Category Archives: Inner & Older Tokyo

Wabist, Japanese gift shop

The Ebisu station along the Yamanote line is known as a beautiful illumination spot called Yebisu Garden Place in December. There is also a famous museum for Yebisu beer there. When you visit the place, there is a unique Japanese gift store you should check out.

Wabist is a shop that is a little off the beaten path featuring all items made in Japan at all different prices. As they introduce some products on its website, many items are made by skilled craftsmen.

A lot of fun items you don’t see everywhere. Great for gifts to send home or to friends/family. – Jennifer McCarthy, December 2016 

Gift Shop Wabist : https://wabist.com/ec/specialcontent?id=104
Hours: 1 0am – 7 pm on weekdays, 12 pm-6 pm on Saturday, closed on Sunday and Japanese Holidays
Directions: To Ebisu station, take Ome/Chuo Line to Shinjuku and then take Yamanote Line towards Shibuya, Shinagawa. Ebisu is 4 stops away from Shinjuku. From the east exit, it is around a 5 min walk.

Tokyo Tower, The Milky Way Illumination

IMG_8175If you are planning on visiting Tokyo Tower, I recommend going there during the summer. There are “Tanabata”(Star Festival) themed decorations called the “Milky Way Illumination” which represents “the night sky of summer where the Milky Way is visible”. The interior sky (ceiling) is filled with blue stars (lights) on the main observatory floor. My husband and I reached the main observatory right before the sunset. Since it was a weekday, there was no waiting time to get up to the main observatory floor and the floor was almost empty.

IMG_8163We decided to wait for the sunset at a small cafe on the main observatory floor. The cafe offers light meals and drinks such as sandwiches, fries, ice cream and drinks. The floor got busy as the sun went down. The view of the city turning its color was very pretty and the floor gradually turned blue, thanks to the stars.

IMG_8136After the sunset, the room was completely blue and the atmosphere was very romantic.  There is a DJ booth on the same floor and the performer differs by the day of the week. We missed it, but there is projection mapping on the second floor of the main observatory. The outside staircase to the main observatory is also decorated with blue lights, but we could not climb the stairs due to the weather.

IMG_8205If you are a fan of manga/anime called “ONE PIECE”, there is a themed park on 3rd, 4th and 5th floor of the building below the tower called “Foot Town”. Also, there will be a haunted house on the basement starting July 15 through September 4th (the dates may differ every year). Hours for the haunted house: 12pm to 9pm, Y800 for junior high school students and above and Y500 for 4 years old up to junior high school students). If those brave souls visit there, please let us know how it was. – Mai Takahashi, July 2016

Read more about the Tokyo Tower from previous posts  here.

Tokyo Tower The Milky Way Illumination 2016: June 1st to August 31st
Tokyo Tower Website
: https://www.tokyotower.co.jp/en.html
Tokyo ONE PIECE Tower: http://onepiecetower.tokyo/?lang=en
Hours: 9 am to 11 pm (last entry 10:30 pm)
Admission to the main observatory (150m high): Y900 for high school students and above, Y500 for junior high school and elementary school students, and Y400 for  children between 4 years old and before elementary school age.
Special observatory(250m): Y700 for adults, Y500 for junior high school students to elementary school students, Y400 for children between 4 years old and elementary school age.
Directions: In my opinion, the easiest way to get to Tokyo Tower from Fussa is take Ome/Chuo line to Shinjuku and transfer to Oedo line(subway) and then get off at Akabanebashi. From the Akabanebashi exit, you’ll see the tower in front of you. It’s about a 5-10 minute walk from the station.

Ninja Akasaka Restaurant

IMG_7154If you are looking for a unique Japanese restaurant to take your family, guests or friends, Ninja Akasaka will not disappoint you! It is a ninja-themed restaurant where you can enjoy delicious food in a ninja’s secret lair. The restaurant is located in the corner of Akasaka Tokyu Plaza where many boutiques and restaurants reside. When we arrived at the restaurant, most of the shops at the plaza were closed since it was past their normal business hours, but it seemed like it was a nicer place than a regular shopping mall. It might be hard to find the restaurant since the outside of the restaurant is all black, but it is perfect for a ninja’s secret base.

