Taking Part in a Festival
Tokyo and its surrounding cities offer a myriad of annual festivals, ranging from processions of portable shrines to ladder-top acrobatics. Be ready to battle good-natured crowds, as festivals can be unbelievably packed.
Strolling a Japanese Landscaped Garden
There's no better escape from Tokyo's urban jungle than a stroll through one of its landscaped gardens, especially in spring when irises, wisteria, peonies, azaleas, and other flowers are in bloom. Top picks are Rikugien Garden, Shinjuku Gyoen, and -- in nearby Yokohama -- Sankeien Garden.
Soaking Away Your Cares
Tokyo now has its own hot-spring spas, thanks to drilling that released therapeutic waters from deep below the surface. Top on my list is Oedo-Onsen Monogatari, a theme-based spa that emulates bathing houses of yore, with its feudal-era replica architecture, shops, restaurants, indoor and outdoor baths, and more.
Hunting for Bargains at Flea Markets
You never know what treasure you might find at one of Tokyo's weekend outdoor flea markets, where vendors sell everything from used kimono to antiques and curios. Go early, and be sure to bargain.
Experiencing the Serenity of the Tea Ceremony
Developed in the 16th century as a means to achieve inner harmony with nature, the tea ceremony is a highly ritualized process that takes years to learn. You can experience a shortened version at several Tokyo hotels.
Getting the Royal Treatment at Department Stores
Tokyo's department stores are huge, spotless, and filled with merchandise you never knew existed; many also have first-rate art galleries. Shibuya, Shinjuku, and Ginza boast the greatest concentration of department stores. Service in a Japanese department store is an unparalleled experience: Be there when it opens, and you'll see employees lined up at the front door, bowing to incoming customers.
Attending a Kabuki Play. Kabuki has served as the most popular form of entertainment for the masses since the Edo Period. Watch the audience as they yell their approval; watch the stage for its gorgeous costumes, stunning settings, and easy-to-understand dramas of love, duty, and revenge.
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