Summer in the city

Photo by Marc Albert Models: Polly, Ashley, Atsushi

Matt Wilce has 20 ways to make August a little more bearable.

Stuck in the big heat and suffering from meltdown? Forgot to plan your vacation last century? If you' trapped in Tokyo this summer, and don't want to brave the O-Bon crush, we rounded up some hot activities to help you keep your cool.

1 Pool party
Looking for a venue for a great summer party? The Hilton Tokyo Bay is offering party animals the chance to throw a cool bash at the hotel's pool until the end of September. The JY10,000-per-person poolside barbecue plan includes food and all-you-can-drink for two hours. Take a dip in the expansive pool, lay out in the sun or explore the Japanese gardens, before tucking into the tucker. You could even stop by neighboring Disneyland before you create your own Magic Kingdom.
1-8 Maihama, Urayasu-shi, Chiba. Contact the Banquet office for reservations and details (tel: 047-355-5000). Plan applies to groups of 30 or more, parties for less than 30 are negotiable.

2 Splash down
Have a wet weekend at Toshima-en waterpark and enjoy the craziest waterslide collection within the city limits. The Hydropolis complex boasts 31 waterslides of nine different types, including tunnel and open slides, speed slides and the river run slide where you can ride on giant inner tubes. More sedate fun can be had floating in one of the seven pools, which include a wave pool, a special diving pool and a regular family pool. Four roller coasters, a flume-ride, and all manner of things that spin around stomach-churningly fast offer a high adrenaline complement to the aqua attractions.
3-25-1 Mukoyama, Nerima-ku (tel: 03-3990-8800). JY4200 for one-day pass for pool and all rides, parking JY1500 a day. Towels, dryers and loungers available for rental. Open 9am-9pm daily. Nearest stn: Seibu line, Toshima.

3 High flyer
Take to the skies with a nighttime helicopter flight. Cruise over the city's twinkling lights, starting from the heliport in Urayasu and heading out over downtown Tokyo and Shinjuku. Flights are between sundown and 9pm and last 20 minutes. The Diamond Course is JY18,000 Fri & Sat (JY14,800 Thu, Sun & holidays), the shorter Pearl Course, which lasts 15 minutes is JY12,500 Fri & Sat (JY9800 Thu, Sun & holidays).
14 Chidori, Urayasu-shi, Chiba (tel: 047-380-5555). Flights over Yokohama are also available from the Minato Mirai Heliport.  

4 Deep blue
Scuba novices can get a taste of the deep for free in Ikebukuro. Learn the basics from an instructor in the free 60-minute class in the 25m pool before signing up for regular classes. Experienced divers should check out for details on great dives in the Tokyo area-dive coordinator Patric Spohn recommends their 48-hour trip to Osezaki on the Izu Peninsula. Perfect for all levels, the shallow water offers a variety of marine life and kelp forests to explore, plus the added bonus of post-dive onsen.
Sunshine City Bunka Kaikan, 3-1-4 Higashi Ikebukuro, Toshima-ku (tel: 03-5956-7741). Open 12-10pm Mon, Wed-Fri, 10am-10pm Sat, 10am-7pm Sun, closed Tue. Classes in Japanese.
For further information on scuba in Tokyo and diving excursions see 1-31-3-101 Hachioji-shi (tel: 0426-70-2769).

5 Wan upmanship
Kansai is known for okonomiyaki, but Tokyo's own take on batter, monjayaki, is a great traditional dish especially when it's eaten on a summer river cruise. The sautéed mix of vegetables, mentaiko (cod roe) and cheese are covered in batter and grilled on a hotplate, and can be enjoyed on special restaurant boats known as yakatabune. Try a taste of shitamachi on the all-you-can-eat and -drink lunchtime cruise around Tokyo Wan (Tokyo bay) and past Odaiba.
Tsukishima Monjayaki Association, 1-3-16-101 Tsukishima, Chuo-ku (tel: 03-3533-6699). JY4900 per person for groups of two or more, includes all food and drinks. Boats depart 11:30am, 2, 5pm and 8pm.

