Tokyo : the amazing city, part 2

Ok, so it’s been over 55 weeks since I wrote part 1. Sorry. Hopefully it won’t be another year for part 3.

In part 1, I mentioned two of the three must do’s in Tokyo. The third thing you must do when you’re in Tokyo is actually get out and go south to Yokohama. While it’s not in Tokyo, it's only a short 30-minute train ride from Shibuya or Tokyo Station on a limited express train. Make sure it is a limited express or express train, otherwise you will stop at every station and it will take twice as long.

Yokohama is to Tokyo what Orange County is to Los Angeles – a good sidekick. It’s all relative, but Yokohama is less congested than Tokyo with only 3.6 million people versus the nearly 13 million in Tokyo. The Minato Mirai 21 district is where you’ll find some of Yokohama’s best attractions. With an amusement park, convention center, hotels, museums, shopping malls and Japan’s tallest building, one can spend a whole day here and stay within a quarter-mile of the Minato Mirai train station.

Cosmo World is Yokohama’s ala carte amusement park. Pay as you go. While it’s no Six Flags Magic Mountain, more like two flags, Cosmo World is still an exciting place to bring the family or go on a date. Complete with food, kiddie rides, arcade games and two roller coasters, one that spins 360 degrees and the other disappears underground amidst a spray of water. There is something for everyone.

The centerpiece of Cosmo World is Cosmo Clock 21, a 369-foot tall ferris wheel with a digital clock in the center. A single trip around will take 20 minutes and set you back 700 yen. The view from the top is worth it, but doesn’t compare to the view from the Landmark Tower observation deck located just a stones throw away.

Towering over Cosmo World and Cosmo Clock 21, is the Landmark Tower, Japan’s tallest building standing in at 970 feet tall, and home to a five-star hotel, restaurants, office spaces and shopping mall. From the observation deck on the 69th floor, the 360 degree view is breathtaking. On a clear day, you can see Tokyo and Mt. Fuji. The view will set you back 1000 yen, but you’ll get a coupon for 200 yen off of a light snack or drink at the Sky CafĂ©. Have a drink and enjoy the view. Discounts available for seniors and students. Children under 4 are free.

A 10-minute walk along the waterfront will take you to the Yokohama Akarenga (red brick) Warehouses where you can eat and shop. Another 15-minute walk and you’ll be at Yamashita Park. Head inland and you’ll discover Chinatown.

There’s a myriad of things to do in Yokohama, more than I can write here. And since this is supposed to be about Tokyo, back to Tokyo we go.

While you're in the northeast part of Tokyo, venture down to Ryogoku and visit the Edo Tokyo Museum to see the amazingly detailed scale models depicting Tokyo during ancient times when it was known as Edo. The details will blow you away. When you’re done marveling at the models, go next door to the Sumo Museum. Check the schedule before you leave because it was closed the day I went, so I can’t tell you what’s inside.

There are a number of other areas to explore. Akihabara is where anything electronic can be found. Everything from diodes to iPods to plasma tvs. Anime characters roam the streets enticing passer-bys to shop in certain stores. For late night outings, Roppongi is the place to be. With plenty of bars, clubs and restaurants open until the wee hours of the morning, it is the party center of Tokyo.

Roppongi Hills is home to the Mori tower, with it’s own observation deck and art museum on the top floors and shopping mall on the bottom floors. You’ll also find the eight-legged sculpture “Maman” by Louise Bourgeois guarding the entrance to Mori Tower. It’s a good meeting spot. Tell any Japanese person to meet you at ‘the spider’ and they’ll know exactly where to go.

For people watching, nothing beats Harajuku, the anime center of Tokyo where people come dressed in full costume of their favorite characters. Next to the Harajuku Station is the Meiji Jingu Shrine, located in the middle of the serene Yoyogi Park. A great escape from the hustle and bustle of city life. For just sheer mass of people, Shibuya Crossing is where you’ll find the young and hip at one of the busiest pedestrian intersections in the world.

For the artsy fartsy, there are plenty of museums to go see. For photo enthusiasts, the Tokyo Metropolitan Museum of Photography on the ground floor of the Yebisu Garden Tower in Ebisu has rotating exhibits, a theater for viewing short films and a gift shop where you can buy cards, books, lomos, 3D and pinhole cameras.

Ueno Park is home to the Tokyo National Museum, National Museum of Western Art and the National Science Museum. If you’re lucky enough to be there in the spring time, it’s also a great place for viewing the cherry blossoms as long as you don’t mind seeing them with thousands of other flower lovers. The Tokyo Museum of Modern Art, near Roppongi, is one of the newest museums and the undulating glass facade is a work of art in itself.

Tokyo is a vast city covering over 600 square miles, twice the area of New York City, and a population of nearly 13 million people. There is plenty to do for everyone. They even have the happiest place on Earth, Tokyo Disneyland.