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‘Tokyo: Getting Around

Taxis, while clean and reliable, can be expensive during the day due to the city's slow-moving traffic. At night, traffic is normally lighter and when trains, subways and buses have shut down (generally around midnight), taxis may be the only transportation available. (Please note that unlike New York, Tokyo is most definitely a city that does sleep, and taxis late in the evening can be few and far between.) Fares are 650 (630 for smaller cabs) for the first two kilometers; 90 for each additional 280 meters (299 m); another 80 per 100 seconds (110 seconds) as it slows down under 10km/h in the heavy traffic; between 11 p.m. and 5 a.m., fares increase by 30 per cent. If the taxi takes the expressway, the passenger pays the tolls. Taxis in Tokyo both cruise and wait at taxi stands. The red light on the dashboard, visible through the windshield, means the taxi is free; a green light means it already has a fare. Taxi doors are automatically opened and closed by the driver. No tips are expected. Since few drivers speak English, it is best to have your destination written in Japanese, along with a map, if available. If you are traveling to a well-known destination a hotel, for example simply saying the name slowly will be sufficient. If you wish to try speaking Japanese to your driver, you might say: Hotel Okura onegai shimasu.

Subways are quick, inexpensive and easy to use. The names of stations in Tokyo are written in romaji (Latin letters) look for the names in romaji underneath the Japanese characters and directions appear in English. It is wise to carry a subway map with you (one is enclosed in this kit). Brightly colored ticket machines, located near the wickets, dispense tickets and some also change \1000 bills. Fare depends on distance traveled; if in doubt, buy the cheapest ticket (\160 for most subways) and let the ticket taker at your stop request the balance; you must keep your ticket until reaching your destination. Subways start around 5 a.m. and run frequently (as often as every two to three minutes, depending on the line) until just after midnight. Personal and material safety is virtually assured on public transit in Tokyo. Pushing (when necessary) is an acceptable method of getting on and off during rush-hours. Wall maps show the stops, and platform signs in romaji give the station name and usually show the subway's last and next stops. Subway lines are consistently color-coded (e.g. all signs and maps for the Ginza line are golden-yellow), and the cars are the same color. Transfers are marked on platform pillars, generally in romaji and also by color. Maps near and behind the ticket gate will help travelers choose the appropriate exit (e.g. B-1 or A-4).

Buses generally connect major stations. However, unless you know the right bus number and exactly where you are going, it is usually easier to get around by taxi or the subway.

Eating in Tokyo

In his book Eating in Tokyo, Rick Kennedy estimates that there are more than 80 000 restaurants in Tokyo. First-time visitors are struck by the vast array of restaurants, from the modest to the posh, found in every neighborhood of this great city. Japanese cuisine is represented in all its glory, and we recommend you plunge in and try some items that may be unfamiliar. Beyond Japanese food, the gourmand will find excellent French (haute, nouvelle and bourgeoise) and Italian (from rustic to cucina nuovella), as good as that found in Paris or Tuscany. Other European, North and Latin American dishes are available. Numerous restaurants offer Asian cuisines (notably Korean, Indian and Chinese); these range from acceptable to very good. American-style fast food is well represented. It is normally of at least acceptable quality, and is often better than that available in North America. Excellent bakeries and pâtisseries abound.

The easiest and best way to find a good place to eat is to stroll through the area immediately adjacent to the major subway and train stations. Shimbashi and Toranomon, both of which are a 10-minute walk from the Hotel Okura, are well-known eating and nightclub districts that feature hundreds of restaurants and bars offering a dizzying assortment of food. Many restaurants have plastic models of food in their windows, known as ryori mihon, which usually provide an accurate idea of what the fare looks like. Some establishments post menus at the door, often in English. If you enter a restaurant where there is no English menu, gesture to the waiter to come out to the window and point to your selection. The most economical time to eat, particularly in the more expensive restaurants, is at noon: prices often more than double in the evening. Many restaurants display the actual lunch on a table by the door, along with the price. Other good, centrally located areas for eating include: Roppongi, Akasaka, Azabu, Hiroo, Shinjuku, Shibuya, Aoyama, Yotsuya and Harajuku. All are served by subway and train lines, and boast scores of restaurants.

