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Tokyo - Tsukiji Outer Market

Tsukiji Outer Market (築地場外市場, Tsukiji Jōgai Shijō) is a district adjacent to the site of the former Tsukiji Wholesale Market. It consists of a few blocks of wholseale and retail shops, as well as restaurants crowded along narrow lanes. Here you can find fresh and processed seafood and produce alongside food-related goods such as knives.

A visit to Tsukiji Outer Market is best combined with a fresh sushi breakfast or lunch at one of the local restaurants. The restaurants are typically open from 5:00 in the morning to around noon or early afternoon. Because most of the fish served and sold at Tsukiji Outer Market is delivered directly from Toyosu Market, this is one of the best places in Tokyo to enjoy fresh seafood.

Tokyo - Tower

Standing 333 meters high in the center of Tokyo, Tokyo Tower (東京タワー) is the world's tallest, self-supported steel tower and 13 meters taller than its model, the Eiffel Tower. A symbol of Japan's post-war rebirth as a major economic power, Tokyo Tower was the country's tallest structure from its completion in 1958 until 2012 when it was surpassed by the Tokyo Skytree. In addition to being a popular tourist spot, Tokyo Tower serves as a broadcast antenna.

Tokyo Station (Marunouchi)

Located between the Imperial Palace and Tokyo Station, Marunouchi (丸の内) is one of Japan's most prestigious business districts. During the Edo Period, Marunouchi (literally "within the enclosure") was located within the outer moats of Edo Castle and contained the residences of some of Japan's most powerful feudal lords. Together with neighboring Otemachi, Marunouchi is now home to the headquarters of many of Japan's most powerful companies, particularly from the financial sector.

Tokyo - Skytree

The Tokyo Skytree (東京スカイツリー) is a television broadcasting tower and landmark of Tokyo. It is the centerpiece of the Tokyo Skytree Town in the Sumida City Ward, not far away from Asakusa. With a height of 634 meters (634 can be read as "Musashi", a historic name of the Tokyo Region), it is the tallest structure in Japan and the second tallest in the world at the time of its completion. A large shopping complex with aquarium is located at its base.

(*** Smoggy weather means bad views of Tokyo :-( ***)

Tokyo - Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden

Shinjuku Gyoen (新宿御苑) is one of Tokyo's largest and most popular parks. Located just a short walk from Shinjuku Station, the paid park's spacious lawns, meandering walking paths and tranquil scenery provide a relaxing escape from the busy urban center around it. In spring Shinjuku Gyoen becomes one of the best places in the city to see cherry blossoms.

Shinjuku Gyoen originated during the Edo Period (1603-1867) as a feudal lord's Tokyo residence. Later it was converted into a botanical garden before being transferred to the Imperial Family in 1903 who used used it for recreation and the entertainment of guests. The park was almost completely destroyed during World War II, but was eventually rebuilt and reopened in 1949 as a public park.

Tokyo - Roppongi Hills

Roppongi Hills is one of the best examples of a city within the city. Opened in 2003 in the heart of Tokyo's Roppongi district, the building complex features offices, apartments, shops, restaurants, a hotel, art museum, observation deck and more. The office floors are home to leading companies from the IT and financial sectors, and Roppongi Hills has become a symbol of the Japanese IT industry.

At the center of Roppongi Hills stands the 238 meter Mori Tower, one of the tallest buildings in the city. While most of the building is occupied by office space, the first few floors have restaurants and shops and the top few floors house an observation deck and modern art museum that are open to the public.

Tokyo - Rikugien Garden

Rikugien (六義園) is often considered Tokyo's most beautiful Japanese landscape garden alongside Koishikawa Korakuen. Built around 1700 for the 5th Tokugawa Shogun, Rikugien literally means "six poems garden" and reproduces in miniature 88 scenes from famous poems. The garden is a good example of an Edo Period strolling garden and features a large central pond surrounded by manmade hills and forested areas, all connected by a network of trails.

Tokyo - Odiaba

Odaiba (お台場) is a popular shopping and entertainment district on a man made island in Tokyo Bay. It originated as a set of small man made fort islands (daiba literally means "fort"), which were built towards the end of the Edo Period (1603-1868) to protect Tokyo against possible attacks from the sea and specifically in response to the gunboat diplomacy of Commodore Perry.

