Have you been here? Share a tip or a photo with fellow travelers.
The Samba Festival has been held every year toward the end of August since its inception in 1981 and features Samba dancers regaled in all kinds of flamboyant and unique costumes while shaking their booties in ways that would make Miley Cyrus blush. The parade, which extends from Sensoji Temple to Tawaramachi Station on the Ginza subway line, also features many colorful and creative floats reminiscent of Carnival in Rio, and the 3,500-odd participants range from professional samba dancers who gather from as far away as Brazil to compete for prizes to amateurs who just want the chance to strut their stuff. As might be expected, it gets crowded, with an average of 500,000 spectators annually. Get a spot early or bring a folding stepladder, a favorite trick of photographers trying to get unobstructed shots of the action.
The curved eaves of Tokyo’s intricate Buddhist temples and the orange tori gates of the Shinto shrines endure as reminders of the city’s over four hundred year history. Walk beneath the massive gates of Meiji-jingu, Tokyo’s largest Shinto shrine, and transport back to the time of shogun and samurai. Receive an omikuji (fortune) at Sensoji, Tokyo’s oldest temple, but beware these fortunes can be curses or blessings. Surrounding Sensoji is Nakamise-dori, the central street in the centuries old shopping district with shops offering kimonos, fans, and tapestries among other traditional goods.
Tokyo, like most cities, is best explored on foot. Shibuya crossing, the busiest pedestrian intersection in the world, is packed with shopping complexes, billboards, and giant screens blaring advertisements. From Shibuya, follow Meiji Dori straight to the heart of the eclectic, fashion forward Harajuku. The narrow, pedestrian friendly streets of Harajuku are a likely location to spot teens in anime costumes and eccentric fashion. Asakusa, situated along the Sumida River, has an old world feel with stalls selling traditional goods and great views of the towering Tokyo Skytree and infamous Asahi Beer Hall (also known as “the golden turd”). In Ueno Koen discover shrines tucked behind tree lined paths and a multitude of museums worth exploring.
Whether kids are up for adventurous eating or only want simple food, Tokyo has it all. For the noodle lovers there is a variety of ramen, soba (buckwheat noodles), and udon (thick wheat noodles). Tokyo Station’s Ramen Street has eight of Tokyo’s best ramen shops and shoyu ramen is a popular favorite. For snacks while in transit, vending machines are easy to find and offer a variety of hot or cold beverages, candy, and ice cream cones. Tokyo has a range of kid-friendly dishes including, yakisoba (fried noodles), yakitori (grilled chicken skewers), and taiyaki (fished shaped cakes filled with red bean paste). Soft serve ice cream and hamburgers are also easy to come by and Freshness Burger is one of Tokyo’s most popular burger chains.
Puffer Fish (Tetraodontidae), famous for its poison, is really a lethal enjoyment of food. The restaurants that serve puffer fish must obtain the licenses. Therefore, only a limited number of puffer fish specialty restaurants exist out there. There are many options on the menu: puffer fish sashimi, puffer fish skin, puffer fish soup, and so on. It's a leap of faith for that first bite, but a must if you visit Japan.
As soon as I got off the plane in Tokyo, a camera crew approached my girlfriend & me. Turns out they were with a tourism show and wanted to know what we came to Tokyo to see. Maybe it was the jetlag coupled with excitement, but I wildly said, "Get transformed into a Geisha!" After a few laughs the translator scribbled the name of a studio onto a piece of paper. And Voila - I had the absolute pleasure of being a Geisha for a day!