THE bright city lights of Tokyo continue to outshine those of other Japanese cities when it comes to visitors from Hong Kong, according to statistics from the Japan National Tourist Organisation (JNTO). ''The capital has so many places of interest,'' said Hideki Ishibashi, deputy director of the JNTO in Hong Kong. ''The Meiji Shrine, Asakusa-Kannon Temple, Tokyo Tower and Tokyo Disneyland are all popular sight-seeing spots.'' Spring is a good time to visit, especially if it is in time to see the famous sakura, or cherry blossoms. Sites worth visiting on a day-trip from the capital include Kamakura, with its temples and giant bronze Buddha image, Nikko, with its opulent Toshogu Shrine set in a forest, and Mount Fuji, the symbol of the country. Once the sights have been seen there is nothing Hong Kong tourists like more than to shop. Some of the top shopping areas are in Akihabara, Shinjuku, and Ikebukuro. ''There are so many duty-free shops selling electronic goods in Akihabara, including the biggest one in the country. The variety of products on offer is amazing,'' Mr Ishibashi said. Ikebukuro is also home to many foreigners, so there is a wide range of cuisine available at its restaurants. For those who cannot face another piece of raw fish, this is the place to go, with Chinese, Korean and Thai food among that available. For those with an open cheque book who want to buy Japanese fashion, Mr Ishibashi recommended Shinjuku, Shibuya and Ginza. Visitors on a limited budget might prefer going during the winter and summer sales, he said. Price has always been a factor when considering a trip to Japan, but Mr Ishibashi said it should not be the only one. ''The strong yen has affected the number of visitors from the territory this year, which is down on last year,'' he said. In an effort to overcome the problems visitors faced with the strong yen, Mr Ishibashi said schemes aimed at publicising reasonably priced accommodation were being introduced. ''There is the Welcome Inn programme, which features more than 300 ryokan [traditional Japanese inns] all over the country. Under the scheme, at least one member of the staff at an inn must be able to speak some English, and a stay should cost less than $600 per night for a twin room. The cheapest cost about $300,'' he said. Due out early next year is a booklet on how to eat, travel and stay cheaply in Tokyo. Last year, 178,000 people from the territory visited Japan. Theme parks figure highly in the places visited by tourists from the territory, with Tokyo Disneyland leading the pack. Space World, which features rockets and other extraterrestrial paraphernalia, in Fukuoka, and Nagasaki's Holland Village are also popular. ''Many visitors fly direct from Hong Kong as there are flights to Fukuoka and Kagoshima, both on Kyushu island,'' said Mr Ishibashi. He said he expected Kyushu to become a more popular destination, as people here learned about its attractions - natural and man-made - and because of its proximity to Hong Kong. And it was a trend he would welcome. ''Hong Kong visitors seem to prefer the big cities, such as Tokyo or Osaka,'' said Mr Ishibashi. ''But I would recommend that they get to see other parts of the country.'' To this end, the Japanese Ministry of Transport has designated 36 regions as ''new sites of discovery'', and has developed a programme to make these areas more accessible. The places were previously little known, but have great natural or cultural attractions. Anyone considering going further afield might consider Hokkaido. The island is perhaps best known for its ski resorts and the Sapporo Snow Festival, held in early February. ''For Hong Kong people wanting to get their first experience of snow, this is the place to go,'' said Mr Ishibashi. In Sapporo, the two-kilometre-long Odori Park in the centre of town becomes the site of the Snow Festival, which features buildings and statues carved in ice. ''Ski tours are also popular with people from Hong Kong, especially in Hokkaido and Nagano, where the 1998 Winter Olympics will be held, on Honshu.'' And after a hard day on the pistes, there is nothing more relaxing than a hot Japanese bath or, in many places, a hot spring. Hokkaido has more than 200 spas, some open-air, such as those in Shiretoku and by Lake Kussharo. But it has attractions that are worth the trip the rest of the year.