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JAPAN IN JUNE AND JULY

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3 Chome-13-1 Takanawa, Minato-ku, Tōkyō-to 108-8612, Japan
LOBBY The Prince Sakura Tower smells like a luxury spa! I wait maybe 20 seconds at the front desk for a clerk. I hand her my credit card she grasps it respectfully in two hands and thanks me. . GUEST ROOM My circular room overlooks a pond and...
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Tokyo, Japan
You must venture into one of Tokyo's many pachinko parlors to experience the awfulness firsthand. Inside the boxy, fluorescent-lit space the bad music, cigarette smoke, metallic din of the machines, full-blast air-conditioning and endless flashing...
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4 Chome-1-1 Shimomeguro, Meguro-ku, Tōkyō-to 153-0064, Japan
If you're a fan of morbidly fascinating museums, don't miss the Parasitological Museum. Squeem-inducing items such as a several-yards-long tape worms and a worm-infested (pictured) are on display. The explanations are in Japanese, but with visuals...
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21-6 Udagawachō, Shibuya-ku, Tōkyō-to 150-0042, Japan
Take the train to Shibuya Station and exit at Hachiko. Look up to find that old familiar Starbuck's sign. Grab another cup of green tea and head to the second floor to observe the organized chaos of pedestrians crossing from all directions from...
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5 Chome-2-1 Tsukiji, Chūō-ku, Tōkyō-to 104-0045, Japan
The Tsukiji Market is the world's largest seafood market, with more than 2,000 tons of seafood moving through it daily. There are two parts to the operation: the inner market, or jonai, accessible after 10 a.m., and the outer market, or jogai,...
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104-0061, Japan
The Ginza district is home to Tokyo's oldest and most prestigious shopping department stores and high-high end luxury retailers. Chuo-Dori, the main artery in the tony shopping district of Ginza, is worth a walk-down if you're drawn to streets...
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1 Chome-9-1 Marunouchi, Chiyoda-ku, Tōkyō-to 100-6701, Japan
Sooner or later if you're visiting Tokyo you'll find yourself in the kinda-confusing Tokyo Station. Navigate your way through the complex to the Daimaru department store and head all downstairs to a mammoth food hall as upscale as Harrod's first...
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Ueno, Taitō, Tokyo 110-0005, Japan
Ueno is a great spot for a walkabout in Tokyo. It has almost everything that someone looking for an urban getaway could want—good food from countless cafes, restaurants, and food kiosks; a park (Ueno Park) to walk around; and even a children's...
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2 Chome-3-1 Asakusa, Taitō, Tokyo 111-0032, Japan
The colorful Asakusa district is a laid-back, fun, colorful neighborhood where you can buy crappy kitsch and kitschy crap (there are a lot of kitchenware shops, for some reason). Asakusa is also home to Tokyo's most well-known temples and 45...
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Nikko, Tochigi Prefecture, Japan
Nikko, an ethereal small town and UNESCO World Heritage Site, is a peaceful retreat from the intimidating capital and was my first foray into “mysterious” Japan. Lonely Planet: "Ancient moss clinging to a stone wall; rows of perfectly aligned...
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Takayama, Gifu Prefecture, Japan
Ryokan are Japanese style inns found throughout the country, especially in hot spring resorts. More than just a place to sleep, ryokan are an opportunity to experience the traditional Japanese lifestyle and hospitality, incorporating elements such...
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Takayama, Gifu Prefecture, Japan
The picturesque city of Takayama straddles a river and the historic district at its center consists primarily of galleries, museums, small shops, sake breweries, cafes and preserved houses dating back to the Edo Period. What to do in 48 hours: -...
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6-10 Konohanamachi, Kanazawa-shi, Ishikawa-ken 920-0852, Japan
Recessed lighting, blond wood, rock accents and perforated screens strike the right balance between contemporary and cozy. Choose from tatami rooms, table seating and a low-slung bar overlooking the kitchen. I sat at the bar that provides a view...
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1 Kenrokumachi, Kanazawa, Ishikawa Prefecture 920-0936, Japan
The Japanese -- you may have heard -- take their gardens seriously. Kenrokuen Garden is billed as one of Japan's three most beautiful landscape gardens. Waterfalls, ponds, streams, trees, bridges, pagodas, tree houses, stone lanterns -- it's a...
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1丁目-2-1 Hirosaka, Kanazawa, Ishikawa Prefecture 920-8509, Japan
I'm fond of the 21st-Century Museum of Contemporary Art because it doesn't take itself too seriously. The experiential exhibits are clever and quirky and obviously selected to engage us otherwise lazy, passive observers, forcing us to question our...
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497 Koyasan, 高野町 Kōya, Ito District, Wakayama Prefecture 648-0211, Japan
My travel to Ekoin in Mount Koya (Koyasan) entails riding two JRL trains, a subway, a local train, a cable car and a bus. The bus deposits at Ekoin, a 1,000-year old Buddhist Temple. Ekoin is one of approximately 50 temples offering lodging...
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550 Koyasan, Kōya, Ito District, Wakayama Prefecture 648-0294, Japan
Okunoin, Mount Koya's most sacred site, contains a cemetery that is home to the remains of warlords, celebrities, samurai, shoguns, high priests, businessmen and artists. I cross the Ichinohashi Bridge and am transported to a weird, wonderful...
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Japan, 〒605-0941 Kyōto-fu, Kyōto-shi, Higashiyama-ku, 三十三間堂廻り−644番地2
Behind its fairly unassuming façade, the Hyatt Regency Kyoto is a lair of Zen-inducing design. The sleek, wood-accented interior is minimalist at its core, but garnished with eye-catching details like white lattice panels and walls made out...
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Kyoto, Kyoto Prefecture, Japan
The Tourist Information Center at Kyoto Station provides a Kyoto Walks guide (or download it from my website), outlining specific walking routes. My favorite was the Higashiyama Area walk that cuts through the shops, restaurants, temples and...
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Arashiyama Genrokuzancho, Ukyō-ku, Kyoto, Kyoto Prefecture 616-0007, Japan
In western Kyoto, there is a very large forest of bamboo. As you can see in the photo, the shoots grow very tall, making those who stroll by look quite small. I'm sure there are times when this road is crowded, but when we were there, people were...
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1 Kinkakujichō, Kita-ku, Kyōto-shi, Kyōto-fu 603-8361, Japan
Built in the 14th century as a villa for a powerful shogun, Kinkaku-ji temple, commonly referred to as the Golden Pavilion, is an easy bus ride from the main bus terminal in Kyoto. The temple is one of the most popular buildings in...
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68 Fukakusa Yabunouchichō, Fushimi-ku, Kyōto-shi, Kyōto-fu 612-0882, Japan

