Hanayashiki Amusement Park


Hanayashiki Amusement Park
Photo by: Harry Vale, Creative Commons

If you are looking for a change from the regular sights of Tokyo and want to take a fun break, Hanayashiki Amusement Park is the place for you. It is, believe it or not, more than 150 years old! Originally a garden or as they call it a “flower park” back in 1853, at the tail end of the Edo era, it evolved into a major amusement park in the late nineteenth century.

Zoo

A wide variety of play equipment was purchased and installed in the park. It was also made into a zoo with several exotic animals and birds and is the birthplace of the first documented tiger quintuplets in the world. It also has the distinction of having the first Japanese lion being born there in 1931.

Attractions

You will enjoy the ride on the mini train and splashing about in the mini pool. Or if you would rather just lie around and watch TV or a movie, they have ‘picture-story shows’ to keep you entertained while you relax. You can also step into the Surprizing House, which has been ‘surprising’ thousands of visitors since 1949.

In addition to the 20 different amusement attractions, the Park has several lunchrooms so you don’t have to worry about food while you are there. Also, if you are in the mood for some shopping, the Park has several shops selling souvenirs and exclusive park items that you can take back home with you.

Access

You can easily reach the Hanayashiki Amusement Park from the Anasuka Station, which is just about a 5 minute walk. Admission and ride tickets are sold at the counter. Children under 4 years are admitted free of charge.

Whether you are in Tokyo to experience its culture or just for sightseeing, it wouldn’t be a complete experience unless you throw in a visit to this oldest, but very modern, amusement park in Japan.


Tokyo Famous Landmarks

December 8, 2012 at 3:34 pm | No comment

Ghibli Museum


Entrance into the Ghibli Museum
Photo by: 氷鷺, Creative Commons

The Ghibli Museum was designed to entertain children through Japanese anime projects of the Ghibli Studio. It is a fine arts museum, but offers a more chaotic and thrilling experience than what you would normally expect. The interior confuses and surprise with its maze like appearance.

The museum lives up to its motto, “let’s lose our way together,” by transporting you into a world that is ethereal. This modern museum was opened eleven years ago in October 2001 and was designed, inspired by European architecture, by Hayao Miyazaki. The building in itself is a fine arts specimen and delightful to the eye.

Anime

This innovative museum has a couple of permanent exhibitions that can be viewed throughout the year. There are also several special exhibitions that showcase animation work that are not by Ghibli. ‘The View from the Cat Bus‘ and ‘The Boy’s Room‘ are favorites with visitors.

The building hosts the ‘Saturn Theatre‘ that shows animation movies. You will also enjoy the rooftop garden that has a huge statue of the robot from ‘Castle in the Sky‘. You will find souvenir and book shops that sell interesting items that you can take back home with you.

You must also step into the reading room ‘Tri Hawks’ where you are encouraged to see, touch, and feel mystery through books. ‘The Straw Hat Cafe‘ is the in-house restaurant and you will find restrooms where you can rest your feet for a few minutes.

The museum is very ‘handicapped friendly’. They not only have wheelchair access to all the three floors (except the rooftop garden), they also provide wheelchairs upon request. Guide dogs of blind visitors are also permitted.

Access

You can access the museum, which is located in the Mitaka Inokashira Park, from the Mitaka Station. You can catch the museum’s bus; the schedule for the bus is given on their website. You will need to pay an admission fee; children under 4 are allowed free admission.

Tokyo Famous Landmarks

December 7, 2012 at 3:34 pm | No comment

Kaminarimon


Shops and gate of Kaminarimon
Photo by: MJ/TR (´・ω・), Creative Commons

The Kaminarimon, or “Thunder Gate” is one of the most popular tourist attractions in Tokyo, Japan. It is the outer gate among two large entrances that lead to the Senso-ji, an ancient – and the largest – Buddhist temple in Tokyo, particularly in Asakusa, Taito.

The great gate that stands 11.4 meters wide and 11.7 meters tall is quite popular because of its statues and giant lantern. It was originally built by Taira no Kimnasa in the year 941. In 1635, it was rebuilt at its present location.

It is believed that the statues of Fujin and Raijin were added during that time. Throughout its history, this gate was subject to destruction several times. It has undergone restoration over the years. Some of its components were installed only in the 1950s.

As you pass the gate, you will behold its greatness. Many tourists love to take photographs of the giant red lantern. It is also common practice for tourists to take photographs of themselves with the great lantern behind them. After passing through the gate, you can tread along the shopping arcade that is called Nakamise.

At the end of the arcade, you will see the Hozomon, which is the main gate that leads to the Senso-ji. The Hozomon, which means Treasure House Gate, is famed for a giant straw sandal that hangs by its side and like the Kaminarimon; it is guarded by ferocious gods.

As you go beyond the Hozomon, you will reach the Kannondo or the Kannon Hall, as well as a stream of worshippers. They usually waft incense and troop among the steps to say their prayers and bestow their donations. Legends say that the Kannondo was built to house the statue of the goddess of Mercy, Kannon.

All of these attractions are waiting for you just behind the Thunder Gate. Your journey toward enlightenment about Japan’s ancient faith begins in Kaminarimon.


Tokyo Famous Landmarks

December 6, 2012 at 3:34 pm | No comment

Hamarikyu Gardens


Hamarikyu Gardens as viewed from Shio-dome
Photo by: Chris 73, Creative Commons

Hamarikyu Gardens is a park in Tokyo, Japan that is open to the public. The park can be found alongside Tokyo bay at the mouth of Sumida River in Chuo-ku. Hamarikyu gardens was opened on April 1st, 1946.

