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For many travelers, Tokyo is a well planned, extended vacation. For the few of us who can't seem to stay in one spot for long, Tokyo presents an interesting challenge: What can I experience in 24 hours?
Fortunately, Tokyo is a well connected city, which makes transiting easy and quick. The Tokyo Subway is the easiest transit option in the city, featuring 13 lines and 290 stations positioned throughout Tokyo. Connecting from line to line is convenient and opens up additional areas of the city throughout your day.
PHOTO: The Tokyo Tower, center, towers over Tokyo's skyline. (Courtesy of Japan National Tourism Organization)
Tokyo Tower is arguably the city's most prominent and famous building, featured in many establishing shots of the city throughout a number of movies and television shows. The iconic tower, which was actually designed after the Eiffel Tower, serves two purposes in the city: as a telecommunications tower and an observation point.
Travelers can purchase one of two tickets to either the lower or upper observation deck, the highest being nestled just below the tower's communication systems. The tower also hosts a number of cafes, gift shops, and even a karaoke bar. Most importantly, though, are the spectacular views from the observation decks.
East Gardens of the Imperial Palace
Hidden amongst the craziness of downtown Tokyo is one of the city's most vibrant green spaces: the East Gardens of the Imperial Palace. Located within the Imperial Palace complex, these gardens feature an extensive variety of flowers, trees, shrubbery, and foliage native to Japan. You may even find yourself stumbling upon ruins from the Imperial Palace of long ago.
Many parts of the garden are split up into a number of different, smaller gardens dedicated to specific flowers or plants. One of the most prominent of these gardens is the Ninomaru Garden, which features a traditional Japanese koi pond, a Japanese footbridge, a waterfall, large fields of brightly colored flowers, a tea house, and walkways covered by hanging flowers.
As you walk along the flower lined paths, it almost feels as if you are walking through an outdoor spa. Birds fluttering above, a slight breeze rustling the trees, and the soft scent of cherry blossom bring a sense of peace and serenity as you stroll through. Scattered throughout, you will also find a number of benches or grassy areas to rest, relax, and absorb the sights, smells, and sounds of this oasis among an urban skyline.
Traditional Japanese Dining
Tokyo is packed with dining options. With everything from sushi bars to tempura restaurants and seafood stands, it isn't hard to find a restaurant that appeals to you. As you walk throughout the city, you will begin to notice a large number of small, almost hidden restaurants along the sidewalk or down long alleyways. These are the restaurants where you will find true Japanese dining.
During my one night stay in Tokyo, I stumbled upon a quaint but incredible restaurant located underneath one of the city's hotels - Muraki. At first glance, the restaurant didn't seem like much, but I was quickly proven wrong. In Japanese culture, hospitality and service is a major cornerstone of their lives, and these small, local restaurants are the poster child of this virtue.
While dining at Muraki, my waiters continually passed by to ensure my food tasted just right, my glass was full, and I was having a good experience with them. The food itself was incredible, but the dining experience in Japan is highlighted by the service and hospitality of the restaurant's hosts. Service with a smile is one thing, but true service can be easily found in a quaint restaurant on the streets of Tokyo.