Tokyo - Metropolitan Government Building

The Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building (東京都庁, Tōkyō Tochō) in Shinjuku is often visited by tourists for its free observation decks which provide good panoramic views of Tokyo and beyond. The 243 meter tall building has two towers, and each houses an observatory at a height of 202 meters. It had been the tallest building in Tokyo until it was overtaken by the Midtown Tower in 2007.

Tokyo - Koishikawa Korakuen

Koishikawa Korakuen (小石川後楽園, Koishikawa Kōrakuen) is one of Tokyo's oldest and best Japanese gardens. It was built in the early Edo Period (1600-1867) at the Tokyo residence of the Mito branch of the ruling Tokugawa family. Like its namesake in Okayama, the garden was named Korakuen after a poem encouraging a ruler to enjoy pleasure only after achieving happiness for his people. Koishikawa is the district in which the garden is located in.

Tokyo - Kiyosumi Teien

The grounds of Kiyosumi Teien (清澄庭園) were originally the residence of an Edo era merchant, and eventually changed ownership to a feudal lord who turned them into a garden. During the Meiji Period, the founder of Mitsubishi bought the garden to entertain his guests. It was donated to the city of Tokyo and opened to the public in 1932.

A highlight of the Kiyosumi Teien landscape garden are the many stones set around the grounds. Landscape stones are highly sought after and valuable, and some of the ones in the garden are famous stones that were acquired from all across Japan.

Tokyo - Imperial Palace

The current Imperial Palace (皇居, Kōkyo) is located on the former site of Edo Castle, a large park area surrounded by moats and massive stone walls in the center of Tokyo, a short walk from Tokyo Station. It is the residence of Japan's Imperial Family.

Edo Castle used to be the seat of the Tokugawa shogun who ruled Japan from 1603 until 1867. In 1868, the shogunate was overthrown, and the country's capital and Imperial Residence were moved from Kyoto to Tokyo. In 1888 construction of a new Imperial Palace was completed. The palace was once destroyed during World War Two, and rebuilt in the same style, afterwards.

Tokyo - Imperial Palace East Garden

The Imperial Palace East Gardens (皇居東御苑, Kōkyo Higashi Gyoen) are a part of the inner palace area and are open to the public. They are the former site of Edo Castle's innermost circles of defense, the honmaru ("main circle") and ninomaru ("secondary circle"). None of the main buildings remain today, but the moats, walls, entrance gates and several guardhouses still exist.

Edo Castle was the residence of the Tokugawa shogun who ruled Japan from 1603 to 1867. Emperor Meiji also resided there from 1868 to 1888 before moving to the newly constructed Imperial Palace.

(* We didn't manage to complete the tour of this place. At 3:50pm, they send a police car in and chase us out - main gates closing at 4pm :-) *).,

Tokyo - Hama Rikyu Garden

Hama Rikyu (浜離宮, Hama Rikyū), is a large, attractive landscape garden in central Tokyo. Located alongside Tokyo Bay, Hama Rikyu features seawater ponds which change level with the tides, and a teahouse on an island where visitors can rest and enjoy the scenery. The traditionally styled garden stands in stark contrast to the skyscrapers of the adjacent Shiodome district.

Tokyo - Asakusa

Asakusa (浅草) is the center of Tokyo's shitamachi (literally "low city"), one of Tokyo's districts, where an atmosphere of the Tokyo of past decades survives.

Asakusa's main attraction is Sensoji, a very popular Buddhist temple, built in the 7th century. The temple is approached via the Nakamise, a shopping street that has been providing temple visitors with a variety of traditional, local snacks and tourist souvenirs for centuries.

Tokyo - Akihabara

Akihabara (秋葉原), also called Akiba after a former local shrine, is a district in central Tokyo that is famous for its many electronics shops. In more recent years, Akihabara has gained recognition as the center of Japan's otaku (diehard fan) culture, and many shops and establishments devoted to anime and manga are now dispersed among the electronic stores in the district.

