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HIROSHIMA :: KYOTO :: TOKYO
Founded in the 16th century in southwestern Japan, Hiroshima is an exciting international city with much to discover-moving historical monuments, dramatic Japanese gardens, religious sites, and more. Highlights include the Shinto shrine and famous floating Torii Gate on Miyajima Island, a UNESCO World Heritage Site; the beautifully tranquil Shukkeien Garden with its tea houses, ponds, and bridges; 16th-century Hiroshima Castle; and Peace Park, Memorial Museum, and Memorial Hall, which honor the lives lost in the WWII atomic bombing.
Monograms provides travelers access to a Local Host®, so you will have someone on hand to answer those vacation questions pertaining to Hiroshima. No waiting in line at the concierge desk or trying to ask your waitress at breakfast directions to the shopping district. Simply ask your Local Host® about Hiroshima and you'll be on your way in no time. Plus, your Local Host® will share local Hiroshima insights and share suggestions for getting off the beaten path, leaving you more time to create lasting vacation memories that are yours alone.
Konnichiwa (Hello)! My name is Satoko. I am a friendly, licensed tour guide with 19 years experience. I’m looking forward to showing you around Hiroshima, a world-famous city of peace!
The castle was originally built in 1589 by Terumoto Mori. It was designated as a national treasure in 1931 but completely destroyed by the blast of the atomic bomb. It was reconstructed in its former style in 1958. It houses a local museum with exhibits related to the history of Hiroshima. On a clear day you can see the whole city from the observation platform.
Hiroshima’s local specialty food is Hiroshima-style Okonomiyaki (pancake). First, wheat flour batter is thinly spread in a round shape on a large griddle then topped with vegetables, Chinese noodles, egg, pork, and seafood. Next, it is flipped and the other side grilled. The cooking process is finished by topping with Okonomiyaki sauce and a sprinkling of green onions. Hiroshima-style okonomiyaki restaurants are found all over the city.
Capital of Japan for over a thousand years and the imperial residence from the 8th to the 19th centuries, Kyoto today is one of the country's most beautiful cities. As the center of Japanese power, culture, and tradition, it is home to a vast collection of palaces, temples, and shrines. Major attractions here are the Temple of the Gold Pavilion; 17th-century Nijo Castle, residence of Shogun Tokugawa Ieyasu; the city's famous geisha district; Museum of Sake; the Zen Garden; Imperial Palace; and Kiyomizudera Temple, a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Monograms provides travelers access to a Local Host®, so you will have someone on hand to answer those vacation questions pertaining to Kyoto. No waiting in line at the concierge desk or trying to ask your waitress at breakfast directions to the shopping district. Simply ask your Local Host® about Kyoto and you'll be on your way in no time. Plus, your Local Host® will share local Kyoto insights and share suggestions for getting off the beaten path, leaving you more time to create lasting vacation memories that are yours alone.
My name is Kyoko, and I am a tour guide in Kyoto. I have almost 30 years of experience and humor, and as a Local Host, I would like to show you the most charming points of the city. Please enjoy Japan's good old days with me.
This is Kyoto’s most famous geisha district and is highlighted by traditional machiya-style merchant houses, which are narrow and long. The area is infused with ochaya (teahouses where geisha entertain), shops, and restaurants—making it the perfect place for shoppers and foodies to explore. One of the highlights is a stroll along the Shirakawa Canal by night. The canal is lined with willow trees, and when illuminated, it is a beautiful sight. Keep in mind that the chances of seeing a geisha walking around increases at night, but it is still a rare occurrence. Your best bet is to take in a show or visit an ochaya for tea.
Located in the eastern part of Kyoto, Higashiyama is one of Kyoto’s eleven wards featuring charming restaurants and shops. It is a great place to buy local pottery, candy, or regular souvenir items. The highlight of the area is Kiyomizudera “Pure Water” Temple, a UNESCO World Heritage site built in 780 AD, by one of the oldest Buddhist sects in Japan. Taste the spring water that gives the temple its name and enjoy sweeping views of Kyoto from the famous wooden terrace.
Kyoto is famous for its Japanese Rock “Zen” Gardens. The most famous is the karesansui (dry landscape) rock garden at Ryoanji Temple. Here the simple use of moss-covered boulders representing waterfalls and raked gravel representing waves make for a calm space to lose your mind in thought. Lesser known but equally impressive is the garden at Saihoji Temple, also known as Kokedera (Moss Temple). This UNESCO World Heritage site is a fine display of the other Japanese garden-style called tsukiyama “hill garden,” which typically consists of a hill with a stream and pond. Here you can meander through the paths and admire the beauty surrounding you.
This covered street market is where the local residents, restaurants, and hotels buy their food. Here you will find traditional Japanese cooking ingredients such as pickled daikon, mushrooms, and octopus as well as savory foods to eat like baby squid, fish cakes, and sushi. You will also find other items for sale, including dishes, cooking utensils, and clothing. It is best to go in the morning before things pick up and the locals do their shopping. Hours of operation vary, but shops are typically open from 9 am to 6 pm and closed on either Wednesday or Sunday.
Located to the northeast of Kyoto, Mount Hieizan is home to Enryakuji Temple, one of the most important religious sites in Japan. Originally built by Buddhist monks of the Tendai sect in 788 to protect Kyoto from evil spirits, it eventually grew into a monastery complex with both size and power. In fact, it had so much power that in 1571, the mountain was invaded, and every building was burned to the ground. The complex was rebuilt in the 17th century when new rulers came to power. Ride a cable car up the mountain and explore the temple and other buildings in a beautiful mountain setting.
