People who travel to Japan are usually looking for that special something in its exotic nature, its technology, its food and traditions. They want to experience how an entire nation can immerse itself in the collective intoxication of the cherry blossoms, and how the late-autumn leaves bathe its temples and gardens in a riot of colour. Visitors who are prepared to fly the long distance to the island kingdom want to relax in hot springs, enjoy the freshest raw fish, travel on the world’s most punctual train, the Shinkansen bullet train, experience the symbiosis between architecture, nature and man in its stylish gardens, and gain an insight into the future in its noisy high-tech districts. With Marco Polo’s insider tips you can truly immerse yourself in the unique beauty and culture of Japan.
Japanese elegance, a fabulous garden and excellent dining make a visit to the restaurant Tofuya-Ukai in the beautiful gardens at the bottom of the Tokyo Tower an undeniably successful, hard- to-beat gustatory experience. (Tofuya-Ukai, daily 11am–8pm, Shiba-koen, tel. 03 34 36 10 28, www.ukai.co.jp/shiba)
Dramas about popular heroes and love stories, traditional plays and dances in fabulous costumes are performed at Tokyo’s famous Kabuki-za theatre. The all-male performers enjoy pop star status in Japan. (Kabuki-za, Chuo, tel. 03 35 41 31 31, www.shochiku.com)
Despite the numerous scandals surrounding it, the Japanese love their national sport: sumo wrestling. The atmospheric highlights of this 2000-year-old wrestling match include the summer tournament at the Aichi Prefectural Gymnasium in Nagoya.
The wooden terrace of Kiyomizu Temple, which is supported by hundreds of pillars, is one of Japan’s landmarks, and has the loveliest views of Kyoto.
TEA CEREMONY “LITE”
Chado, the “Way of tea”, is a stylish pastime and Japanese work of art. Even if you have no prior knowledge and haven’t spent hours sitting with your legs crossed, you can experience the special atmosphere during a half-hour tea ceremony at the Happo-en garden restaurant in Tokyo . (Happo-en, daily 11am–4pm, admission with garden from 2000¥, tel. 03 34 43 31 11, www.happo-en.com/english/garden)
Karaoke is a collective form of entertainment for the Japanese that foreigners are also welcome to share. One venue is the JoyJoy in Nagoya. (JoyJoy, daily, admission depending on room, cabin and time from 900¥, tel. 0522490717)