IMG_7153Your ninja experience starts from the entrance. I don’t want to ruin your experience by spoiling it too much, because I think you’ll enjoy this place more when you don’t know what will happen next. From the entrance, a ninja (waiter) took us to our hideout (table).  The inside of the hideout was dim and the ceiling was lowered in some-parts, just as I had always imagined a ninja’s place to be. The service from the ninjas was great. The ninja were well trained and they spoke very good English. Since it is more of a  fancy restaurant, the menu price is a little spendy. We went there with a group of ten people, so we had to order from the course menu.IMG_7138

There are several course options you can choose from; course menu price starts at Y4,500 and up. It does not include tax and drinks. I had the Y5,700 course with drinks; I think I spent about Y8,000. If you go with seven people or less, you can order from the regular menu. Although it was expensive dining, I was very satisfied with the food, service, and the “entertainment”.IMG_7149

The restaurant offers a kids menu and family friendly hours. Make sure to make a reservation since this place always seems busy. If you are going there for a special occasion (birthday, anniversary, etc), don’t forget to let them know because they might celebrate it in the ninja way. For more details and pictures, check out their website. I highly recommend this place especially when you have someone visiting because you can take them somewhere unique. – Mai Takahashi, June 2016

Website: http://www.ninjaakasaka.com/top_main.html
Phone: 03-5157-3936
Hours: Mon-Sat 5:30pm-2am, Sunday and Holidays 5pm-11pm
Directions: It is 3 min walk from Akasakamitsuke station on Ginza and Marunouchi line. To Akasakamitsuke station from Fussa, take Ome/Chuo line to Yotsuya and then transfer to Marunouchi line. It’s one stop away from Yotsuya station.

“The Dirty Dish”

In talking with friends, one told me of a place in Tokyo called The Dirty Dish.  It was supposedly a large Japanese dishware store.  I googled the name and found a few write ups on some blogs, one of which had a phone number I could use to look the place up on the map.  The google street view of the location matched one of the pictures on the blog entry, so I decided to go check the place out.  The actual Japanese name of the store is not known, but the gaijin name of The Dirty Dish stuck due to the warehouse style set up of the store.  It is located about a 90 minute drive or train ride from Yokota in the town of Kawasaki.  If you drive, there are two pay parking lots around the corner from the store that max out at 900 yen, so parking is reasonable.  If you take the train, google maps estimates about a 15-20 minute (1.2km) walk to th store from Musashi-Nakahara Station.  It definitely looks like a warehouse from the street.
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And inside there are racks and racks of dishes.  Cups, mugs, plates, bowls, tea pots, and etceteras of every shape, size, color, and pattern.  There isn’t just blue and white pattern.
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The day I went everything was 40% off the sticker price, but I’m not sure if this is an everyday discount or something that was happening on that day.  Irregardless of the discount, most items are very reasonably priced.  Cash only.  Katie Campbell, April 2016
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Phone: 044-488-4888
Hours: 0900-1700
Website:  http://www.okuno-co.jp/ (Can switch language to English)
Dierctions: GPS for the store:  35.572669, 139.637653
GPS for the two parking areas (across the street from each other):  35.572210, 139.637007

Yasukuni Shrine

IMG_4016Yasukuni shrine is a Shinto shrine in central Tokyo, close to the Imperial Palace,
that commemorates Japan’s war dead.  The purpose of this shrine is to enshrine those who have died in war for their country and sacrificed their lives for Japan.

A political controversy IMG_4013surrounds Yasukuni because since 1978, fourteen class A war criminals (including General Hideki Tojo from WWII ) are among the 2.5 million enshrined here.  Several Japanese prime ministers and cabinet members come here to pay their respects, which infuriates some from China and South Korea.  They believe it is a violation of the principle of separation of church and state. Each time I have been there, there have been Japanese news personnel watching to see if anyone noteworthy was paying their respects.

Next to the shrine stands the Yushukan, a fascinating museum thatIMG_4014 commemorates and documents Japan’s wars from a very pro Japanese point of view.   Let’s just say their take on WWII is VERY interesting.  If you are a history buff, or have a visitor that is, you should definitely check it out.

 

Around the shrine grounds there are hundreds of cherry trees, including Tokyo’s representative cherry tree that is used by the meteorological agency to pronounce the official opening of the season in Tokyo.  It is also widely considered one of Tokyo’s best cherry blossom viewing spots.

This shrine also has several very impressive Torii gates, and two huge stone lanterns ( Japan’s largest) built to honor the Army and Navy respectively.

There is a weekly Sunday flea market on the grounds, except during the blossom viewing in April. Merri Kever, July 2015

Yasukuni Shrine
Hours 6:00 to 18:00 from may to August, to 17:00 from November to February
No closing days
Free

Yushukan Museum
9:00 to 16:30 (admission until 16:00)
A few irregular closure days in late June and late December
Cost:  800 yen

DIRECTIONS:
Yasukuni shrine is a short walk from Kudanshita Station on the Hanzomon, Tozai, and Shinjuku Subway lines.

