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The Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden

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Widely considered to be one of the prettiest spots in Tokyo, the Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden has long been a favorite spot for weary Tokyoites looking to escape the city’s concrete jungle. However, if it’s crowds you’re hoping to escape, you might want to look elsewhere.

Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden

Like many of the city’s traditional gardens, the Shinjuku Gyoen charges a small entrance fee. But considering the size of the place and the great expense which must go into its maintenance, this is hardly unreasonable. At 144 acres in area, these gardens are massive. You could easily spend hours touring the various sections. There’s a greenhouse near the entrance, an English-style garden with cleanly manicured lawns, a French-style garden meant to replicate the courtyard of a palace, and of course the Japanese section.

Perhaps the most impressive thing about the garden, at least while we were there, was the sheer number of visitors. Dispiriting, but not surprising. After all, it’s right next door to Shinjuku Station, which is the busiest transportation hub in the world. Plus, it was the warmest day of the still-nascent summer, and a Saturday to boot.

The land was originally the property of Lord Naito, a powerful shogun from Tsuruga, who built the garden in the late eighteenth century. It became the property of the Meiji Empire on their ascension to power, and would host hanami flower-viewing parties for the emperor up until the outbreak of World War II. The gardens were largely destroyed by bombing, but rebuilt after the war and given over to the public in 1949.

With its backdrop provided by Shinjuku’s skyscraper district, the Shinjuku Gyoen Garden is nice, but we didn’t love our time there. The park was no more charming than others we’d seen in Tokyo, and far less peaceful. Better were Fukugawa’s Kiyosumi Shirakawa Gardens, those of the Nezu Museum, and the gardens of the Sensō-ji Temple in Asakusa. But still, Shinjuku Gyoen has a reputation as one of the city’s highlights. Try showing up early on a weekday, and you’ll almost certainly have a wonderful experience.

Location on our Map

-Great Collection of Bosai Trees

Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden
Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden
Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden
Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden
Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden
Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden
Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden
Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden
Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden
Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden
Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden
Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden
Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden
Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden
Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden
Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden
Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden
Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden
Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden
Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden
Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden
Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden
Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden
Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden
Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden
Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden
Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden
Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden
Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden
Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden
Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden
Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden
Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden
Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden
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July 5, 2014 at 3:47 pm Comments (0)

Komagome and the Rikugi-en Gardens

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A pleasant and almost entirely-overlooked neighborhood in the north of the city, Komagome is defined by narrow alleys lined with shops and restaurants, and is home to one of Tokyo’s best gardens: the Rikugi-en, originally built at the end of the seventeenth century.

Komagome and the Rikugi-en Gardens

We got off the train at Komagome Station with low expectations, which were quickly confirmed. There simply isn’t much here. But it’s an agreeable kind of nothingness. The streets are pedestrian and unpretentious, with shops that are interesting without being touristy. And the few people walking about are definitely locals.

After doing some shopping (I found an odds-and-ends shop selling cheap origami paper), we made our way to the Rikugi-en Gardens. It seems to be a popular place, particularly with older Japanese people meeting for a day in the park. I later learned that “Rikugi-en” translates to the “Garden of the Six Principles of Poetry”… which… first of all, how can such a short name can have such a complicated meaning? And second: that’s the weirdest name for a garden I’ve ever heard.

With its large pond, trees, hills and a circular path that leads around the grounds, the Rikugi-en was easily among the most lovely parks we saw in Tokyo. “Garden of the Six Principles of Poetry” is interesting, but if I were in charge, its name would be “Pretty Garden You So Pretty.”

Locations on our Map: Komagome Station | Rikugi-en

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Komagome and the Rikugi-en Gardens
Komagome and the Rikugi-en Gardens
Komagome and the Rikugi-en Gardens
Komagome and the Rikugi-en Gardens
Komagome and the Rikugi-en Gardens
Komagome and the Rikugi-en Gardens
Komagome and the Rikugi-en Gardens
Komagome and the Rikugi-en Gardens
Komagome and the Rikugi-en Gardens
Komagome and the Rikugi-en Gardens
Komagome and the Rikugi-en Gardens
Komagome and the Rikugi-en Gardens
Komagome and the Rikugi-en Gardens
Komagome and the Rikugi-en Gardens
Komagome and the Rikugi-en Gardens
Komagome and the Rikugi-en Gardens
Komagome and the Rikugi-en Gardens
Komagome and the Rikugi-en Gardens
Komagome and the Rikugi-en Gardens
Komagome and the Rikugi-en Gardens
Komagome and the Rikugi-en Gardens
Komagome and the Rikugi-en Gardens
Komagome and the Rikugi-en Gardens
Komagome and the Rikugi-en Gardens
Komagome and the Rikugi-en Gardens
Komagome and the Rikugi-en Gardens
Komagome and the Rikugi-en Gardens
Komagome and the Rikugi-en Gardens
Komagome and the Rikugi-en Gardens
Komagome and the Rikugi-en Gardens
Komagome and the Rikugi-en Gardens
Komagome and the Rikugi-en Gardens
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July 3, 2014 at 7:25 am Comments (0)

