Tokyo Things to Do Tips by Bunsch Top 5 Page for this destination
Tokyo Things to Do: 1,442 reviews and 2,824 photos
Yummy! (not my pic)
On a warm day, my daughter-in-law and I decided to try the Golden Spoon, a chain with several stores in Tokyo. We enjoyed our little cups of frozen yogurt. It was obvious from looking at the add-ins and cone varieties that you could easily walk out with a $10.00 treat! On the other hand, they handed us a "frequent buyer" card with our purchase. Some variant of this is pretty typical in Japan. Jay's building, for example, has an affinity card which accumulates points for any purchase at a Tokyo Midtown store or restaurant. I'm not sure exactly how one redeems these, but there's a sense in which that cup of coffee contributes to forward progress, somehow.
Update in September 2014: I am informed that the Golden Spoon has closed.
Address: 7-8-11 Roppongi, Minato-ku, Tokyo
Directions: Directly across from Tokyo Midtown
Banners leading to the Myogon Temple Hattou
If you're in Akasaka or Aoyama, you should make a point to visit the Toyokawa Inari temple complex. It is an unexpected treat! As the explanatory brochure informs us, "Toyokawa Inari is the alias of a fox-riding god, Toyokawa Dakinishinten, known as the Genius of Myogon Temple. This is one of the three major Japanese Inari gods, including the Fushimi Inari Shrine in Kyoto. The legend began in 1441..." Thus, the place is chock-a-block full of statues of foxes or "kitsune" (many wearing little red aprons, called "yodarekake," put on by worshippers out of respect) and flags. Apparently there are more than a thousand banners lining the pathways. As with most Japanese temples and shrines, you can purchase various sorts of charms and talismans.
Admission hours to the Temple Treasure House are 9:00 AM - 4:00 PM.
Address: 1-4-7 Moto-Akasaka, Minato-ku, Tokyo
Directions: Walk down Aoyama dori, past the Imperial Palace
The St. Alban's Choir
St. Alban's Church is the only English-language Anglican/Episcopal congregation in the Tokyo metropolitan area. It is located right next door to St. Andrew's Cathedral, so if you want to stop in and listen to the Japanese service, it is easy to do so. The congregation is multi-national, with ex-patriot Americans, English, Kiwis, Germans, Dutch, and Danes (that I actually spoke to -- of course I couldn't tell everybody's home country on sight), and many Japanese members as well. They're a friendly group.
Services are held at 8:30 and 10:30. As is the case in many US churches, the second service features choral music. St. Alban's has an excellent choir and music director, so the experience is a very pleasant one for those who enjoy hymns and anthems in the Anglican tradition. The parish has a tradition of asking guests to introduce themselves, so be prepared! Babysitting and Sunday School are provided during the service. There is a coffee hour afterwards.
Address: 3-6-25, Shiba-Koen Minato-ku, Tokyo 105-0011 JAPAN
Directions: Between Roppongi and Tokyo Tower, close to Kamiyachi Station (Hibiya line)
The garden looks like a galaxy! (website photo)
During the holiday season (approximately November 10 through December 26), Tokyo Midtown and its surroundings are extravagantly decorated and lit up with millions of individual lights and colored spotlights. It's definitely worth a walk around the premises and, if possible, a trip up in the tower so that you can see the incredible park display from a height. Children will be captivated by the immense tree entirely composed of Santa Claus figures.
Address: Tokyo Midtown, Akasaka
Directions: Roppongi Station
The paper sakura
During the build-up to the actual blooming of the cherry trees, the weather was a little quixotic and there were dire predictions that the blossoms would be affected. I'm sure that wasn't what prompted a group of young people to pull together a marvelous installation of paper sakura in the park adjacent to Tokyo Midtown -- and of course I can't be sure that this wasn't simply a one-off exhibition. But I hope it's something that happens annually. It was great fun to watch them positioning each of the paper blossoms exactly correctly to create a vast carpet of blooms in pastel shades of pink, yellow and lilac.