This park features seawater ponds whose level changes with the tides. It also has a tea house in Nakashima in the middle of the pond where you can enjoy refreshments such as Japanese sweets and Matcha in Japanese style at a reasonable fee.

It has a pleasant atmosphere of tranquility which allows you to relax and just enjoy the wonderful scenery. At its entrance is the largest pine tree in Tokyo called Sanbyakunen no Matsu or 300 years old pine tree. This tree is believed to have been planted in the 17th century by the sixth Shogun Lenobu. This garden is traditionally styled contrasting the skyscrapers in the adjacent Shiodome district.

The Hamarikyu garden is attractive in any season. It has ginkgo, maple and other trees which display their lovely autumn colors in late November through early December, Plum blossoms in late February and from late March to early April comes the season of the cherry blossom. There are also other species of flowers that bloom in spring such as a field of peony and canola blossoms.

For visitors who do not understand Japanese, there is an English audio available for free that includes different self-guided walking courses around the garden. The walking courses can last between 1 to 1-1/2 hours. They use video and pictures to explain the different historical spots, trees and flowers that you will see along the way.

To access this beautiful park you can use either of the northern gates or take a 35 minute ride in the water bus from Asakusa. The fee for the water bus ticket include the admission fee to the park.


Tokyo Famous Landmarks

December 4, 2012 at 1:47 am | No comment

Harajuku


The crowded streets of Harajuku welcomes people from all over.
Photo by: ukanda, Creative Commons

A visit to Tokyo will never be complete without walking through, and experiencing the urban flair of Harajuku. Translated, the name means “meadow lodging.” It is a common name that was given to an area near the Harajuku Station, Yamanote Line in Tokyo, Japan particularly in the Shibuya Ward.

The best day to visit Harajuku is on a Sunday. Every week, teenagers spend their day in the area socializing. But what is most exciting about this gathering is they come dressed in various styles reminiscent of different eras as well as those that resemble anime. Here you can see how the Japanese youth deviate from conformity by incorporating a touch of everything from a myriad of fashion styles.

To find out where the decadently fashionable youth converge, take a walk and go to the Jingu Bridge. This bridge that connects the area to the adjacent Meiji Shrine zone made for pedestrians.

The origin of the area dates back to the days when the Second World War was about to end, particularly when the Allied Forces occupied Japan. Civilians lived together with American soldiers in a housing area named Washington Heights. There, young people used to hang out with each other to satiate their curiosity and experience a culture that is different.

In 1958, the Central Apartments were built and were immediately filled with photographers, models and fashion designers. It is no wonder why the area became a converging point of different forms of art.

This small area in the heart of Tokyo has influenced some countries. In fact, the Opera Bastille in Paris became a meeting point of manga-inspired teenagers who follow the subculture called “emo.” In Colombia, the youth arranges meetings in the same Japanese manner in Bogota, particularly in Virgilio Barco Library. Make a lazy Sunday colorful by visiting Harajuku.


Tokyo Famous Landmarks

December 3, 2012 at 2:57 pm | No comment

Edo-Tokyo Museum


Edo Tokyo Museum at Ryogoku, Tokyo
Photo by: Wiiii, Creative Commons

The Edo-Tokyo museum is the ideal place to go if you want to immerse yourself in the rich history of Japan’s prime city. Established in 1993 to preserve the heritage of Edo-Tokyo, the museum houses original artifacts and replicas that speak two halves of the Edo-Tokyo history.

Upon entering the 6th floor of the building, you will see the prime attraction of the museum: the life size replica of the Nihonbashi Bridge. This bridge that leads to Edo (Tokyo’s former name) is the silent witness of the city’s birth and growth. Tokugawa Ieyasu established Edo in 1590. Passing along this bridge to reach the main gallery is just the beginning of your historical journey.

A Walk in Time

As you reach the end of the bridge, the Edo Zone begins. You will be introduced to the political practices during the Edo Era. As you move down to the 5th level, you will see displays that showcase the life, economy and culture of the people who lived during that time. Perhaps the most interesting part of the zone is when Edo’s name was changed to Tokyo during the Meiji Era.

The Tokyo Zone begins during this transition. Through the displays, visitors can easily see the influences of the west, particularly from Europe and America. The modernization of the city marks the beginning of the Meiji Era. Here, you can see the events that transpired from the days when Japan participated in the 2nd World War. Items that remind the people how Japan reconstructed itself after the devastating war are also displayed in this zone.

Throughout the year, the museum conducts other exhibits and cultural shows. All visitors are recommended to get information from the Information Desk of the Museum so that you do not miss the current important attractions. This year from May to July, the Edo-Tokyo Museum will hold an exhibition to commemorate the great bridge.


Tokyo Famous Landmarks

December 2, 2012 at 2:57 pm | No comment

Asakusa Shrine


Asakusa Shrine
Photo by: Kakidai, Creative Commons

When you travel to the Land of the Rising Sun, Japan, there are historical places that will definitely remind you of their country’s culture, beliefs, and history. One of the most popular tourist spots in Japan that is visited both by local and international visitors is the Asakusa Shrine.

Asakusa is Tokyo’s center of Shitimachi (which means “low city”) and this district still preserves the atmosphere of Tokyo’s past.

