Things to Do in Tokyo - page 3
Hanayashiki, opened in Tokyo in 1853, is Japan’s oldest amusement park. It was originally a flower park but developed over the decades to include the rides, shops, and cafés that appear there now. Among its many attractions are the oldest steel-track roller coaster in Japan, rideable robot pandas, a haunted house, and a 3D theater.
Located beside Tokyo Tower, Zojo-ji Temple is the main temple of the Jodo sect of Japanese Buddhism in the region. Founded in 1393 and relocated to its current site in 1598, Zojo-ji served as the primary temple of the Tokugawa family and as a training and meditation facility for Jodo monks. The temple as it exists today was built in 1974.
Visitors to Zojo-ji are greeted by Sangedatsumon (Main Gate), a majestic wooden gate towering 69 feet (21 meters) above the ground. Built in 1622, the gate is one of the temple’s few remaining structures from the Edo Period. Another of the temple’s notable relics is Daibonshi (Big Bell), a giant bell made in 1673 that measures nearly 6 feet (1.8 meters) in diameter and weighs 15 tons. Also of note are the collection of bodhisattva Jizo statues and a Himalayan cedar tree planted by President Ulysses S. Grant in 1879.
Located on the former site of the Ministry of Defense in Roppongi, Tokyo Midtown opened in 2007 as a multi-use entertainment district complete with apartments, office space, restaurants, shops, museums and park space. Tokyo Midtown comprises six different towers. The luxurious Ritz Carlton Tokyo occupies the top floors of Midtown Tower, while the Galleria building houses a four-floor shopping complex and the Suntory Museum of Art. The complex is also notably home to 21_21 Design Sight, a design gallery and workshop space created by architect Tadao Ando and designer Issey Miyake.
Tokyo Midtown also features two green spaces. Hinokicho Park, a former Edo-era private garden, is now a Japanese-style garden open to the public. Neighboring Midtown Garden is a popular picnicking spot, especially in late March and early April when its cherry blossoms are in bloom.
The best way to find Yurakucho Yakitori Alley is to follow the grill smoke. Tucked away under the train tracks of the JR Yamanote Line, this alley is a place for an open-air dining experience, complete with master yakitori chefs who man small, individual stalls and serve up grilled meats, vegetables and beer. Adventurous eaters can take advantage of menu items that make use of entire animals, with specialties consisting of chicken liver, heart and intestines. The outdoor venue is well known among local businessmen but is a hidden off-the-beaten-path gem for tourists.
Yakitori Alley stretches for nearly half a mile under the train tracks (about 700 meters). The rustic area has seen development in recent years, and with this, more traditional, enclosed restaurants have also opened up alongside the open-air food stalls. The old, gritty atmosphere persists, however. One of the best ways to experience Yakitori Alley is with a group, so you can try as many of the food stalls as possible.
Engaku-ji, one of the most important Zen Buddhist temples in Japan, is considered by some to be an almost-perfect example of Chinese-inspired Zen architecture. It was founded in 1282 by a Chinese monk and is now classified as a Japanese National Treasure. Located in Kamakura, it’s a convenient place to visit on a day trip from Tokyo.
Yanaka is one of Tokyo's most charming and traditional districts. The neighborhood is dotted with some 70 temples, which were moved to the area during the Edo era to spare them from frequent fires in the city's more populated parts. Today, the street is home to Yanaka Ginza, a bustling shopping street that runs through its center and that is lined with many of the same butcher shops and produce vendors who operated there decades ago.
Stroll through the neighborhood's backstreets to visit galleries, cafes and craft workshops featuring Japanese pottery, ink prints, textiles, jewelry, and stationery. Tranquil paths wind through the vast Yanaka Cemetery, where sakura trees shade some 7,000 graves, making it a popular spot for a quiet walk and a great location to view cherry blossoms in spring.
The regal Mount Nesugata (Nesugatayama) sits—or lies, some would say—on the Izu Peninsula, a popular vacation spot southwest of Tokyo. Take the ropeway up to the observatory on a clear, sunny day, and savor the sweeping views.
Tokyo’s Yasukuni Shrine (Yasukuni Jinja) was built in 1869 to commemorate Japan’s war dead, and nearly 2.5 million people are currently enshrined there. Among those whose names are listed on the shrine are soldiers, students, relief workers, wartime medics, and, controversially, 14 class-A war criminals, including Hideki Tojo, army general and Japanese prime minister during World War II.
Although Shinjuku’s Hanazono Shrine Hanazono Jinja) looks like an unassuming place, it’s a historically important site and hosts a variety of colorful weekly and seasonal events. It contrasts with the bright lights and skyscrapers of other parts of Shinjuku, and provides a great escape from the frenzy of the central city.
Tokyo’s National Museum of Nature and Science houses an impressive collection of hands-on science and natural history exhibits spread throughout the spacious, multistory complex. The museum collections are separated into two main areas, the Japan Gallery and the Global Gallery.
The Japan Gallery covers the natural history and biological diversity of the Japanese archipelago, including a pavilion dedicated to the archeological and cultural history of the Japanese people. Here you can learn about how the first humans made their way to Japan, cultural practices of Japan’s earliest tribes and rice cultivation in Japan and how it has changes the environment of the nation.
In the Global Gallery, you’ll find a large collection of mounted birds and animals representing the diversity of Earth’s many environments, a physics gallery filled with hands-on puzzles and games, a look at dinosaurs and their extinction and three large-scale video presentation areas. Don’t leave without visiting Theater 360, a spherical movie theater with 360-degree projections with a viewing bridge through the center. Special exhibitions rotate through the museum every few months.
