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A trip to Ebisu  
While there is no end of choice for the visitor to Tokyo looking to eat and drink in town, there are few areas that offer the same mixture of local flavour, true Japanese culture and plain old fashioned good fun as Ebisu. This ultra-trendy though somehow still authentic neighbourhood plays host to a number of establishments that are perfect for somebody in search of a great night out.
Getting there is easy. The Ebisu station is on the JR Yamanote line, which is one stop away from Shibuya. You can also get there using the Metro Hibiya line. While you can always get around it by taxi, it's small enough to get around on foot and much more fun. As you walk from pub to pub and restaurant to restaurant, you can really soak in the atmosphere of this lively, colourful and vibrant little hive of nightlife.
A good place to begin is one of the numerous eateries aimed at the salarymen and salarywomen looking to relax after a hard day's work. Known locally as izakaya, these little spots serve tasty casual dished such as grilled meats and sashimi – perfect for filling your belly with something quick and delicious before and evening's drinking. Of course, every one of them will also offer a packed drinks menu too.
Once you've dined, why not move on to a really proper Japanese pub? Saiki is one such place, very well known in Tokyo for its no-nonsense approach and buzzing atmosphere. Space is a minimum but atmosphere is at a maximum. There's no English menu and next-to-no decor but lots of fun, great drinks and tasty bar food to be had. If you want to take a step outside your touristic comfort zone it comes highly recommended.
After that you'll probably be feeling hungry again, so the next port of call should be the wonderful Momotaro off Komazawa-dori. This is great for wine and generous courses of yakitori. If you want to drink like a true Japanese, then move from here to Buri just down the road. Here you will find one of Tokyo's most extensive and impressive sake menus plus, of course, lots of delectable little bits and pieces to eat with your rice wine.
You will, of course, notice that many of these spots do not have English menus for you to order from. While this might, at first, seem intimidating, in truth you can get by with just a few simple phrases. If you trust your waiter, all you need to do is say “Osusume”, which means “I'll have what you recommend.” Unless you are very unlucky, you should get a great meal.
If you want to hang out in Ebisu but prefer not to take your chances, then you can always try the Toraji Korean diner, where you can grill your own slabs of beef just as you like them.
While Ebisu explodes with activity after nightfall, there is also some fun things to do during the day. Art lovers will enjoy the Tokyo Metropolitan Museum of Photography in Yebisu Garden Place, while the Beer Museum on the same street is an hour of fun for those with simpler tastes.
Watch some sport in Tokyo  
If you plan to visit Tokyo and fancy taking in some sports while you're there, then you're in luck. This city is a true feast for the fan of physical activities and competitive games. Here you will find professional teams in baseball, football and sumo, plus all kinds of other thrilling events. Here's a guide to the biggest sporting attractions in the Japanese capital.
Baseball
America's Pastime is just as popular in Japan as it is Stateside, so it is little surprise to find Tokyo is a hub for baseball. In fact, the Japanese are so crazy about baseball that even the high-school playoff matches that take place every year regularly bring in millions of viewers.
Tokyo is home to two pro baseball teams: the Yakult Swallows and the Yomiuri Giants. The Swallows play at Meiji-Jingu Stadium in Shinjuku, and have a richly decorated history, having taken home 5 Japan Series championships (though none in the last 13 years). Their accomplishments are, however, entirely dwarfed by their city rivals, the Giants. From their base at the 46,000 capacity Tokyo Dome in Bunkyo, the Giants have notched up 22 Japan Series titles, the most recent of which they took home in 2012.
Tickets for both teams go on sale roughly two weeks before match day and can be picked up from outlets across the city.
Football
Though not quite as avidly followed as baseball, football has risen in the last twenty years or so to become one of Japan's favourite games. Its national championship, the J-League, is the most successful soccer leagues in Asia, with huge crowds and many of the continent's best players.
