Category: Japan

Osaka Travel Guide – Deals

Quick Links:

A – Overview

B – City information

C – Attractions & Things To Do

D – Family Fun Attractions

E – Events & Entertainments

F – Osaka Travel Deals

A – Overview
It is said that the standard greeting between Osakans is:  moukarimakka?, “Are you making money?”  Osaka is the second largest city in Japan and has always had the reputation as a center for financial success.  Osaka is located in Kansai region on the main island of Honshu. It  is Japan’s second largest city and is a major industrial, port, and economic center.

 osaka-overview

Osaka is famous in Japan for shopping .  Midosuji Dori, a wide boulevard lined with gingko trees running north and south in the heart of the city, is the center for name-brand boutiques. Just to the east is Shinsaibashi-suji, a covered promenade with many shops, some dating back to the Edo Period. On the other side of Midosuji Dori is America-Mura, where young Japanese shop for T-shirts, Hawaiian shirts, ripped jeans, and other American fashions.   Teens also patronize HEP FIVE, a huge shopping complex near Umeda with a Joypolis amusement arcade and a Ferris wheel on top. Universal CityWalk, near Universal Studios, sells everything from Hello Kitty merchandise to Italian imports.

 

Osaka has many underground shopping arcades. Enter in Umeda (where the JR, Hanshin, subway, and Hankyu train lines intersect) and you can shop for miles!   Crysta Nagahori, connecting Nagahoribashi Station to Yotsubashi-suji, has a glass atrium ceiling, flowing streams of water, and 100 shops, making it one of the largest shopping malls in Japan. Nearby are Namba Walk, Nan-nan Town, and Namba City, all interconnected by underground passageways.

 

The City of Osaka has two main areas:  Kita (North) and Minami (South).  Extensive building is also taking place in the Bay Area. The Kita is the district around JR Osaka Station and Umeda Station on the subway, Hanshin and Hankyu Lines, with a concentration of department stores and commercial centers forming a huge underground shopping area. The Shin-Umeda City to the east features a “Floating Garden” Observatory, which commands panoramic views of Osaka.

 

The Minami district is in the vicinity of Namba Station on the subway, Nankai and Kintetsu lines. While Kita has a sophisticated image, Minami is a bustling town of ordinary people. In this area, visitors will find the Shin Kabukiza Theater, the National Bunraku Theater, and the Museum of Kamigata Performing Arts displaying exhibits describing Osaka’s performing arts.

 

The Bay Area, is home to Universal Studios Japan, with its focus on Hollywood movies and TV programs. Also located in the area are the Kaiyukan (Osaka Aquarium),  the WTC (World Trade Center), the tallest building in western Japan, and the Osaka Dome.  The Dome combines a ball park and an amusement center.

 

Of the other major landmarks in Osaka, Osaka Castle is best known. The park surrounding the castle is the site of cherry and plum blossom viewing in season. Also within the castle grounds are Peace Osaka (Osaka International Peace Center), and Osaka City Museum. The castle stands in contrast to the high-rise buildings of the neighboring Osaka Business Park.

 

Other highlights are the Tennoji area, with Shitennoji Temple-Japan’s oldest official temple, and Tennoji Zoo, along with Tsurumi Ryokuchi-an urban oasis; and Nagai Park. River cruises are a  favorite way to enjoy Osaka, which is known as the “city of water”.

 

Osaka is also known as the food capital of Japan.  One of the most fascinating aspects of the city is Osaka has its food theme parks.  These are elaborately designed and constructed.  They contain numerous restaurants and food stalls that specialize in one kind of cooking, for example,  noodles or dumplings. Persons wanting to try that food gravitate to these areas to sample the wide variety of different flavors and styles available.

 

Another type of food theme park in Osaka is the kind where a street or part of the city from the past is re-created, and all the restaurants serve dishes from that Period. An example is Naniwa Kuishimbo Yokocho.  Located inside the Tempozan Marketplace, Naniwa Kuishimbo Yokocho is the first theme park of Osaka cuisine in Japan. Inside, it re-creates a sample of a Naniwa gastronomy alley near the railway station circa 1965, just before the city hosted Expo ’70.

