Tokyo Things to Do Tips by IreneMcKay
Tokyo Things to Do: 1,370 reviews and 2,519 photos
At the park in Komagone
For an unusual trip in Tokyo, take the train to Sugamo Station and go to Jizo dori. This street is known as Harajuku for old ladies. While Harajuku is a trendy young people's shopping area with all the latest in fashion, Jizo dori sells everything the elderly could ever want, including shop after shop of rather large bright red thermal underwear. Red is thought to have heat inducing properties.
There is also an interesting temple in this area - Kogan-ji Temple. The temple has a statue outside it. Legend states that if you're afflicted with pain on part of your body and wash the corresponding part of the statue,s body the pain will disappear. You'll see a long line of people next to the statue waiting to do just this.
Keep wandering down Jizo dori and you will eventually come to one of the stations on the Toden Arkawa Line - Tokyo's last remaining tramway. We took a ride to the last stop just for the fun of travelling on it.
Back on the underground Sugamo is one train stop away from Komagome which has a beautiful garden called Rikugien Park. The park has a beautiful central lake. Apparently there are famous scenes from Japanese poems set out in miiature around the gardens. Beautiful.
Address: 6 Hon-Komagome, Bunkyo-ku
Directions: JR KOMAGOME
At Nezu Temple
Another itinery which can easily occupy a whole day is a trip to Ueno Park and the nearby old Tokyo areas of Yanaka, Nippori and Nezu.
To reach Ueno Park take the train to Ueno Station.
Ueno Park contains Ueno Zoo which I have never visited, but I do know it has pandas. It also has Tosho-gu Shrine which is a life-sized replica of the main temple shrine of Nikko. On our first visit there a Noh play was being staged in the grounds. Free-entry and worth a look.
The park also contains several water-lily covered ponds - Shinobazu Ponds and this area has a small temple to the goddess Benten - goddess of good fortune.
At the top of the hill not far from the Ueno Station entrance to the park there is a statue of a mighty samurai warrior taking his little dog for a walk.
Near Ueno Station before you enter the park you will also find a wonderful street market selling everything and anything, including lots of colourful food stalls.
There are several museums including the Tokyo National Museum in this area.
If you exit the far end of the park, near the Tokyo National Museum, you can walk to the Yanaka, Nippori district. This area is the one of the few areas of Tokyo which survived the bombings of World War II. Wander aimlessly down winding lanes with traditional wooden houses and beautiful little temples set in idyllic Japanese Gardens. Or take a stroll through Yanaka Cemetery.
Nearby Nezu has a beautiful 300 year old shrine with a fantastic azalea gardens and pathways lined with bright red tori. The azaleas are at their peak around April/May
Directions: JR NIPPORI / Tokyo Metro SENDAGI
A visit to Tokyo for me would not be complete without pursuing the following itinery. Because we tend to be based in Asakusa we take the Ginza line all the way to the other end alighting at Shibuya Station.
We take a quick look at the Hachiko statue. Hachiko was a Japanese Akita dog. He was owned by a Professor Ueno who worked at Tokyo University. Every day Hachiko walked to the railway station with his master as he set off to work. Then he sat and waited for him to return to walk him home. When Professor Ueno died unexpectedly, Hachiko continued to wait for him every day for the next 9 years. (This story was recently Americanized and turned into a movie starring Richard Gere). The statue is now a popular meeting point for young people in Shibuya.
As well as taking a look at Hachiko, while visiting Shibuya it is worth having a look at Love Hotel Hill. Go to the crossroads past the Hachiko staue and wander off up the hill to your left. This area is filled with love hotels, which rent rooms by the hour to amorous couples. The interesting thing is that many of the buildings are built in colourful and over-the-top ways, for example, with bright purple and pink outer walls, or made to look like mediaeval castles etc.
Shibuya is a shopping area and while I'm not big on shopping, I do love to have a wander round the Tokyu Hands Department Store. This sells everything weird and wonderful including clocks that tick backwards. On my last visit I was fascinated by some little models of a rock group which play instruments and dance to whatever music is played to them. I could have watched them for hours but would have needed to take out a mortgage to buy them.