The Giant Pandas of Ueno Zoo

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Japan’s first zoo was established in Ueno Park, in 1882. Although its age is starting to show, the zoo is still a popular retreat in Tokyo. It’s inexpensive, surprisingly large and, of course, there are those irresistible Giant Pandas.

Ueno Zoo In Tokyo

I was excited to get into the zoo, because I’d never seen Giant Pandas before. Lili and Shinshin would be my first, and we arrived right on time to see them do what they do best: eat. It was lunchtime, and the pair were just digging into a heaping pile of bamboo. A gift from China, they arrived in Tokyo in 2011, and have been Ueno’s star attractions ever since.

The pandas are kept in pens directly at the entrance, and we feared that the rest of the zoo wouldn’t be able to live up to such a grand opening. To tell the truth, it didn’t. There are some other fun animals, including the most playful polar bear I’ve ever seen, and a couple of adorable red pandas, but nothing else was nearly as exciting as the Giant Pandas.

Also, Ueno is not among the most modern or comfortable zoos we’ve ever visited. That’s to be expected, I suppose; it dates from an era in which humans didn’t pay all that much attention to animal welfare. The pens are often woefully inadequate, particularly for some of the larger birds, and none of the animals have a lot of space to enjoy.

But Ueno Zoo is big, and if you can put your sympathy on hold, you could easily spend hours here. Just the opportunity to experience wildlife in the middle of the big city is worth something, and besides, it’s almost impossible to pass up the chance to see Giant Pandas like Lili and Shinshin.

Location on our Map

So Many Cute Panda Things From Japan

Ueno Zoo In Tokyo
Ueno Zoo In Tokyo
Ueno Zoo In Tokyo
Ueno Zoo In Tokyo
Ueno Zoo In Tokyo
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Ueno Zoo In Tokyo
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Ueno Zoo In Tokyo
Ueno Zoo In Tokyo
Ueno Zoo In Tokyo
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June 24, 2014 at 5:05 pm Comments (0)

Happo-en: The Garden of Eight Views

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After visiting the Sengaku-ji Temple in Shinagawa, we took a short detour to check out the Happo-en Garden. Since its name can roughly be translated as “beautiful from eight views,” we suspected that it wouldn’t disappointing.

Happo-en Garden

The garden of Happo-en was founded hundreds of years ago by an adviser to the shogun, and has ever since provided a place of respite. Built on a hill, it really is “beautiful from eight views.” Actually, it’s beautiful from just about anywhere, whether you’re at the top looking down, or seated next to the koi pond at the bottom. At the entrance is a magnificent line-up of bonsai trees, some of which surpass 500 years in age. (Once, I bought my dad a bonsai for his birthday. It lasted five days.)

Although the Happo-en is free to enter, it’s most well-known for the restaurant, banquet hall and chapel which can be rented out for special occasions. There was a wedding underway during our visit and, hidden by the shadows of the garden’s abundant trees, we were able to watch the bride and groom exchange vows, like the creepy foreign weirdos we are.

Near the bottom of the Happo-en Garden, close to the chapel, is the Muan Tea House, where we sat down for matcha tea served by a lovely girl dressed in a kimono. Matcha is never cheap, and it certainly wasn’t here, but the price does help force you into a sort of concentrated appreciation. You’re spending eight bucks on a cup of tea, so you’ll want to this to be the most wonderful tea-drinking experience you’ve ever had. Luckily, with the Happo-en garden providing the backdrop, that just might be the case.

Location on our Map

Adopt A Bonsai

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June 21, 2014 at 2:11 pm Comments (0)

Zojo-ji and the Shiba Garden

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Today, it’s hidden in the shadow of the Tokyo Tower, but the temple of Zojo-ji was once among the grandest in Japan. This was the Tokugawa clan’s favored place of worship, and the resting place of many shoguns. We visited the temple on Buddha’s birthday and, afterwards, took time to check out the nearby Shiba Detached Palace Garden.