A number of football teams play their home games in the capital, most prominent amongst them FC Tokyo and Tokyo Verdy. Though they have never won the J-League itself, FC Tokyo have twice won the J-League Cup and once won the Emperor's Cup back in 2011. If you fancy watching the beautiful game in Tokyo, then pop down to their Ajinomoto Stadium in Chofu. Tokyo Verdy also play their home games at this ground, though they are currently plying their trade in the nation's second tier, after relegation in 2008. Prior to that, however, they were one of Japan's most famous and decorated teams, with 2 J-League titles, 3 J-League Cups and 2 Emperor's Cups below their belts.
The season runs from March to December and tickets can be purchased all over Tokyo.
Sumo
For a truly traditional Japanese sporting experience, the curious traveller should try Sumo wrestling. Though the exact story of its origins is sketchy, Sumo has been around for about 1,500 years. If you've never seen it before, it involves two huge men, usually well above 6 feet and 20 stone, aiming to shove each other out of a small, sand covered ring. To the untrained eye this might seem awfully simplistic but, in reality, it is a game of intense skill, razor sharp timing and quick ingenuity as well as brute force.
There are over 48 sumo holds in all, involving shoves, trips, slaps, throws and carries and, though most matches won't last longer than half a minute, they often feature a dizzying combination of moves.
You can check out Sumo at the Kokugikan, in Sumid-ku in January, May or September. During each of those months, Tokyo hosts 15 day tournaments and cheap, unreserved tickets are usually available at the stadium. For the best seats, however, you will either need to book long in advance or know somebody with connections.
A walk on the weird side in Tokyo  
The Japanese capital offers no end of options for the visitor in search of the weird and wonderful. In fact, there might be no other city on the planet that has quite so many out there bars, restaurants, clubs and cafes. Here is a few of our favourites.
Vowz Bar
Vowz would be a pretty normal bar if it wasn't for the fact that every member of staff is a Buddhist monk. No, not a barman dressed up as a Buddhist monk or an actor portraying a Buddhist monk. An actual, 100% certified disciple of Buddhism. They are pretty talkative too, so, if you fancy learning about spirituality while relaxing with a beer, get on down to Vowz Bar.
Shinjuku 8bit Café
Retro gaming fiends will find themselves in heaven at this off-beat Shinjuku spot, where customers button bash on late 80s/ early 90s classics such as Sonic the Hedgehog, Super Mario Brothers and Shinobi while DJs spin class game music and everybody drinks heavily. It's one of those kitsch, ultra-hipster ideas that seems so obvious you can't believe it hasn't been tried before. A table costs 4.50 and, for that, you get unlimited games. The crowd is not nearly as nerdy as you might imagine, as old school games are a pretty mainstream obsession in Japan.
Kagaya
If you like something a little different when you head out for dinner, then Kagaya might be just the thing for you. Described by some visitors as ‘the world's weirdest restaurant', it is run by owner Mark Kagaya, who has a, shall we say, interesting way to interact with the clientele. Mark is not the kind of owner who likes to sit in the back office counting the money but rather, believes in taking a hands on approach to the business. Most nights he is out on the floor taking his diners' orders using his huge collection of glove puppets, before delivering the food dressed in one of his many fancy dress costumes. Believe us, this description does not even halfway do justice to how strange it gets.
Mr Kanso
If you thought London's breakfast cereal café was the world's most strange single-food eatery, then you have not yet been to Tokyo's Mr Kanso. Here customers can choose from shelves stocked to bursting with what must be the world's largest and most varied collection of tinned food. From Spam to tuna to walrus curry and beyond, you can find just about any foodstuff on the planet stuffed into a little metal box and eat it right there on the premises.
HollowPoint
Drinking and guns really don't mix, yet nobody told the owners of HollowPoint, Tokyo's only shooting range/pub. Customers can order a drink at the bar, hire an air gun and blast away at a selection of targets in a specially designed gallery. It's a lot safer than it sounds – after all, there are no real guns on the premises – and, if you like weaponry, a pretty fun night out.
