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See and Experience

Affordable Japan

Travel Tips

Knowing Tokyo through Walking

A big city Tokyo can be experienced and seen within as short a time as 3 hours if you follow the model course introduced below. In addition, as this is a walking course, it is always free of charge!

In the middle of Tokyo, the Imperial Palace is located with a peripheral road that is a little over 5 km in length. Even with detours, it would not be any longer than 7 km, enabling you to enjoy a very pleasant walk. In the Palace Garden, you will see various historic spots associated with the Edo Castle, and deep greens make you forget you are in the midst of a city. The Palace is surrounded by a moat of rich water. You will be amazed at the spaciousness and cleanliness of Higashi Gyoen (East Park) and Kitanomaru-koen Park. Both are open to the public and admission is free. It usually takes well over an hour to walk through Higashi Gyoen, but the quiet and beauty makes it well worth doing.

The tour starts with the Nijubashi Bridge, which is the symbol of the Imperial Palace. Walking counter-clockwise facing the bridge in front, you will reach Kasumigaseki, an administrative district, and the National Diet Building, which is the center of politics. Next, you will pass exclusive residential areas including Koji-machi and Ban-cho, followed by Chidori-ga-fuchi (Northwest of the Imperial Palace), onwards to the National Museum of Art. After going down the slope of Kudan, you encounter the lively town of Kanda. The office town of Marunouchi follows the crowded town of Kanda, and this completes a round trip tour of central Tokyo that has offered various scenes. Joggers and walkers also love the peripheral road of the Imperial Palace. With its seasonal flowers, Tokyo Tower, skyscrapers and historic building, you will certainly have interesting experiences as well.

Between the 35th and 36th floor, the highest point of the Marunouchi Building, called "Marubiru", is an atrium. Admission is free and it is only 10-minute walk from the Palace. The diversity of Tokyo can be felt, with the skyscrapers of Shiodome area visible on the left along with the Rainbow Bridge, and the Imperial Palace visible on the right. The night view is gorgeous from the observation room of the Metropolitan Government Building located in Shinjuku. It is open until 23:00 to view the city from a height of 202 m, and admission is also free. In winter, closely observed, Mt. Fuji can be often seen, giving a magnificent outlook. Another popular observation room, also free of charge, is that of the Bunkyo Civic Center (105 m, 25th floor). It is kept dark in the room and has inclined windows to prohibit reflections that could impair the otherwise clear night views.

Many Shrines and Temples in Kyoto Require No Admission Fees

In Kyoto, shrines and temples should be visited to enjoy the town's long history. Most shrines do not require admission fees, like the Kitano-tenman-gu Shrine, and it is also free to enter Maruyama-koen Park, where the Yasaka-jinja Shrine is located. Okazaki-koen Park, close to the Heian-jingu Shrine, as well as Higashi Hongan-ji, Nishi Hongan-ji, Tou-ji and Nanzen-ji Temples are also free of charge.

To experience the "Kitchen of Kyoto," a stroll in the Nishiki-ichiba Market is recommended. Although called "market," it is more like a shopping mall, where you can buy anything from seafood sold for Ryokans or restaurants, to grocery items for ordinary consumers at reasonable prices. One can also dine here in many varying restaurants. Visitors can choose to snack on ageboten (fried fish rolls) on the street or dine in shops or restaurants at relatively low prices. Dining at restaurants or shops allows visitors to partake of attractive Japanese cuisine and enjoy the atmosphere. Many shops and restaurants give discounts right before they close each day.

Experiencing Japan

Kabuki, Bunraku and Noh are the traditional entertainments designated as the world's intangible cultural assets. Tickets for these traditional Japanese plays cost approximately 10,000 yen, and are often difficult to obtain. However, the Kabuki-za Theater in Tokyo offers a single-show system called "Makumi." The audience that views a single program saves money as it costs only around 1,000 yen to see one act at non-reserved seats on the 4th floor. Tickets such as these are sold before programs start at the theater's counter. The Traditional Performing Arts Information Centre of the National Theatre of Japan exhibits some visualized materials, including dioramas that demonstrate the world of Kabuki. These exhibits are free of charge.
For those who are interested in modern entertainment, such as opera, ballet and plays, the Information Centre of the New National Theatre, Tokyo, has a collection of videos, free to watch. The collection covers the stages organized by the Theatre, as well as many programs played at different venues.