Zojo-ji

The fact that we were visiting the Zojo-ji on Buddha’s birthday was a coincidence. (Until Buddha accepts my friend request on Facebook, I can’t be expected to remember his birthday.) But we lucked out: April 8th is one of the few days in the year when the temple opens the doors to the Tokugawa Mausoleum, where six shoguns are buried. It’s always fun to enter a place that’s normally off-limits, so it hardly mattered that we couldn’t read the names on the tombstones.

When the Meiji Empire came into power, the Zojo-ji found itself in a precarious position, thanks to its importance to the hated Tokugawas. The new emperor began promoting Shinto over Buddhism, and forced the temple to relinquish over 90% of its land, dispersing thousands of the monks who lived there. In a brazen show of disrespect, the bones of the buried Tokugawa Shoguns were disinterred and moved to a tiny plot in the corner. Furthermore, the temple was targeted by newly-empowered Shinto hardliners, who set fire to many of its buildings.

But although the Zojo-ji has lost its former grandeur, it still manages to impress. The main hall, a 1972 re-construction of the original, is massive and minimalist, with a beautiful golden shrine in the center. Behind the hall, there’s a cemetery which has the Tokyo Tower for a backdrop. And to the side, in front of the Tokugawa Mausoleum, are hundreds of Jizo statues lined up in a row. Decorated with bonnets, flowers, toys and even winter coats, these are dedicated to unborn children.

Takeshiba Pier And Shiba Gardens

After scarfing down a quick lunch of noodles from one of the stands which surround the temple, we walked down the street, past the World Trade Center, and into the Shiba Detached Palace Garden. Like the nearby Hama Detached Palace Garden, this was private land until the Meiji takeover and the fact that it’s been preserved in the middle of an area of such transformative growth is remarkable. After paying a small entrance fee, we walked along the park’s looping path, past an archery range, around a pond and over a couple hobbit-like hills.

Takeshiba Pier And Shiba Gardens

The Shiba neighborhood of Tokyo has a lot to recommend it, and a carefully-planned day spent here can be rewarding. Atago Hill and the NHK Broadcast Museum in the morning. Then Tokyo Tower, after which you’ll have time to get to your lunch reservations at the tofu restaurant Tofuya-Ukai. After a tour of Zojo-ji and the Shiba Gardens, you’ll be tired, but perhaps you can manage a quick jaunt to the Takeshiba Pier to see the boats leaving for the Izu Islands. Finally, you can take in the sunset from the World Trade Center’s observation deck. That sounds to me like a perfect day in Tokyo.

Locations on our Map: Zojo-ji Temple | Shiba Detached Palace Garden

Framed Tokyo Photos

More Photos from the Zojo-Ji
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More Photos from the Shiba Gardens and the Takeshiba Pier
Takeshiba Pier And Shiba Gardens
Takeshiba Pier And Shiba Gardens
Takeshiba Pier And Shiba Gardens
Takeshiba Pier And Shiba Gardens
Takeshiba Pier And Shiba Gardens
Takeshiba Pier And Shiba Gardens
Takeshiba Pier And Shiba Gardens
Takeshiba Pier And Shiba Gardens
Takeshiba Pier And Shiba Gardens
Takeshiba Pier And Shiba Gardens
Takeshiba Pier And Shiba Gardens
Takeshiba Pier And Shiba Gardens
Takeshiba Pier And Shiba Gardens
Takeshiba Pier And Shiba Gardens
Takeshiba Pier And Shiba Gardens
Takeshiba Pier And Shiba Gardens
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May 27, 2014 at 1:22 am Comment (1)

Atago Hill and the NHK Broadcast Museum

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There was a time when one could see the entirety of Tokyo, or Edo as it was then known, from atop Atago Hill. Today the view is obscured by a wall of skyscrapers, but climbing the steep hill is still worth the effort, thanks to the presence of the Atago Shrine and the adjacent NHK Broadcast Museum.

Atago Hill and the NHK Broadcast Museum

I’m not a religious person at all, and not affiliated with any sort of church. However, if there were some sort of Global Anti-Atheism Law which forced me to choose a religion or die, Shintō would be a contender. I decided this while strolling through the gardens of the Atago Shrine. All I’d have to do is occasionally visit a beautiful park like this, wash my hands, and clap a couple times? I might already be a convert!

Atago Shrine is nice enough to make anyone a believer. A tiny oasis of peace in the middle of the city, it’s the kind of place whose existence hardly seems possible. At the bottom of the stairs, there’s Tokyo, with its attendant traffic, noise, and stress. And at the top, another world. There are woods, fountains, guardian statues and, in the koi pond, hilariously frantic carp crawling over each other in pursuit of food.

