Rental pets and robots in "Blade Runner" Tokyo

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Báo Tuổi Trẻ English - 104 month(s) ago 7 readings

TOKYO - Only in Tokyo could you hire a cat out for an hour and stroke it while you have a cappuccino -- or better still, while a robot cooks your noodles for you.

Japan has made staggering progress since its capital last hosted the Olympic Games in 1964 when the government unveiled the "Bullet Train" to mark its emergence as an economic power.

The bustling metropolis of 13 million -- which is one of four cities vying to host the 2016 Olympics -- has become a showcase for technological breakthrough, cutting-edge architecture and the world's finest cuisine.

The world's second largest economy, Japan retains a great deal of its traditional charm, shrines and quaint old shops often to be found tucked beside gleaming new skyscrapers.

Many of the iconic structures built for the 1964 Olympics, such as the elliptical national gymnasium, are still in use and as stunning in appearance as they were 45 years ago.

Modern Tokyo, with its "Blade Runner"-style crackling neon lights and crowded trains and shops, has turned convenience into an art with its automated wizardry.

Vending machines dispense everything from umbrellas to underwear. Japan boasts the highest number of machines per capita in the world and even has them at the top of Mt Fuji.

However, Tokyo's credentials as a tourist destination will come under the spotlight should the city beat Chicago, Madrid and Rio de Janeiro in the race to host the 2016 Games.

Visitors should expect the unexpected -- earthquakes and typhoons included. Tokyo's waterside Olympic stadium would be built on giant shock-absorbers to withstand major tremors.

Many stereotypes about Japan are shattered long before travelers have figured out the sensor light switches and bath taps in their hotel room on their first night in Tokyo.

First-timers may be surprised at how cheaply you can dine out compared with European cities, while ordering in English takes only a fraction longer and works nine times out of 10.

Sushi lunch

A sizeable sushi lunch can cost as little as $10, fast-food hamburgers a little more than a dollar and a takeaway kebab from the vans dotting Tokyo's nightspots $5.

Where Tokyo's cleanliness and safety also impress many visitors, the morning commuter crush can fill some with terror and trigger a lasting fear of train travel.

Crammed into rush-hour carriages by railway workers in dainty white gloves, Tokyoites rattle along the city's 19 subway lines to work, faces pressed against steamy windows, or worse.

Many overseas visitors avoid the early morning mayhem in a city offering round-the-clock attractions.

Fashionistas can club until 10 in the morning while many conventional tourists wake up before dawn to visit Tokyo's Tsukiji fish market, the biggest in the world.

Bleary-eyed visitors must remember to watch for speeding forklift trucks and keep their fingers off the tuna -- or risk getting booted out with an earful of local invective.

Breakfast in trendy Shibuya, gazing at its famous crowded crossroad and electronic screens, or among the leafy embassy rows of Azabu and Daikanyama are a short cab ride away.

Tokyo has changed almost beyond recognition since becoming Asia's first Olympic host city in 1964.

Customer service is second to none and locals will often go out of their way to walk dazed-looking foreigners to the correct platform at the city's heaving railway stations.

A world leader in fashion, science and hi-tech gadgetry, Japan's capital can still infuriate.

You can shop until you drop at designer boutiques in Aoyama or Ginza, but have trouble using your mobile to phone or text someone in Europe to check on their shoe size.

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