Fushimi Inari Taisha on Inariyama mountain is dedicated to the Shinto gods of rice and sake, but Inari is also the god of merchants and that brings a lot of businesspeople to worship here. Everyone else stops by to see the thousands...

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294 Kiyomizu 1-chōme, Higashiyama-ku, Kyōto-shi, Kyōto-fu 605-0862, Japan

Kiyomizu-dera on Mount Otowa is one of the most famous temples in Japan, a place that appears in every sequence of Japanese travel photos. The landscape is all cherry trees and forest; it is among Kyoto's loveliest spots. The current structure...

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17 Sagatoriimoto Adashinochō, Ukyō-ku, Kyōto-shi, Kyōto-fu 616-8436, Japan
Adashino Nenbutsu-Ji is a walk from Kyoto's Arashiyama train station. With greater than 8,000 Buddhist statues memorializing the souls of the dead, Adashino Nenbutsu-Ji stands apart from the other places of worship. Beyond this stone-faced crowd...
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Tryggvagata 17, 101 Reykjavík, Iceland
The Reykjavík Art Museum was founded in 1973 and is the largest visual art institution in the country. There are actually three locations: Hafnarhus (pictured) Kjarvalsstadir, and Asmundarsafn (Ásmundur Sveinsson Sculpture Museum). Hafnarhús has a...