Thanks to the view it once commanded, Atago Hill has seen its share of history. It was here that the Tokugawa Shogunate peacefully surrendered to the Meiji Empire. The looming war was likely unwinnable, and looking out over his threatened city prompted the shogun to raise the white flag. “Honor in the face of defeat” would prove a popular mantra at Atago. After Japan’s capitulation in World War II, ten military commanders chose the hill as the site for a ritual suicide.

Atago Hill and the NHK Broadcast Museum

Having finished up at the shrine, we turned our attention to a more modern religion: television. NHK, the Japanese Broadcasting Corporation, runs a free museum in the building where the country’s first television broadcasts went out. Spread across four floors and focusing on the early days of the technology, it was more entertaining than we expected it to be, with interactive displays and frequent appearances by Domo, NHK’s lovable mascot.

Locations on our Map: Atago Shrine | NHK Broadcasting Museum

Get Your Own Domo-Kun Mascot

Atago Hill and the NHK Broadcast Museum
Atago Hill and the NHK Broadcast Museum
Atago Hill and the NHK Broadcast Museum
Atago Hill and the NHK Broadcast Museum
Atago Hill and the NHK Broadcast Museum
Atago Hill and the NHK Broadcast Museum
Atago Hill and the NHK Broadcast Museum
Atago Hill and the NHK Broadcast Museum
Atago Hill and the NHK Broadcast Museum
Atago Hill and the NHK Broadcast Museum
Atago Hill and the NHK Broadcast Museum
Atago Hill and the NHK Broadcast Museum
Atago Hill and the NHK Broadcast Museum
Atago Hill and the NHK Broadcast Museum
Atago Hill and the NHK Broadcast Museum
Atago Hill and the NHK Broadcast Museum
Atago Hill and the NHK Broadcast Museum
Atago Hill and the NHK Broadcast Museum
Atago Hill and the NHK Broadcast Museum
Atago Hill and the NHK Broadcast Museum
Atago Hill and the NHK Broadcast Museum
Atago Hill and the NHK Broadcast Museum
Atago Hill and the NHK Broadcast Museum
Atago Hill and the NHK Broadcast Museum
Atago Hill and the NHK Broadcast Museum
Atago Hill and the NHK Broadcast Museum
Atago Hill and the NHK Broadcast Museum
Atago Hill and the NHK Broadcast Museum
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May 18, 2014 at 11:29 am Comments (2)

The Sumida Aquarium

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The rain was showing no sign of stopping. We stared sullenly at the clouds from our habitual perch in the SkyTree’s sixth-floor Starbucks and tried to figure out what to do with the day. Suddenly, an inspiration: the Sumida Aquarium. A brilliant idea! So brilliant, in fact, it was shared by approximately 74% of Tokyo.

Sumida Aquarium Tokyo

Before describing the aquarium, allow me to address my designation of Starbucks as our “habitual perch.” Jürgen and I are in no way Starbucks people, but for foreigners in Tokyo, it is by far the best option for reliable, free internet. Other cafes might have wifi, but you have to be a Japanese citizen to log on. Or you have to pay a truckload. Or you have to reconnect every fifteen minutes. But after registering with Starbucks, you can log on at any branch in the city. And they’re found on nearly every block. We spent weeks searching for alternatives, but came up empty. Starbucks it is.

Back to the Sumida Aquarium, which had a crowd bordering on the ridiculous and wasn’t at all a bargain, with tickets priced at ¥2000 ($20) per person. But this is Tokyo. If we balked at everything which was crowded or expensive, we wouldn’t be able to do much. So we forked over the yen and went inside.

Right away, we forgot about the money. Sumida’s isn’t the largest aquarium we’ve ever visited, but it’s perhaps the most modern, and is the kind of place in which you could easily spend hours. The tanks are beautiful, with crystal clear glass and excellent lighting, and most of the information is translated into English.

After entering, we were immediately drawn to the massive jellyfish wall, and from there moved to individual tanks filled with smaller species like seahorse, clownfish, crabs and blowfish. Eventually, we arrived at the largest tank in the aquarium, in which hundreds of fish, including tiger shark and manta rays, were swimming. There was even a scuba diver inside, cleaning the tanks and feeding the animals. We finished our tour by grabbing coffee and sitting at an open-air tank, where a squad of hyperactive penguins and honking sea lions provided entertainment.