Nakameguro Ping Pong Lounge
If you want to simultaneously pile on and burn off the pounds during an evening's boozing, then the Nakameguro Ping Pong Lounge is a good bet. Here beer and ping pong go hand in hand, with customers taking it in turns on the numerous tables between rounds.
How to eat in a Japanese restaurant  
How to eat in a Japanese restaurant and not offend anybody
We all know that Japan is a country that takes manners, politeness and courtesy very seriously. Though visitors are expected to make the occasional faux pas, breaking the rules of civility frequently is very bad form. If you are in Japan on business, this becomes even more of an issue as so much will depend on your ability to build a strong, respectful relationship with the people you meet.
One potential minefield for the green gaijin is the dinner table. Ensuring you behave yourself correctly when the time comes to eat could be the difference between an unpleasant atmosphere and a successful trip. Here are the essential dos and don'ts for not making a fool of yourself in a Japanese restaurant.
If you want to really show that you know how to behave yourself in Japan, then put your palms together and say “Itadakimasu” at the beginning of the meal. This simple gesture will show your hosts that you respect and appreciate their hospitality. When the meal is over, put your palms together again and say “Gochiso sama deshita.”
One of the main reasons that so many Westerners have trouble with chopsticks is that they use them incorrectly. If you are served food such as rice in or noodles in a small bowl or on a small plate, lift it from the table closer to your mouth. You will find the sticks easier to use from this position. For large dishes, however, leave them on the table. If you still can't hack it, just ask for a knife and fork – nobody will be offended and you'll enjoy your meal better.
On the subject of chopsticks, it is considered extremely rude to point at anything – be it a person or an inanimate object – with your sticks.
There are certain bodily functions that the Japanese believe should be kept private. Blowing your nose and burping are absolute no-nos in any public space but are considered particularly rude when others are eating. Also, if you need to use a toothpick, make sure you keep your mouth covered at all times – nobody wants to see your teeth being cleaned.
When booze is on the menu, be careful not to seem too eager to get stuck in. Ensure everybody's glass has been filled before you put yours to your lips. Chances are there will be a toast before the table drinks. “Kampai” is the word for cheers in Japan. You can say “Cheers” if you prefer but, under no circumstances, say “Chin-Chin”. It has a very different meaning in Japan than it does in the west and, trust us, it's not something you want to bring up at a business meeting.
If you finish what's in your glass, it will be taken as a sign that you are finished drinking for the meal. If you want a refill, leave a small amount and somebody will refresh it for you.
When it's time for sushi, be careful with the soy sauce. Never pour it directly on your sashimi, instead pouring it into the small dish provided and then dipping your fish into it. Do not pour more than you intend to use – the Japanese hate wasteful eating habits.
 
A night of karaoke in Tokyo  
Everybody knows how popular karaoke bars are in Japan so, if you are looking for a good night out in Tokyo it is well worth stopping into one. Thought, traditionally, the locals like to book private rooms where only their friends can watch them sing their favourite hits while their own waiter delivers refreshments, there are also some wilder, western-style joints available for those that want to strut their stuff on stage.
Chief amongst them is Smash Hits on Hiroo Shotengai. Here the, often very drunk, audience sits in stadium style seating around the singers, while they belt out their favourite tunes to rapturous applause. The catalogue of songs on offer is very much well known and English and it is very popular with both ex-pats and locals alike.
Another popular variation on traditional karaoke in Tokyo is offered at Gigabar in Minami-Aoyama, where you can get on stage with a live backing band to rock out a classic number. You don't have to be the front man either, as they'll let you play guitar, bass or drums too. If you're worried about a live band limiting the choices, don't be. These guys can knock out note perfect renditions of over 200 well-known tunes, including hits by Led Zeppelin, The Stones, The Beatles and more. As you can imagine, it's very much geared towards rock, so if you're the long hair and leather trouser type you'll be in heaven.
