- The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new lands but seeing with new eyes. Marcel Proust
Cheer on the Irish at the Tokyo Dome
Surprisingly, Japan's national sport is not Pokémon battles, nor harassing schoolgirls, but rather baseball. The Tokyo Dome is the 55,000 seater all-weather multipurpose home of Japan's most famous team, the Tokyo Tomiuri Giants. Aside from baseball there are numerous concerts, wrestling and sporting events that take place at the Dome. Believe it or not, New Japan Pro Wrestling (NJPW), who hold their biggest annual event at the Dome each January, currently have an Irish Junior Heavyweight Champion, "Prince Devitt", hailing from Bray, Co. Wicklow. Devitt's signature move is called "Bloody Sunday" and no, we're not making that up.
As Japan's sporting Mecca, the Tokyo Dome is a great place to visit. However, the Dome also boasts a number of nearby attractions, such as the Tokyo Dome City amusement park, the LaQua hot spring complex, and the MagiQuest interactive role playing game centre.'
Sob like a baby at the Hachiko Statue
Okay, to the untrained eye this looks like a fairly 'meh' statue of a dog, causing one to wonder, what did a dog do to deserve a statue? Is this some sort of Japanese, bionic, super-dog? Well grab a tissue, as JOE runs through the cliff-notes of this beloved hound.In 1924, Univerisity of Tokyo Professor Hidesaburo Ueno took in Hachiko as a pet. Each day, Ueno would let Hachiko out from the front door before commuting to work, and be greeted by the Akita at the end of the day at the Shibuya Railway Station.
This routine continued for years until one day the Professor suffered a brain hemorrhage and died shortly after, never returning to the station. However his loyal companion Hachiko returned to the station every day, without fail, at the exact time his masterâ€™s train would be arriving - for the next nine years.
Though Hachiko was given away after Ueno's death, he frequently escaped to try reach his master at Shibuya, becoming a national celebrity as time went by. Sadly Hachiko died of a heart infection in 1935, though he lives on through the bronze statue erected outside Shibuya Station.
The statue was completed in 1934, with Hachiko himself being present at the unveiling. Today the statue is a popular meeting point for Japanese youths and a must for any tourist, though perhaps the beloved Akita received the most valuable tribute one can hope for, a a biopic co-starring Richard Gere.
Visit the Disneyland that nobody's heard of
That's right - there's another Disneyland, and it's in Tokyo. Tokyo Disneyland first opened in 1983 and receives over 13m visitors per year, making it the third most popular theme park in the world, and even more successful than Disneyland Paris. Aside from grabbing Minnie's arse, there's lot to get up to in the park, with a lot of the best amusements from its three sister parks (Big Thunder Mountain Railroad, for instance) carried over. The stunning Tokyo DisneySea companion park was opened in 2001 too, and holds the record for most expensive theme park ever built, at a cost of $4bn.With a recreation of Venice and themed areas based on famous Disney animations, such as the Arabian Coast (Aladdin) and the Mermaid Lagoon (The Little Mermaid), not a single expense has been spared. In all, a trip to Disneyland isn't admittedly the most Japanese activity you can get up to in Tokyo, but it's Disneyland, so stop complaining.
Buy beer from vending machines
Maybe it's just us, but we love a good vending machine. Whether your flights have been delayed, or you absolutely must buy a bottle of coke for €2.50, vending machines are always there for you. The Japanese however, are total BFF's with vending machines, holding the highest number of the machines per capita - one for every twenty-three customers.
And we're not talking about Toffee Crisps or Drifter bars either - Japanese vending machines sell everything from cans of beer, cans of coffee, eggs, Pringles, live lobsters, fresh meat, flowers, underwear, porn, noodles, and ice cream. Forgive the cliché, but it really is a case of 'What won't the Japanese buy from a vending machine?' at this stage.
Watch two fat men hug
To the untrained eye, sumo wrestling looks like two fat men in nappies trying to shove the other outside of a circle. To the trained eye, however, sumo wrestling is about two fat men, each wearing a mawashi, trying to shove the other to the outside of thedohyo - completely different. Japan's sumo history stretches back centuries and to this day, Japan is the only country where the sport is practiced professionally. There are six annual Grand Sumo tournaments, with the Ryogoku Kokugikan in Tokyo (pictured above) hosting three of the events.
We recommend taking in this extremely Japanese tradition. As anyone who's ever channel-surfed aimlessly and has come across the sport on Eurosport can attest, the wrestlers are a lot fitter and stronger than our typically-dismissive Western perceptions would suggest, with each bout a short-lived but exciting spectacle.