The Sumida Aquarium is neither cheap nor relaxing, but is so nicely done that it’s well worth checking out. We can now add “aquariums” to our growing list of things which Japan does perfectly… I suppose I’m not surprised.

Location on our Map

Cheap Flights To Tokyo

Sumida Aquarium Tokyo
Sumida Aquarium Tokyo
Sumida Aquarium Tokyo
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Sumida Aquarium Tokyo
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May 1, 2014 at 10:45 am Comments (0)

The Imperial Palace Tour

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Tokyo has been at the center of Japanese politics since the early 1600s, when Shogun Tokugawa Ieyasu upset the balance of power by moving his court here, far away from the traditional capital of Kyoto. Ieyasu’s original castle is now gone, replaced by the more modern Imperial Palace. We joined a brief tour to get a peek behind the gates.

Imperial Palace Tour Tokyo

It seems almost unfair that, in the dead center of a city so swamped with skyscrapers and cement, the royal family enjoys life in a lush, spacious garden. The Imperial Palace occupies a verdant park with none of the congestion suffered by the city itself, and entrance is strictly regulated. The moats and gates which still protect the palace may not be entirely effective against modern militaries, but they do a fair job of impeding gawking visitors like us.

In order to visit the Imperial Palace, you have to register for a free tour. Do this well in advance, as spots fill up quickly. When our date came around, we joined about a hundred other tourists, most of them Japanese, in front of the Kikyo-Mon Gate. It was immediately apparent that we weren’t about to enjoy an intimate tour into the inner workings of the palace. There would be no private tea session with the Empress. No, this was about as cattle-herd as tours get. After picking up audio-guides, visitors are led without pause along a rigid path, past the palace and a few other historic buildings. Stragglers are chastened by attentive guards.

We were fine with the strict rules. This is the Imperial Palace, after all. We marched dutifully along, listening to descriptions of buildings like the Fujimi-yagura, a three-floor keep from which the Shogun could view Mount Fuji. This and a few others structures date from the days of Edo Castle, which burnt to the ground in 1873.

Imperial Palace Tour Tokyo

The current palace was built in 1888, and isn’t at all how I’d have expected the home of the Japanese Emperor to look. It’s not inelegant, but the building is long and flat, most resembling an extended hall. We were only able to see one side of it, from the Kyuden Totei Plaza, where our tour paused. This plaza is opened to the general public twice a year, on New Year’s and the Emperor’s birthday, when Akihito himself appears on the balcony alongside his family to greet well-wishers.

After viewing the palace, our tour crossed the Nijubashi Bridge, which we had admired while in the Outer Garden. From here, we had a view of the Fushimi-yagura keep, which was moved intact to Tokyo from its original location at Kyoto Castle, and is considered one of Japan’s architectural treasures.

Our visit was done in about an hour and although we’d had just a cursory glimpse of the palace and its grounds, it was still a worthwhile excursion. This is one of the most historic places in Japan, and it’s nice to have the opportunity to visit, however briefly.

Location on our Map

Great Youth Hostels In Tokyo

Imperial Palace Tour Tokyo
Imperial Palace Tour Tokyo
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Imperial Palace Tour Tokyo
Imperial Palace Tour Tokyo
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Imperial Palace Tour Tokyo
Imperial Palace Tour Tokyo
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April 24, 2014 at 9:05 am Comments (2)

A Perfectly Normal Day in Yoyogi Park

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It’s hard to say exactly when Tokyo started to frighten me, but it was probably during our visit to Yoyogi Park. While watching Japanese rockabillies bounce-step to Joan Jett, I moved out of the way for a couple dressed in… let’s call it “Victorian Gothic Steampunk, Pastels Version.” And that’s when it hit home: something’s not quite right in this city.

Yoyogi Park Tokyo

I’m from the American Midwest, where brightly-colored shoelaces are a rebellious act of fashion outrage. While I can respect the eccentric style of others, I’ve never had the slightest desire to dress myself in weird clothes. But in Yoyogi Park, for the first time ever, I felt a spark of jealousy for the world’s fashion misfits. Is it “ridiculous” to walk around in public dressed like a cutesy-pie french maid? Or is it ridiculously awesome?

And then I imagined what I’d look like waltzing around as a french maid. No, some things are better left to the Japanese.

We had a blast in Yoyogi Park, which seems to be where the city’s fashion freaks congregate for the weekend. There was so much going on here, so many odd sights, such as groups of pop-idol wannabes practicing, dogs dressed up as crocodiles, badminton battles, picnics with pyramids of empty beer cans, cool guys with dreadlocks tapping bongos, and an honest-to-god, rough-and-tumble group of head-banging Japanese rockabillies.