National Theatre of Japan

Kabuki official website

Experiencing Zen, one of the training methods of Buddhism, is a great opportunity to touch the spirit of Japan. A temporary training just to experience Zen is available for those that want to spend 1 or 2 nights to try it properly. Souji-ji Temple in Yokohama charges 10,000 yen for visitors to participate in an overnight session. This session includes 2 meals and is held on the particular Saturday and Sunday each month. Also, the temple offers English session (not an overnight session) for 500 yen, held from 9:30 until noon, once a month. No advanced reservation is required for this English session. Trying Zen for a lower price is possible also at some other temples. One of these, the Rinsen-ji Temple in Kohinata, Tokyo, offers sessions every Monday early in the mornings at 6:00 and Wednesday evenings at 19:00. The temple welcomes people of all nationalities and religion, and many foreign visitors have joined in these sessions. To participate, phone reservations must be made the day before each session. The fee for each session is 500 yen.

Getting to Know Japan through its Industries

In big cities like Tokyo, Nagoya and Osaka, there are many show rooms or museums of international corporations that originate in Japan. Most have free admission that enables visitors to easily encounter the history of these corporations and the Japan of "today." In Tokyo, the Sony Building is located at the middle of Ginza. It has show rooms on the 1st to the 4th floor while movie previews can be viewed in the High Vision Theater. If visitors have an interest in automobiles, they can visit the Toyota Autosalon Amlux Tokyo in Ikebukuro, and the Honda Welcome Plaza in Aoyama. At the Advertising Museum Tokyo in Shiodome, visitors can learn about Japanese commercials and advertising posters, which are highly evaluated outside of Japan as well.

In Nagoya, the Toyota Museum has a systematic and impressive exhibition of the automobile history, with approximately 120 automobiles collected from throughout the world. (Admission: 1,000 yen, closed on Mondays) Noritake-no-Mori ("the woods of Noritake") is another unique complex that displays Japanese modern potteries, mainly tableware that Japan presents to the world. Visitors can also try painting on potteries. (Closed on Mondays. Admission: 500 yen each for the Museum and Craft Center. An additional charge for painting potteries)

In Osaka, the Entrepreneurial Museum of Challenge and Innovation explains the spirit and achievements of the entrepreneurs from Osaka. Osaka has long led the Japanese economy as "Tenka-no-Daidokoro," the Kitchen of Japan. (While Edo, or Tokyo, was the center of politics in those days, Osaka was that of economy and industry. "Kitchen" presents the center of people's lives here.) The museum offers audio guide services in Japanese, English, Chinese and Korean. (Closed on Sundays, Mondays, national holidays, New Year, and the O-bon summer holiday. Admission: 300 yen) To experience the cutting-edge technologies of Japan, mainly in the electric field, a visit to the Panasonic Center is in order. It is a comprehensive information center of the Matsushita Group. (Closed on Wednesdays)

A Free Benefit Recommended by Okami (The landlady) of Ryokan in Kyoto

The Nashinoki-jinja Shrine, located northwest of Kyoto Gosho (Kyoto Imperial Palace), has the famous water called"Somei's spring water"that gushes out from the tip of the green bamboo log. The water is drinkable and many local people stand in line in order to take some water home. "Because of my business, I often go to the Nishiki-ichiba Market. Close to the market, there is the Nishiki-tenman-gu Shrine, loved by people with a nickname of 'Nishiki-tenjin-san.' The shrine has well water called "Kyoto's spring water, Nishiki's water" which is ideal for drinking. So the place is regarded as an oasis of the town, and many travelers also relieve the weariness of their journey." (Okami of Ryokan in Kyoto, "Matsui Honkan")