Japan has a totally unique culture that is endlessly fascinating, and nowhere is more energetic, fashionable and intoxicating than Tokyo. The city is a mix of traditional Japanese values and the high-tech world of gadgets, LED screens and cameras that Japan has fallen in love with. Take a cruise round Tokyo Bay, experience the panoramic views from Tokyo Tower, go shopping in Ginza and make sure you try the wonderful and healthy Japanese cuisine – you won’t regret it!
A Cleansing Ritual: The Setsubun Festival
Japan has a knack for coming up with some rather unusual pastimes, and hosting an annual bean-throwing festival every February 3rd must rank high on that scale. It’s an enchanting peek into Japanese tradition, hailing back to when people first performed mamemaki, a ritual spring cleaning of the home by throwing roasted soya beans out the door while wearing an ogre mask and shouting ‘Demons out, luck in!’ Events are held in temples and shrines all over Tokyo with entertainers on hand. It’s said that on this day, eating the same number of beans as your age ensures good health!
A Slower Pace: Fuchu City
Fuchu, 20km west of Tokyo, is really worth a trip to experience a smaller-sized Japanese city. Fuchu is a charming place, with the Tama River flowing through the southern end of the city, which faces the picturesque Tama hills. Tokyo’s race course is located here, so catch a race and place a little wager. Don’t stay too long, though, because the next stop is Okunitama Shrine, founded in 111, and one of the 5 major shrines in Tokyo: a beautiful, elegant temple with and the perfect place for a quiet moment of reflection. Fuchu makes a wonderful day trip.
Peace in the Valley: Todoroki
One of Tokyo’s little hidden gems, Todoroki Valley is a place to go when you need to recharge your batteries and recuperate in a natural setting. The valley is divided up the middle by the Yazawa River, which is more like a stream, and is sheltered from noise by the thick canopy of trees overhead. Wander paths over wooden bridges, past pools and shrines; take in the ambience of the Japanese gardens; explore the peaceful Todoroki Fudu Temple and its statues and tinkling waterfalls, which the monks still use in their aesthetic training. The perfect place to zen out.