 

Instead of focusing on a single food, Naniwa Kuishimbo Yokocho brings together 20 restaurants that are popular in and around Osaka and that serve special delicacies of the area.  The result:  inexpensive and tasty food in just the right ambience.

 

The theme of Dotombori Gokuraku Shopping Street is an Osaka streetscape from  the late Taisho Period to the early Showa Period. Interesting buildings, shops, and unique eating places recapture the mood of those early days.

 

Osaka is a friendly city offering an eclectic blend of the old and the new and a myriad of interesting activities throughout the year.

B – City information

Population:  Osaka Prefecture:  8,815,757   City of Osaka:  2.6 million.

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

Telephone:  International country code: + 81 (Japan);  Area code: 6

 

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: Osaka 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

Osaka‘s Kansai International Airport (KIX; tel. 0724/ 55-2500) receives both domestic and international flights.

 

Getting Around

From Kansai Airport

Visitor Information: (At the Airport) The Kansai Tourist Information Center (tel. 0724/56-6025; open daily 9am-9pm) is near the south end of the International Arrivals Lobby. The multilingual staff can help with general travel information about Japan and brochures and maps.

 

Arriving at KIX :  Constructed on a huge synthetic island  3 miles off the mainland in Osaka Bay and connected to the city by a six-lane highway and two-rail line bridge, this 24-hour airport boasts the latest in technology.   Glass elevators carry passengers to the four floors of the complex in an atrium setting, touch screens provide information in many languages, and if you arrive on an international flight, you’ll board the driverless, computer-controlled Wing Shuttle to get to the central terminal. Signs are clear and abundant, and facilities include restaurants, shops, a post office (2nd floor south, near JAL counter; open daily 8am-7pm), ATMs that accept foreign credit cards, a children’s playroom in the international departure area (free of charge), the Kanku Lounge with Internet access (2nd floor north; (open daily 9am-9pm), and dental and medical clinics.

 

Getting from KIX to Osaka:  Taxis are very expensive. Easiest, especially if you have luggage, is the Kansai Airport Transportation Enterprise (tel. 0724/61-1374), which provides bus service to major stations and hotels in Osaka. Tickets can be purchased at counters in the arrival lobby. Another bus service, the OCAT Shuttle 880 (tel. 06/6635-3030), travels from KIX to the Osaka City Air Terminal (a downtown bus station for shuttle buses going to the airport

 

If you’re taking the train into Osaka (stations: Osaka, Tennoji, or Shin-Osaka) or even farther to Kyoto,  walk through KIX’s second-floor connecting concourse (baggage carts are designed to go on escalators and as far as train ticket gates) and board the limited express JR Haruka, which travels to Tennoji and Shin-Osaka stations before continuing to Kyoto.. Slower is the JR rapid (JR Kanku Kaisoku), which travels from the airport to Tennoji and Osaka stations before continuing to Kobe.

If you a have a Japan Rail Pass, you can ride these trains for free. Exchange your voucher at the Kansai Airport (rail) Station on the third floor (open daily 5:30am-11pm).

 

Next to the JR trains in the same station at the airport is the private Nankai Line, which has three types of trains to Namba Nankai Station. The  rapi:t a (pronounced rapito alpha) train reaches Namba in 30 minutes. There is one train an hour.  The rapi:t b (rapito beta) at the same price stops at more stations, including Sakai, and takes 35 minutes. You can also take an ordinary Nankai Express Line and reach Namba in 45 minutes.

 

Itami Airport:  The terminus of domestic flights,.( 06/6856-6781), north of the city. Buses connect to various parts of Osaka; to Osaka Station, the ride takes 25 minutes.

