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Tokyo Introduction

Tokyo

Although Japan is in its worst economic recession since the end of World War II, Tokyo is still vibrant and alive. Like most big cities, its polluted, so it can look rather dull and gray during the day. But at night, Tokyo becomes a giant jewel box, a constantly changing display of neon and fluorescent lights. When youre overcome by the bewildering array of signs (many now in English as well as Japanese) and the press of the rush-hour crowd, you can retreat to quiet cobbled lanes and sculpted gardens for the harmony, scale and sense of stillness that the Japanese have prized for centuries.

Full country name: Japan (Nihon)
Area: 377,435 sq km (234,010 sq mi)
Population: 126.5 million
Capital city: Tokyo (pop 11 million)
People: Japanese (including indigenous Ainu & Okinawans), Korean
Language: Japanese
Religion: Shinto, Buddhist, Christian
Government: Constitutional monarchy
Head of State: Emperor Akihito
Prime Minister: Junichiro Koizumi

GDP: US$4.2 trillion
GDP per head: US$23,400
Annual growth:0.2%
Inflation: 2%
Major industries: High-tech electronic products, motor vehicles, office machinery, chemicals
Major trading partners: USA, Hong Kong, Taiwan, South Korea, Germany, China

Arrival Information

Face it, theres no such thing as being "over prepared" for a trip to Japan. Here are some of the essentials that will assist you in your preparation.

Arriving

Plane - Most visitors arrive at New Tokyo International Airport (commonly known as Narita -- the name of the city where the airport is located). After clearing customs, you will enter the main lobby where you can exchange money, make arrangements for bus service into the city, pick up your rail pass, or get tourist information. Do not attempt to take photos in the baggage area. Airport security will become quite annoyed and may actually threaten to eject you from the terminal (without your luggage). Tokyo is approximately 40 miles from the airport and there are several methods to reach the city:

Taxi - This is the most expensive method, and, because of heavy traffic, not necessarily the quickest (and at a price of approx. US $250 , not the cheapest either). The advantage of a taxi is that you will be taken directly to your hotel.

Airport Bus - Check at the Airport Limousine Bus counter for information regarding bus service into the city. Buses leave hourly, and tend to make stops at all the major hotels. The price is approximately $45 -- a much better bargain than a taxi. The downside to the bus is that you will not be delivered directly to your hotel, but will have several stops along the way. Other bus services include Airport Shuttle which also has a counter in the main lobby. Hotels can generally assist in making arrangements when you are ready to return to Narita after your trip.

Train - There are express trains (JR Narita Express [NEX]) leaving from Narita for Tokyo Station, Shinjuku, Ikebukuro, and Yokohama. The ride costs approximately US $30 (there is no additional cost if you hold a validated JR Rail Pass) and seats must be reserved in advance. There are also slower trains into the city. After arriving at the station of your choice, taxis will be available to carry you to your hotel (Note: this is not necessarily the easiest method for first-time visitors -- it may make more sense to splurge on the Airport Bus and plan to take the train when leaving Tokyo).

Train - Most train arrivals from other cities in Japan end up in Tokyo Station. From there, you can connect to other trains, or catch a taxi to your final destination. T