Jan Ken Pon is another venue that mixes live music with karaoke. Nestled in the heart of the busy Ebisu neighbourhood, it features an excellent cover band whose sets are interspersed with performances by the clientele. We recommend getting there in the late evening, as it sometimes takes a while to get going.
If you fancy a step into a uniquely Japanese world, then Lovenet in Roppongi could be what you are after. Like the traditional bars, customers get to choose their own private room in which to sing and drink, though these rooms are quite unlike anything you'll find elsewhere. For example, in the Aqua Suite you and your party get to sing from the comfort of your very own Jacuzzi. In the Heaven Suite, you'll find a hypnotic room with crystals beneath the glass floor. This all comes at a serious cost, however – it's about 220 pounds for the hot tub room, and that's one of the cheaper options.
Of course, you could always just go for the more traditional, laid back and, generally, less expensive option and drop into an old-school private booth bar. The most famous is probably Shindax, which is notably more comfortable, larger and more inviting than the average karaoke spot. You can get a suite for up to 40 people and the pricing is pretty competitive.
One last tip for movie fans: if you fell in love with Tokyo after watching Sofia Coppolla's Lost in Translation and fancy recreating some of its most famous scenes, then you'll want to take a trip to Karaoke Kan on Udagawa-cho. It's the bar in which Bill Murray performed More Than This in the movie.
Fuji Rock Festival  

Dancing neon lights sway to the beat of legendary tunes as an explosion of music drive hurdles of supergroupies, hippies and hedonists into a frenzy in the in the loudest, largest, craziest and most iconic music festival in Japan - Fuji Rock Festival.
Set in a mystifying location in the mountains of Naeba, to get some stages in the Fuji Rock Festival you have to trek through the forest or take a gondola. No wonder the event attracts all sorts of festival-goers, ranging from hardcore rock fans to ecstasy-addicts, festival enthusiasts and nature lovers.
The latter will specially enjoy the opportunities to exercise among the hillsides via atmospheric boardwalks through the forest, past sparkling streams, villages or hammocks and organic food stalls. An hour's walk from the site entrance, you'll come across the hippy hangout “Stoned Circle” where you can play ramshackle instruments and drums. Get on the Dragondola - the longest gondola lift in the world - as it takes you to the top of the mountain which overlooks the festival site.
The centre of the site is called Oasis, where you'll be able to choose from over 30 stalls offering food from around the world. Even though the main site closes each night after the final act, Oasis remains open until late at night, as well as the Red Marquee where you can join a rave till dawn.
The party starts the day before the official festival featuring bon-odori - traditional Japanese folk dance), prize draws, food stalls and a fireworks display. There are seven main stages and other minor stages scattered throughout the site. The main stage - Green stage - has a capacity for almost 50,000 spectators.
This four-day music festival is organised by Smash Japan and features more than 200 Japanese and international musicians. Every summer the event attracts up to a hundred thousands to the festival grounds and has a year-on-year crackling lineup.
Some of the headliners and performers have been The Stone Roses, Radiohead, Heady Eye, Elvis Costello and The Imposters, Coldplay, Arctic Monkeys, Tokyo Ska Paradise, The Faces, The Chemical Brothers, The Faces, Muse, Vampire Weekend, Jamie Cullum, Oasis, Franz Ferdinand, Paul Weller, Weezer, Kiyoshiro Imawano Special Message Orchestra, among others.
If you want to stay at a hotel, it is recommend to book one a year ahead. Otherwise, make sure you bring a distinctive tent and enjoy the unique camping experience. If you feel like relaxing watching a movie, there's an outdoor cinema by the river - now picture how wonderful it is to watch a film in that setting. Don't miss out on the opportunity to have udon noodles for breakfast.