From Shinjuku station
Take the Shinjuku subway line directly from Shinjuku to Kudanshita Station.  It takes about 8 min

From Tokyo Station
Take the maranouchi subway line to Otemachi, then the Hanzomon Subway line to Kudanshita.  About 5 min total.

Shimokitazawa

IMG_4002Be prepared to get pleasantly surprised if you get a chance to visit this small
hipster neighborhood called Shimokitazawa.  This bustling area is full of cheap eateries, gadget shops, vintage clothing, retro furniture and a ton of performance venues.

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This area is a lot of small alleyways waiting to be explored, so take your time and enjoy.  It focuses on second hand stores with a lot of character.  I got 2 great skirts for 800 yen!

The train station divides the area in a northern and southern part, with the north having an edgy, but sophisticated urban touch to it.
Vintage stores, and coffee houses are  found in abundance.  If you see the Canadian flag hanging in an alleyway here, you may have some amazing poutine if that is something you like.

The southern exit  is where the going out scene takes place.  Live music venues, IMG_4004restaurants and bars, tattoo shops, as well as some gaming and arcade centers.

Shimokitazawa is only four minutes from Shibuya station on the Inokashira lines.  Or 7 minutes from shinjuku on the Odakyu line.  Merri Kever, July 2015

Winter Illuminations, Central Tokyo

Here’s a list of some of the top illumination displays in central Tokyo.  These are great places to visit during the dark winter months, and they’re all free.  Be prepared for some illuminations to end on Christmas Day; check Time Out Tokyo ( http://www.timeout.jp/en/tokyo) for specific illumination dates. I have listed the destinations in order of my preference, however, Sagamiko Pleasure Forest’s winter illumination is my most favorite illumination around Tokyo (2014-15).

Tokyo MidtownMidtown Tokyo:  (Roppongi Station, Hibiya Line – H04, exit 8). This mall has a nice light tour from the Plaza, along Higashi Street and through the Garden. It ends with an amazing finale at the Grass Square. The lights run from 17:00 – 23:00, between the middle of November to Christmas Day.

Nakameguro Canal Nakameguro: (Naka-meguro Station, Hibiya Line – H01, North exit). Cross the road, after you take the North exit, and follow the crowd north. These amazing canal lights give you the impression that the river runs through a beautiful blue cave. The lights are lit 17:00 – 21:00 from the end of November to Christmas Day, EXCEPT WEEKENDS!※The blue illumination relocated to Yoyogi park in 2016. The trees are illuminated in an orange-gold color in 2016 instead.
This illumination differs every year. Please make sure to check the info before you visit there!

-Yoyogi Park, Shibuya
The above blue cave has relocated to Yoyogi park in 2016. Please see the separate entry for more information.
Ao no doukutsu: http://yokotatravel.com/ao-no-doukutsu-yoyogi-park-illumination/

ShidomeShiodome: (Shiodome Station, Oedo Line – E19, or Shinbashi Station, connected to several lines). The Caretta mall runs an illumination show every 20 minutes. The GPS coordinates for the display are 35.6648195,139.7624616. Illumination is from 17:00 – 23:00 and begins mid-November to mid-January.

Roppongi HillsRoppongi Hills/Keyakizaka Street: (Roppongi Station, Hibiya Line – H04, exit 1C). This romantic illumination is located near Mori Tower, and in previous years, they have had a Christmas market that runs until 9 pm. The GPS coordinates for the Roppongi Hill lights are 35.6592006,139.7298473 and the trees are lit 17:00 – 23:00, from early November to Christmas Day.

The 4 locations, above, can be visited relatively ‘easily’ as most of them are on the Hibiya Line, but there is quite a bit of walking involved. I suggest seeing the lights at Nakameguro (H01) first, since these lights turn off the earliest and ending with Tokyo Midtown or Shidome. To get to Shiodome, take the Oedo Line to Shidome (E19) from Roppongi Sation (H04).

Tokyo Dome/La Qua: (Served by several lines and can be reached via Kasuga Station, Korakuen Station, exit 2 or Suidobashi Station, West exit). When we went to this display, it was not vast, like the illumination spots above. However, it was colorful and the frequent light shows were well choreographed to music. You may want to see the ‘fountains to music’ display at La Qua too. La Qua also has over 50 restaurants located on the Ground floor and 5th floor. You can see the lights between 17:00 – 01:00 from early November to mid-February.

Shinjuku: (Shinjuku Station also served by a number of lines including the JR Yamanote Line, South exit). There are displays all around Shinjuku Terrace City with a number of them located on Shinjuku’s Southern Terrace, south of JR Shinjuku Station. The lights are generally lit from 17:00 – 24:00 mid-November to mid-February. You can catch some Valentine’s Day lights here too.