The Asakusa Shrine is also known by the name Sanja-sama, which means “Shrine of the Three Gods”. It is undoubtedly one of the famous Shinto shrines that can be found in Tokyo, Japan. Originally, the shrine was built as a token to honor the founders of Senso-ji, which are three men. You will also notice that the Asakusa Shrine is only a piece of a larger group of sacred buildings in Asakusa.

History & Legend

The Asakusa Shrine boasts a long and rich history. Its construction was recorded in 1649 during the Edo Period in Japan. The legend starts with two brothers who were both fishermen – Hinokuma Takenari and Hinokuma Hamanari.

One day, they accidentally located a small bosatsu Kannon statue that had been entangled in their fishing net sometime in May 17, 1628 at the Sumida River. A third man enters in the picture by the name of Hajino Nakatomo – a powerful and wealthy landlord.

Hajino Nakatomo heard about the Hinokuma brothers’ discovery and he convinced them to convert to Buddhism through his sermons. From that day on, they dedicated their lives discoursing the way of Buddhism.

More to Experience

• Buddhist-inspired temples and festivals
• Revel in the intricate architecture which is a great example of Gongen-Zukuri
• Rich historical structures that survived the test of time and catastrophic events
• A chance for you to grasp the true essence of its history and religious belief

If you want to catch their amazing festivities, try to visit Asakusa in mid-May.


Tokyo Famous Landmarks

December 1, 2012 at 2:57 pm | No comment

Mori Art Museum


Mori Art Museum screening room.
Photo by: luisvilla, Creative Commons

The Mori Art Museum is strategically located in the Roppongi Hills Mori Tower. It is the highest museum in Tokyo and offers a panoramic view of the entire city from its perch on the 53rd floor. The incredibly beautiful view of the Japanese Gardens is especially worth a mention.

If you are wondering how long it would take you to reach the museum from the ground floor, not long if you take the high speed elevators that can zoom you up in no time from the lobby.

The controlled natural lighting in the classy and modern galleries with tall ceilings are nearly twenty feet tall, making it a popular destination for tourists from around the world. The architectural design of the museum is to be seen to be believed.

The museum showcases innovative and creative exhibitions of up and coming as well as popular artists from across the globe. These exhibitions are organized every three to four months and usually concentrate on contemporary art from other Asian countries and Africa, and, of course, Japan.

You would absolutely love the various installations in this stupendous museum that is home to different art forms ranging from paintings to fashion, design, and architecture. While you are there, you should not miss the neighboring Tokyo City View Observatory, which also will give you several eye catching views of Tokyo.

Admission

The admission fee usually includes access to the observatory. The museum is open to the general public all days from 10 am to 10 pm except on Tuesdays when they close at 5 pm. Interestingly, the museum is only open during an exhibition and the timings could vary so it would be good if you check the schedule before you plan a visit.

For information on upcoming exhibitions, you can visit the regularly updated website of the Mori Art Museum.


Tokyo Famous Landmarks

November 30, 2012 at 4:06 am | No comment

National Museum of Western Art


National Museum of Western Art entrance with the main
building in the background.
Photo by: heiwa4126, Creative Commons

When visiting Tokyo, a visit to the famed National Museum of Western Art, also known as NMWA, is a must for those who love art. The museum was primarily built around the collection of Matsukata Kojiro’s paintings and the sculptures of Auguste Rodin. The sole aim of the museum is to introduce western art to an eastern audience.

It has been an exhibition hotspot for the Matsukata Collection and art from the Renaissance period. More recent works from a couple of centuries ago also find a place in the permanent collection. The collection is finely selected and an attraction for art connoisseurs from around the world.

The National Museum of Western Art lives up to its name by regularly expanding its collection by purchasing works of art. The Main Building hosts and displays the permanent collection of the museum all through the year.

In addition to collecting art, the museum is also involved in acquiring documents, and in research. It is also involved extensively in restoration and conservation work, western art education, and even in the publication of related materials.

The museum boasts of a separate Research Division and an Administrative Division. The Special Exhibition Wing focuses on exhibits and also in research, restoration, and conservation work. It is housed in the basement of the main building.

Location

This museum is located in Taito-ku in Tokyo and occupies a mind-boggling 9288 sq. meters with nearly half of that space allotted to exhibition galleries. The building was commemorative of the re-forging of French-Japanese relations following the Second World War. It was designed by the well-known French architect, Le Corbusier, and completed in 1959.

Access

Visiting hours are from 9:30 am to 5:30 pm on all days except Friday when the museum closes at 8 pm. In winter months, they close half an hour early. On every second and fourth Saturday and on November 3, you can view the extensive permanent collection of the museum free of charge. For more details, visit the NMWA official website.


Tokyo Famous Landmarks

November 29, 2012 at 4:06 am | No comment

Meiji Shrine

Gates of Meiji Shrine
Gates of Meiji Shrine
Photo by: WordRidden, Creative Commons

The Meiji Shrine, also known as”Meiji Jingu”, is located near the Harajuku Station in Tokyo, Japan. It is arguably the most popular and revered Shinto shrine in the city of Tokyo as it is dedicated to the souls of the late Emperor Meiji and the late Empress Shoken.
This shrine hosts several festivals throughout the year and is a must see for the discerning tourist.

You will find the shrine nestled in an evergreen forest of more than a hundred thousand trees set in seven hundred thousand square meters of land. The main buildings are located in what is known as the Inner Garden, and you can find the Meiji Memorial Picture Gallery and the ode to modern architecture, the Tokyo Metropolitan Gymnasium, which is shaped like a Samurai helmet, in the Outer Garden.

