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Old Meets New in Tokyo

In a city consistently ranked as the cleanest and most friendly in the world, spending time in Tokyo isn’t difficult or unappealing. Ease of traveling, helpfulness of locals, and plenty of historical sights in addition to modern amenities puts Tokyo at the top of many travel guides’ lists of must-see places.

It is the capital of Japan and boasts the most populous metropolitan area in the world, 36 million people, and growing. The area is divided up into areas, or neighborhoods—each treated like small cities, which explains whyTokyo is frequently referred to as a “city of cities” affectionately. With so much to see, it could become overwhelming to plan an itinerary in Tokyo, but thankfully, Leaf Canoer Julia at vetaretus-6 has compiled a thorough list of sights and experience in this bustling city in her leaf “Things to see in Tokyo”.

The comparative aspect of old vs new makes Tokyo an endlessly interesting place to explore. Culture and way of life is passed down from generation to generation and a tradition of honor and loyalty is well-preserved in Japan in both architecture and attitude. But a booming economy also makes Tokyo home to many global corporations and the amenities are truly first class and state of the art. To fully appreciate Tokyo one has to be ready to dive in to the history while still appreciating modern technology and innovations that are to be found there. Below are a mix of “old vs new” Tokyo sights.

Hachiko Statue at Shibuya Station
It’s no secret that dogs are regarded as inspiringly loyal animals, and the story behind this statue demonstrates just how true that it. Waiting for his owner to come home from work each day at Shibuya Station, Hachiko became a local fixture in the early 1920’s. When his master died of a brain hemorrhage, this remarkable Akita continued to wait for his master each day for nearly a decade after he died. This statue was erected as a national symbol of loyalty to one’s family and to the Emperor, and remains a popular tourist attraction.

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Shop Til You Drop
When you’re ready to take advantage of a populated city, shopping is usually a part of the experience and Tokyo is no exception to a wide array of shopping venues. One particularly interesting area worth exploring is the fashion district of Takeshita-dori in Harajuku. Here one can find living art just watching the people passing by on the street. Don’t feel shy! Ask to photograph them and most people would be flattered to stop and pose. Shops and restaurants abound in the area so explore and pick up some of Japan’s quirky and delightful fashion expressions.

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Temples and Shrines
Worship is a very significant part of Japanese culture. Though there is not one mandated religion, the country is largely Shinto, an ethnic religion, or Buddhist. Buddhism arrived in Japan in the early 6th century and most Japanese death rituals are handled by Buddhist monks. There are many Shinto shrines available for patrons to attend and offer offerings and enjoy their peaceful atmosphere. One excellent shrine to consider visiting is Meiji Jingu, dedicated to Emperor Meiji and his Empress Shoken. After their deaths,  the loyal people of Japan donated over 100,000 trees to commemorate their virtues and created a lush forest amid a busy city. Tips are offered by user vetaretus-6 for showing proper etiquette while visiting Shinto shrines.

From the Water
One great way to take in Tokyo and appreciate it’s panorama is from a river cruise. There are a variety of options for routes, and vessels, including ferries, open air boats, water busses, and even enclosed boats for inclement weather. One option provides for pickups from hotels where you are escorted to the towering skyscraper of World Trade Center Tokyo. From the 40th floor, take in sweeping views of Tokyo, with a guide to answer any questions and provide information. Travel then through parts of the city on your way to Asakusa Kannon Temple, the oldest and most significant Buddhist temple in Tokyo. Passing briefly through a shopping district, you’ll head to the river where you’ll embark on a 45-minute river cruise, gliding under bridges all while hearing audio commentary about this historic city. (www.viator.com see Tokyo Highlights Afternoon Tour and Sumida River Cruise)

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Sky High Buildings
Skyscrapers are part of Tokyo’s iconic cityscape. It wouldn’t be proper to visit Tokyo without ascending one of it’s sky-high buildings and Mori Tower provides an unparalleled view of this metropolitan area. Observation decks on the 52nd and 54th floor are open to visitors. It is a fantastic place to capture some cityscape photography.

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Tokyo Dome City
A small entertainment complex in Bunkyo consists of the mega-arena Tokyo Dome, a spa and an amusement park complete with roller coasters. It is a great way to spend a few hours thrill-seeking and with ample opportunities for relaxation as well.

