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travel talk:
Tokyo: Prefecture Perfect

By Kyle Long

Visiting Tokyo anytime is a treat, but the arrival of spring brings two weeks of brilliant cherry blossoms, known as sakura, lining the parks, gardens, and rivers of the sprawling metropolis. While the exact timing of the blooms varies each year, plan a trip during the last week of March or first week of April to experience the sweet aroma of the delicate Japanese treasure.

What to Do

Ueno Park is rightfully considered one of the best places to see the blossoms in full view – day or night. In the evenings, beautiful red lanterns line the paths, attracting tourists and locals alike. Rainy or windy weather has been known to cut short a season, and some have voiced concerns that global warming could be the cause of earlier blooming seasons recently. Regardless, Tokyo’s plentiful gardens, temples and shrines truly are a joy even if you happen to miss the blooms.

If you’ve timed your trip correctly, but are ready to give your legs a rest and see all of Tokyo’s cherry blossoms in just 20 minutes, that can be arranged too. Located next to Disneyland, Excel Air Service offers up Tokyo from 600 metres in the air with a stunning helicopter ride through a special cherry blossom route. If you miss the blossom season, romantic evening rides showcase the city’s endless skyscrapers and neon. Flights run every day of the year, weather permitting, and taking a cruise on your first day or two in town to get a birds-eye view will help you get your bearings straight.

Easily visible from the sky with its sprawling concentric rings of seafood stalls, and just one stop away from the main shopping district of Ginza, the Tsukiji Fish Market offers a glimpse into how a city of more than 12 million sushi lovers feeds itself. The largest of its kind in the world, Tsukiji is a fascinating window into the world typically found under the sea, from the sheer variety of fish available to how local merchants prepare the product for sale.

A true testament to the fresh quality of the day’s catch is the noticeable lack of fishy stench. Arrive before 7am to catch the market in full swing, but be careful to stay out of the way of the good-natured workers running at a frenetic pace – you are in their office after all. Before leaving the area, sample the goods with a breakfast stop at the sushi shops near the front gate. Lines will clue you in to the most popular stands, but if you’re in a hurry, choose one with an empty seat at the sushi bar and watch a master prepare the freshest sushi rolls you’ve ever had.



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