Kyoto - Tofukuji Temple

Tofukuji (東福寺, Tōfukuji) is a large Zen temple in southeastern Kyoto that is particularly famous for its spectacular autumn colors. The temple was founded in 1236 at the behest of the powerful Fujiwara clan. Its name is a combination of the names of two great temples in Nara that were also associated with the Fujiwara, Todaiji Temple and Kofukuji Temple. Tofukuji has historically been one of the principal Zen temples in Kyoto, and is a head temple of one of the schools of the Rinzai sect of Zen Buddhism.

In autumn, people come from all over Japan to see Tofukuji's autumn colors. The most popular view is of the Tsutenkyo Bridge, which spans a valley of lush maple trees. The view from the bridge is equally spectacular, and the 100 meter long, covered walkway becomes extremely crowded when the colors reach their peak, usually around mid to late November.

Kyoto - The City

Kyoto (京都, Kyōto) served as Japan's capital and the emperor's residence from 794 until 1868. It is one of the country's ten largest cities with a population of 1.5 million people and a modern face.

Over the centuries, Kyoto was destroyed by many wars and fires, but due to its exceptional historic value, the city was dropped from the list of target cities for the atomic bomb and escaped destruction during World War II. Countless temples, shrines and other historically priceless structures survive in the city today.

Kyoto - Takao : Saimyoji Temple

Takao (高雄) is a sparsely populated, mountainous area with three historic temples along its forested valley, a one hour bus ride north of central Kyoto. Worth a visit at any time of the year, Takao becomes most popular during the autumn leaf season, which usually peaks around mid November.

Saimyoji Temple was originally built as a detached temple of Jingoji. It is not as big or impressive as Jingoji, but still interesting. The vermilion covered Shigetsukyo Bridge, which leads over a river to the temple entrance, is a particularly well known sight.

Kyoto - Takao : Jingoji Temple

Takao (高雄) is a sparsely populated, mountainous area with three historic temples along its forested valley, a one hour bus ride north of central Kyoto. Worth a visit at any time of the year, Takao becomes most popular during the autumn leaf season, which usually peaks around mid November.

Jingoji Temple is the most visited among Takao's temples. A long set of stone stairs make for an impressive and tiring approach. The temple grounds feature a large entrance gate and multiple halls, as well as a path to an observation point with views over the valley. Small clay discs with inscriptions can be purchased there to be thrown into the valley for good luck.

Kyoto - Sokushū-in

Sokushu-in is a small sub-temple of Tōfuku-ji. It only open in autumn, which is also the best time to visit it. Unknown to most visitors and a little off the main temples, it is a great place to escape the masses of tourists visiting in Tōfuku-ji in autumn.

The temple was built as a villa for a member of the Fujiwara clan in 1196. In 1387, the temple was founded on the grounds of the old villa.

Kyoto - Philosopher's Path

The Philosopher's Path (哲学の道, Tetsugaku no michi) is a pleasant stone path through the northern part of Kyoto's Higashiyama district. The path follows a canal which is lined by hundreds of cherry trees. Usually in early April these trees explode with color, making this one of the city's most popular hanami (cherry blossom viewing) spots.

Approximately two kilometers long, the path begins around Ginkakuji (Silver Pavilion) and ends in the neighborhood of Nanzenji. The path gets its name due to Nishida Kitaro, one of Japan's most famous philosophers, who was said to practice meditation while walking this route on his daily commute to Kyoto University.

Kyoto - Nanzen-in Temple

Nanzenji Temple (南禅寺), whose spacious grounds are located at the base of Kyoto's forested Higashiyama mountains, is one of the most important Zen temples in all of Japan. It is the head temple of one of the schools within the Rinzai sect of Japanese Zen Buddhism and includes multiple subtemples, that make the already large complex of temple buildings even larger.

The history of Nanzenji dates back to the mid 13th century, when the Emperor Kameyama built his retirement villa at the temple's present location and later converted it into a Zen temple. After its founding, Nanzenji grew steadily, but its buildings were all destroyed during the civil wars of the late Muromachi Period (1333-1573). The oldest of the current buildings was built after that period.

