird Market are not recommended at the present time, due to bird flu concerns.

 hongkong-bird-market

Botanical Gardens

Albany Road

Hong Kong

2530-0154

The Botanic Gardens are also above Central, but to the west. Lively monkeys and

orangutans enjoy watching their visitors.

 

Space Museum

10 Salisbury Road

Hong Kong

2734-2722

Open Mon, Wed-Fri 1-8 (longer on Fri.) and Sat,Sun 10-9.

This museum has one of the largest and most advanced planetariums in the world.  It has many hands-on exhibits including the actual Mercury space capsule piloted by Scott Carpenter in 1962.  The Space Museum is the massive white dome in Tsim Sha Tsui, a short walk

from the Star Ferry. It’s in three parts: Planetarium, Exhibition Hall and Hall of Solar Sciences. Short films run in the theater.

 

Hong Kong Science Museum

2 Science Museum Rd

Tsim Sha Tsui East, Kowloon

2732-3232

Hands-on exhibits that will interest adults as well as children.

 

The Ngong Ping Tea Gardens

Located above Po Lin Monastery on Lantau Island

This is Hong Kong’s only tea plantation. It’s on top of a mountain with only one road up and down. It offers horseback riding, barbecue pits and a roller-skating rink. The ferry for Lantau Island leaves from the Outlying Islands Ferry Pier, west of the Star Ferry terminal in Central. On the island, directions to the Tea Gardens are available at the ferry pier.

Lantau Island

 

Disneyland Hong Kong

+852 1 830 830

Located on Lantau Island (as is the airport), Disneyland Hong Kong opened  for business in the Fall of 2005. Mickey Mouse, along with his friends Donald Duck, Aladdin, Peter Pan, and Buzz Lightyear, offer something different for travelers in Hong Kong: a Disneyland theme park.  Rides include Space Mountain, Jungle River Cruise, and the twirling Tea Cups . A Magic kingdom with an  Eastern flair,  the park is designed with the principles of feng shui in mind and  is filled with waterfalls and fountains. Experience the magic of Disneyland, Hong Kong.

E – Events & Entertainments

Late Jan

Chinese New Year Parade in Hong Kong

One of the best places in the world to celebrate Chinese New Year has to be the island of Hong Kong. Dragon dancers are the star attraction, as the annual Chinese New Year Parade hits Wan Chai Harborfront with a cavalcade of colorful floats, accompanied by performers from all over the world.

Decorated floats, performers, street entertainers, music and dance take over the picturesque harborfront, spilling out into the streets throughout the city.  Fireworks over Victoria Harbor mark the end of the parade.

There are also amazing flower displays all over the city, with other parades and markets taking place in Victoria Park on Hong Kong Island and Fahui Park in Mong Kok on Kowloon.

+852 2807 6543

 

Early Feb

Spring Lantern Festival (Yuen Siu)

The people of Hong Kong believe that during Full Moon in February (the first of the Chinese New Year) various spirits swoop above the ground. To avoid being snatched by the ghosts, hundreds of locals take to the streets with lanterns, representing everything from dragons to Michael Jackson. 

Many believe that the lanterns help guide the spirits back to the world of the dead safely, while a separate tradition tells of the Jade Emperor (the Emperor of Heaven), who wanted to exact revenge on a man who had killed his precious goose. The Emperor planned to torch the man’s property but a good spirit warned the man, telling him to hang lanterns out at the first full moon of the year: the Emperor thought the place was already on fire and left it alone.

All of these traditions celebrate good fortune, and the self-made lanterns often come with riddles attached.

+852 2807 6543

 

Early Feb-Early Mar

Hong Kong Arts Festival

The Hong Kong Arts Festival – first held in 1973 – is the premier arts event of the year, featuring dance, visual art, theatre and music. Each spring a wealth of international artists, as well as the best Asian and local performers, makes this one of the most vibrant and exciting festivals in the world.

Highlights for 2006 include a nod in the direction of Mozart’s 250th birthday. Iván Fischer brings the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment for two mostly Mozart concerts (3 & 4 March), while

+852 2734 9011

 

Late March-Early Apr

Hong Kong Sevens.

International Sevens was born in 1975 as a result of an idea of the then-chairman of the HKRFU and an imaginative marketing executive – with the first game actually taking place on 28 March 1976. Initially the Twickenham-based RFU were dismissive of the tournament, so it began life as a club competition, but was soon legitimized as a national tour and has grown in stature ever since. Hong Kong’s glamorous surroundings only add to the excitement of the event.

+852 2504 8311

 

Early April

Tomb Sweeping Day

China’s Tomb Sweeping Day, every year in April, is a day for worshipping ancestors; people visit the graves of their departed relatives and burn “ghost money” (money for use in the afterworld) in their honor.

Also called Qingming Day, this tradition is observed by millions of Chinese all across the world. It has its roots partly in the half-legendary huge resettlements that were ordered during the Ming Dynasty, when thousands of families were ordered first to Konglong county before being sent to their final destinations.