The contrast of city and nature, old and new, ancient custom and modern amenities make Tokyo a fantastic city to explore. It’s low crime rate and temperate climate should encourage one and all to spend some time in this world-class city.

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For more ideas of things to see in Tokyo visit LeafCanoer Julia’s leaf here and to read what other LeafCanoers have to say, download the LeafCanoe app.

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Day in New York City - Staten Island Ferry

How to Spend a Day in New York City

New York City is one of the most popular tourist destinations in the United States. The city brings in millions of tourists each year, both foreign and domestic. There’s no denying why this city is so popular. With such a rich and diverse culture, in addition to the breadth and depth of activities to choose from, New York is a great place for a visit.

There are countless ways to spend a visit to New York City. Leafcanoer, Daijie, recently shared a leaf titled “My Favorite Spots in NYC”, highlighting some of her favorite places to visit in the city. With so many things to do in the city, you can easily spend days or months exploring New York. But if your time is limited, here are five suggestions for spending a day in New York City.

Day in New York City - Central Park

Central Park
Start the day off with a walk through Central Park. Originally built in 1857, the park covers 843 acres of land across the central part of the island of Manhattan. Central Park offers a wide selection of attractions and activities for any visitor, all year round. Among the more popular attractions are the Central Park Zoo, Belvedere Castle, Conservatory Garden, the Lake, and Strawberry Fields. Museums line the eastern border of the park, so you can easily spend hours soaking up history, art, or science.

Rockefeller Center
Once you work up an appetite, head over to Rockefeller Center for a bite to eat at one of the cafes in the area. Comprising of 19 commercial buildings, Rockefeller Center covers over 22 acres between 48th and 51st streets. The complex was originally built by the Rockefeller family in the 1930s. It now has grown to 14 Art Deco style buildings and five towers. Visitors to Rockefeller can enjoy watching a taping of the Today show, take a tour of Radio City Music Hall, or go ice skating at the skating rink.

Day in New York City - Rockefeller Center

Chinatown
Spend the rest of the afternoon strolling through Manhattan’s Chinatown, which is home to the largest population of Chinese in the Western Hemisphere. Consisting of approximately 90,000 to 100,000 people, the neighborhood encompasses parts of Little Italy and a large part of the Lower East Side. Chinatown is filled with shops and restaurants offering food and goods from not just China, but other Asian countries such as Vietnam, Malaysia, and Indonesia.

Wall Street
When evening hits, head down to Wall Street to catch dinner and drinks with the city’s bankers and financial geniuses. Running across eight city blocks, Wall Street stretches from Broadway to South Street. It is home to both the New York Stock Exchange and NASDAQ. While visitors can no longer visit either of the stock exchanges to see the trading in action, they can walk along Wall Street and learn about the history of New York’s financial district. Many companies offer walking tours of the district, and visitors can learn about popular sites such as Trinity Church and the Federal Reserve Building, which are also located in this neighborhood.

Day in New York City - Wall Street

Staten Island Ferry
End the day with a ride on the Staten Island Ferry, which shuttles passengers between Manhattan and Staten Island. Operating 24 hours a day, and 7 days a week, the Ferry is a great opportunity to catch a glimpse of the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island. You’ll also be able to see views of the Lower Manhattan skyscrapers and bridges.

If you can only spend a day in New York City, the above itinerary is a great starting off point for future exploration of the city. However, if you have more time, take the opportunity to spend some time in each neighborhood in Manhattan and beyond. There are so many hidden gems in New York. The best part of traveling to New York City is discovering these gems.

To explore more of New York, check out the rest of Daijie’s leaf, or download the Leafcanoe app.

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Six Seattle Parks Activities For Sunny Days

Seattle is known for its rain, but locals know that the best time of year for Seattle is the summer months between July to September. That’s when the weather is at its best, and the sun shines brightly on the Emerald City. On sunny days, locals head out to the local park to take advantage of the sunshine. Here are six Seattle parks activities that you can do on a sunny day.