Yoyogi, one of Tokyo’s biggest parks, was originally used as training grounds for the army. After WWII, it provided accommodation space for the US military and was given the nickname “Washington Heights.” In 1964, the park served as the site of the Olympic Village. Adjacent is the Yoyogi National Stadium, built for the Olympics, with its distinctive suspended roof. When we walked by, youngsters were streaming into the stadium to attend a concert for Androp, a popular (and pretty awesome) Japanese alternative rock band.

Go on the weekend, pack a blanket and a bento box, make sure your camera is charged, and prepare yourself for some insanity. Yoyogi is one of the strangest parks you’ll likely ever see.

Location on our Map

Our Apartment In Tokyo

Yoyogi Park Tokyo
Yoyogi Park Tokyo
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April 23, 2014 at 9:39 am Comments (4)

Sakura, Sakura: The Cherry Blossoms of Tokyo

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For a short period at the beginning of April, the word “sakura” becomes a prominent noun in approximately 75% of the sentences spoken in Tokyo. Because when the city’s cherry trees bloom, there’s no talking about anything else. You’re either chatting about the blossoms, planning your picnic in the park, sitting in a rowboat under the trees, or strolling along a path while the petals flutter to the ground like the sweetest, most fragrant snowfall imaginable.

We celebrated the season by visiting a variety of Tokyo’s most popular viewing spots. Parks, paths, cemeteries… anywhere a cherry tree grew, we found people assembled around it. During these few, fleeting days, Tokyo becomes a more magical place.

Meguro River Sakura
The Meguro River

Our first sakura excursion was to the southwestern neighborhood of Meguro, where a foul-smelling river winds its way toward Tokyo Bay. Cherry trees line the banks of the Meguro, and a couple well-placed bridges provide perfect views of the blossoms. Here, we got our first taste of the massive crowds which turn out for the sakuras. We were shocked, and a little annoyed by the hundreds of photographers jostling along the bridges for a prime position. Little did we know that Meguro would be by far the least congested spot on our itinerary. [26 More Photos | Location]

Aoyama Cemetery Sakura Tokyo
Aoyama Cemetery

One of the biggest cemeteries in Tokyo, Aoyama is famous for its cherry blossoms. Sakuras are a harbinger of winter’s end and a return to life, and their blossoming above a field of graves lends their celebrated beauty a certain symbolic weight. [34 More Photos | Location]

Sakura Chidorigafuchi and Kitanomaru Park
Chidorigafuchi and Kitanomaru Park

After Ueno Park, Chidorigafuchi is the most popular spot in Tokyo for viewing the cherry blossoms. This winding channel was part of the moat which once protected the Imperial Palace, and today sports an impenetrable wall of cherry trees. A walk along the waterside and over the pedestrian bridge into Kitanomaru Park has become an essential Tokyo experience. The crowds are wearying, but should you make it to Kitanomaru, you can reward yourself with an extended nap under the blossoms. At least, that’s what we did. [57 More Photos | Location]

Inokashira Park in Kichijoji
Inokashira Park in Kichijōji

We had thought that Kichijōji’s Inokashira Park, fifteen kilometers to the west of the city center, would have less daunting crowds. Hah! We visited the park on Saturday, when the hamami (flower viewing parties) were truly getting underway, and every inch of ground was occupied by people enjoying elaborate, sake-soaked picnics.

We hadn’t been invited to a party, and I was jealous of the intoxicated fun everyone was having, but we joined in as well as possible by grabbing beer and bento-boxes from a nearby restaurant, and renting a row-boat. Traffic on the pond was crazy, and smashing into other boats was both unavoidable and hilarious, but we eventually steered ourselves to a prime location underneath a gorgeous cherry tree, where we enjoyed our meals with a view of the pond through a veil of falling petals. [32 More Photos | Location]

Sakura Sumida River Park
Sumida River Park

After spending the day in Inokashira, we returned to the city and went to the Sumida River Park near Asakusa for the evening. The trees along the bank were illuminated and the river itself was glowing with the traffic of colorful pleasure boats. There was a younger crowd here, playing music on guitars and getting progressively rowdier as the evening wore on. It looked like most of the revelers planned on sleeping outside; in fact, but by the time we left, many were already passed out. [11 More Photos | Location]

Sakura Ueno Park
Ueno Park

The atmosphere on Saturday had been one of drunken revelry, so we weren’t surprised to find that Sunday in Ueno Park was decidedly hungover. The weather had taken a turn for the worse, but this didn’t stop people from congregating in the thousands. The cherry blossoms which had arrived a mere week ago were starting to collect on the ground, and the party was winding down.