By Train:  Osaka is 2 3/4 hours from Tokyo by Shinkansen bullet train; tickets are ¥13,240 ($110) for an unreserved seat (the Nozomi Shinkansen is more expensive). All Shinkansen bullet trains arrive at Shin-Osaka Station at the city’s northern edge. To get from Shin-Osaka Station to Osaka Station and other points south, use the most convenient public transportation, the Midosuji Line subway; the subway stop at Osaka Station is called Umeda Station. JR trains also make runs between Shin-Osaka and Osaka stations.

 

If you haven’t turned in your voucher for your Japan Rail Pass yet, you can do so at Osaka Station’s or Shin-Osaka Station’s Green Windows (open daily 5:30am-11pm), as well as at Osaka Station’s Travel Information Satellite (TiS) on the main floor (daily 10am-7pm, to 6pm Sun and holidays) and at the Shin-Osaka Station’s TiS on the second floor (daily 7am-8pm).

 

If you’re arriving in Osaka from Kobe or Kyoto, the commuter lines, which will deliver you directly to Osaka Station in the heart of the city, are more convenient than the Shinkansen, which will deposit you at out-of-the-way Shin-Osaka Station from which you can take a taxi to the city center.

 

By Bus:   JR night buses depart from both Tokyo (Yaesu exit; tel. 03/3215-1468) and Shinjuku (new south exit; tel. 03/5379-0874) stations several times nightly, arriving at Osaka Station the next morning. The trip from Tokyo takes about 8 hours and costs ¥8,610 ($80). Cheaper yet are JR day buses from Tokyo Station to Osaka Station costing ¥6,000 ($50), and once-a-night JR buses from both Tokyo and Shinjuku stations costing only ¥5,000 ($42). Tickets can be bought at any major JR station or at a travel agency.

 

Osaka has many signs and directions in English. The exception is Osaka Station, used for JR trains, and its adjoining Umeda Station, used by subway lines and private railway lines Hankyu and Hanshin. Underground passages and shopping arcades complicate navigation, but someone you meet will speak English and will guide you in the right direction. 

 

When exploring by foot, it helps to know that most roads running east and west end in “dori,” while roads running north and south end in “suji,” which means “avenue.”

 

By Subway:   Osaka’s user-friendly subway network is easy to use because all lines are color-coded and the station names are in English (even announcements are in English on many lines). The red Midosuji Line is the most important one for visitors; it passes through Shin-Osaka Station and on to Umeda (the subway station next to Osaka Station), Shinsaibashi, Namba, and Tennoji.

 

Consider purchasing a One Day Pass which allows unlimited rides on subways and buses all day. On the 20th of each month (or on the following day if the 20th falls on a Sun or holiday) and every Friday, this pass costs less and offers slight discounts to several attractions. For trips outside Osaka, the Surutto Kansai Card (Kansai Thru Pass) allows you to ride subways and buses in Osaka, Kyoto, Nara, and Kobe, with a 2-day pass.  Children pay half price.

 

By JR Train:   A Japan Railways train called the Osaka Kanjo Line, or JR Loop Line, passes through Osaka Station and makes a loop around the central part of the city (similar to the Yamanote Line in Tokyo); take it to visit Osaka Castle.

 

News for Visitors

To find out what’s going on in Osaka, pick up a copy of Kansai Time Out, a monthly magazine with information on sightseeing, festivals, restaurants, and other items of interest pertaining to Osaka, Kobe, and Kyoto. It can be found at bookstores, restaurants, tourist information offices, and places frequented by English-speaking tourists, and it’s sometimes available for free at major hotels

Consulates:  Several embassies maintain consulates in Osaka, including Australia (tel. 06/6941-9271 or 06/6941-9448); Canada (tel. 06/6212-4910); Great Britain (tel. 06/6120-5600); and the United States (tel. 06/6315-5900).