Inside Omotesando stationBetween Meji-jingumae Station and Omotesando Station: (Meji-jingumae Station, Chiyoda Line – C3 or Fukutoshin Line F15, and Omotesando Station, Chiyoda Line – C4, Ginza Line – G2, or Hanzomon Line- Z2).  Meiji-jigumae Station is a 10 minute walk from Harajuku station which is on the JR Yamanote Line. Along this ritzy stretch of road, there are a lot of lighted Gingko trees. On the left as you go from Meiji-jingumae Station to Omotesando Station, you can take a quick look at the illumination displays on the rooftop in Tokyu Plaza, next to Starbucks, and then further down the road inside the Omotesando Hills Shopping Mall; where there is a 26 foot tall fake Christmas tree and a cute miniature German house scene. You can catch the lights between sunset and 21:00 from early December to early January.

Yebisu Garden Place: (Ebisu station, Hibiya Line – H02, and the JR Yamanote Line to name a few lines. exit 1 or East Exit). This is a 10-15 minute uphill walk from Ebisu Station, or if you can find it, the “Yebisu Skywalk” is easier. The GPS coordinates for this illumination display are 35.6426292,139.7137002. When we visited, the plaza had a red carpet lined with lit trees and a gigantic crystal chandelier at the end. This illumination is generally lit between 16:00 – midnight and runs November to mid-January.

Tokyo Tower: (Kamiyacho Station, Hibiya Line, exit 1 or Onarimon Station, Mita Line, exit A1 or Akabanebashi Station, Oedo Line – E21, Akabanebashi exit). Besides the tower itself, there are other lights at the base of the tower that are usually theme based. The year we went the lights ‘worshipped’ some anime creature that we didn’t know. It costs 900 yen to get to the main observation tower. For more information on Tokyo Tower, see this Yokota Travel entry http://yokotatravel.com/welcome-fellow-yokotans/tokyo-tower/. These lights are lit between 16:00-0:00 and run between early November to December 25.

Here are a few more illumination destinations that I have not visited, but are well-known illumination spots in central Tokyo. They are a little further from Yokota, but good spots to check out if you are staying at the New Sanno during the winter months.

Tokyo Station: (Tokyo Station is serviced by a number of lines. Use Yaesu exit and exit 4a/4b for Michi Terasse). Tokyo Station usually has a couple of attractions from 17:00-23:00 early December to early January. Tokyo Station’s, Yaesu, Grand Roof is lit with alternating colors. From 16:30-20:30. December 24-28/29 Tokyo Station’s Michi Terrace (or Tokyo Station’s façade) usually has an annual 3D holographic projection display.

–  Tokyo Skytree: (Oshiage Station is also serviced by a number of lines). The Solamachi Christmas Market and Christmas illuminations around Tokyo Skytree run from 10:00-22:00 early November to Christmas Day. The pathways connecting the tower, Tokyo Skytree and Oshiage Stations are lit from mid-December and you can usually see projection mapping shows as well.

Ginza District: (Ginza Station on the Hibiya, Marunouchi and Ginza Subway Lines and Yurakucho Station on the JR Yamanote Line, JR Keihin-Tohoku Line and Yurakucho Subway Line). The lights in Ginza are generally lit between 11:00-22:00 from mid-November to mid-February.

– Odaiba: (Daiba Station, Yurikamome Line). Odaiba has a large “Daiba Memorial Tree” lit from 17:00-01:00 in mid-November to mid-March. Other illumination points around Odaiba include “Odaiba Kaihin Park, in front of the of Decks shopping center, Venusfort and Diver City”, according to http://www.japan-guide.com/e/e2303.html.

Linda Bell, December 2014.

 

Ginko Trees in Fall, Tokyo University Hongō Campus

DSC03584Around the end of November to the beginning of December, brilliant, yellow ginkgo trees line the main entrance into Tokyo University’s Hongō Campus. It’s a grand sight, and the leaf-carpeted path leads you through interesting gothic buildings and archways. Most of the campus is open to the public and is stroller friendly, for the most part.

DSC03648From the main gate (Seimon), and part way down the University’s main pathway, a path on the left leads to a huge ginkgo tree. It’s a great place to relax and have a drink, or picnic if the weather’s fine. At the opposite end of the main gate is Yasuda Auditorium, a large, red brick building. Just south of the main gate, towards Hongo Sanchome Station, there is also an interesting red gate (Akamon, shown in the picture above) built in 1827, from the Edo period.