That was fine by us; we were suffering from sakura-overdose, and had visited Ueno more out of a sense of duty than pleasure. Despite our flagging energy, we didn’t want to miss the city’s most famous cherry blossom spot, and say farewell to a cultural phenomenon, the likes of which we wouldn’t soon be forgetting. [28 More Photos | Location]

Book Your Tokyo Hotel Now For The Next Sakura Season

More Photos from the Meguro River
Meguro River Sakura
Meguro River Sakura
Meguro River Sakura
Meguro River Sakura
Meguro River Sakura
Meguro River Sakura
Meguro River Sakura
Meguro River Sakura
Meguro River Sakura
Meguro River Sakura
Meguro River Sakura
Meguro River Sakura
Meguro River Sakura
Meguro River Sakura
Meguro River Sakura
Meguro River Sakura
Meguro River Sakura
Meguro River Sakura
Meguro River Sakura
Meguro River Sakura
Meguro River Sakura
Meguro River Sakura
Meguro River Sakura
Meguro River Sakura
Meguro River Sakura
Meguro River Sakura

More Photos from Aoyama Cemetery
Aoyama Cemetery Sakura Tokyo
Aoyama Cemetery Sakura Tokyo
Aoyama Cemetery Sakura Tokyo
Aoyama Cemetery Sakura Tokyo
Aoyama Cemetery Sakura Tokyo
Aoyama Cemetery Sakura Tokyo
Aoyama Cemetery Sakura Tokyo
Aoyama Cemetery Sakura Tokyo
Aoyama Cemetery Sakura Tokyo
Aoyama Cemetery Sakura Tokyo
Aoyama Cemetery Sakura Tokyo
Aoyama Cemetery Sakura Tokyo
Aoyama Cemetery Sakura Tokyo
Aoyama Cemetery Sakura Tokyo
Aoyama Cemetery Sakura Tokyo
Aoyama Cemetery Sakura Tokyo
Aoyama Cemetery Sakura Tokyo
Aoyama Cemetery Sakura Tokyo
Aoyama Cemetery Sakura Tokyo
Aoyama Cemetery Sakura Tokyo
Aoyama Cemetery Sakura Tokyo
Aoyama Cemetery Sakura Tokyo
Aoyama Cemetery Sakura Tokyo
Aoyama Cemetery Sakura Tokyo
Aoyama Cemetery Sakura Tokyo
Aoyama Cemetery Sakura Tokyo
Aoyama Cemetery Sakura Tokyo
Aoyama Cemetery Sakura Tokyo
Aoyama Cemetery Sakura Tokyo
Aoyama Cemetery Sakura Tokyo
Aoyama Cemetery Sakura Tokyo
Aoyama Cemetery Sakura Tokyo
Aoyama Cemetery Sakura Tokyo
Aoyama Cemetery Sakura Tokyo