Ideally, you should approach the shrine on foot through the Inner Garden by crossing over the bridge near the Harajuku Station and through an expansive gravel path that winds through the forest to an incredibly high gate called the O-torii. This gate is about 12 m. high and the largest in Japan.

If you are on a guided tour, you will probably be dropped off at the Treasure House Annex, which is found just ahead of the O-torii.

To the left of this gate is the absolutely delightful garden ‘Jingu Naien’, which is rumored to have been designed by the emperor himself for his empress. If you would like to see the wide variety of irises that populate this garden, you should plan your trip in June when they are in bloom.

If you continue on the gravel path, you will soon pass the north gate called the Kita-mon, which will take you to the main hall of the shrine. This honden, as the hall is called, is also made of cypress wood and shows off some amazingly designed roofs made of copper.


Tokyo Famous Landmarks

November 28, 2012 at 4:06 am | No comment

Tokyo Dome City


Night time at Tokyo Dome
Photo by: kevinpoh, Creative Commons

The Tokyo Dome City is a sight to behold. This amazing weatherproof indoor city offers nearly every type of shop, restaurant, and entertainment imaginable. With so much to see and do, it is important to plan your visit in advance so that you do not miss a thing.

Baseball

The stadium is host to a number of different events throughout the year. Home of the Tokyo Yomiuri Giants, many baseball games are played in the dome. Other sporting events, concerts, and more are hosted there as well. Event schedules can be accessed online.

LaQua, is a large natural hot spring complex, offers dining, shopping, amusement park rides, and spa services for those who wish to relax. It would be easy to spend an entire day in the LaQua section, so you may wish to set aside plenty of time for this area alone.

Restaurants

With over 50 restaurants located inside the city, finding the types of food you enjoy will be no problem. Japanese, Chinese, Asian fusion, Western, and fast food options are all represented. There are also a number of cafes, bars, buffets, and bistros. One thing is certain; no one should ever leave Tokyo Dome City hungry!

Accommodations

For those who wish to stay near the city, the Tokyo Dome Hotel is the most popular option. This hotel boasts over 1,000 guest rooms and is situated right next to the dome. The hotel offers nine restaurants and lounges, child care facilities, swimming pool, banquet rooms, business center, wedding facilities, and more.

Shops

Those who love to shop will find over seventy stores within Tokyo Dome City. These shops sell all types of merchandise. Children who would prefer to not shop can spend time bowling, roller skating, or spending time at the indoor play ground. From young children to adults, there truly is something for everyone inside this amazing domed city.

For more info, visit the official Dome City website.


Tokyo Famous Landmarks

November 27, 2012 at 4:16 am | No comment

Rikugi-en Garden


Rikugien Garden viewed from Fuhishirotoge.
Photo by: Nesnad, Creative Commons

If you want to relax and have an unforgettable vacation in Tokyo, then the Rikugi-en Garden must be on your list. Seeing one of the most beautiful landscapes in Japan, in addition to Koishikawa Korakuen, will definitely capture your breath, as it offers you one-of-a-kind scenery.

History

The Rikugi-en Garden was constructed between 1695 and 1702 and initiated by Yanagisawa Yoshiyasu with the permission of the 5th Tokugawa Shogun. Believed to be the most wonderful garden designed with a Japanese landscape, Rikugien means “six poems garden” in the literal sense, and truly, replicates eighty-eight scenes that are minute and which are derived from renowned products of poetry.

With its trail-connected features like a garden where you can leisurely walk or promenade, an outsized pond located at the center which is encircled with artificial hills and forest areas, the Rikugi-en Garden conjures the atmosphere of the Edo Period.

The Garden

The entire garden is spacious and it will take both international and local tourists an hour to stroll the whole network of paths designed for a leisurely walk. You can also find various teahouses that will welcome you with smiles and specially brewed teas.

For instance, the Fukiage Chaya teahouse can be found at the pond’s shore (north-west part). A cup of nice tea, hospitable Japanese, rich cultural heritage, and splendid scenery are just some of the guaranteed offers of the Rikugien Garden.

Access

Rikugi-en Park receives visitors from 9am to 5pm. If you plan to visit the garden, there is a 300 yen admission fee. If you want to witness one of the Tokyo’s paramount autumn color destinations, visit the garden from late November to December. Also, if you are fond of seeing the trees, flowers, and shrubs bloom, April to May are the months to remember.


Tokyo Famous Landmarks

November 26, 2012 at 4:16 am | No comment

Kabuki-za


Kabuki-za theatre in the Ginza district, with night reflections.
Photo by: OiMax, Creative Commons

With so many things to see and do in Tokyo, a visit to the amazing Kabuki-za theatre could be overlooked. This would be a shame, as not other theatre is as famous and grand as this one. The history of the theatre dates all the way back to 1899, and much has happened to the structure since that time.

The Kabuki-za has been completely destroyed not once, not twice, but three times. Fire, earthquake, and war have each ravaged the building. While these elements are responsible for destroying thousands of buildings in Tokyo, what makes this one different is that it continues to be rebuilt time and time again.

The majority of the plays are presented in old Japanese language. Visitors may rent headphones that can be used to listen to translated language versions of not only the play, but background explanations and context explanations as well.

Don’t be surprised if you see local residents using translation headphones at the Kabuki-za. Old Japanese and new Japanese are quite different.

