Port guide: Tokyo, Japan
The Ports of Tokyo (Tokyo Port and Yokohama Port) have played an important role in the history of Japan for centuries. After World War II, the development of the ports became vital to the revitalization of the country. Today the Port of Tokyo is one of the major shipping centres in Japan, and a major international trade port.
The Port of Yokohama sits on Tokyo Bay, on the Pacific coast of Honshu Island (Japan’s largest island). Situated in the biggest industrial and urban area of Japan, this port is a fantastic destination for those wanting to experience the hustle and bustle of Japan. Tokyo is the capital of Japan, and houses the Imperial Palace—the home of the Japanese Imperial family. Often designated as the largest metropolitan area in the world, the greater Tokyo metro area is said to be home to over 35 million people, with 10+ million living in Tokyo proper alone. Tokyo consists of 23 special wards, each of which is essentially governed as a city within itself.
From traditional Japanese street snacks to 5 star gourmet restaurants, from tiny shops lining temple streets to the high class department stores in Ginza, Tokyo is full of contradictions and contrasts that are sure to delight.
- Exploring Tokyo
Tokyo is an enormous and fast-paced city, being a collection of many cities that have grown together over time to become a bustling metropolis. Truly Tokyo offers something for everyone—from traditional Buddhist Shrines and quaint family-run pubs to ultramodern skyscrapers and strobing electronic stores. The list of opportunities for adventure and culture shock could fill volumes.
For a taste of the traditional, visitors should visit the Meiji Shrine, one of the largest shrines in Tokyo. Dedicated to the deified spirits of Emperor Meiji and his wife, the shrine was built in 1920 to house their souls. This shrine is in a beautiful wooded area near a park, and is the ideal location to escape the hustle and bustle of the large city. Japanese weddings are commonly held here, and festivals and events can be experienced throughout the year.
Another iconic site in Tokyo is the Tsukiji Fish Market—a common stop for Tokyo city tours. This famous market offers a dizzying array of sea life from the common to the downright bizarre. To see the raucous fish auctions, make sure to arrive very early in the morning—the market is open until 1pm, but many stalls close at 10am. Boots or waterproof shoes are recommended!
For a more modern take on Tokyo, consider visiting Tokyo Joypolis, the indoor amusement park owned by Sega. Great for children and adults, this three storey building of over 20 attractions based on Sega’s popular games is being constantly updated to make sure it is on the cutting edge of simulation technology.
- Getting around
Although daunting at first, Tokyo’s transportation system is quite intuitive once you get the hang of it. While taxis are always an option, having one’s destination written down in Japanese is expected and the fares can be quite high. Tokyo’s bus lines are fairly comprehensive, and a flat fare of 200 yen is usually just paid upon boarding.
For a cheap and easy option, consider exploring Tokyo’s rail and subway system. Keep in mind, however, that multiple companies own the various lines and the passes are not interchangeable. Station buildings may be shared by two or more different companies, but the vending machines selling tickets and passes are not universal–each company has its own. Don’t let this scare you, however–by looking at a few maps you will be able to determine which line you will likely use, and can pick up a pass to store credits on for the duration of your time in the city.
A word of caution–the time of day can make a huge difference when it comes to your subway experience. Avoid taking the subway or trains during the weekday rush hour (between 8 and 9am), as the rumors of crowds and “platform pushers” (officials who push people into train compartments to allow the doors to close) are true. Make sure to keep an eye on your watch when enjoying Tokyo’s famous nightlife, too–trains stop surprisingly early, so you may be stuck paying for a taxi if you’re out later than midnight.
- Beyond the port
If you aren’t interested in the chaos that can be Tokyo proper, do not despair—a world of beauty lies outside the metropolitan area, and can be easily reached in a day trip. One can visit Japan’s iconic Mt. Fuji, and take in the stunning views of Japan’s green landscape from the mountain’s fifth station stop. Fuji-san (as the Japanese call the famous mountain), at 3,776 meters tall, is the highest mountain in Japan, and a dormant volcano. It is said to be good luck to view Fuji-san on the horizon, as the mountain’s weather is notoriously unpredictable and cloud cover is almost constant. Take a cruise on the beautiful Lake Ashi near the mountain, and enjoy lunch in a traditional Japanese inn before speeding back to the city on Japan’s famous Shinkansen (Bullet Train)—an amazingly quiet and smooth mode of transportation, and a must for any Japan enthusiast. Or stay awhile longer and take a dip in an onsen—a traditional natural hot springs bath, said to have healing properties. Don’t stay in too long, however!
Looking for a fun activity for the whole family? Consider a day at Tokyo Disneyland or Disney Sea, two theme parks located just North of the city. It is worth facing the crowds to experience the surreal interplay of Japanese culture and Disney magic.
- Popular shore excursions
Cruise lines that visit here offer the following shore excursions. Please check with your cruise line to see if they offer them and remember some excursions may be seasonal only!
In its park-like setting near Tokyo station, the Imperial Palace is a sight to see. Home to the Emperor of Japan and his family, this iconic building and surrounding gardens create a lush meeting place for Tokyoites in the heart of the city. With jogging paths and picnic grounds, the area surrounding the palace is an ideal place to relax and people-watch.
A visit to Tokyo would not be complete without a visit to Yuyuan Garden, the largest of Tokyo’s ancient gardens. With six sections, each with its own style, travellers are sure to delight in the Ming and Qing style architecture and beautiful rocks. Hungry for a snack? Visit the nearby City God Temple of Tokyo with local shops and restaurants in the vicinity.
For fantastic 360 degree views of the Tokyo skyline, head over to Shinjuku where the Tokyo Metropolitan Government Offices twin towers offer FREE visits to their 45th floor observation decks. The lines to board the elevators can be long at times (and there are security checks before you board) but the views can’t be beat. Visit the gift shops and café on the observation floor, too, for convenient souvenir shopping.
- Local cuisine
The opportunities to sample unique foods and drinks in Tokyo are endless. A trip to Tokyo wouldn’t be complete, however, without some Edomae sushi—the hand formed sushi with ingredients taken fresh from the Tokyo Bay that Tokyo is so famous for. For a taste of the day-to-day life of a Tokyoite, don’t forget to sample vending machine fare! Quick, cheap, and efficient, one can purchase virtually any snack from these handy machines—from cold coffee drinks to french fries.
- Where you are docked
The Yokohama Port, located within Tokyo Bay, is surrounded by a wide variety of both modern and cultural tourist attractions. Conveniently located 11 sea miles closer to the Pacific Ocean than the Port of Tokyo, Yokohama Port is home to the state-of-the-art International Passenger Terminal that welcomes most international cruise ships. With a great location on Tokyo Bay with many transportation options, and famous for its welcome and farewell ceremonies, Yokohama is a wonderful port from which to explore the Tokyo area.
- Regional weather
As Tokyo and the surrounding region is situated in a subtropical climate, the weather Tokyo receives is separated into hot humid summers, with generally mild winters, the warmest month for the region being August and the coolest January. The area is susceptible to typhoon conditions being located on the fault line between the Pacific Plate and Indo-Australian Plate.