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Tokyo (Narita) Japan

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Thing To Do & See

Imperial Palace Cycling Course

Every Sunday, 500 free bicycles are lent for use along the 3.3km Imperial Palace cycling course. Bikes are given on a first-come, first-served basis and can be picked up next to the Babasakimon police box just outside the station exit.

National Children’s Castle

Has playrooms, puppet theatres, a swimming pool and a music lobby where kids can make all the noise they like and make friends with Japanese kids.

Ohara School of Ikebana

Ohara specialises in flower-arranging classes for students of all levels. One-timers and short-term visitors are welcome, as are those who’d just like to watch (observation fee ¥800). English classes are Wednesdays and Thursdays; trial lesson ¥4000.

Aqua Garden Mitsukoshi-Yū

This charming sentō has an outdoor bath that fits five to 10 comfortably (it rotates sexes each week). Other aquatic attractions include saunas, jacuzzis and a hammam-style marble slab that drips water down your back. For ¥1220 you get access to the sentō and sauna, plus towel rental and a large locker.

GALA Yuzawa

One of Tōhoku's most popular ski resorts, GALA Yuzawa is located just 200km north of Tokyo, and is easily accessed by shinkansen. You can quite literally wake up early in the morning in Tokyo, hit the slopes after breakfast, and be back home for dinner and a movie. With such incredible ease of access, GALA Yuzawa is predictably packed, especially on weekends and holidays, but you can't beat the convenience.GALA Yuzawa is divided into a northern and a central area, which together offer 15 runs. There is also a southern area, though at the time of research it was closed for redevelopment. With the exception of a few runs at the bottom of the mountain, almost all trails are intermediate and beginner level. As a result, GALA Yuzawa is especially popular among families and novices. Courses from top to bottom are moderate in length, with the longest stretching for 2.4km. Three quad lifts alongside 12 triple and double lifts help to thin the crowds, but expect queues at peak times.Given its popularity and proximity to Tokyo, GALA Yuzawa is a massive resort complete with its own onsen and fitness spa, as well as a multitude of bars, restaurants and accommodations. English is everywhere, and you'll see plenty of other foreigners here. Full equipment rental is available for a somewhat pricey ¥4800 per day. From JR Echigo-Yuzawa station, free shuttle buses run to the resort every 15 minutes from morning until early evening.

Nozawa Onsen Ski Resort

The town is dominated by the Nozawa Onsen Ski Resort, which is one of Honshū's best. The ski area here is more compact than, say, nearby Shiga Kōgen, and it's relatively easy to navigate and enjoy. The main base area is right around the Higake gondola station. There is a good variety of terrain at all levels, and snowboarders should try the Karasawa terrain park or the half-pipe at Uenotaira. Advanced skiers will enjoy the steep and often mogulled Schneider Course, while beginners and families will enjoy the Higake Course.Snowshoe tours are available from the end of January, organised by the Nozawa Onsen ski school , and there is a snow-field sightseeing tourin a snowcat from early January to late March from the rest house at Yunomine.

Happō-One Ski Resort

Host of the downhill races at the 1998 Winter Olympics, Happō-One is one of Japan's best ski areas. The mountain views are superb, and beginner, intermediate and advanced runs cater to skiers and snowboarders.Most runs go right down the face of the mountain, with several good burners descending from Usagidaira 109, the mountain's centre-point. Above this, two chairlifts run to the top, worth it for the views alone. On busy days, you can avoid lift-line bottlenecks by heading to areas like the Skyline 2.The rest house at Usagidaira 109 is the largest eating establishment. The modern Virgin Café Hakuba has upscale ambience, while Café Kurobishi has excellent mountain views and cafeteria-style seating.There are plenty of hire places in the streets around the base of the mountain, some with boots up to 31cm. All have roughly the same selection and prices (¥2500 to ¥3000 per day for skis/board and boots).From Hakuba Station, a five-minute bus ride (¥260) takes you into the middle of Hakuba-mura; from there it's a 10-minute walk to the base of Happō-One and the main 'Adam' gondola base station. In winter, a shuttle bus makes the rounds of the village, lodges and ski base.


One of the hottest onsen in town, with mineral-rich dark water at 45˚C.

La Qua Spa

One of the city's few true onsen, this unbelievably chic and sophisticated spa complex is where serious bathing aficionados go to indulge in a bit of class and luxury. With multiple floors boasting an incredible variety of baths, massage parlours, restaurants and relaxation areas, achieving beauty as well as peace of mind has never been easier.

Ryōgoku Kokugikan

Just north of JR Ryōgoku Station is this sumō stadium with its adjoining Sumō Museum. Fifteen-day basho (sumō tournaments) take place here three times a year (January, May and September), while three other tournaments are held in other cities in March, July and November. Together, these basho decide who will be the yokozuna (grand champion). Although small, the museum displays a rotating selection of interesting artefacts of sumō history and art (mostly wood-block prints). When sumō tournaments are on at the stadium, only those holding tickets to the matches can enter the museum. For details on watching tournaments, see p207. For details on eating chanko-nabe, the delicious and nutritious stew that is consumed in massive quantities by sumō wrestlers, see Tomoegata.

Imperial Palace Cycling Course

Every Sunday, 500 free bicycles are lent out for use along the 3.3km Imperial Palace cycling course. Bikes are given on a first-come, first-served basis and can be picked up next to the Babasakimon police box just outside the station exit.

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