The typical length of a show at the Kabuki-za is about four hours. Show times may vary, but the matinee often starts around 11am local time. The evening show usually begins around 4pm local time.

Those who would prefer not to spend four hours watching a show at the Kabuki-za may be able to watch a single act instead. Tickets are offered for single act viewing on a first come, first served basis on the day of the show.

The Kabuki-za theatre is currently closed for renovation. It is estimated that the theatre will re-open sometime during 2013.

However, the show must go on, and visitors who wish to see Kabuki plays may still do so at the nearby Shinbashi Enbujo. Though the setting will not be the same, Kabuki plays are something that will be remembered for a long time.


Tokyo Famous Landmarks

November 25, 2012 at 4:16 am | No comment

Toshogu Shrine


Entrance arc at the Toshogu Shrine
Photo by: Nerotaso, Creative Commons

Toshogu Shrine is considered one of the most popular tourist sites in Tokyo. Located in the south west part of Ueno Park, the shrine is but one of the many attractions available at the location. However it is definitely one you will not want to pass by.

This is the only shrine in Tokyo that has the distinction of being proclaimed as a national treasure. The wooden Ueno Toshogu Shrine has somehow survived earthquakes, a civil war and Bombing raids.

Built in 1627, this shrine was dedicated to Tokugawa Ieyasu. At first the shrine was called Toshosha but was renamed Toshogu in 1645. Toshogu is a royal title that means “Light of the east”.

Lanterns

As you approach the gate to the Toshogu shrine you will be awe struck by the 200 stone lanterns and fifty bronze lanterns that line both sides of the walk way. The gate it self is also marvelous site to behold and is heavily adorned with gold foil. It is decorated with splendid dragons, birds and other animals.

The shrine contains fabulous art including the famous mural by Edo artist Kano tan-Yu. One of the most impressive sites is the flame on the shrine ground that is an appeal for world peace. It was lit from the flames of fire at Hiroshima and Nagasaki. The main hall is breathtaking. It is often referred to as the gold hall because its pillars and walls are covered in extravagant gold foil.

Inside the shrine you will find clothing and Samurai armor that was worn by Ieyasu. You will also notice the ornate carvings on the walls that depict flower, birds and dragons. This is an awe inspiring place to visit.

The opulent beauty will capture your imagination as you see the historical artwork and architecture of this shrine. This should certainly be at the top of your list of thinks to do in Tokyo.


Tokyo Famous Landmarks

November 22, 2012 at 2:01 pm | No comment

Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden


Visitors flock to Shinjuku Gyoen National Park with the Cherry Blossoms in bloom.
Photo by: Wiki, Creative Commons

One place you just have to visit in Tokyo is the Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden. This beautiful garden is located at the site at which Lord Naito’s private mansion stood and was where his family resided. Lord Naito was a feudal lord belonging to the Edo era.

This garden was initially designed as the imperial garden but soon after World War II, the garden was remodeled as the national garden and made accessible to the general public.

Gardens

The gardens extend over an impressive 144 acres with a circumference of three and a half kilometers. Three different styles have been incorporated in the design of the garden: Japanese Traditional Garden, English Landscape Garden, and the French Formal Garden. These gardens are amongst the best remnants of the Meiji era.

Cherry blossoms are the main attraction of the garden and draws large crowds. The cherry trees bloom in March and April and considering there are about 1500 cherry trees in the garden, it forms an incredible canopy of flowers that is an experienced. Chrysanthemums on the other hand have a large fan following every November when they are in bloom.

There are several other trees ranging from the imperial cedars from the Himalayas that tower over the cypress, plane, and tulip trees. There are several greenhouses in the garden that were commissioned as early as the late nineteenth century. An astounding array of over 1500 species of subtropical plants are on perennial display in the newest greenhouse.

Access

You can enter the gardens through three gates: Shinjuku and the equally exotically named Sendagaya and Okido. The garden is accessible from 9 am to 4.30 pm on all days except Monday. But when the cherry trees are in bloom, the gates are thrown wide open through the week.

The Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden is just a short walk from the Shinjuku-Sancho me Station. Plan a trip in March-April or in November to see the garden at its best.


Tokyo Famous Landmarks

November 21, 2012 at 2:01 pm | No comment

Sōji-ji


Sōji-ji visitors center
Photo by: Wiiii, Creative Commons

If you are craving for historical and religious destinations near Tokyo, Sho-gaku-san Sōji-ji or Soji-ji is a welcome respite. Soji-ji is a Buddhist temple built in 740 BC and considered to be the busiest and largest Buddhist institution in Japan.

The spacious temple grounds as well as numerous brilliant structures, you can easily see that it is a legitimate product of history. Fortunately, the temple survived a fire in 1898.

Monks


The temple is home to 200 monks and novices that start their routine as early as 3 in the morning. They go to Butsuden at 11 a.m. until 12 noon to read sutras for visitors or perform other services. They will have lunch for an hour, and then from 1pm to 3pm, they will go back to the visitors.

At the entrance of the temple, the Mountain Gate welcomes the weary visitor. This is also known as the Triple Gate, which represents emptiness and formlessness. The gate also serves as a gateway to enlightenment.

On the temple grounds, you can find seven structures known as Shichido Garan. The visitor’s center for workshops is called the Shanshokaku building, where it is equipped with modern amenities such as computers to fulfill the temple founder’s vow to aid all conscious beings.

