After three years, four months and five days, my sister is finally coming to visit us in Tokyo later this month. About time.

Ten days in Tokyo. That’s how long she’ll be here with me. As her only sibling and older brother, it is my duty to play tour guide, educator and party planner. For weeks I’ve been making lists of things to do when she’s here, what places to visit, what neighborhoods to explore, what foods to eat. So after plenty of rewrites, I’ve perfected the ideal itinerary. In random order, I give you the Top ten in Tokyo…

1. Mori Tower: In a city where you can visit the top of most skyscrapers for free or for a nice lunch or romantic dinner, nothing beats paying the 1,500 Yen it costs to visit the top of Mori Tower in Roppongi Hills. A 360 degree view of Tokyo from the 49th floor is not to be believed. When I do go up there from time to time to visit the museum, I always make sure to first head straight for the observation area.

2. Yasukuni Museum: See World War II and the events leading up to it from a different perspective. It’s not the Rape of Nanking, it’s the Nanking incident! The Japanese weren’t colonizing Asia, they were liberating it! Those creepy paintings of kamikaze pilots diving their planes into war ships aside, I dare you not to be moved when in the final room you are confronted with the portraits of the thousands of Japanese people who lost their lives defending their country.

3. Ueno Park: What’s not to love? Pandas at the Ueno Zoo. Ancient artifacts at the Tokyo National Museum. Two temples, a large pond, food stalls, park performers and cherry blossoms in late March/early April. Ueno Park is the Central Park/5th Avenue of Tokyo and while there are several museums to visit, I recommend heading to the National Museum and making a B-line for the Yoshio Taniguchi designed Gallery of Horyuji Treasures. It’s a minimalist masterpiece in a city of mostly throw-away buildings.

4. The Park Hyatt: Shinjuku’s premier hotel and the “unnamed star” of the movie Lost in Translation. A drink and a cigar at The New York Bar with the neon lights of Tokyo flashing below you is mandatory and not just because the movie made it a must do. I can assure you that this would have been a must do even if it hadn’t been featured in Lost in Translation. I recommend having a drink before the band starts. While the band is good, the singer is only average and do you really want average with a view like this?

5. Rainbow Bridge: Take the subway to Odaiba, spend the afternoon there shopping and sightseeing and then take the monorail back to mainland Tokyo over the Rainbow bridge at dusk. The view is mesmerizing.

6. Asakusa: Senso-ji Temple is the main temple in Tokyo and it can be found at the end of a long path lined with tacky but colorful souvenir shops and authentic food stalls in Asakusa. If you don’t mind crowds, you won’t mind visiting during a weekend afternoon. Otherwise, go here during the week when it is at least (somewhat) less crowded.

7. Shinjuku Gyoen: Any season of any day, this park is a must for park lovers. Located in the heart of Shinjuku, this manicured expanse of greenery can be visited for a nominal fee. Be sure to have green tea (matcha) and a small dessert in the tea house. While the park is beautiful, it’s no Central Park. By that I mean, leave your Frisbee behind. This is strictly an “oo” and “ah” park of the French variety.

8.   Mount Takao: This often overlooked gem is technically still in Tokyo.  Located about an hour train ride from Shinjuku station, Mount Takao barely qualifies as a mountain but does offer great hiking and uncrowded sightseeing.  The temples that are here are smaller and less popular than the mobbed temples in Tokyo proper and for that reason more intimate and approachable.  Best of all, on clear days you can take in an unobstructed view of Mount Fuji (Fujisan) in all his majesty.

9.    Okachimachi Station: Singapore and Tokyo are often unfairly referred to as Asia lite because they’re not rough around the edges like Shanghai or Hanoi.  I too prefer my cities to be a little more city but not dangerous (New York not Detroit).  That said, the sprawling and lively market below the Yamanote tracks at Okachimachi Station is fun day or night.  Buy some raw cashews, dried mangoes or even dried squid.  Try on a pair of Adidas or a leather jacket.  Grab a beer and a snack and be prepared to (literally) rub shoulders with the locals.  This place is unlike the fashionable but sedate shopping meccas of Ginza or Omotesando.

10.    Rasoi: Sure, you can eat the best sushi in the world every night of the week.  You can inhale bowls of ramen, udon and soba until your eyes roll over.  You can play the odds and try fugu, but as a vegetarian, this is all lost on me.  Tokyo has some of the best international food in the world.  French, Italian, you name it, it’s here, if you’re willing to pay the price.  My favorite restaurant in Tokyo is Rasoi, an Indian restaurant run by a Punjabi family.  One of my friends here compared eating the food at Rasoi to a religious experience.  If you order anything spicy, you’ll be able to see through time but you’ll be a better person for it.

My sister better appreciate her big brother or else I’m going to return her to Wal-Mart like I told her I would when she was a kid.  You should have seen the look on her face when I produced the receipt!  I said, “You mess with me kid and I’m taking you back where we found you.”

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