Thus, to this day, many Chinese believe their ancestors came from that county. The event also appeals to many overseas Chinese who identify their own diaspora with that of the people who suffered under the Ming rulers.

+86 (0) 10 6520 1114

 

Early April

The Clear and Bright Festival (Ching Ming)

This ancient Chinese festival takes place 106 days after the Winter Solstice in the cemeteries of Hong Kong, where families pay respect to their ancestors with various offerings.

One of the most important parts of Chinese culture (and one which has been all but forgotten in Western society) is the veneration and honoring of the dead. To honor your dead you must provide a long line of family, hence the importance of the family in Chinese culture. Among the offerings, “spirit money” (paper money) is often burnt, and it is said that during Ching Ming some true devotees actually scrub the bones of their loved ones.

+852 2807 6543

 

Early–Mid April

Hong Kong International Film Festival

The Hong Kong International Film Festival is a large, non-competitive event playing over the Easter holidays at a number of venues. With over 200 films every year, the program is large enough to accommodate a focus on Hong Kong cinema as well as the usual international festival-circuit fare. It also includes retrospectives, an award for upcoming Asian directors and a number of themed exhibitions, gala presentations and other events. In 2006 there are special celebrations for the 30th festival.

The festival was founded in 1977 by the Hong Kong Urban Council and responsibility passed to the newly-formed Leisure and Cultural Services Department in 2000. As well as showcasing the astonishingly creative and energetic local cinema industry, the retrospective section brings out an annual themed program of treasures from the archives. The festival is non-competitive and is split into four main sections; Asian Cinema, Hong Kong Panorama, World Cinema and the archive section.

The mainstay of the festival consists of local and international premières, adhering to the trademark combination of Asian Vision and Global Vision as the twin strands. For the 30th festival, to encourage filmmaking at university, there is the Fresh Wave Joint-U Short Film Competition which, following workshops at the end of 2005, will see student films shown at the festival.

+852 2970 3300

 

Early May

Tin Hau Festival

Tin Hau is the Chinese goddess of the sea, making her particularly significant to the sea-dominated city of Hong Kong. The fishing town of Sai Kung is at the heart of the celebrations for the goddess’ birthday, although the festivities reverberate around the towns and villages of Hong Kong.

Every year traditional rites are observed at community temples, but more eye-catching are the colorful parades of floats, fireworks and lion dances and the sailing of hundreds of multicolored junks and sampans in Victoria Bay and beyond. Tin Hau’s birthday is celebrated to bring safety, fine weather and full nets to the fishermen, who adorn their boats with colorful ribbons, offerings and other symbols of devotion.

The boats, clad in gaily-colored decorations and streaming pennants, make their way toward the many Tin Hau temples. Most of the flotilla heads towards the biggest temple, Da Miao (the Great Temple) in Joss House Bay in the New Territories. There they make their offerings, pay their respects and pray for a bountiful and safe year ahead.

The origins of Tin Hau are diffuse but popular belief is that she was born the sixth and youngest daughter of a Sung dynasty (AD 960-1279) mandarin named Mo Niang, lived in a small fishing village called Pu Tien in the Fukien Province on the south-eastern coast of China and is supposed to have endeared herself to sailors from a very young age through an uncanny ability to predict the weather. Born in the eighth year of Emperor Yuen Yan’s reign (1098), it wasn’t until early days of the Ch’ng dynasty (1644-1912), about 600 years after her death, that the benevolent Emperor K’ang-hsi (1654-1722) canonized her with the title “Queen of Heaven” and mother of all boat people and sailors.

Tin Hau is supposed to quell the seas, allowing bountiful hauls for fishermen and keeping sickness away from all seafaring types. It is said that Mo Niang could walk on water if supplied with a straw mat, so elaborate mats are woven as offerings for this day.

+852 2807 6543

 

Mid May

Bun Festival

Cheung Chau is Hong Kong’s largest fishing island and each May sees floating children and towers of lucky buns; the world’s only Bun Festival.

The origins of this Taoist rite can be traced back hundreds of years to the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911), when Cheung Chau was devastated by a storm, followed by an outbreak of the plague which claimed many lives. Believing the island to be haunted, the locals performed a sacrificial ceremony to placate the Gods and pray for their favor. The festival is now timed to coincide with Buddha’s birthday.

No Chinese festival is complete without lion and dragon dancers, but this island’s quirk is the children dressed as mythological and modern heroes suspended above the crowds on the tips of swords and paper fans. They form the float procession of Piaose and are all safely secured within steel frames, though they appear to glide through the air. The airborne children hardly move and their eyes can be half closed, not because they are in a state of Nirvana but because they are often drugged so as to endure the ceremonies. Though such treatment of children may be disturbing to a Western mindset it is such a unique festival that anthropologists are drawn to it every year and parents consider it a great honour for their offspring to be part of the procession.