 

Internet Access:  Internet access is available at two locations inside Osaka Station:   (1) Kinko’s, on the north concourse, between the east and central passages and across from JTB (tel. 06/6442-3700), is open daily 7am to 10:30pm  (2) Nearby, up a narrow flight of stairs, is the X-Time Internet cafe (tel. 06/6341-8222).

Mail:  The Central Post Office, or Osaka Chuo Yubinkyoku (tel. 06/6347-8006), a minute’s walk west of Osaka Station, is open 24 hours for mail. For postal service information in English, call 06/6944-6245 Monday to Saturday 9:30am to 4:30pm

C – Attractions & Things To Do

Neighborhoods

osaka-attractions

Osaka is divided into various wards, or ku:

 

Around Osaka Station:  Kita-ku is the area around Osaka and Umeda stations and includes many of the city’s top hotels, the city’s tallest buildings, many restaurants, and several shopping complexes, mostly underground.

 

Around Osaka Castle:  Osaka Castle, which lies to the east, is the historic center of the city. It is in Chuo-ku, the Central Ward, which stretches through the city center.

 

Minami/Namba:  Four subway stops south of Umeda Station is Namba (also referred to as Minami, or South Osaka), with a cluster of stations serving subways, JR trains, and Kintetsu and Nankai lines, all of which are connected to one another via underground passageways. Here you will  find more hotels, Osaka’s liveliest eating and entertainment district centered on a narrow street called Dotombori (also written Dotonbori), and major shopping areas such as  the enclosed pedestrian streets Shinsaibashi-Suji and America-Mura with imports from America. Farther south is Den Den Town, Osaka’s electronics district; and Dogayasuji, famous for restaurant supplies. Connecting Kita-ku with Namba is Osaka’s main street, Midosuji Dori, a wide boulevard lined with gingko trees and name-brand shops.

 

Area Around Tennoji Park:   At the south end of the JR Loop Line is Tennoji-ku, which was once a thriving temple town with Shitennoji Temple at its center. In addition to a park with a zoo, it is the site of Spa World, Japan’s most luxurious public bathhouse.

 

Osaka Bay & Port:  West of the city around Osaka Bay is Universal Studios Japan and Universal CityWalk shopping and dining complex; Tempozan Harbour Village with its aquarium, shopping complex, and Suntory Museum; and domestic and international ferry terminals.

 

Attractions

Floating Garden Observatory (Kuchu Teien Tenbodai)

1-1-88 Oyodo-naka

Umeda Sky Building, Kita-ku, Near Osaka Station

06/6440-3901

Open Daily 10am-10:30pm

Take JR Osaka or Umeda (Central North exit of JR Osaka Station, 9 min.)

This observatory 557 feet in the air looks like a space ship floating between the two towers of the Umeda Sky Building. Take the super-fast glass elevator from the East Tower building’s third floor; then take a glass-enclosed escalator that also bridges the two towers to the 39th floor. From the 39th floor you have an unparalleled view of all of Osaka, making it a popular nightspot for couples.

 

Museum of Oriental Ceramics (Toyotoji Bijutsukan)

1-1-26 Nakanoshima

Kita-ku, Near Osaka Station

06/6454-8600   

Transportation Station: Yodoyabashi or Kitahama (5 min.) 

Open Tues-Sun 9:30-5

This modern facility is about a 15-minute walk south of Osaka Station on Nakanoshima Island in the Dojima River.  Its 2,700-piece collection of Chinese, Korean, and Japanese ceramics ranks as one of the finest in the world. Built specifically for the collection, the museum dis[plays the collection  in darkened rooms that utilize natural light and computerized natural-light simulation. Korean celadon, Chinese ceramics from the Song and Ming dynasties and Arita ware from the Edo Period, are among the pieces on display.

 

Osaka Castle (Osaka-jo) 

Hours Daily 9am-5pm 

Address 1-1 Osakajo 

Chuo-ku, Around Osaka Castle 

Transportation: Osakajo-Koen on the JR Loop Line or Morinomiya (15 min.); or Temmabashi or Osaka Business Park (10 min.) 

