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Tokyo is the venue for the TESOL course in Japan. An incredible city on the edge of the Orient, Tokyo is the last great metropolis before the Pacific Ocean, and is perhaps one of the world's most fascinating cities.
Take a step back from the big city bustle and the frenetic main roads and you'll find yourself in a world of tranquil backstreets, where wooden houses are fronted by neatly clipped bonsai trees; wander beyond the high-tech department stores, and you'll find ancient temples and shrines. In this city of 24-hour shops and vending machines, a festival is held virtually every day of the year, with the locals regularly visiting their local shrine or temple and scrupulously observing the passing seasons. At the centre of it all is the mysterious green void of the Imperial Palace, home to the emperor and a tangible link to the past.
In so many ways Tokyo is something of a modern-day utopia. Trains predictably run on time; the crime rate is virtually non existent; shops and vending machines are there to provide everything you could need (along with many things you never thought you needed) 24 hours a day. The people simply have to wear the coolest fashions, eat in fabulous restaurants and party in the hippest clubs. You can’t be bored here - first-time visitors should be prepared for a major assault on the senses. Just walking the streets of this hyperactive city can be an invigorating experience.
TESOL course participants will also be pleasantly surprised how affordable many things are. Cheap-and-cheerful izakaya (bars that serve food) and noodle shacks far outnumber the big-ticket French restaurants and high-class ryotei, where geisha serve minimalist Japanese cuisine. Day tickets for a traditional sumo tournament or a Kabuki play can be bought for the price of a few drinks.
Many of the city's highlights are free! You can stroll through the evocative Shitamachi (low city) area around Asakusa and the major Buddhist temple Senso-ji. You may want to pay a visit to the tranquil wooded grounds of Meiji-jingu, the city's most venerable Shinto shrine, and the nearby teenage shopping mecca of Harajuku. There’s always the frenetic fish market at Tsukiji to experience, or you could soak up the neon-saturated atmosphere of the mini-city of Shinjuku.
Either before or after your TESOL course in Tokyo, you may want to explore other parts of Japan. Tokyo is the major transport hub for Japan. Every day, scores of Shinkansen (bullet trains) speed up to the far north of Honsho or south to Kyushu, while flights, buses and ferries connect Tokyo to the far-flung corners and islands of the Japanese archipelago.
Tokyo can be fairly warm in the height of summer, when visitors enjoy the plentiful air-conditioning. October and November, by contrast, are great months to take in the spectacularly coloured autumn leaves in Tokyo's parks and gardens. Temperatures dip to freezing in the winter months, though the crisp blue skies are rarely interrupted by rain or snow showers. April is the month when locals party beneath the flurries of falling cherry blossoms - perhaps one of the most picturesque months to visit Tokyo. Carrying an umbrella is a good idea during the rainy season in June and September, when typhoons occasionally strike the coast.
Legend has it that a giant catfish sleeps beneath Tokyo Bay, and its movements can be felt in the hundreds of small, harmless tremors that rumble the capital each year. There is a long-running, half-hearted debate about moving the main government offices out of Tokyo, away from danger. Yet, despite the fact that the city is well overdue for the Big One, talk of relocating the capital always comes to nothing. Now, more than ever before, Tokyo is the centre of Japan, and nobody wants to leave and miss any of the action.
Tokyo is the place to be - the ideal location for your TESOL course.
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