Where to Shop in Tokyo  

Tokyo is the place to go on a shopping spree. With the latest trendiest fashion, traditional handicrafts, branded goods, cutting edge electronics, and colouful anime, shopping in Japan is more than a necessity... It's an obsession. Therefore, surrounded by endless variety of world-class goods and accompanied by your credit card, it's not hard to fall into temptation while shopping in Tokyo.
Tokyo is famous for its department stores, some of which have been open for centuries. These department stores connect massive shopping malls and are extremely convenient for shoppers as they can find everything they are looking for under one roof. Some of these complexes compass 10 floors.
These outlets deal anything from modern merchandise to traditional goods such as cotton kimonos, iron teapots, ceramics, samurai swords and lacquerware. It's no surprise Japan is the best place to look for Manga, but to be more specific, the shops to look for them are in Shibuya and Akihabara.
The best place to buy branded clothing is Ginza shopping area, a fancy area characterised for high end stores, boutiques and cafes. From block to block, you'll find well-established Japanese shops and famous brand names like Gucci, Chanel, Armani, Louis Vuitton, among others.
Numerous fashion labels have appointed their own personal restaurants in Ginza. After a day of shopping in this fancy area, you can treat yourself to a gourmet delicacy from Gucci Café or the Armani restaurant. Some of the onsite attractions include a beer garden during summer and a play area for children.
Alternatively, browse through Harajuku's high fashion boutiques and branded shops to find pop culture and new, trendy styles.
Tokyo is the capital of shopping choices and Omotesando Hills is the proof of that. Here you'll find about 100 exclusive and famous brand shops; for instance “Anniversaire Omotesando” which is popular for its limited-edition champagne and chocolate, as well as Prada, Louis Vuitton and Dior boutiques. If you don't plan on buying anything, at least you can take delight in the majestic architecture of this hip boutiques.
As Roppongi is surrounded by numerous embassies, there are many shops, bars and restaurants distinguished for its international flavour and cater to people from other countries. The area has both aspects as an office town and an entertainment centre with its new shopping centre - Roppongi Hills. One of Japan's newest commercial developments, Roppongi Hills has over 200 shops and restaurants making it the ideal place to spend the day exploring local Japanese culture.
With its train station handling the largest number of passengers in the world, Shinjuku is one of the busiest towns in Japan and as such, it's filled with customers wandering from department stores, electrical appliance megastores and huge book stores. Browse through the dozens of shops in the underground mall to find an unexpected deal. In the Kabuki-cho bright lights district, buzzing with restaurants, adult entertainment spots, arcades and theatres.
A great place to shop for youngsters is Shibuya - one of Japan's busiest towns. There are numerous miscellaneous goods shops, clothing boutiques, shoe stores, accessory and cosmetics shops and fast food stores.

Curious Facts about Japan  

Myth or fact? Japanese people are obsessed with sumo and cameras. Wrong. These are not real Japanese national passions. And you might think that everyone in Tokyo loves raw meat. No, it is not true, just like sushi is not the only food they eat. However, there are some really interesting facts about Japan that might amuse you. Here is a list...
1. Some of our Western choices when it comes to food might shock other cultures around the world, and certainly, eating dogs is something that the Western world doesn't find very appealing. Well, take a deep breath: raw horse meat is actually a popular meal in Japan.
2. Dogs on the tube in Tokyo don't bark. They are even more civilised than people in big cities. But everyone is very polite on the underground in Tokyo since it is so crowded railway staff are employed to cram passengers inside. Can you imagine if everyone was pushing in?
3. Many couples in Japan celebrate Christmas like Valentine's Day. December 25th is more of a lovers' holiday. Now picture Santa Claus wearing Cupid's wings.
4. If you find a misspelled ad in London, the error serves the purpose of highlighting a message or capturing the audience's attention. If you see a misspelling in Japan, don't bother to look for the meaning, poorly written English can be found everywhere, including T-shirts and other fashion items.
5. This fact will not surprise anyone: Japan's literacy rate is almost 100%. Actually, the annual university entrance examination is internationally known as “exam hell” given its difficulty.