06/6941-3044

First built in the 1580s on the order of Toyotomi Hideyoshi, Osaka Castle was the largest castle in Japan.  The present Osaka Castle dates from 1931 and was extensively renovated in 1997. Built of ferroconcrete, it’s not as massive as the original but is still one of Japan’s most famous castles and is impressive with its massive stone walls, black and gold-leaf trim, and copper roof. The donjon (keep) museum  describes the life and times of Toyotomi Hideyoshi and the history of the castle. There are displays of samurai armor and gear, a full-scale reproduction of Toyotomi’s Gold Tea Room, and a model of Osaka Castle during the Toyotomi Era.

Built in Stone, Osaka Castle is famous for its stone fortifications, made with more than 500,000 granite stones. Five of these stones weigh more than 100 tons with the largest, nicknamed the Octopus Stone.

 

Osaka International Peace Center

2-1 Osakajo

Chuo-ku, Around Osaka Castle

06/6947-7208

Station: Morinomiya (3 min.) or Osakajo-Koen (8 min.)       

Hours Tues-Sun 9:30am-5pm 

Closed on days following national holidays and last day of each month

Located on the southern edge of Osaka Castle Park, this museum strives for global peace by educating present and future generations about the horrors of war, related by those who survived it. Unlike other museums in Japan dedicated to peace, including those in Hiroshima and Nagasaki,  this one does not shy away from Japan’s role in the Asian conflict, including its war campaign in China, the abduction of Koreans to work in dangerous areas, and massacres committed by Japanese in Singapore, Malaysia, and elsewhere.

Its main focus is on wartime death and destruction, with personal testimonies of air raid survivors (15,000 people died during World War II air raids on Osaka), displays centering on the suicide attacks by kamikaze pilots at the end of the war, graphic photographs of Hiroshima and Nagasaki after the atomic bombs were dropped, and a section devoted to the horrors of the Auschwitz concentration camp

  

Shitennoji Temple

Shitennoji 1-11-18 

Tennoji-ku, Around Tennoji

06/6771-0066

Station: Shitennoji-mae Yuhigaoka (exit 4, 5 min.); or JR Tennoji (north exit, 10 min.) 

Temple grounds open 24 hr.; garden daily 10-4.

Founded 1,400 years ago as the first officially established temple in Japan, Shitennoji Temple is the spiritual heart of Osaka. It was constructed in 593 by Prince Shotoku, who is credited with introducing Buddhism to Japan. Through the centuries, the buildings have been faithfully reconstructed exactly as they were in the 6th century, with the Main Gate, the five-story Buddhist Pagoda, the Main Golden Hall, and the Lecture Hall all on a north-south axis. Prince Shotoku, remains a revered, popular figure. There is also a turtle sanctuary and a newly restored Japanese landscape garden, first laid out during the Tokugawa regime.  It has  meandering streams, and a waterfall.

 

Spa World

Daily 10am-9am 

3-2-24 Ebisu-higashi 

Naniwa-ku. Next to festivalgate, Around Tennoji

06/6631-0001

Station: Shin-Imamiya or Dobutsuenmae (2 min.). Next to festival gate 

This enormous bath house can accommodate up to 5,000 people and draws upon hot springs brought up from 2,970 feet below the earth’s surface. On its roof, is a covered swimming complex that includes a pool, a slide, a wave pool, a sunning terrace, and a wading pool (rental swim suits available). The rest of the large complex is divided into themed, geographical bathing zones, which are rotated between the sexes and include luxurious locker rooms. At the Asian Zone, for example, Middle Eastern music and tiled mosaics set the tone for the Turkish bath, while China is represented by a medicinal bath. Massage is also available.

 

Suntory Museum

1-5-10 Kaigan-dori 

Minato-ku, Osaka Bay Area 

06/6577-0001  

Station: Osakako (5 min.)