Zazen Kai


Visitors from abroad are offered a chance to join a Zazen session or Zazen-kai. This opportunity is only open on a Saturday morning once a month if you grab a chance.

Tours


Also, if you want a guided tour around the Soji-ji Temple, it is available at 10:00 AM, 11:00 AM, 1:00 PM, 2:00 PM, and 3:00 PM. Guided tours require a fee per person.

Undoubtedly, this temple will feed your historical and religious travel urge, this destination is a “must try” for every traveler.

November 19, 2012 at 3:54 pm | No comment

Sankeien Garden


Lake at the Sankeien Garden
Photo by: Arisdp, Creative Commons

At the heart of Yokohama City near Honmoku Sannotani, you will find the fabulous Sankeien Garden. This must-see delight combines the beauty of nature and art, just a short bus trip from the Yokohama Station, is not to be missed!

Donated


Donated to the city of Yokohama in 1953 by the Hara Family, Sankeien Garden has an interesting history dating back to the earlier part of the 20th Century. Originally, the garden was owned by Mr. Tomitaro Hara who was a successful and energetic silk exporter in the port town of Yokohama during the Meiji Period, from 1868 to 1912. Upon his retirement in 1912, Mr. Hara decided to create a beautiful garden for his own enjoyment.

Mr. Hara’s garden became known as Sankeien Garden because Mr. Hara was also a writer who used the nom de plume, Sankei. The Japanese word for “garden” is EN. By combining Mr. Hara’s pen-name and this common Japanese word, the title Sankeien was created.

After establishing his garden, as the years went by, Mr. Hara decided to open the garden to young artists. He made it his mission in life to support the progress and growth of Japanese Art.

After some time, the generous Mr. Hara decided to open his garden even further to include the general public. Thanks to Mr. Hara’s kindness and generosity, people from far and wide are able to enjoy the beauty of fabulous Sankeien Garden and all of its appeals to the senses with the changing of each season.

Exhibits


Today, visitors can enjoy a number of interesting and exciting flower exhibitions at Sankeien Garden. One notable exhibition takes place in the summertime. This is the Satsuki Flower Exhibition which is held in the month of June.

The Satsuki is an especially gorgeous member of the Azalea family which was developed during Japan’s Edo Period spanning the years 1603 through 1867. During the annual Satsuki Flower Exhibition, visitors can enjoy viewing a gorgeous display of Satsuki Azaleas potted in the Bonsai style.

November 18, 2012 at 3:54 pm | No comment

Ōsanbashi Pier


Osanbashi Pier at dusk
Photo by: Captain76, Creative Commons

The Osanbashi Pier is located in Naka Ward, Yokohama, Japan. It’s one of the most popular piers in the area and is actually the oldest as well. It was recently re-constructed in 2002 to be able to accommodate ships up to 70,000 tons.

Access for all


There are both ramps and elevators inside, no stairs. These allow all visitors to be able to get around more easily. There are a lot of boats that come to this pier each and every day, which means constant departure and arrival times.

Since the boats go to different areas, passengers can choose where they want to go and come back whenever they wish. Most schedules are kept constant and don’t change unless special circumstances. Ticketing booths and cafes are on the second floor of the pier for all passengers to easily access.

Scenic View


The rooftop plaza is open all day for visitors to enjoy the view. There are wooden decks along the grass lawns where people can look at unobstructed views to see when boats are coming in. Even Mt. Fiji can be seen at a distance when it’s clear outside.

The event plaza outside of the pier has a lot of entertainment throughout the year. Sometimes there are concerts held, while other times there are live speakers. The wooden board shades throughout the deck will help keep all guests cool when it’s hot outside.

The Osanbashi Pier is truly a work of art that visitors make a point to go and see. When it was being re-designed there was a competition held to see who could come up with the best architectural design.

The winner carried out their creation and made this pier truly unique and beautiful. It’s a source of pride for the area, especially since it has an award winning design. This has resulted in many visits from people all over the world!

November 18, 2012 at 3:51 pm | No comment

Minato Mirai 21


Port of the Future
Photo by: Antomattei, Creative Commons

Port Of The Future is the translation of Minato Mirai, located in Yokohama, Japan. Minato Mirai 21 is a huge urban renewal project undertaken by the city of Yokohama in Japan. It was originally conceived in the 1960s, but construction did not begin for another two decades.

Even still, the Port Of The Future is one of Japan’s best places to visit, with breathtaking skyline views, an amusement park, large parks, gardens, boardwalk, and arcade all in one centralized location.

Attractions


When planning a visit to Japan, Yokohama is a place which has to be on the list of top attractions. This giant metropolis is only second in size to Tokyo, and offers a wide variety of attractions for tourists and visitors to the city.

The Minato Mirai 21 is perhaps the most popular place for visitors, as it offers a rich history. Originally begun as an urban renewal project on reclaimed land, the Minato Mirai 21 is now one of the most beautiful places to see in modern day Japan.

Landmark


When you spend a day at Minato Mirai 21, you can view the impressive skyline from Kishamichi Promenade. You can see the Landmark Tower, Japan’s largest skyscraper from the Promenade. Cosmo World is accessible from Minato Mirai, as well as many local shopping and dining opportunities. It is overall a modern, hip part of the city with a little something for everybody.

Minato Mirai 21 is perhaps the best place to visit in Yokohama, Japan. Because of its huge variety of attractions, it draws tourists from all over the world. Not only does it offer a variety of activities for all walks of life, the view of the skyline is positively breathtaking.