6. Far from a person that attends to men's needs with her charms, Geisha actually means “person of the arts” and the first geishas were actually men.

The Origin of Godzilla   
“Listen kid. There's two things you don't know about the Earth: one is me, and the other is Godzilla,” said Captain Douglas Gordon to the Xilien Commander in “Godzilla: Final Wars”.
And certainly, how much do we know about this kaiju (Japanese giant monster)?
Godzilla comes from the word “Gorija” which is Japanese for “The King of the Monsters”. This giant monster made its first appearance over half a century ago in Ishiro Honda's 1954 film “Godzilla”. Ever since, Godzilla has become a pop culture icon all over the world.
The famous Japanese monster has not only starred in 28 films produced by Toho Co., Ltd, but also has appeared in several other media incarnations such as video games, novels, comic books, and television series.
Nowadays, most people are familiar with Godzilla, but not everybody knows that this creature that terrorizes mankind was conceived as a metaphor for nuclear weapons. Indeed, this creature was born in 1954 when the nuclear bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki and the Lucky Dragon 5 incident was still fresh in the Japanese consciousness. Hence, Godzilla was envisaged as a gigantic mutant dinosaur transformed from the fallout of an atomic bomb test.
As the film series continued, some stories portrayed the character of Godzilla as a hero. In these story lines, Godzilla saves the world from other threats - usually from Outer Space - such as King Ghidorah, Gigan and MechaGodzilla, along with other monsters like Rodan and Mothra. In some other plots, Godzilla was the lesser of two menaces, who plays the defender by default yet is still a threat to humanity.
For many people worldwide, Godzilla is one of the defining elements of Japanese pop culture. Even though its popularity has weakened throughout the years, Godzilla continues to be one of the most renowned monster characters in the world. Today, the King of the Monsters is still an central feature of Japanese films, embodying the kaiju subset of the tokusatsu genre.
Tokyo for Hipsters   
Hipsters don’t usually call themselves “hipsters”, but even you aren’t one, you might find a few hip activities in Tokyo appealing.
Hipster refers to a postmodern subculture of young, urban middle-class adults and older teenagers that became particularly prominent in the 2010s. The subculture is associated with indie and alternative music, a varied non-mainstream fashion sensibility, and alternative lifestyles.
Hagiso is known as Tokyo’s “smallest cultural institution”. This house in the traditional Yanaka area includes a café and exhibition space. Go there for a drink and catch one of their occasional gigs and dance performances.
Karaoke might be pretty mainstream, but what about singing karaoke in a hot tub? Yes, there is a place part karaoke box and part theme park in Tokyo called Roppongi’s Lovenet complex. Here, you will find some bizarre rooms, such as the Aqua suite where you can sing in a hot tub.
Tour the traditional arts: This is an activity for everyone but it will certainly suit hipsters as stroll around Bingoya, an alternative souvenir shop. Here, they will find five floors’ worth of handmade traditional crafts, including pottery, fabrics, lacquerware and folk art.
Get your hands on countless books in Tokyo’s Jimbocho neighbourhood, a bibliophile nirvana which offers some 180 second-hand bookshops.
If you are looking for something cool, and if you are a hipster you probably are, hop aboard a swimming bus. This amphibious bus tours the streets around Tokyo Skytree before navigating the waters of a river nearby.
Puff on a hookah pipe and odd liquors such as ginseng brandy and cannabis vodka in Bonji Bar, a curious watering hole in Asakusa.
Sip slow-brewed coffee in a café from the 70s. Surrounded by retro furniture, you will be able to place with the shop’s aged cat while waiting for your coffee.
Have an experimental evening at SuperDeluxe, a haven for Tokyo’s avant-garde types. This place hosts improv gigs, rock shows, dance performances and Pecha Kucha nights. You can also get highly quaffable Tokyo Ale here.
  
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