More Photos from Chidorigafuchi and Kitanomaru Park
Sakura Chidorigafuchi and Kitanomaru Park
Sakura Chidorigafuchi and Kitanomaru Park
Sakura Chidorigafuchi and Kitanomaru Park
Sakura Chidorigafuchi and Kitanomaru Park
Sakura Chidorigafuchi and Kitanomaru Park
Sakura Chidorigafuchi and Kitanomaru Park
Sakura Chidorigafuchi and Kitanomaru Park
Sakura Chidorigafuchi and Kitanomaru Park
Sakura Chidorigafuchi and Kitanomaru Park
Sakura Chidorigafuchi and Kitanomaru Park
Sakura Chidorigafuchi and Kitanomaru Park
Sakura Chidorigafuchi and Kitanomaru Park
Sakura Chidorigafuchi and Kitanomaru Park
Sakura Chidorigafuchi and Kitanomaru Park
Sakura Chidorigafuchi and Kitanomaru Park
Sakura Chidorigafuchi and Kitanomaru Park
Sakura Chidorigafuchi and Kitanomaru Park
Sakura Chidorigafuchi and Kitanomaru Park
Sakura Chidorigafuchi and Kitanomaru Park
Sakura Chidorigafuchi and Kitanomaru Park
Sakura Chidorigafuchi and Kitanomaru Park
Sakura Chidorigafuchi and Kitanomaru Park
Sakura Chidorigafuchi and Kitanomaru Park
Sakura Chidorigafuchi and Kitanomaru Park
Sakura Chidorigafuchi and Kitanomaru Park
Sakura Chidorigafuchi and Kitanomaru Park
Sakura Chidorigafuchi and Kitanomaru Park
Sakura Chidorigafuchi and Kitanomaru Park
Sakura Chidorigafuchi and Kitanomaru Park
Sakura Chidorigafuchi and Kitanomaru Park
Sakura Chidorigafuchi and Kitanomaru Park
Sakura Chidorigafuchi and Kitanomaru Park
Sakura Chidorigafuchi and Kitanomaru Park
Sakura Chidorigafuchi and Kitanomaru Park
Sakura Chidorigafuchi and Kitanomaru Park
Sakura Chidorigafuchi and Kitanomaru Park
Sakura Chidorigafuchi and Kitanomaru Park
Sakura Chidorigafuchi and Kitanomaru Park
Sakura Chidorigafuchi and Kitanomaru Park
Sakura Chidorigafuchi and Kitanomaru Park
Sakura Chidorigafuchi and Kitanomaru Park
Sakura Chidorigafuchi and Kitanomaru Park
Sakura Chidorigafuchi and Kitanomaru Park
Sakura Chidorigafuchi and Kitanomaru Park
Sakura Chidorigafuchi and Kitanomaru Park
Sakura Chidorigafuchi and Kitanomaru Park
Sakura Chidorigafuchi and Kitanomaru Park
Sakura Chidorigafuchi and Kitanomaru Park
Sakura Chidorigafuchi and Kitanomaru Park
Sakura Chidorigafuchi and Kitanomaru Park
Sakura Chidorigafuchi and Kitanomaru Park
Sakura Chidorigafuchi and Kitanomaru Park
Sakura Chidorigafuchi and Kitanomaru Park
Sakura Chidorigafuchi and Kitanomaru Park
Sakura Chidorigafuchi and Kitanomaru Park
Sakura Chidorigafuchi and Kitanomaru Park
Sakura Chidorigafuchi and Kitanomaru Park

More Photos from Inokashira Park in Kichij?ji
Inokashira Park in Kichijoji
Inokashira Park in Kichijoji
Inokashira Park in Kichijoji
Inokashira Park in Kichijoji
Inokashira Park in Kichijoji
Inokashira Park in Kichijoji
Inokashira Park in Kichijoji
Inokashira Park in Kichijoji
Inokashira Park in Kichijoji
Inokashira Park in Kichijoji
Inokashira Park in Kichijoji
Inokashira Park in Kichijoji
Inokashira Park in Kichijoji
Inokashira Park in Kichijoji
Inokashira Park in Kichijoji
Inokashira Park in Kichijoji
Inokashira Park in Kichijoji
Inokashira Park in Kichijoji
Inokashira Park in Kichijoji
Inokashira Park in Kichijoji
Inokashira Park in Kichijoji
Inokashira Park in Kichijoji
Inokashira Park in Kichijoji
Inokashira Park in Kichijoji
Inokashira Park in Kichijoji
Inokashira Park in Kichijoji
Inokashira Park in Kichijoji
Inokashira Park in Kichijoji
Inokashira Park in Kichijoji
Inokashira Park in Kichijoji
Inokashira Park in Kichijoji
Inokashira Park in Kichij?jo

More Photos from the Sumida River Park
Sakura Sumida River Park
Sakura Sumida River Park
Sakura Sumida River Park
Sakura Sumida River Park
Sakura Sumida River Park
Sakura Sumida River Park
Sakura Sumida River Park
Sakura Sumida River Park
Sakura Sumida River Park
Sakura Sumida River Park
Sakura Sumida River Park

More Photos from Ueno Park
Sakura Ueno Park
Sakura Ueno Park
Sakura Ueno Park
Sakura Ueno Park
Sakura Ueno Park
Sakura Ueno Park
Sakura Ueno Park
Sakura Ueno Park
Sakura Ueno Park
Sakura Ueno Park
Sakura Ueno Park
Sakura Ueno Park
Sakura Ueno Park
Sakura Ueno Park
Sakura Ueno Park
Sakura Ueno Park
Sakura Ueno Park
Sakura Ueno Park
Sakura Ueno Park
Sakura Ueno Park
Sakura Ueno Park
Sakura Ueno Park
Sakura Ueno Park
Sakura Ueno Park
Sakura Ueno Park
Sakura Ueno Park
Sakura Ueno Park
Sakura Ueno Park
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April 9, 2014 at 10:58 am Comments (12)

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