Visitors often arrive far past dusk to catch a glimpse of the impressive skyline alight on the boardwalk, and the Cosmo Ferris Wheel with its blue neon lights. It will be a sight and a memory which will last a lifetime.

November 16, 2012 at 3:45 pm | No comment

Kodomonokuni Theme Park


Kodomonokuni Theme Park boats for rent
Photo by: k yamada, Creative Commons

If you are looking for a place to visit near Tokyo where you can treat your children, Kodomonokuni Theme Park is recommended. It is located in the city of Yokohama, Japan and can be accessed by bus.

Getting there


If you prefer riding a train, keep an eye for the Kodomonokuni Line, Kodomonokuni Station by Tokyo’s Corporation or from Nagatsuta Station. On the other hand, if you take a bus, start your trip from Machida Station.

Kodomonokuni Theme Park, which means “Children’s Country”, is an amusement park that your kids will surely love. Both local and international visitors are making this park as the center of family bonding in Yokohama.

The theme park offers a wide variety of games, inflatable playhouses and cartoon characters, and mini-stores where you can buy treats such as candies for your kids.

Memorable


Kodomonokuni Park is continuously living its long-term objective to provide utmost fun and excitement to families especially in children. They are striving to improve the park from time to time in order for the kids to fully maximize their young age.

The theme park is roughly 240 acres so your family can have a leisurely walk around the place while enjoying the packed fun brought by different types of amusement. The park is also a home to the following:

Children’s Zoo – Enjoy and take a moment to witness different species and creatures of the wildlife in Kodomonokuni Theme Park’s zoo. You can also educate your kids about animals and their habitat.

Boating Lake – The Park also offers your family the chance to grab that paddle and row your way across the lake. You can also teach your kids on how to maneuver a boat.

Barbecue Site – After strolling and participating in numerous games, a barbecue site will welcome you if you crave for meals and roasted food.

November 15, 2012 at 3:45 pm | No comment

Yokohama Museum of Art


Evening at the Yokohama Art Museum
Photo by: Studio Mohawk, Creative Commons

The Yokohama Museum of Art should be on the top of your to-visit list when you are travelling to Yokohama, Japan. The museum, particularly its structure, is an artwork itself. It was designed by award winning architect Kenzo Tange.

The building is well lit, well ventilated and has excellent acoustic properties. Because of this, the museum has become a favorite venue for art exhibits and cultural presentations.

Masters


The opening of the Yokohama Port marks a new era for Japan, its culture, economy, politics and art. The preservation of the artifacts that were created during this era is the primary goal of the Yokohama Art Foundation.

The museum is home to artworks from modern artists such as Pablo Picasso, Ossip Zadkine, Henri Matisse, Rene Magritte, Jimmy Ernst, Salvador Dali, Paul Cezanne and Constantine Brancusi.

Japanese Masters


More importantly, the Yokohama Museum gives shelter to the most important Japanese artworks of that time especially those who have close connections to Yokohama. In the museum you will see works from Chizuko Yoshida, Kanzan Shimomura and Imamura Shiko. In the past, the museum also exhibited works from Lee Ufan, Yasumasa Morimura and Kiyoshi Hasegawa.

The museum displays other works that show the mutual influence that were apparent between modern Japanese and European artists. If you will take notice of the timeline, you will realize that most of the art works were created upon the opening of the Port of Yokohama.

The works that you will see foster the understanding of trends and progress in contemporary art. In simple terms, the works emphasize the issues that today’s artist’s face. You will also see works that were patronized and guided by Hara Sankei and Okakura Tenshin as well as artworks from artists who were born in Yokohama.

For hundreds of years, Japan has isolated itself from the west. The opening of the Yokohama Port marks a new era. If you want to immerse yourself in the history of this very important period, the Yokohama Museum is the best place to start.

November 14, 2012 at 3:24 pm | No comment

Nippon Maru


Night time at the Nippon Maru
Photo by: owenfinn 16, Creative Commons

Your visit to Yokohama, Japan will not be complete without visiting the Nippon Maru, a full rigged three-masted training ship. Built in 1930, the ship served as a training vessel until 1984. For 54 years this ship transported and trained 11,500 cadets.

This sail boat powered by an engine has been running for the longest time – as proof, it is listed in the Guinness Book of World Records. Already retired, the ship is now a tourist attraction in the Japan’s Yokohama Harbor. The ship easily stands out as the centerpiece of that tourist spot since it is encircled by modern structures.

Floating Museum


The Nippon Maru is a floating museum wherein you get a glimpse of what the ship has gone through. It has undergone 54 years of rigid deployments even before the 2nd World War. Although the ship has been modified for exhibition purposes, it is still a marvel to see how the Japanese people preserved the ship after all these years.

Inside the ship you will find English and Japanese brochures. There are also videos and audios in both languages; therefore there will be no barrier to understanding the rich history of the ship.

Swan of the Pacific


Known as the Swan of the Pacific, the ship still occasionally participate in festivals. It can be found in the eastern side of the Minato Mirai 21, particularly on the O-oka River.

Close to the ship is the Yokohama Maritime Museum that houses two storey’s of displays, ship models, and artifacts that commemorate Port Yokohama’s achievement through the years. It is a great place to visit if you want to understand more about Japanese vessels.

The Swan of the Pacific can be viewed on the internet if you want to get an idea about the Nippon Maru experience.