Museum Tues-Sun 10:30am-7:30pm; IMAX Tues-Sun 11am-7pm (last show)    

The Suntory Museum, which you can tour in about 30 minutes, is that fantastically modern-looking structure you see near the aquarium, designed by well-known architect Tadao Ando. It stages changing exhibitions in airy rooms against a dramatic background of the sea beyond its glass walls. Past exhibits have included posters by Toulouse-Lautrec, paintings by German expressionists, and glass by Emile Gallé; call or check the Meet Osaka quarterly for current information. There’s also a 3-D IMAX theater with scenes so real you’ll swear those fish on the screen are about to swim into your lap, a good museum shop, the Sky Lounge (perfect for taking a break), and a restaurant

D – Family Fun Attractions

Osaka Aquarium (Kaiyukan)

1-1-10 Kaigan-dori   

Minato-ku, Osaka Bay Area

Transportation Station: Osakako (5 min.) 

06/6576-5501 

Hours Daily 10am-8pm    (Crowded on weekends)

Closed sometimes in June and in winter  

One of the world’s largest aquariums, encompassing 286,000 square feet and containing 2.9 million gallons of water, it is  constructed around the theme “Ring of Fire,” which refers to the volcanic perimeter encircling the Pacific Ocean.

Tours begin with a video of erupting volcanoes followed by an escalator ride to the eighth floor; followed by entry to 14 different habitats ranging from arctic to tropical as you follow a spiraling corridor back to the ground floor.

The series begins with the daylight world in  a Japanese forest above the ocean’s surface, continues to and  past Antarctica, Monterey Bay, the Great Barrier Reef, and other ecosystems on the way to the depths of the ocean floor. At each point visitors view marine life of that region. 

 

Sega Amusement Theme Park (Umeda Joypolis)

HEP FIVE, Umeda Kita-ku,(8th and 9th floor)  Near Osaka Station 

06/6366-3647        

Station: JR Osaka or Umeda (5 min.) 

Open Daily 11am-11pm (you must enter by 10:15pm)   Under 16 not permitted after 7PM.

Joypolis amusement arcades are popular in Japan.  There are the usual flashing lights, bells and constant electronically produced sound effects, and crowds of enthusiastic participants. In addition to arcade games, virtual rides simulate gliding through the air or shooting the rapids of a wild river. Note: Children under the age of 16 aren’t allowed here after 7pm and that some virtuall rides that carry height restrictions.

 

Universal Studios Japan

2-1-33 Sakurajima 

Konohana, Osaka Bay Area

Station: Universal City (5 min.)   

06/4790-7000

Open daily, generally 9am-7pm (to 9pm in peak season), but hours can vary with the seasons 

Following the format of Universal’s Hollywood and Orlando theme parks, The Studio takes guests on a fantasy trip through the world of American blockbuster movies, with thrill rides, live entertainment, back-lot streets, restaurants, shops, and other attractions based on actual movies. Board a boat for a harrowing encounter with a great white straight out of Jaws, escape a T-Rex as you roller-coaster your way through a setting of Jurassic Park, watch a fantastic fire show at a Backdraft theater or a water extravaganza at WaterWorld, Take E.T. home to save his planet, and see, feel, and smell Sesame Street in 4-D.

Most of the attractions have been dubbed into Japanese. Avoid weekends and arrive early, then head straight for the Information booth and an  Express Card, which will get you in at specific times and avoid long lines.

 

Captain Cook Shuttle Boat

06/6573-8222

The fastest and most scenic way to travel between Suntory Museum/aquarium and Universal Studios is via the Captain Cook shuttle boat which departs every 30 minutes.

It is a  10-minute ride. A bonus: the boat ticket includes a discount for the aquarium.

E – Events & Entertainments

January

January 1 – 3    

The New Year’s holiday period.

People visit shrines and temples to pray for health and happiness in the new year. Shops, banks and public agencies are usually closed from December 28 through to January 3.