Fly a kite at Gas Works Park

The best place to fly a kite, and consequently, the best place to catch a view of the city, is on top of Kite Hill at Gas Works Park. The hill, which features a giant sun dial at the top, is man made and was created by the city of Seattle when they turned the former gas plant into a city park.

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Visitors flying a kite at Seattle’s Gas Works Park

 

Play volleyball at Green Lake Park

Green Lake Park is a hub for outdoor sports and activities. With plenty of baseball and softball fields, soccer fields, tennis courts, basketball courts, and even a putting green, Green Lake Park has virtually everything for everyone. A favorite sunny day past time among locals is to play volleyball. With just a net and a ball, and some enthusiastic teammates, you can have a rousing game of volleyball just about anywhere at the park.

Rent a paddle board at Green Lake Park

If land activities are not your thing, you can also tour Green Lake by boat, to enjoy views of its idyllic waters and lush trees. The Green Lake Boat House offers kayaks, pedal boats, canoes, row boats, and stand up paddle boards for rent. Sailboats are also available for rent through the Boat House.

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Lake Union Park in Seattle

 

Go canoeing at Lake Union

Another boating option is to rent a kayak or canoe and tour Lake Union. There are plenty of companies along the lake that offer kayak and canoe rentals including the Northwest Outdoor Center, Moss Bay, and Agua Verde Paddle Club. However, the best value is to go through the University of Washington Waterfront Activities Center and rent a canoe or rowboat. Hourly rentals for the general public are $9 on weekdays, and $11 on weekends, a fraction of the cost of the other companies.

Hike to the light house at Discovery Park

With over 500 acres of land, Discovery Park is a favorite among locals for hiking within the city. A focal point of the park is the West Point Light House, which has been guiding ships along the Puget Sound since 1881. Visitors love Discovery Park, with its many trails, as it affords them a refuge from the sights and sounds of the city.

Watch boats go by at the Ballard Locks

The Hiram M. Chittenden Locks, known as the Ballard Locks, are a popular spot for tourists, regardless of whether it’s sunny or rainy. Children and adults alike enjoy watching the engineering marvel of the boats rising and falling through the sheer force of water, as they make their way through the locks. The Ballard Locks connects the salt water of the Puget Sound with the fresh water of Lake Union. During the summer months, visitors can see salmon making their way up the fish ladder as they journey from the sea on to their spawning grounds in the Duwamish River.

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“Salmon Waves” sculpture at Hiram M. Chittenden Locks in Seattle

 

Despite being subject to rain nine months out of the year, Seattle is quite a beautiful place to spend a sunny day. With its lush greenery and scenic views of water and mountains, it’s no wonder the locals can’t get enough of the outdoors. On a sunny Seattle day, the best thing to do is to go out into the city and try one of these Seattle parks activities for yourself.

Looking for more travel ideas? Check out the Leaf Canoe App for tips about Seattle and other cities.

 

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Sweet Escapes At Seattle Ice Cream Shops

Nothing makes you feel more like a kid than digging into a heaping scoop of ice cream. Molly Moon’s, one of the best Seattle ice cream shops, has been making people feel like kids since 2008, and shows no sign of stopping. With stores in six locations throughout Seattle, an ice cream truck, and partnerships with local businesses, Molly Moon’s has established itself as a Seattle institution.

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Molly Moon’s Ice Cream Shop in the University Village

A walk through Seattle’s Wallingford neighborhood, the site of Molly Moon’s first store, provides you with a glimpse of Seattle’s diverse character. Gasworks Park, a former gasification plant that has since become a city park, is a popular spot for spending a sunny Seattle afternoon. Beautiful views of Lake Union hint at Seattle’s nautical past. While the selection of restaurants, from American style diners, to Southern barbecue, to Japanese sushi, represent the various cultures that have made its home in Seattle.

Within this neighborhood is Molly Moon’s, whose mission is to bring joy to the people of Seattle through ice cream. With milk sourced from local dairy farms, and 90% of its other ingredients locally sourced as well, Molly Moon’s brings a touch of sustainability to its sweet treats.

