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12 reasons to visit Tokyo in 2011
Ultra-green cars, video game booth babes and the world's newest gigantic supertower: So, how come you haven't booked a flight yet?
1. Watch the tallest tree grow
The event of 2011 will be the continued rise and eventual completion of the Tokyo Skytree. Set for completion in December, the tower will be the world’s second-tallest at 634 meters.
The tower will not be open to the public until 2012, but the structure is already attracting tourists.
But spare a thought for the poor old Tokyo Tower, a prime tourist destination across town now looking increasingly minuscule, if still providing a red and white beacon among the towers.
2. Things will be cheaper
In 2010, the yen soared against foreign currencies, making prices for visitors ridiculously high.
This year, however, Bloomberg Businessweek predicts that the yen will fall by at least 10 percent against the dollar.
This means tourists will get more for their yen, and may mean that the country beats the 2010 figure of 9.44 million visitors.
3. Get the latest games first
The release of Nintendo’s 3DS is just around the corner, and it could be a game changer.
By the time the Tokyo Game Show holds its annual bash in September, it’s anybody’s guess what the market will look like.
And let’s not forget the ladies of the show, who attract as much attention as the games themselves.
4. Mooch around the manga madness
The problem? Tokyo is looking to ban the sale of manga depicting such acts as rape and pedophilia to minors.
Whatever your take on the controversy, this event may be worth a visit if only to see what the cavernous Tokyo Big Site looks like empty.
5. Swing your hips at Asia's biggest music festivals
2011 will see more festivals in the Tokyo area than ever before. As well as the huge Summer Sonic, which this year will be headlined by the Red Hot Chilli Peppers and The Strokes, there are a host of other events.
All Tomorrow’s Parties will curate its first Tokyo show in February, headlined by Godspeed You! Black Emperor, while local bands -- including one made up of teachers -- will be performing in Kanagawa Misaki High School at the School of Rock event in March.
For dance music fans, Big Beach Festival in June will be headlined by Fatboy Slim and Carl Cox (careful -- this event ends at 8 p.m.).
6. Soak up the art
Tokyo has long been known as a major city for art, and in 2011, there are a number of events to enjoy. Roppongi Art Night, which has attracted more than half a million people each year since it started in 2009, returns on the last weekend of March.
Meanwhile, the Tokyo Metropolitan Museum of Photography in Ebisu will be the venue for the Yebisu International Festival for Art and Alternative Visions, a festival that explores the interconnection of various forms of media in the world of art.
This year’s festival, “Daydream Believer,” examines the way artists have interpreted daydreams. And for those looking for the work of a master, the works of one of the greatest in history, Leonardo Da Vinci, will be on display at the Tokyo National Museum between March and June.
7. Clown around at the latest Cirque du Soleil extravaganza
Kooza, a new show by Cirque du Soleil, will arrive in Tokyo in February. The show returns to the traditions of acrobatic performance that have made the circus a global household name.
The show was written by David Shiner, a clown who has nearly three decades' experience working in the trade, and tells the story of the characters a loner meets while he is looking to find his way in the world.
8. Get electrified at Tokyo's motor show
The automobile industry in Japan has in recent years undergone change, moving away from the traditional gas-guzzler car that characterized the 20th century to more environmentally friendly vehicles using cleaner technologies.
With Nissan having just released its Leaf electric car, the focus at this year’s motor show, which takes place between November 30 and December 11, will likely be the future, greener car.
9. See the shape of the future
Is it a little presumptuous to say Tokyo Sky Tree is less than pretty? The huge structure is essentially bricks, mortar and metal, with little concern for greenery and nature.
Questions such as the above will likely lead to heated debate and a great deal of ideas at this year’s 24th World Congress of Architecture that takes place in Tokyo in September.
10. Tire yourself at the Tokyo Marathon
Registration for the event on February 27 closed in August last year, but there is still a chance to watch participants, including world record holder Haile Gebrselassie, run the 26 miles.
And of course, Joseph Tame will be streaming his run with a camera strapped to his head.
11. Binge on beautiful ballet
With the closure and demolition of the Kabuki-za in Ginza last year, it may be time to leave the traditional Japan performing arts behind and head to The New National Theater.
David Bintley, director of Birmingham Royal Ballet, has taken over as artistic director there.
Widely regarded as one of Britain’s best choreographers and dancers, Bintley has promised to bring a more modern outlook to Tokyo’s ballet world.
12. ... or just because Tokyo is Tokyo
Walk off the beaten track and you may bump into some of the cities more curious folks like the manga man, rooftop farmers, street dancers and anime cars. Not to mention the dekotoru trucks. And it's only a short hop to the beach too.
So if the truth be known, coverage of one-off events doesn’t do the city justice. What makes the place special is all the curiosities that cry out, "only in Tokyo."