Tokyo University is considered to be one of the most prestigious universities in Japan, and the World. The institute’s symbol is the ginkgo leaf, as the trees are “known for their endurance and longevity” (japanvisitor.com). Here is a link to the map for Hongō Campus. It has the locations of restrooms, restaurants, convenience stores and the train stations. Hongo Campus Map. During the fall, we combined this outing with a trip to Koishikawa Korakuen Park. A 1.3-mile walk separates the two locations, or you can take a subway ride between the Iidabashi/Korakuren Stations and Hongo Sanchome Station. Linda Bell, October 2014.

DSC03612DIRECTIONS: The GPS coordinates to the Tokyo University Hongō Campus main gate (Seimon) on Hongo-dori Avenue, are 35.712926, 139.759457. The closest subway stations to the University’s main gate are Todaimae Station (Nanboku Line, N12) and two separate Hongo Sanchome Stations, one services the Marunouchi Line (M21) and the other the Toei Ōedo Line (E08). Take note of the train line your returning on so you go to the correct station.

If you exit Todaimae Station, turn left to head to the main gate, while at the M21 Station take the Hong-dori Avenue Exit, Exit 3. At the E-08 Station take Exit 4 and turn right for the main gate. All stations are approximately a 10-minute walk to the main entrance of the University. I believe all three stations are stroller friendly, according to the University’s Disability Services Office.

Nezu Shrine, Tsutsuji Matsuri

Schaaf_1192Schaaf_1247We went to the Nezu Shrine in Tokyo on April 23rd for the Azalea Festival (Tsutsuji Matsuri). The azaleas were beautiful and in full bloom. The festival occurs every year from mid-April though the beginning of June. Nezu Shrine boasts over 3000 azaleas of 100 different species. The festivities include food and a few merchant vendors lined up. The cost to get into the garden is ¥200 for an adult. There is no entry fee for children in elementary school and younger. The shrine is located in downtown Tokyo near Ueno Park. When you get off at the Nezu Subway Station, there are plenty of signs in English that point you in the right direction. It’s about a 5 minute walk from the station. During the festival, you should be able to just follow the crowd. The Shrine is open 9:00am to 5:30pm. The website is located at http://www.nedujinja.or.jp/tutuji/t.html, though you may need to use a translator. Christene Schaaf, April 2014

Yoyogi & Harajuku

yoyogi sarah strausHeading off to see Yoyogi Park and walk around the streets of Harajuku makes for a very satisfying day trip to Tokyo.  It is easy to get to this area by train from Yokota – requiring no transfer to the subway.  The trip offers a walk through beautiful park grounds and dense shopping streets; and showcases a nice harajuku sarah strausjuxtaposition between tradition and ultra-modern.  The Meiji Shrine is located in the huge Yoyogi Park.  According to Japan-Guide.com, the forest surrounding the Meiji shrine was planted when the shrine was constructed in 1920 and the trees were donated from all over Japan.  The Meiji Shrine is very impressive.  Try visiting on the weekend in the summer to catch a glimpse of a wedding procession.  Come late October through November to see kids dressed up for 3-5-7 day.  So beautiful.  Then, for s0mething totally different, head back to Harajuku Station and then across the street to Takeshita Street.  Come on the weekend to see teenagers dressed in anime and punk costumes.  Go shopping in the trendy boutiques and used clothing outlets.
sarah straus meiji shrineDIRECTIONS: Get on the train at Fussa or Akishima and head toward Tachikawa.  Transfer to a Shinjuku bound train on the Chuo line.  From Shinjuku, Harajuku is just 2 stops away on the JR Yamamoto Line heading harajuku sarah straustoward Shibuya.  Both the grand entrance to Yoyogi Park and the entrance to Harajuku shopping are located right outside Harajuku Train Station.  Also note: Harajuku station is just one stop away from Shibuya Station making it easy to add Shibuya to a day trip to Harajuku/Yoyogi park.  Enjoy!  -Sarah Straus, October 2013

 