This “Temple of the Silver Pavilion” was built by the grandson of the man who built the “Temple of the Gold Pavilion” with the intention of covering it in silver leaf. Don’t expect to see the glimmer though as unfortunately his plans were never carried out. Nonetheless the temple stands as a monument of simplistic Japanese design and has lovely gardens so it is definitely worth a stop.
The “Pure Water Temple” is the most popular Buddhist temple in the city. For over 1200 years, pilgrims have climbed the slope to pray to the temple’s 11-headed Kannon image and drink from the sacred spring. The main hall which is a Japanese architectural marvel is made with no nails and offers wonderful views of Kyoto.
From June to September Pontocho-dori’s river side restaurants make platforms called yuka, over the canal running parallel to the Kamo River. This is best appreciated after dark so it is the perfect place to have dinner one evening in Kyoto.
Situated in the shadows of towering Mount Fuji, dazzling Tokyo is a vast collection of soaring skyscrapers and significant cultural and historic landmarks. Among these are the popular Asakusa Kannon Temple, Tokyo's largest Buddhist temple; the stunning gardens of the Imperial Palace; and the serene Shinto Meiji Shrine, surrounded by a thick man-made forest. Other must-see points of interest include Tokyo Tower, the city's most famous landmark; bustling Nakamise Shopping Arcade; a thrilling ride on a bullet train; the fascinating Ginza area; Bonsai Park, the best collection of miniature trees in the world; and the Japanese Sumo Wrestling Museum.
Monograms provides travelers access to a Local Host®, so you will have someone on hand to answer those vacation questions pertaining to Tokyo. No waiting in line at the concierge desk or trying to ask your waitress at breakfast directions to the shopping district. Simply ask your Local Host® about Tokyo and you'll be on your way in no time. Plus, your Local Host® will share local Tokyo insights and share suggestions for getting off the beaten path, leaving you more time to create lasting vacation memories that are yours alone.
Hello, I am Nobuko. As a Certified National Guide in Japan, I work mainly in Tokyo, taking tourists to modern districts as well Tokyo's traditional local areas. I'd love to introduce you to Tokyo's attractions—a good mixture of new and old scenery, as well as modern and traditional life.
Founded in 628, Sensoji Temple is Tokyo’s oldest temple. According to legend, two brothers found a statue of Kannon, the goddess of mercy, while fishing. They returned the statue to the river, but it in turn kept returning to them, so they built the temple for the worship of Kannon. Consult the oracle inside the temple to have any question answered!
This massive market may have meats and flowers, but the main attraction is the estimated 2,000 tons of seafood handled each day. Arrive early (around 5 am) to see restaurant purveyors and chefs engage in the tuna auction, which ends at 6:15 am. Make sure you try some of the freshest sushi you’ll ever find at one of the on-site restaurants.
Shopping the Ginza is a unique experience—massive department stores, futuristic products, and gracious service are all trademarks. It’s worth a half-day’s stroll around this eye-opening area, even if you don’t plan to buy —particularly on weekends, when a large section is closed to cars.
One of the 23 wards that make up Tokyo, Shinjuku thrives around Shinjuku Station, the busiest train station in the world. This large entertainment, shopping, and business area is a great place to walk around and soak in the atmosphere, do some shopping, or get a birds-eye view of Tokyo at the Tokyo Metropolitan Government Center. Here you can ascend to the 45th floor of either the North or South observatory for sweeping views of the city, for free!
Wandering (or lying on a blanket) in a Japanese landscaped garden is a unique experience. From the rush of modernism in mostly urban Tokyo, you’ll suddenly find yourself in a tranquil area filled with countless trees and carefully manicured gardens. In the spring, flowers abound, and you might even catch the short blooming season of the cherry trees.
Akihabara or “Akiba” is known for the hundreds of electronic stores around Akihabara Station and lining Chuo Dori. From large shops on the main drag to small shops on the side streets selling anything from the newest camera’s to secondhand electronic junk, this is a fascinating area to visit, especially for techies! Although many shops offer goods that will only work in Japan, you can find English-speaking shops that offer goods for use overseas. If you do plan to buy, bring your passport and shop duty free for larger purchases.
The traditional Japanese theater form called kabuki began in 1603 and continues to this day. While you may not speak the language, the themes—such as love and revenge—are usually universal enough to understand. You’ll want to see the elaborate costumes and the skill of the performers, who often sing and dance. Shinbashi Enbojyo is the perfect theater to witness this fascinating art form.
There are several branches of this chain, but the place to start is the one in Kichijoji. Prior to this meal, it’s unlikely that you ever believed tofu could be prepared in so many tasty ways. You’ll feast in a private dining room—rather unadorned, perhaps austere, but suitable to the task at hand. This is a serious dining experience.
With an expansive beer garden that feels more like a backyard, this bar is the perfect place to relax after a long day. Sekirei is popular with the happy hour crowd, and you may want to join them to escape the throngs of the city. Enjoy a drink beneath a pine tree as dancers in kimonos perform on the lawn. Prices are very reasonable, especially considering the upscale atmosphere.
So popular it spawned a version in New York, Ippudo specializes in ramen with pork-based broths and various spicy accoutrements. This quick meal is vastly different than the American ramen that thrives in collegiate life. Although there’s likely a long line, you’ll make up the time when you wolf down this inexpensive delight.
Don’t leave Tokyo without treating yourself to a seafood meal. The owner of Kaikaya has private purchasing routes for his daily fresh seafood, so indulge in some sashimi or other fish courses. The menu includes English translations, and the friendly staff will explain how dishes are prepared.
Take a step beyond the sake you find in American sushi restaurants. Takara’s sake list is long, and its vibe is decidedly relaxed and welcoming. If you prefer other liquors, there’s a good selection of wine and sherry, and if you’re hungry, the food menu is in English.
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