Visit Tokyo 2019
Expectations have been raised this year in Japan’s first year of Visit Tokyo, the city program. The process of pulling off the coup of hoeing off the rising rivalry between the two capitals – Tokyo and Osaka – has been pleasant, thanks to a team of early bloomers who have proved themselves skilled in planning – if not executed – tours that follow the popular themes. For 2019, a range of themes and top tips has been offered up, including “Eat, See, Learn” and “Super Fun in Minori”. A nine-day budget-friendly stay in both cities is planned as a guide to this year’s annual revitalization, cultural revival and rebuilding. But should this be simply a guide to guide, the ten top tips from the trip (not included in the price, otherwise the list is yours!) could be the subject of a new theme or at least a revised publicity flyer.
10. Be a tourist in your own city
Your hotel service this time will be excellent, but unfortunately your mornings will be spent at your door, with steps and little kids, to get to breakfast. Make sure you get a sense of the local character as you make your way around. Osaka city plans include a map of local streets, with actual photos of the back alleys and alleyways. And the Museum of Contemporary Art is already a great place to start. The samurai-style Shinkansen reveals “Things You Don’t See Everyday”. If you can’t get to the museum you can still see it live. One of the most sought-after awards in Japanese culture is the Osaka-Kenjinkai-Trend: a museum dedicated to a theme every three years (in 2012 it was Dormition of Shiro’s Shrine). Each location showcases a different interpretation of the theme and it is the museum itself that provides the thrill.
9. Focus on the food. It’s easy to let the scenery get in the way – why visit a museum if you can stay at a luxury hotel and watch the view from your room window? Don’t feel the need to feel ashamed of your tendency to throw a Cinq Bons at a paint-splattered wall in a Chiswick cool loft, or cuddle up next to a mask while you have drinks and food at a bar dressed in pink. But Tokyo is the most photographed city in the world, with visitors eating at every corner of the city. If you can’t find a restaurant with Michelin stars in Osaka, you may as well not even go there.
8. The people of Osaka are friendly. Save your rude treatment of the Hostess Shrimp for the restaurants after you have eaten. Especially in the city center, it’s easier to speak Japanese than English. The Food Hell wine bar (“Funky Monkey” on the signage) is the place to go for odd, quirky, and often shocking snacks (a specialty is the konkatsu, wrapped pork-kinche) made by Korean Americans that are actually very good and have a cool backstory. If you are nervous to try a miso soup made out of chocolate and flour mixed with vinegar, this is where you will find it. All restaurants are tagged with their business names, and a map of menus (with directions) is shown if you give them the tourist guidebook on the wall.
7. Eat your box! Bizarre food isn’t necessarily a crime. On the contrary, many times they look even more appetizing than the “real” thing. Baracks Cafe does much the same thing with chocolate quinoa ice cream and broccoli paste as it does with its Mini Potatoes. But the speciality in Osaka is rice, and as a scene-stealer an old lady makes a fortune with little sausages with rice.
6. Rare books. This is the city where it was discovered that everyone is hiding books. The secret is locked in the basement of Goto libraries (as in early shows on this topic on YouTube). They are about to throw open a record-breaking 500-year-old storage room!
5. The Japan Tourism Agency has begun organizing tours to artisans’ studios, but for now you need to look to the local art schools. They will offer daily tours that offer a glimpse into the work. Hiroshima town holds these workshops every week. It can take a full afternoon to see them all, and we suggest you do it at least once. Note: So far you must have a teacher and a teacher can make it hard to decide between the same teacher’s different works. And the schedules can overlap.
4. The Kanesaki Museum has all