6 Board stupid
Why let your snowboarding technique get rusty just because it's August? Head to SNOVA's indoor piste and try some turns on the half pipe. Until Sept 16 the special summer holiday campaign gives boarders the chance to chill out for less: 150 minutes for only JY2700. Don't worry if you packed away your winter gear, you can rent a complete set of snow wear and a board for JY3000.
SNOVA Shin Yokohama (tel: 045-570-4141). Open 11am-11:30pm Mon-Thu, 11-12am Fri, 10-12am Sat & Sun. Admission JY2300 for 90 minutes (JY2800 weekends & holiday). Nearest stn: Tsurumi.

7 Multiplexes
With a slew of blockbusters on the big screen, there's no better time to take in a flick at one of the metropolis' multiplexes. With plush seats and state-of-the-art sound systems, these entertainment oases offer Hollywood's best in comfort. Call ahead and reserve to ensure you don't end up in the front row.
Warner MyCal Cinemas Shin-Yurigaoka (tel: 044-965-1122), Virgin Cinemas Ichikawa (tel: 047-314-0555), Warner MyCal Cinemas Itabashi (tel: 03-3937-1551), Cinema Mediage Aqua City Odaiba (tel: 03-5531-7878), AMC Ikspiari (tel: 047-305-3855).

8 Bowled over
Est in Shibuya offers a whole world of air-conditioned indoor fun including 42 bowling lanes, 34 karaoke boxes, 15 ping pong tables and 50 pool tables. If that's not enough you can head to the Internet cafEor check out the arcade games.
Est Shibuya, 1-14-14 Shibuya (tel: 03-3409-4721). Open 10am to late (times vary depending on activities). Admission: JY500-JY800 per hour.

Courtesy of Asakusa Samba Carnival

9 Dancing in the street
This year's Asakusa Samba Carnival is scheduled for Aug 25, and once again the street party will be the biggest samba event of the year in Japan. Last year's festival attracted 36 teams including one in kimono, so join the fun and shake your bon bon.
Asakusa Samba Carnival. 3pm-7pm on Aug 25. Nearest stn: Asakusa.

Courtesy of Cerulean Tower of Tokyu Hotel

10 Noh go
Combine the highest form of Japanese cuisine, kaiseki ryori, with a Noh performance for a truly memorable dining experience. The Cerulean Tower Tokyu Hotel's Noh theater and banquet hall offers just such a cultural treat, with a traditional kaiseki meal served at sunken tables in the tatami room adjoining the performance space.
Cerulean Tower Tokyu Hotel, 26-1 Sakuragaokacho, Shibuya-ku (tel: 03-3476-3420). Dinner begins at 5:30pm and ends at 11pm. Prices vary depending on group size (the prix fixe dinner is around JY30,000 per person).

11 Cast away
If you're an angler looking for an easy target, head to Sangenjaya's indoor fishing shack. This converted home has been offering urban fishermen a chance to practice since 1963, join the locals and hook some carp and goldfish. An outdoor option for pale piscators looking for a tan is available in Ichigaya. The Fish Center, alongside the tracks of the Chuo line, offers the opportunity to fish the outer moat of the Imperial Palace.
4-18-1 Taishido, Setagaya-ku (tel:03-3412-3950). Open 12-10:30pm Mon-Sat, 10am-8pm Sun & holidays. Nearest stn: Sangenjaya, 3-min walk.
Ichigaya Fish Center 1-1 Tamachi, Ichigaya (tel: 03-3260-1325). Open 9am-6:30pm Mon-Fri, 9am-7:30pm Sat, 7am-8:30pm Sun & holidays. One hour JY590 for women, JY690 for men, fishing rods JY100, bait JY80. Nearest stn: Ichigaya.

12 Tea time
Enjoy the refined calm of the tea ceremony at the Royal Park Hotel's Kaikoh-An tearoom. Situated on the 65th floor of Yokohama's Landmark Tower, visitors can participate in a traditional tea ceremony while enjoying a stunning harbor view. With two to three people the ceremony, which includes wagashi (Japanese sweets), lasts around 30 minutes.
Kaikoh-An, Yokohama Royal Park Hotel, 2-2-1-3 Minato Mirai, Nishi-ku, Yokohama (tel: 045-221-1111). Open 11am-5pm. JY1155 per person. Reservations advised at weekends. Nearest stn: Sakuragicho.