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A selection of specialty toppings on display at Molly Moon’s

A visit to Molly Moon’s starts with selecting the right flavor of ice cream. Besides classics like Vanilla Bean and Melted Chocolate, Molly Moon’s also offers up unique flavors like Honey Lavender, Balsamic Strawberry, and Earl Grey. If you’re interested in taking some ice cream home with you, many of the flavors are available in pint-sized containers. Molly Moon’s also sells a selection of non-ice cream items such as specialty ice cream toppings, t-shirts, sweatshirts, and a cookbook with all their popular flavors.

Despite the ice cream trend being on the wane, Molly Moon’s is still going strong, with long lines going around the block on any given day. It’s not hard to see what the appeal is to Molly Moon’s. Their ice cream is tasty, and their flavors are unique and whimsical.

But there’s more to Molly Moon’s than just good ice cream. They partner with other business, like Hello Robin Cookies and Trophy Cupcakes, to expand their customer base and complement their ice cream with other sweet treats. They donate to local non-profit organizations who work towards ending hunger. They also treat their staff right, providing benefits and supporting staff in their creative endeavors. However you look at it, Molly Moon’s does a great job of making you feel good.

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Molly Moon’s famous logo

Molly Moon’s is not the only place to get ice cream in Seattle, even though it’s certainly one of the best. Here are three more Seattle ice cream shops worth visiting.

Bluebird Ice Cream
Bluebird Ice Cream has at least three locations in Seattle: Fremont, Phinney Ridge, and Capitol Hill. In addition to being an ice cream parlor, Bluebird Ice Cream also functions as a brewery, serving local beers along with their ice cream.  Bluebird Ice Cream partners with pie shops like Pie in Fremont and A La Mode in Phinney Ridge to serve up the perfect pie a la mode.

Cupcake Royale
Originally just a cupcake shop, Cupcake Royale has now started offering ice cream to go with their delectable selection of cupcakes. Cupcake Royale has locations throughout Seattle, including West Seattle, Ballard, Queen Anne, and Capitol Hill.

Full Tilt
Branded as an ice cream parlor and pinball arcade, Full Tilt serves up some unique flavors of their own, such as Thai Iced Tea and Ube.  Full tilt has new and vintage arcade games in their four locations throughout Seattle.  Offering beer in addition to ice cream and pinball, Full Tilt is a great meeting spot for gamers.

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The perfect scoop of Salted Caramel ice cream at Molly Moon’s

Need some more ideas of where to go in Seattle? Explore more of Seattle by downloading the Leaf Canoe app.

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Take time to explore these top strange NYC museums

A mecca of sort for museum lovers, Manhattan has some of the best cultural and artistic hotspots to explore in the world. But after visitors have checked out the Guggenheim, MoMA, and the Natural History museum, what else is there to see? Travelers may be surprised to know that there are countless hidden surprises all over Manhattan are and in the boroughs that specialize in quirky, thrilling and strange exhibits open to the public.

Paradise for math geeks

Some people might find math overwhelming, or have memories of boring classes in their childhood. However, visitors in NYC can rekindle an interest for this fascinating hobby by enjoying a walk through the Museum of Mathematics. There are countless interactive exhibits to lean from, great for kids and adults with a curious mind. Ride bikes with square wheels, solve puzzles, create math art or try some graphic design – the possibilities are endless.

Bringing the outside indoors

This might be one of the most usual museums around, simply for its minimalist approach to contemporary art. Called The New York Earth Room, this installation is located on Wooster Street and is the brain child of progressive artist Walter De Maria. He has moved roughly 280,000 pounds of soil into a clean, white space, sectioned off by see-through glass panels. The effect blends together man-made architecture and natural beauty.

A tiny window into an odd world

No matter what time of day it is, people can take a peek at the space simply called “Museum”. In an alley between Franklin and White Street, there is a small space dedicated to showcasing weird and wonderful found items from all over the world. On the weekends, guests are invited to take a closer look at things like toothpaste tubes, mars rocks, tip jars and marked up currency when the doors are open. Any other time, people can view the display through streetside windows.

Hands-on tech fun

Seeing exhibits can be fascinating, but it’s also great to be able to touch and explore new and interesting concepts. Through a free initiative, the Sony Wonder Technology Lab is a space devoted to tech exploration. Peer inside a working video game console, or touch interactive walls that respond to light and temperature. The museum is popular and space fills fast, so reserving free tickets ahead of time is advised.

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