November 13, 2012 at 3:24 pm | No comment

Yokohama Hakkeijima Sea Paradise


Yokohama Hakkeijima Sea Paradise from afar
Photo by: Sidecoast, Creative Commons

Yokohama Hakkeijima Sea Paradise is near Tokyo Bay on a man made island of 24 hectares south of Yokohama City in the city of Kanazawa-Ku, Yokohama, Japan. Designed for the family, this leisure resort has one of the largest aquariums in Japan, restaurants, a hotel and shopping markets and a huge amusement park called Pleasure Land with many thrilling rides and attractions.

Aquariums


Three different aquariums are a featured attraction in this sea-themed resort and these aquariums are home to 500 species and 100,000 aquatic creatures of different kinds. The main area is called the Aqua Museum and this has immense tanks that display whale sharks, white whales, and dolphins in tunnel-like tanks.

There are exhibits with animals that live a marine life such as wonderful polar bears, which are not to be missed, and sea otters. Through the undersea viewing tunnel, you can take a trip into the depths of the ocean and see the fish swimming above you and alongside you. It is very exciting and a rare chance to see these creatures at close hand.

Fureai Lagoon


Do not miss the Fureai Lagoon where you can touch and learn about dolphins, seals, and fish swimming in these beautiful pools. Set in nature and flower gardens, this is a different type of theme resort combining the beauty of nature. Experience the thrill of amazing unique rides at Pleasure Land, the amusement park where Japan’s first surf coaster that stretches out and swings over the ocean and an exciting vertical fall ride Blue Fall which is highly popular.

There are so many things to see and do and you can take time out for a stroll in the interesting shopping areas, stroll by the marina, and enjoy a bite to eat at one of the restaurants. There is definitely plenty to see and do and one day may not be enough.

Access


Yokohama Hakkeijima Sea Paradise is open everyday with facilities that cater for children and disabled visitors. Designated special areas and equipment are provided for those who need them. Guidebooks are available in English to show you the best way to explore this must visit theme resort.

November 12, 2012 at 3:24 pm | 1 comment

Ueno Park


Ueno Park Temple
Photo by: luisvilla, Creative Commons

Ueno Park is a large public city park that opened in 1873. The park is located in the Taito district of Tokyo in a section called Ueno. The park is home to many tourist attractions in the area that include monuments, temples, museums, galleries and a zoo.

Some of the temples in this park include: the Bentendo hall temple, Kaneiji temple, pagoda Kan’eiji temple and Kiyomizu Kannon-do temple. It also has a shrine known as the Toshogu shrine which has amazing historical architecture on display. The shrine is open daily throughout the year.

The museums and art galleries that you can expect to see in this park include: Heisei-kan, Hyokei-kan, national museum of nature and science, the national museum of western art and the gallery of Horyuji treasures. The famous statue of Saigo Takamori walking his dog also stands in this park.

More

The other things that you will find in this park are: theatres, concert halls, lakes (large ponds) and bays. Adjacent to the park is Shinobazu pond which is full of water lilies and waterfowl. The park is also a popular spot for hanami parties which are usually held outside. This city park is very beautiful in spring when the cherry blossoms bloom.

Food

When it comes to food, there are lots of places to eat all around Ueno stations and near the shrine on Shinobazu Lake. One of the popular delicacies during the cherry blossom season is dango which is basically grilled rice dumplings which is slathered with a sweet and salty soy sauce or chunky red bean paste.

There are also western restaurants that serve French cuisine in the park grounds. Ueno is centrally located to not just Tokyo, but to the whole of Northern Japan. This park is rich in Japanese culture and history. If you want to get a feel for ancient Tokyo on your vacation, Ueno Park is an excellent place to begin.


Tokyo Famous Landmarks

November 12, 2012 at 2:01 pm | No comment

Yokohama Chinatown


Gateway to Yokohama Chinatown
Photo by: mdid, Creative Commons

If you are looking for quality shopping items as well as exquisite Chinese dishes near Tokyo, you should visit Yokohama Chinatown. As a matter of fact, it is the largest Chinatown all over Japan.

History


Yokohama Chinatown experienced rapid growth and development since the opening of Yokohama port in 1859 for the purpose of foreign trade. As a result, the area turned into a residence for numerous Chinese traders who decided to settle in the city for good.

From then on, it became a popular destination of both local and foreign tourists in Japan who wish to find some quality shopping souvenirs as well as mouth-watering Chinese dishes that are definitely worth your travel time and expenses.

Chinatown


Inside the town, a variety of Chinese restaurants and stores will welcome you along the narrow and lively streets of Chinatown. Colorful gates that represent both Japanese and Chinese culture can also be found outside and inside the town – four on the outside and five more inside.

You can also see the Kanteibyo temple that is tawdrily colored, located in the Chinatown’s center. This temple was built on 1873 by Chinese traders and residents as a sign of gratitude to the Chinese God of prosperity and good business.

Food


Another main attraction inside the town is the mouthful cuisine offered in many food stands and restaurants. Whether you are looking for a snack or heavy meal, you can immediately spot a perfect place that will feed your cravings. Different Chinese dishes, manju (steamed buns) as well as ramen noodles are the most popular choices of local and foreign tourists.

Getting There


Chinatown in Yokohama can be accessed by train through the Minato mirai Line, Motomachi-Chukagai Station and Negishi Line, Ishikawacho Station. If you decide to ride a bus, there are six existing routes from Yokohama Station that will lead you to Yokohama Chinatown.

November 11, 2012 at 3:24 pm | No comment

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