CNN Travel Now Insights
Tokyo: Trendy West meets traditional East
(CNN) It's the Paris of the East to some -- a congested, concrete jungle to others.
Whatever you call it, Tokyo, a city of 12 million, is one of the world's largest and safest, known for its bustling streets, futuristic architecture and exotic aromas.
Now is an excellent time to find out for yourself about Japan and its cosmopolitan capital, tourism officials say.
|Click through the gallery for a glimpse of street scenes in Tokyo|
"Japan is a really interesting country to visit," said Toshihiko Sawada of the Japan National Tourist Organization. "We have four clear-cut seasons. We have history, culture. Prices are down now. It's about time now for people around the world to pay a visit to Japan."
In Tokyo, visitors will find trendy fashions, chic shopping areas and one of the most efficient subway systems in the world.
"It is one of the easiest countries to get around in because everything is so dependable and the people are helpful," said Beth Reiber, author of "Frommer's Japan."
Tokyo also is a city of convenience, with vending machines on every corner selling not only sodas and snacks but even disposable cameras and film.
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| A FISHY EXCURSION|
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Food? Tokyo has a wealth of Western-style, fast-food restaurants. But a favorite of locals on the run is the "conveyor-belt sushi bar," where customers can choose from a variety of toppings to go with their rice, including shrimp and octopus.
The average Japanese eats six times as much seafood each year as the average American. Travelers who don't mind rising early can see how all that seafood gets from the sea to the store. At 5 a.m., Tokyo's Tsukiji Fish Market is already humming with activity.
To get away from the busy downtown area, visitors can explore some of the city's quaint, slower-paced neighborhoods. Or for an even quieter setting, check out Hamarikyu Garden: More than 300 years old, it's considered the best among Tokyo's many gardens.
When the sun goes down, the city's skyline transforms into a glittering mass of neon, a magnet for partiers.
The best-known district for nightlife is Rappongi, which has more bars and clubs than any other area. There, Japanese mingle with Americans and other expatriates at clubs like Sweet Basil, host to such rock, jazz and R&B acts as the Average White Band.
As its mix of the old and the new, the Western-influenced and the indigenous suggests, Tokyo is a city with two faces -- one looking back on Japanese tradition, and the other looking forward as a technological leader in the 21st century.
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