13 Blazing saddles
Mount your steed and go for a gallop at Avalon Hillside Farm. Located on the outskirts of Yokohama, this riding school offers urban cowboys the chance to saddle up and take a gallop. Non-members can rent boots and helmets and ride with a guide.
349 Banchi, Miho-cho, Midori-Ku Yokohama (tel: 045-921-7081). Visitors 30-minute ride JY6500 Mon-Fri, JY7500 Sat, Sun & holidays. Helmet and boot rental JY525. JY2000 charge for compulsory guide. Nearest stn: Aobadai or Tokaiichi, take the bus bound for Wakabadai Chuo Eki.

14 Glowworm
Nestled deep in the woods of Mt Takao in Hachioji, Ukai-Toriyama is more retreat than restaurant, and until Aug 17 diners can watch fireflies in the gardens. Thirty tatami rooms, quaint teahouses, gardens, streams and lanterns contribute to a quintessential Japanese eating experience. Enjoy their simple but tasty meals featuring chicken sets that start from JY4500-JY5500 and beef from JY7500-JY8500. Be sure to book well in advance because the firefly festival is not to be missed.
Open Mon-Sat 11am-9:30pm, Sun and Holidays, 11am-7pm. Minami-Asakawa-cho, Hachioji-shi (tel: 04-2661-0739). Nearest stn: Keio line, Takaosanguchi, a shuttle bus runs every 20 minutes from the station.

15 Hit it
If the heat of summer has left you with some pent up frustration, vent your stress at the Oslo batting center. Tucked among the love hotels of Kabuki-cho, the ten batting cages let you slug it out at ball speeds from 70-120km.
2-34-5 Kabuki-cho, Shinjuku-ku (tel: 03-3208-8130). Open 10am-6am daily. Admission JY300 for 20 balls.

16 Pot heads
Sink your hands into some cool clay and throw yourself a pot. Join Mr Okamoto's pottery course and learn how to become a master potter. Three-hour trial classes (JY5000) include 1kg of clay and kiln expenses, and regular classes for the three-month long workshop are JY8000 for once a week and JY15,000 for twice a week, plus a JY10,000 sign up fee.
Regular workshops run on Tues and Wed from 2-5pm and 6-9pm.
Harajuku Art Space, Gaien Coop B1, 3-31-18 Jingumae, Shibuya-ku (tel: 03-3402-0852, Japanese only). Appointment necessary to visit the workshop. Email in English to   Nearest stn: subway Gaienmae.

Courtesy of Hotel New Otani

17 Scent of a woman
If you are in need of a little pampering, the Hotel New Otani is offering female guests an attractive aromatherapy package to help massage away any nasty natsu stress. Relax in one of the hotel's luxurious rooms and enjoy an aromatherapy massage treatment, one night's accommodation, invitation to the Golden Spa and a low calorie room service breakfast. You can even take some girlfriends and turn it into a pajama party.
Aroma no yasumi at the Hotel New Otani is available until Sept 30 (JY34,000 for one, JY23,000 per person for roomshare). Tel: 0120-112211. Nearest stn: Akasaka-Mitsukue.

Courtesy of Kirin Brewing Company

18 Cold one
Kirin Yokohama Beer Village offers the perfect antidote to brewer's droop and the summer heat: factory fresh beer for free. The catch is you have to take the factory tour-not really much of hardship. The tour takes about an hour, includes tastings of the original beer only made at the location and special seasonal beers - in August visitors can try the Weizen and Himawari (sunflower) beers. Reservations are necessary for groups of more than 15.
1-17-1 Namamugi, Tsurumi-ku, Yokohama (tel: 045-503-8250). Open 10am-5pm. Nearest stn: Keihin Kyuko Namamugi, 8-minute walk.

19 Wet, wet, wet
Fukagawa Hachiman Matsuri, one of Tokyo's big three summer festivals, is a tri-annual water throwing festival. This year, a smaller version, Kagematsuri, takes place with happi-coat wearing participants, mikoshi (portable shrines) and plenty of water.
Tomioka Hachiman-gu Shrine, Koto-ku (tel: 03 3201 3331, tourist information) Nearest stn: Monzen-Nakacho.

20 River wild
Just 90 minutes from Shinjuku, and still technically within Tokyo, a world of white water awaits. Try canoeing down Concept's slalom course on the whole day kayak option (JY8000) or take some buddies on the rafting course (JY6500), which runs twice a day (9:30am-1:30pm and 12:30-4:30pm).
B1-266 Mitake Honamchi, Ome-shi (tel/fax: 0428-79-7227)., Nearest stn: Mitake.



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