Shopping in Tokyo

Tokyo is a shopper's dream the Tokyo edition of Born To Shop runs to 326 pages. It is impossible to even attempt to summarize all that Tokyo's thousands of stores have to offer. However, several rather arbitrary suggestions are listed below, all of which are easily accessible from the Hotel Okura.

GINZA: Located in one of Tokyo's most famous neighborhoods, Ginza's shops are elegant, exclusive and most are very expensive. It is not a place to pick up souvenirs, but is fun for window shopping. Take the Hibiya (gray line) subway from the Kamiyacho station (a five- minute walk from the Hotel Okura) and get off at the Ginza station. Some of the better-known stores include Wako (an upscale Birks); Mikimoto (for pearls it's fine to browse, the staff is very polite and helpful even if it's obvious you're not buying; closed Wednesdays); Matsuya Ginza, Mitsukoshi (closed Wednesdays), Hankyu, Seibu and Printemps are among the major department stores in Ginza, the first two perhaps the more famous and typical of the area. Itoya, established in 1904 as a stationery store, is a favorite of many Canadian visitors, particularly those with a passion for pens, cards, notepaper, office supplies and graphic art design.

HARAJUKU: Considered by some to be the must-see fashion district of Tokyo. To get there, take the Hibiya subway line from Kamiyacho, change to the Chiyoda (green line) subway at Kasumigaseki station and get off at Omotesando. A few of the more important stores are La Foret, Hanae Mori Building, Paul Stuart Japan, Shu Uemura Beauty Boutique and Oriental Bazaar. This last shop, which is closed on Thursdays, is a convenient one-stop shopping outlet, very handy for purchasing souvenirs in a short time. Items such as kimonos; lacquer boxes; carved vases; Imari, Satsuma and Kutani ware; pearls; woodblock prints and assorted traditional Japanese paper products can be purchased there. The Oriental Bazaar is also a good place to buy inexpensive items such as T-shirts and happi coats.

AOYAMA: From Harajuku, it is a short walk (or take the Ginza line to Gaienmae station) to Bell Commons, Plantation (Issey Miyake), Brooks Brothers, Cerrutti 1881 and dozens of other Japanese and internationally known designers. One of the best is the Japan Traditional Craft Centre (closed Thursdays), which is located on the second floor of an office/retail building. In addition to a permanent exhibit and items for sale, selected crafts from various parts of Japan are displayed on a rotating basis. Given the quality and choice of items, prices are not unreasonable.

SHIBUYA: This area is dominated by a number of major department stores including Tokyu (Tokyu Honten is the best), Fashion 109, Seibu, Parco I, II and III. For those with limited time, we would recommend Tokyu Hands, which bills itself as a "creative life" store. The largest hobby shop in Tokyo, it has three sections, with eight floors per section, containing some 300 000 items in all. It is perfect for anyone who likes to "do-it-yourself." Take the Hibiya line from Kamiyacho and get off at the Ebisu station to change to the JR train for Shibuya.

Useful Addresses and Telephone Numbers

Mr. Jeff Kucharski
Managing Director, Japan
3rd Floor, Place Canada
3-37, Akasaka 7-chome
Minato-ku, Tokyo 107

Tel: 3475-1171/3
Fax: 3470-3939

Mr. John Tak
Senior Representative
2nd Floor, Akasa KSA Building
8-10-39, Akasaka
Minato-ku, Tokyo 107

Tel: 3408-6171
Fax: 3408-6340

Mr. Jean Dorion
Délégué général
5th Floor, Kojimachi Hiraoka Building
1-3 Kojimachi
Chiyoda-ku, Tokyo 102

Tel: 3239-5137
Fax: 3239-5140

Mr. Edward Matsuyama
Director, Japan
Tomoecho Annex II 9F
Minato-ku, Tokyo 105

Tel: 5401-0531
Fax: 5401-0538

Mr. Neil Moody
Executive Director

Tel: 3221-7824
Fax: 3224-7825

2009-12-09 XV

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