Kappabashi Street – Kitchen Town Tokyo

kappabashi 1 sarah strausKappabashi Street in downtown Tokyo between Ueno Park and Asakusa is a great place to go if you are looking for dishes, kitchen utensils, pots and pans, or even restaurant supplies.  You can find things you might want… amazing pieces of pottery, dish sets, tea sets, cookware, aprons and red lanterns.  You can also find things you may not want… podiums for the front of a restaurant, display cases, full chef apparel, expensive shaved ice machines and neon signs.  Here several storefronts are dedicated to fake food – every kind of food you might eat in Japan.  There is a coffee roasters, selling coffee beans but unfortunately no cups of coffee.  There is also a store that sells a huge variety of coffee making machines.  This is such a fun place to browse.  With its covered sidewalks Kappabashi is a good outing even in the rain.  This would be a hard place to bring small children… the stores are bursting with all thing breakable and most of the stores are not stroller friendly – you have to squeeze through narrow isles to see everything.
kappabashi 2 sarah strausDIRECTIONS:  The start of Kappabashi street is located between subway stations Inaricho (G17) and Tawaramachi(G18) on the Ginza line.  The map below shows the length of Kappabashi.  It is also possible to walk here from either Ueno Park or Asakusa.  GPS coordinates for the south end of Kappabashi Street: 35.710489, 139.788224.   – Sarah Straus, July 2013

View Larger Map

kappabashi 4 sarah straus kappabashi 3 sarah straus

Inner, Older Tokyo

Sightseeing

Yushukan Museum at Yasukuni Shrine
This war museum is interesting and controversial as it attempts to justify Japan’s militarism and expansionist ambition across Asia in the years leading up to World War II. It will certainly help you understand Japan’s right-wing minority, which sometimes protests against the American military bases here. We will be expanding this entry. In the meantime here’s an explanation of the museum. Hours: 9-5:30 summer, 9-5 winter. Admission: ¥800 adults, ¥500 teens, ¥300 younger children. Address:  3-1-1 Kudankita, Chiyoda-ku , Tokyo 102-8246
Tel: 03-3261-0996. GPS: 35.6935, 139.7438

The Japanese Sword Museum
The Japanese Sword Museum offers a unique opportunity to see some of Japan’s ancient samurai swords and national treasures. The museum has over 120 swords and sword fittings on display, some dating back to the 10th century.  Following WWII, Japan’s post-war military laws prohibited ownership of weapons and many Japanese swords were confiscated and destroyed. It was during this period that the Japanese sword faced its greatest crisis— the art of sword making was forbidden—and many priceless ancient swords were in danger of being destroyed. Some of Japan’s most important swords were hidden or taken out of the country so they could be preserved. When Japan’s post-war laws were changed, many swords were removed from hiding and returned to Japan. American families donated some of the swords on display. All of the swords on display in the Japanese Sword Museum fall into one of three categories: important art objects, valuable cultural properties, or National Treasures. Admission is ¥500 for Adults; ¥300 for members and students; and children are free.

TRAIN DIRECTIONS: Take the Odakyu Line from Shinjuku Station to the second stop, Sangubashi Station. From there, the museum is a short 10-minute walk. Go left out of the station, up the hill and follow the sidewalk along the east side of the Shuto Expressway toward Shinjuku. After about 200 meters, you will see a street leading through a parking lot under the expressway. Turn left on this street under the underpass. Turn right just past the parking lot and follow the street as it winds left. The museum building is a short distance ahead on the left side of the street. Hours: 9am-4pm, closed Mondays and December 28-January 4. Telephone?   – Roger Eggert, date?

Transportation Museum
Originally a train museum, the Transportation Museum will delight train buffs! Visitors can see and feel everything from an early Emperor’s train to the modern “bullet” train, the Shinkansen. Climb in the engineer’s seat of an old steam locomotive, then sit in a wooden passenger car. Other original vehicles and modes of transport are also collected and exhibited at the museum. By viewing the collection of important documents and seeing original models from the history of railways, automobiles, ships and airplanes, you can observe the development of each vehicle and its importance to society. There are also special events commemorating the sea, the Day of Aviation, New Year’s Day, Children’s Day and summer holidays. Admission fees are ¥250 for adults and ¥150 for children 4 – 12 years. Groups of more than 25 receive a 20% discount.

TRAIN DIRECTIONS: The museum is very close to Ochanomizu station. The station is the second stop after Shinjuku on the Chuo Line. Go out the right side and walk along the right side of the tracks in the direction the train is heading. After three blocks, you will see old trains on your left which make up the outdoor part of the museum. Hours: 9:30 am – 5:00 pm daily, except Monday. Last admission 4:30 pm. Closed December 29 – January 3; if a legal holiday that falls on a Sunday gets celebrated the following Monday, the museum is also open on those days.   – Carol Ingmanson, Luann Myers, date?