At a quarter to midnight a paper effigy of the King of the Ghosts is set on fire, giant incense sticks are lit and the buns are harvested and distributed to the villagers, who, delighted to be sharing in this auspicious good fortune, celebrate late into the night.

+852 2807 6543

 

Mid May

Birthday of Lord Buddha

Buddha’s birthday is celebrated throughout Hong Kong (and officially, since 1999), though prime sites are the Po Lin monastery on Lantau Island (home to the world’s largest seated outdoor Buddha), the Ten Thousand Buddhas Monastery in Sha Tin and the Miu Fat Monastery in Tuen Mun.

Worshippers show their devotion by bathing the Buddha statues and feasting on sumptuous vegetarian dishes. Though a day of great reverence, non-Buddhist visitors are welcome and it is an opportunity to visit Hong Kong’s Buddhist monks and monasteries.

+852 807 6543

 

Mid May

Tam Kung Birthday Festival

Tam Kung is an important patron deity of seafarers. His birthday festival, which coincides with Buddha’s, is celebrated with considerable devotion and fanfare at the Tam Kung Temple, built in 1905 in the Shau Kei Wan district on Hong Kong Island. Shau Kei Wan is also known as Ah Kung Yam, or “Ancestor’s Rocky Hill”.

Tam Kung is a local Taoist boy-god said to control the weather. He can calm storms by throwing peas into the air, or cause them by throwing water. His cult is strong in coastal areas like Hong Kong and Macau. Little is known about this cryptic figure except that he was of human origin, born in Guangdong province during the Ching dynasty, and that he is the object of devotion and veneration for boatsmen and seafarers in the region, who invoke him for the protection of their livelihood.

+852 807 6543

 

Early June

Tuen Ng (Dragon Boat Festival)

These dragon boat races were first held in 1976 as part of the 2000-year-old Tuen Ng Festival and have now become an annual event. Over 100 teams from across the globe participate in the waters around Hong Kong and its islands. After the locals have raced, the event becomes an international open. The main competitions take place on Shing Mun River, at Sha Tin in the New Territories.

The teams race the elaborately-decorated boats to the beat of heavy drums. The boats, more than ten meters in length, have ornately-carved and painted dragon heads and tails.   Each carries a crew of 20-22 paddlers. Sitting two abreast, with a steersman at the back and a drummer at the front, the paddlers are urged on by the pounding drums and the roar of the crowds.

The festival commemorates the death of a popular Chinese national hero, Qu Yuan, who drowned himself in the Mi Lo River during the 3rd century BC, in protest against a corrupt government. Legend has it that as locals attempted to rescue him, they beat drums to scare fish away and threw dumplings into the sea to keep the fish from eating his body. During the festival period, people eat rice-and-meat dumplings wrapped in bamboo leaves and many look forward to swimming, or even simply dipping their hands in the water, to symbolize trying to save him.

There is also a  Bathtub Race:  one of the most fun-filled competitions of the day. Each bathtub can have two paddlers and handsome prizes are promised to the winners.

+852 2807 6543

 

Mid July

Hong Kong Book Fair

A high-profile event in the Hong Kong calendar, the annual Book Fair at the Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Center goes well beyond books and into the realms of electronic publishing, educational software and audio-visual learning aids.  There are journals, newspapers and, of course, a variety of books from a wide range of Hong Kong publishers.

There are more than 350 exhibitors and visitor numbers reach an impressive 500,000 over the course of the event.  The festivities and reading materials are in Chinese.

+852 2582 8888

 

Mid August

Hong Kong Food Expo

Organized by the Trade Development Council at the Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Center, this annual expo celebrates and promotes the island’s food industry to both trade and consumers. Visitors get to enjoy entertainment, demonstrations, food sampling, and kitchen tips during this five-day event.

Over 200 suppliers from Australia, the Chinese mainland, Hong Kong, Korea, Taiwan and the United States showcase their latest products. Included are gourmet and celebrity chefs’ cooking demonstrations.

+852 2582 8888

 

Mid September

Mid-Autumn Moon Cake Festival

An ancient Chinese tradition, the Mid-Autumn Moon Cake Festival a time in which families gather to relax, give thanks, celebrate family unity and view the full moon, and a celebratory banquet is typically held at midnight.

During the festival people eat special yuek beng (moon cakes) containing any ingredients from ground lotus and sesame to various sugary fillings. In Shanghai red bean paste has always been a favorite filling for revelers.

Another feature of the festival is  the colored Chinese paper lanterns, traditionally in the shapes of animals, which decorate almost every house. Festival altars are also adorned with five dishes of round fruits:  apples, peaches etc., as these symbolize the moon, as well as family unity.

+86 (0) 10 6520 1114

 

Early December

Hong Kong Open Golf Championships

Set amidst the stunning scenery of Fanling, the Hong Kong Open Golf Championship is the longest-running professional sporting event, with many great players waiting to take up the challenge.

+852 2807 6543

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