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It has become surprisingly easy to tour most of the lands pictured on the maps on the preceding pages. Each week 37 scheduled airline jets make the trans-ocean trip (average time Los Angeles to Tokyo, with a stop in Honolulu, 14� hours). For travelers with the luxury of time, an ocean liner leaves the West Coast every week bound for the Orient. And for those who like both modes of travel, airline and steamship companies sell air-sea combinations so one can fly partway, then ease off with, say, a three-day cruise across the South China Sea or the Gulf of Siam. Whichever way you go, there is a special savor in hitting Bangkok first and working north to Japan, where fall will bring the opening of the Olympic Games. While getting to Japan is easy, getting to the Olympics in Tokyo is becoming more difficult by the minute. All Tokyo hotels are solidly booked, and it is necessary to have confirmed room space before you can buy tickets to the Games. The situation, however, is far from hopeless. American Express, the U.S. agent for Olympic tickets, has blocks of them on hand. As for a room, if your travel agent has no space laid by (but most that book Oriental travel do), there are other ways.
Lufthansa has a round-the-world Olympic Tour, via Europe, leaving New York Sept. 2 and stopping in Tokyo from Oct. 10 to 24. The cost, including hotels and tickets to track, field and swimming events, is $2,503. Pan Am and Japan Air Lines are planning special tours as well. P&O Orient Lines' Iberia leaves San Francisco Sept. 25, docks in Yokohama Oct. 9 to 13 and goes on to Hong Kong. After one day there, those so inclined can board another P&O liner, the Oronsay, and return to Yokohama from Oct. 22 to 25 for the last days of the Games.
Finally, the Japanese have established an Olympics Housing Office (write Tokyo Olympics Housing Office: 5, 3-chome, Marunouchi, Chiyoda-ku, Tokyo). The OHO has a listing of 1,500 beds in 800 private homes in Tokyo, all with westernized plumbing. The price is $5 per night, including an American breakfast. There are 3,900 more rooms put aside in Japanese inns in Hakone and in Atami, the seaside spa—both about 70 miles south of Tokyo. Charge is from $12.50 to $15 per day for two with bath. Transportation from these inns to the Games will be quick: in October the world's fastest train will start its run from Osaka to Tokyo—via Odawara, Hakone's station—at 125 mph.
The fascinations of Japan, suggested by the map at left, are not quickly apparent. Tokyo is not only the world's largest and ugliest city but also the most difficult in which to navigate. There are no street names or numbers. Bewildered, many tourists throw themselves on the mercy of one of the enormous tour agencies, which seem, at first glance, to be the only means of getting about. There is not a corner of Japan that has not been fitted into a package tour: Tokyo by Night, the Tokaido Highway, the Ise Shrine, the Inland Sea, Kyoto, Nara, the Pearl Islands, the Fuji Lakes, Shogunate Nikko. By all means look into the tours—even use them: the Tokyo by Night tour is the only reasonable way of sampling the otherwise expensive splendors of Tokyo nightclub life. But hear this: group touring in Japan was set up for the retired bankers and schoolteachers who were the pioneer American tourists to the Orient. The Japanese tourist business has not yet recognized the arrival of the younger, more adventurous travelers, willing to take the pleasures of discovery along with the knocks of getting lost. Below are tips for these adventurers, to help them about Japan on their own.
You should remember to carry the card of your hotel whenever you go out, so that a taxi can get you back. Have the hotel desk write, in Japanese, the whereabouts of the places you want to go during the day, and give these to your taxi driver.
There are 25,000 bars in Tokyo, most of them no bigger than a Manhattan kitchenette. Best bets when barhopping are the bars that belong to the Suntory whisky chain. The best-looking women in Japan are the hostesses at the expensive nightclubs. As a result, American women often feel that Tokyo at night is for men. (No Japanese wife goes out with the boys.) However, wives are welcome—whether they feel it or not.
Dr. Yoshio Hiyama once described the Japanese as being like seabirds that live on a rock, eat fish and propagate. Fish they do eat—and they serve it in ways that may seem either wonderful or very strange indeed. The true adventurer will delight in sushi—thin slices of uncooked tuna or bonito on a mound of vinegared rice, the whole dipped in soy, chased with a thimble of sake. In addition to sukiyaki and tempura, the average American's idea of palatable Japanese food, there are many other foods Westerners will like. The beef that comes from the area around Kobe, often called the best in the world, is the specialty of steak houses like Misono. Kobe steaks, cut in bite-size chunks, are broiled in front of you on a grill, along with baby onions and bean sprouts, and are eaten with chopsticks.
Like the French, the Japanese want to "taste" the season. In the winter this means the extraordinary strawberries that grow on terraces facing the sun above the sea in Atami. In the fall it means the matsutake, the wild pine mushroom. These appear in soups, with tempura, and especially as companions to game—pheasant cooked in hot sake, venison grilled over an open charcoal pit in such restaurants in Tokyo as Akahane and Takamura.