Korakuen Amusement Park & Koishikawa Korakuen Park
This area in Tokyo’s Bunkyo Ward is famous as a sports and amusement center with a baseball stadium, the Tokyo Dome (or Big Egg), and Korakuen Amusement Park. Popular attractions are the variety of imported rides and live stage shows. Hours are 10:00 am – 9:00 pm and admission is ¥ l,400 for adults, ¥700 for kids. Admission, plus 10 attractions: adults, ¥3,200; kids, ¥2,500. The Tokyo Dome’s Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum is open 10am-5pm (adults ¥350, kids ¥150).

park by merri keverTo the west of the stadium and park, in stark contrast to the busy entertainment area, is the original Korakuen now called Koishikawa Korakuen, a landscaped garden built in the 17th century. Construction of the garden was begun in 1629 by Tokugawa Yorifusa, and continued by his son, Mitsukuni, until it was completed 30 years later. The Chinese scholar, Chu Shun-shui, helped design the garden and introduced a strong Chinese influence. Among the many scenic spots are the miniature copy of the dyke of Saiko in China; the Shiraito no Taki, a waterfall which resembles a screen of white threads; a small hill modeled after Loshan in Merri kever park photoChina; the Kuhachiya sake house, and the Tokujido Shrine, built in 1630. There are a number of bridges in the park, from replicas of the Togetsu-kyo and Tsukenkyo bridges in Kyoto to the very simple Yatsuhashi zigzag plank bridge and Sawatari steppingstone bridge. A very special bridge is the Engetsukyo, so called because a full moon is formed by the arch of the bridge and its reflection in the water.

The garden is open 9:00 am – 5:00 pm and has a ¥300 entrance fee. Maps show two walking routes. For detailed explanations, a bilingual booklet can be purchased for ¥300.  In the fall come to see the plum blossoms.  – photos by Merri Kever, March 2014

Koishikawa korakuen by merri keverTRAIN DIRECTIONS: Ride the Ome Line to Tachikawa, and change to the Chuo Line. Transfer at Yotsuya to the Sobu Line toward Ichigaya. Get off at Iidabashi Station, the second stop. Head left out the East Exit, then right over the multi-branching pedestrian bridge, following the signs in English. Once across the intersection and facing the station, walk left about 2 blocks, make a left and walk down past the JapanChina Friendship Institute and a hotel. The entrance to Koishikawa Korakuen is within the near corner of cement walls on the right.

To stroll around the Tokyo Dome and Egg City Plaza afterward, exit right out of the park, then turn right at the big street and Marunouchi subway Korakuen station. The amusement park will be on the left and the stadium on the right.  – Barbara Kirkwood, Teresa Negley, date?

Bonsai Museum
Opened in 1994, the Bonsai Museum is the first museum dedicated to bonsai. Exhibits change about every 10 days to reflect the best seasonal variations. The museum maintains a collection of over 300 bonsai; their signature piece is a 500-year old pine bonsai. The museum also houses a large collection of rare ukiyo-e (woodblock) prints, displays of antique pots from Japan and China, and a lovely open-air rooftop garden. Admission: ¥800 for adults and ¥500 for students. See Bonsai Town under the Arts & Crafts section for more bonsai information.

TRAIN DIRECTIONS: take the Ome/Chuo Line from Fussa Station to Shinjuku. You may have to transfer at Tachikawa to catch a Tokyo-bound train. At Shinjuku, change to the JR Soubu Line and go towards Tokyo. Exit at the Ichigaya Station (between Yotsuya and Idabashi). Go out Exit A2 and turn right on Nihon TV Street (walking uphill, away from the moat). Take the first left (a narrow road with no stoplight), and the museum will be on your right. You’ll see lion statues guarding the entrance. The museum is just a 1-minute walk from Ichigaya Station. Hours:10:00 am – 5:00 pm, closed Mondays (Tuesday, if Monday is a national holiday). Telephone: 03-3262-1640, – Kristen Marriott 11/01

Edo-Tokyo Metropolitan Museum
The Edo-Tokyo Metropolitan Museum is located behind the Kokugikan Sumo Stadium. Walk up the steps to a huge concrete plaza with a few ticket booths and then ride up the enclosed escalator. The museum is different from most in Tokyo because it also includes the eras during and after World War II. The theme is the transition from feudal Edo to modern Tokyo, starting with a stroll across the old Nihombashi Bridge at one end of the Ginza. After viewing scrolls and castletown exhibits, you can peek into the lives of average Edo residents, recreated in life-size models. You can also see a Kabuki stage up close before moving into the Meiji period. Remember to look under your feet at a glassed-covered exhibit. For a ¥3,000 deposit, radio headsets can be rented which narrate more or less the same descriptions provided in English near each exhibit (be sure to get a brochure of the museum in English). Spacious, dark, and air conditioned, the museum is a good place to go on a hot or rainy day. Admission is ¥500 for adults and ¥250 for students. If you’re hungry, there is a coffee shop with a skyline view of Tokyo on the top floor in the museum in addition to a Japanese style restaurant. Then on the ground floor where you exit the museum, there is another restaurant just next to the gift shop.