Address: Hinokicho Park
The lights and people of Shinjuku
Shinjuku (sometimes called Tokyo's Times Square) is a lot of fun to stroll around with the streets full of people. We jay-walked to get over to Citibank, and I was surprised; I hadn't seen anyone so much as cross against a light since I arrived. ("It's okay here," Jay assured me. "But don't try it anywhere else.") The lights and energy were amazing and some of the people we passed were surpassing strange. After a bit we reached Takashimaya. Sky bridges cross the Yamamote Japan rail line there, and the whole is quite strikingly beautiful. But the winds caught us as we hit the plaza, and it was unsettling to be on that sky bridge over the rail lines under those conditions. When we went down to the Oeno line (the deepest in the city), there were signs saying that certain surface routes were partially closed because of high winds. It reminded me of the cable car to Table Mountain, which stops running rather frequently because of the winds there.
Directions: JR / Tokyo Metro / Toei Subway SHINJUKU
The spring at Hinokicho Park
If you happen to be in the vicinity of Tokyo Midtown, take a deep breath and enjoy a stroll around beautiful Hinokicho Park, a Japanese style garden. It is located on the former site of a feudal lord's villa immediately adjacent to the Midtown Garden -- a venue for concerts as well as the site of what looked like large sculptures but turned out to be children's playground equipment! On a nice day, the place is filled with mothers and children (or ladies pushing DOGS in strollers, which kind of surprised me).
Directions: Adjacent to Tokyo Midtown
Getting ready to enjoy a day of blossom-viewing
When I was a child, we visited Washington DC almost every spring, so as to see the wondrous sight of the cherry trees in full bloom around the Tidal Basin. We thought there were a lot of cherry trees in DC. (Well, there are.) But compared to the number of cherry trees in Japan, and the impact of their blooming on the populace, we had nothing to boast about. Cherry blossoms are serious business throughout the country. If you happen to be in a modern building which streams video into your elevators, providing stock quotes and weather forecasts, you are also going to see a prediction about how the blossoms are doing. A chill in the air as the buds swell is cause for consternation. But eventually the forecasters announce that the trees are 80% or more in bloom, and suddenly what seems to be the entire population goes a tiny bit bonkers. Hanami, the art of viewing cherry blossoms, can take place anywhere there are cherry trees, but in fact people tend to flock to some of the larger parks. Recommended carry-ins include a tarpaulin or blanket on which to sit, something to eat, and (especially) something alcoholic to drink.
Directions: In parks throughout Tokyo. Special good vantage points are Yoyogi, around the Ark Mori Building, Meguro River, and Shinjuku Gyoen. Only the last charges an admission fee.
The main portion of the shrine
Since we were in Harajuku for Hanami at Yoyogi, we stopped at the Togo Shrine, which is a kind of bookend to the Nogi Shrine. Admiral Togo annihilated the Russian fleet in 1904-1905. Not surprisingly, his shrine is entered by crossing water -- in this case a huge koi pond, shadowed by more of the ubiquitous cherry trees. It was the first place where I'd seen a charm for boating safety!
A bookshop and a small museum are located on the grounds of the shrine.
Directions: The shrine is located near the intersection of Takeshita Street and Meiji Avenue, and is accessible from Harajuku Station.
A little girl plays while her sibling is dedicated
On the day of our visit, Meiji-Jingu was bustling with numerous weddings (one at the processional stage, others posing for photographs). Mishu told me that the obviously heavy wedding headdresses worn by the brides were designed to hide their horns; apparently the belief is that all women have fox spirits, and during the wedding ceremony could reveal this side of their nature unless it were suppressed by the heavy headgear. We had encountered many people on the walk up to the shrine who were clearly heading for weddings, to judge from their dress and demeanor; the men all wear white ties, and the women's hairstyles and footwear indicated that they were preparing for nuptials. We also noticed the "shrine maidens" who have much in common with vestal virgins; they are young girls in service to the shrine. Some of them, who couldn't have been much older than twelve, were accompanying the bridal processions, wearing bright orange hakama (the wide-legged trousers typically worn by tradesmen).
There were also parents preparing to dedicate their infants. The mothers wear traditional kimono and tabe and the babies are also dressed formally, but the fathers we saw were in business suits.
Address: Yoyogi Kamizono-cho, Shibuya-ku
Directions: JR HARAJUKU / Tokyo Metro JINGU-MAE
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