Kyoto - Konchi-in Temple

Konchi-in is a sub-temple of the Nanzen-ji temple complex. The temple was built in the early 15th century by shogun Ashikaga Yoshimochi (足利義持). In 1605, it was relocated from northern Kyoto to its present location inside the Nanzen-ji temple complex. A few years later, between 1611 and 1632, the garden was built in preparation of the shogun's visit. It is fairly certain that the famous garden designer and tea master Kobori Enshu (小堀遠州) has built the garden.

Kyoto - Higashi Honganji Temple

Nishi Honganji's two largest structures are the Goeido Hall, dedicated to Shinran, the sect's founder, and the Amidado Hall dedicated to the Amida Buddha, the most important Buddha in Jodo-Shin Buddhism. The temple also displays some surviving masterpieces of architecture from the Azuchi-Momoyama Period and early Edo Period, including the celebrated Hiunkaku Pavilion. Nishi Honganji is designated an UNESCO world heritage site.

Higashi Honganji (East Honganji) was built only eleven years after and a few street blocks east of Nishi Honganji as the head temple of the Otani faction of Jodo-shin Buddhism. Its main hall, the Goeido is Kyoto's largest wooden structure and dedicated to Shinran, the sect's founder. Next to it and almost as large is the Amidado Hall, dedicated to the Amida Buddha.

Kyoto - Gion district

Gion (祇園) is Kyoto's most famous geisha district, located around Shijo Avenue between Yasaka Shrine in the east and the Kamo River in the west. It is filled with shops, restaurants and ochaya (teahouses), where geiko (Kyoto dialect for geisha) and maiko (geiko apprentices) entertain.

Gion attracts tourists with its high concentration of traditional wooden machiya merchant houses. Due to the fact that property taxes were formerly based upon street frontage, the houses were built with narrow facades only five to six meters wide, but extend up to twenty meters in from the street.

Kyoto - Ginkaku-ji Temple (Silver Pavilion)

Ginkakuji (銀閣寺, Silver Pavilion) is a Zen temple along Kyoto's eastern mountains (Higashiyama). In 1482, shogun Ashikaga Yoshimasa built his retirement villa on the grounds of today's temple, modeling it after Kinkakuji (Golden Pavilion), his grandfather's retirement villa at the base of Kyoto's northern mountains (Kitayama). The villa was converted into a Zen temple after Yoshimasa's death in 1490.

As the retirement villa of an art obsessed shogun, Ginkakuji became a center of contemporary culture, known as the Higashiyama Culture in contrast to the Kitayama Culture of his grandfather's times. Unlike the Kitayama Culture, which remained limited to the aristocratic circles of Kyoto, the Higashiyama Culture had a broad impact on the entire country. The arts developed and refined during the time include the tea ceremony, flower arrangement, noh theater, poetry, garden design and architecture.

Kyoto - Fushimi Inari Taisha shrine

Fushimi Inari Shrine (伏見稲荷大社, Fushimi Inari Taisha) is an important Shinto shrine in southern Kyoto. It is famous for its thousands of vermilion torii gates, which straddle a network of trails behind its main buildings. The trails lead into the wooded forest of the sacred Mount Inari, which stands at 233 meters and belongs to the shrine grounds.

Fushimi Inari is the most important of several thousands of shrines dedicated to Inari, the Shinto god of rice. Foxes are thought to be Inari's messengers, resulting in many fox statues across the shrine grounds. Fushimi Inari Shrine has ancient origins, predating the capital's move to Kyoto in 794.

Kyoto - Arashiyama : Tenryu-ji Temple

Tenryuji (天龍寺, Tenryūji) is the most important temple in Kyoto's Arashiyama district. It was ranked first among the city's five great Zen temples, and is now registered as a world heritage site. Tenryuji is the head temple of its own school within the Rinzai Zen sect of Japanese Buddhism.

Tenryuji was built in 1339 by the ruling shogun Ashikaga Takauji. Takauji dedicated the temple to Emperor Go-Daigo, who had just passed away. The two important historic figures used to be allies until Takauji turned against the emperor in a struggle for supremacy over Japan. By building the temple, Takauji intended to appease the former emperor's spirits.

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