From Shibuya we then take a stroll up to Yoyogi Park. It's much quicker to reach Yoyogi Park from Harajuku Station if you want to go direct. Yoyogi Park was once the site of the American base and was nicknamed Washington Heights at that time. After the Americans left, it became the site of the 1964 Tokyo Olympics. Then it became a park. At one time it was a popular venue for youth sub-cultures such as the dancing teddyboys, but the police began to move them on, so there are no longer as many.
I strongly recommend a visit to this park at the weekend, especially a Sunday, when the park is filled with people out for a stroll, or picnicing under the trees, or sword fencing, or practising other sports. Not to mention, a group of friends that meet up there to provide impromptu drumming concerts and throngs of youngsters who set up mics and electric guitars and perform near the park's main entrance.
This park is also filled with stunningly beautiful cherry blossom in spring.
Between the entrance to Yoyogi Park and Harajuku Station there is a little bridge which on Sundays becomes a popular spot for Cos-play. Cos play is some weird Japanese thing which results in young Japanese school girls dressing up bizarrely as anything from French maids to Pokemon characters and posing for photos with passers-by. Fascinating, but strange.
Richt next door to this is the Meiji Shrine which could not be more different. It is a beautiful Shinto shrine set in acres of green woodland( it also has a famous iris garden). At weekends it is a popular venue for traditional Shinto weddings or child blessings. Certain numbers are considered unlucky in Japan. A child going through an unlucky number year must be blessed by a Shinto priest to cancel the bad luck.
A wonderful place to take photographs of people in traditional clothes and watch traditional ceremonies.
Address: Jingu Mae, Shibuya-ku
Directions: Tokyo Metro OMOTE-SANDO / JINGU-MAE
When we are in Tokyo, I always like to stay in Asakusa. It is a bit different from other Tokyo districts. It feels more spacious as streets are wider and buildings are shorter. It is at the end of two underground lines so it is not a bad base for travelling around to other districts.
In the past Asakusa was the naughty red-light area of Tokyo, famous for strip clubs and brothels. This is no longer the case. Nowadays in addition to just aimlessly wandering through the streets looking at a variety of shops which still follow traditional crafts (e.g.shoe-making, drum making, plastic-food model making), and passing an assortment of brightly lit restaurants, people come to Asakusa to see its famous temple.
Senso-ji Temple, also called Asakusa Kannon Temple, is the beating heart of Asakusa. Its origins date back a thousand years or so to an incident in which three fishermen are said to have netted a golden statue of the goddess Kannon,the goddess of mercy, and decided to build a shrine to her.
Enter the temple through its massive Thunder Gate and wander along a heaving, stall-lined lane to the main temple building. The stalls here sell all sorts of traditional clothes, snacks, souvenirs and more.
In front of the main temple building there is an enormous cauldron wafting the scent of incense into the air.
Take a peek at the tiny statue of Kannon. Then wander through the temple grounds which contain a five story pagoda and a variety of small Buddhist shrines and traditional gardens.
In Shinjuku Gardens
Tokyo has some of the most beautiful parks and gardens I have ever seen, but Shinjuku Imperial Garden is hard to beat.
I have been there in spring on a freezing cold day when we strolled passed the lakes with cherry blossom petals raining down on our heads. It was also stunning in April with its stunning azalea bushes.
The park also has a series of hothouses perfect on a freezing cold winter or spring day.
Address: 11 Naito-cho, Shinjuku-ku
Directions: Tokyo Metro SHINJUKU-GYOENMAE(M10), JR SHINJUKU, JR SENDAGAYA
Eat a Sumo Meal at this restaurant
We also enjoyed a trip to Ryogoku to visit the sumo arena. The sumo arena has interesting wall paintings of sumo wrestlers outside it. Inside you will find a small, free sumo museum. The best bit about this area though is as you stroll around the streets kimono clad sumo wrestlers will walk or cycle past you on their way to and from the arena. You will also see restaurants selling huge protein filled meals (chanko nabe) for maintaining the sumo wrestlers strength and physique.
The Tokyo Edo Museum is very nearby. It is supposed to be very good, but we did not visit.
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