 

January 9 – 11     

Toka Ebisu

(at Imamiya Ebisu Shrine (in Osaka City), Ibaraki Toka Ebisu (Ibaraki City) and at Fuse Ebisu Shrine (Higashi Osaka City))

This festival, characteristic of the merchant town flavor of Osaka, is held to pray for prosperity in business.

 

February

Around February 3    

Setsubun Festival

(at Ishikiri Shrine (Higashi Osaka City), at Narita-san Fudoson Shrine (Neyagawa City), and at Mizumadera Temple (Kaizuka City))

The day falls on the eve of “Risshun”, the first day of spring or the New Year’s day in the traditional Japanese calendar. On this day, a bean-scattering ceremony is held to cast away the evils of the previous year.

 

Early February to early March    

Plum blossoms

During this period, people enjoy strolling through fragrant groves of blossoming plum trees. The main spots for plum blossom viewing are Osaka Castle Park, Expo’70 Commemorative Park, Hiraoka Shrine, and Domyoji Temmangu.

 

March

The second Sunday to the fourth Sunday of March

The Spring Sumo Tournament

(venue: Osaka Prefectural Gymnasium)

 

April

Early April    

Cherry Blossom Viewing

To celebrate the arrival of spring, people picnic outside, admiring the overhead cherry blossoms. The main spots for blossom viewing are Osaka Castle Park, Expo’70 Commemorative Park, and Satsukiyama Park.

 

Around April 29 to around May 5

This period is called Golden Week.

With several holidays occurring almost consecutively, some companies are closed for more than 10 days in a row. Because of the many tourists, accommodation charges and airfares are higher.

 

July

July 24 and 25    

Tenjin Matsuri Festival

One of the big three Japanese festivals with a history of more than 1,000 years.

 

Late July to late August

The season for fireworks displays

Displays of fireworks, among them the one in Rinku Town, PL Fireworks Art, and Kurawanka Fireworks Festival, are held at various locations around Osaka.

 

August

Around August 13 to 16   

The Bon Festival

This is the traditional festival for welcoming and then sending off the spirits of ancestors. Many companies are closed and a lot of people go traveling, so accommodations charges and airfares are higher.

 

September

September 14 and 15    

Kishiwada Danjiri Festival

The festival is famous for its danjiri floats lugged around the city by highly spirited groups of people.

 

October

second Sunday of October    

Midosuji Parade

One of the largest parades in the nation, it takes place down Osaka’s main street.

 

November

mid to late November    

Colored Leaves of Autumn

People take excursions out to spots famous for their colorful leaves to enjoy looking at them. Main sites around are the Meiji-no-Mori Minoh Quasi-National Park, Settsu-kyo (Settsu Gorge), Amanosan Kongo-ji Temple, Mt. Inunaki, etc.

 

Arts and Entertainment

 

The National Bunraku Theater

1-12-10 Nipponbashi, Chuo-ku

located east of Namba and the Dotombori entertainment district, a 1-minute walk from exit 7 of Nipponbashi Station.

06/6212-2531 for information; 06/6212-1122 for reservations

was completed in 1984 as the only theater in Japan dedicated to Japanese traditional puppet theater.

Productions are staged five times a year, running for 2 to 3 weeks at a time and held daily at 11am for Part 1 and at 4pm for Part 2. When Bunraku is not being performed, other traditional performing arts are often shown, including classical Japanese music.

Headsets are available that provide translations into English.  The acoustics are excellent.  To find out whether a performance is being held, check Meet Osaka or contact one of the visitor information centers.

 

The Osaka Shochikuza

1-9-19 Dotombori, Chuo-ku

The theater is located on Dotombori, just west of the Ebisu-bashi Bridge.

06/6214-2211)

The theater was built more than 50 years ago and was remodeled in 1997 as part of a revival of interest in Kabuki. Traditional kabuki is performed in January, July, and some other months of the year (the schedule changes yearly), and performances start usually at 11am and 4:30pm. 

Performance information is also listed in Meet Osaka.

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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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