More Things to Do in Tokyo
In the Shinjuku district of the Japanese capital, the Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building—more commonly known as Tocho—is one of the most distinctive buildings on the Tokyo skyline. It’s made up of three structures, each of which take up an entire city block
Opened in 1940, the incredible Nezu Museum is located in the heart of Tokyo is home to an impressive collection of Japanese, Chinese and Korean art. Hundreds of antiques line the gallery halls—a sample of the even more expansive collection, which is combed through for monthly shifts in public art displays.
In addition to the rich artistic history of these Asian artifacts, travelers can explore the stone paths of the well-manicured grounds outside the galleries, where teahouses, sculptures and a glass-walled café designed by Kuma Kengo round out the museum experience.
Tokyo’s National Museum of Emerging Science and Innovation (Miraikan for short) is a fun spot dedicated to technology and the way it affects our lives. Visit this family-friendly attraction to see robot demonstrations, enjoy interactive exhibits, watch films projected on a domed screen, and participate in talks with scientists.
Kagurazaka is a neighborhood of Tokyo that offers modern shopping and but also a traditional style. It has an older feel than much of Tokyo, with cobblestone streets and original Edo-era (1603–1868) and Meiji-era (1868–1912) buildings still standing. It’s a trendy area, and a good place to shop or just sit quietly and people-watch.
Go on an adventure with Tuffy, Nami, and the rest of the One Piece crew at Tokyo One Piece Tower, the only large-scale One Piece theme park in the world. Located inside iconic Tokyo Tower, the indoor theme park features live performances, life-size figures, and a range of attractions themed around this popular Japanese anime and manga series.
LEGOLAND® Discovery Center is an indoor amusement park located in Tokyo’s waterfront Odaiba district. The center houses more than three million LEGO® bricks, as well as attractions including a Miniland Tokyo—a dioramic cityscape filled with mini reconstructions of some of Tokyo’s most famous landmarks—a 4-D cinema, and themed rides.
Japanese and international foodies alike love Tsukishima Monja Street (actually a collection of streets), located on the artificially made Tsukishima Island. Diners usually buy monjayaki as raw batter, then grill it themselves at specially designed tables. Here, dozens of shops sell monjayaki, savory fried pancakes made with cabbage and a variety of other meat or seafood toppings. Other Japanese favorites including yakisoba (fried noodles) can be be enjoyed here as well.
Soaking in a hot spring bath, or onsen, is a popular pastime in Japan, and Oedo Onsen Monogatari is a whole theme park dedicated to onsen. Modeled on Edo-period Tokyo (17th–19th centuries), with old-style architecture and games, the park offers amenities like gift shops and eateries as well as baths and saunas.
Kitanomaru Park (Kitanomaru Koen) was once the residence of the Tokugawa clan (rulers of Japan between the 17th and 19th centuries) and was part of the grounds of Edo Castle, which burned down in 1873. The park, which opened to the public in 1969, is home to natural woodland as well as a number of museums and galleries.
Tokyo Camii is located right in the heart of Tokyo in the Oyama-cho district of Shibuya. It’s the largest mosque in the city and is adjoined with the Turkish Culture Center, which provides an introduction to Islam and an insight into Turkish culture.
The mosque was originally built in 1938, but in 1986 it was demolished due to structural damage. Construction on a new building began in 1998 using marble shipped in from Turkey, and the new mosque was finally complete in 2000. It’s a huge Ottoman-style construct covering an area of more than 700 square-meters, with its main dome – supported by six pillars – reaching 23 meters tall.
The Turkish Culture Center serves to educate visitors about the mosque, as well as Islamic teachings and rituals. Here, books and pamphlets about Islam and Tokyo Camii are sold alongside souvenirs such as Turkish tiles.
The Chidorigafuchi Moat runs along the outside of the Imperial Palace in Tokyo. It’s always a pretty place for a stroll or a paddleboat ride, but it comes alive during sakura, or cherry blossom, season. The moat is one of the best places in Tokyo to see the pretty pink flowers so famous across Japan and the world.
Like much of the Roppongi neighborhood, the National Art Center Tokyo (NACT) is sleek and innovative. The museum, designed by Kisho Kurokawa was designed to look like a melting iceberg with waving blue glass walls.
This center is unique among Tokyo art museums in that, instead of maintaining a permanent collection, it is a revolving door venue for art exhibitions from around the world. It has the largest exhibition space of any museum in Japan and can hold up to ten exhibitions at a time although it's usually not completely full.
While some of the shows require admission there are usually a few free exhibitions at any given time. The building itself is worth exploring for its sleek architecture, public spaces and restaurants perched high on wooden pedestals. Check their website for a rundown of what's currently showing.
Toshogu Shrine (Nikko Toshogu) was built in 1617 to honor Tokugawa Ieyasu, founder of the dynasty that ruled Japan for more than 250 years. It's one of Japan’s finest and best-preserved Shinto shrines, surrounded by a Japanese cypress forest in the popular but still peaceful town of Nikko.
Akasaka Palace—the only neobaroque building in Japan—was built in 1909 as the residence of the Crown Prince of Japan, but in 1975 was turned into the State Guest House. As a result, many very important international guests have stayed here and continue to do so. The central Tokyo palace is open to visitors when dignitaries aren’t in town.
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