Tour Report on 9 December 2017, the East Garden of the Imperial Palace

Thank you for joining our tour on this day. We welcomed over 25 guests from UK, Malaysia, Canada, USA, Germany, Argentina, Australia, Taiwan and Singapore.

We divided into 5 groups. The weather was cold but very clear so the sunshine was strong.

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It was a historic tour since it was the first time in 10 years of our guide history that the square in front of Tokyo Station became fully open. So no more fences and no construction yards that blocks straight-forward tour route to get out of the station. When we launched this volunteer tour, renovation construction was already underway. Guides and guests had to gather in a narrow space surrounded by fences. We now have bigger spaces to gather after the completion of renovation.

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On one corner of the station square, a statue was placed. It is the statue of INOUE Masaru, which had been displaced for years due to the renovation construction.

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This man is called “Father of Japan’s railways”, who was a minister of railway and contributed to establishment of  Japan’s railway network from late 19th  to early 20 th century. That was a time Tokyo Station building was established. He studied railway management in England in 19th century as Japan had thriven towards industrialization.

Thanks to him, we can travel anywhere from anywhere in Japan by getting on a train except some islands. Every day 400,000 passengers use this station for commute or travel. In such winter season, most recommended travel is ski resort with natural hot bathes. Good thing is from Tokyo station you can do that on a day trip. Suppose you are an advanced or intermediate skier or snowboarder who happens to visit Tokyo and just comes up with an idea of going skiing or snowboarding next day, but you have no more than a day to spare. What you should do is go to the travel agency office in the station building. There is one for foreigners at the Marunouchi North Entrance.

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You can buy a day trip package to Echigo-yuzawa Station in Niigata prefecture including round-trip Joetsu-Shinkansen (Bullet train) tickets and a lift ticket in a ski area for about 12000 yen. Next morning around 7:30 AM, you get on a bullet train and you can reach there around 9 AM. After a tunnel is the snow land!

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As for skis or snowboard, wears and goggles, you can rent ones at a rental shop near the station. Shops get used to renting things to foreigners. The cost is around 5000 yen for a day.

Then they take you to a ski area by car. The most recommended in terms of scale and location is Kagura-Mitsumata. It is high on the mountain and open from November because of much snow in the highland area. The ski area is open until May. In April helicopter ski tour is held, which skiers get on a helicopter to higher altitude spot which is normally closed and then slide down on a mountain.

After enjoying the snow sports, they will pick you up there and take you back to the station or natural hot spring bath (1000 yen or less including renting of bath towels) near the station so that you can refresh and get warm. After the bathing, the return train departs around 7 PM. Then you can come back to Tokyo in the evening.

Another recommended day-trip ski or snowboard plan from Tokyo station is GALA-Yuzawa, where the station is annexed to the ski area. The facility includes restaurant, rental shop and natural hot bath. That will start operation later this month. There are many foreigners skiing or snowboarding in Japanese ski slopes. Some resorts offer English lessons by English speaking instructors. Snow sports have become major attraction in Japan’s tourism since it snows very heavily in winter. Bullet train is important for snow sports travel.

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As for traveling around Japan, foreigners are recommended to buy a Japan Rail Pass, you can travel around Japan by train as much as you want once you purchase that. For example bullet train ride between Tokyo and Kyoto is about 3 hours or less. You can even do a day trip to Kyoto. Tokyo Station is center of Japan’s railway network.

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That is why Tokyo Station is the very place to meet you! Not only guiding to the imperial palace but we can guide you the travel of Japan. Please ask us any question regarding traveling around Japan. We wish you Happy Travel in Japan!

P.S.  We only scheduled 2 more tours to the East Garden of the Imperial Palace this year. December 16 and 20 (Wednesday). The East Garden will be closed from 23 of December. Then no more tour until after the new year opening in 2018. Please check the schedule carefully.

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