TRAIN DIRECTIONS: take the Ome/Chuo Line to Ochanomizu, cross the platform and take the yellow Sobu Line three stops to Ryogoku. Depart the station via the central exit and turn right. The large rounded concrete building in front of you is Kokugikan, the sumo stadium, and to the right is the museum. Hours: 10am – 6pm, closed Mondays. Telephone?  – Teresa K Negley, directions confirmed 05/02

Tokyo River Cruises

The fast-pace of Tokyo can often saturate the senses. For a gentler sightseeing option, tour Tokyo from the water. It’s a romantic view of this magnificent city, and you have several tours to choose from.

Sumida River Line
This is one of several “water bus” routes operated by  the Tokyo Cruise Ship Company. The boats leave the Azuma Bridge in Asakusa every 30-40 minutes, from 10am to sunset. They arrive at the Hinode Pier about 40 minutes later. Along the way you will pass under 12 bridges. Sights include: the green-roofed Kokugikan, the main sumo arena; Tsukiji’s Central Wholesale Market, a massive fish and vegetable center; and a fire station/boat house for emergency vessels. There is an optional stop at the Hamarikyu Detached Palace Garden, an intriguing patch of green that incorporates tidal flows. One way fare is ¥760 for adults and ¥380 for children. Admission to the gardens is ¥300. This cruise may also be reversed, beginning at Hinode Pier. You can rent a hand-held audio guide for ¥300. It’s the same recording that is played on the ship’s speakers, but you can hear it better.


View Sumida River Cruise in a larger map

Asakusa-Odaiba Line
The Tokyo Cruise Ship Company has another cruise from Asakusa. It offers views of wind surfers and other more historical landmarks around Tokyo Bay. The Himiko, a spaceship-like boat designed by a famous Japanese cartoonist, leaves at 10:10am, 1:20pm and 3:15pm. The destination, Odaiba Seaside Park, is described in tourist literature as  “a futuristic spot with cafes, refined restaurants, and amusement halls packed with advanced technologies.” Duration: 50 minutes. Cost: ¥1520 for adults, ¥910 for children.

TRAIN DIRECTIONS: to reach the Azuma Bridge, take the Ome Line to Tachikawa and transfer to the orange Chuo Line for Tokyo. Take this train all the way to Tokyo Station. Change to the Marunouchi Subway Line and go one stop to Ginza. There, change to the Ginza Line and go 10 stops, getting off at Asakusa. The Azuma Bridge is a one-minute walk from the Asakusa subway station.

To start at Hinode Pier, board the green Yamanote Line heading for Shimbashi and Shinagawa from Tokyo station. Travel three stops to Hamamatsu-cho Station, then walk 7 minutes to the pier. Access is also possible via a one-minute walk from Hinode Station of the Yurikamome Line out of Shimbashi. Telephone: Tokyo Cruise Ship Company at 0120 977 311. Email: info@suijobus.co.jp

Liz Ruskin updated prices, schedules and routes, August 2011; Photos by Kelly O’Donnell, March 2013 – see comment below.

Here are some other cruises we have listed. We need someone to research and update:

(Harbor Cruise Line)
There’s also a “Harbor Cruise Line,” a 50-minute ride passing underneath the Rainbow Bridge, both starting and ending at Hinode Pier; tickets are ¥800.

(Canal Cruise Line)
The “Canal Cruise Line” runs between Hinode Pier and the Shinagawa Aquarium via the Ohi Seaside Park. A one way ticket costs ¥800. The Shinagawa Aquarium, noted for its dolphin shows, is closed Tuesdays.

To see underwater life, take a boat from Hinode Pier to Kasai Sealife Park on the other side of the bay, near Disneyland and take the train back or vice versa. Running once an hour, the cruisers stop at Tokyo Big Sight (Ariake) on the way. One-way tickets are ¥800. Admission to the Tokyo Sea Life Park is ¥800 per adult, ¥300 per child. If going by train, get off at the Kasai Rinkai Koen Station on the Keiyo Line and head toward the large glass dome.

(Restaurant Boat)
For those looking for an evening cruise, the Tokyo Cruise Ship Company also offers a “Restaurant Boat” on certain nights during the summer. As dates and menu vary, it is wise to call and make reservations according to your desires. The cruise leaves Hinode Pier at 6:30 pm and lasts about 90 minutes; just long enough to see Tokyo Bay at night! The cost is about ¥7,200 for adults (¥4,700 for children under 12). Diane Cressman, Ann Bowers 08/97