Tokyo Map
Site Index
Contact
Random
Our Travel Books
Advertising / Press

Tokyo at Night

Add to Flipboard Magazine.
Tokyo At Night

It should come as no surprise to learn that the world’s largest city lights up spectacularly at night. Whether you’re in Shinjuku or Ginza, Tokyo changes completely once the sun goes down. Cities often seem more sinister in the dark, but not Tokyo. People are more relaxed, the atmosphere is more lively, and the illuminated buildings are even more stunning. Following a long day of sight-seeing, there’s nothing we loved more than walking home at night, especially after a rainfall when the air was crisp and the city’s lights reflected off the wet pavement.

Buy Framed Tokyo Photos

Tokyo At Night
Tokyo At Night
Tokyo At Night
Tokyo At Night
Tokyo At Night
Tokyo At Night
Tokyo At Night
Tokyo At Night
Tokyo At Night
Tokyo At Night
Tokyo At Night
Tokyo At Night
Tokyo At Night
Tokyo At Night
Tokyo At Night
Tokyo At Night
Tokyo At Night
Tokyo At Night
Tokyo At Night
Tokyo At Night
Tokyo At Night
Tokyo At Night
Tokyo At Night
Tokyo At Night
Tokyo At Night
Tokyo At Night
Tokyo At Night
Tokyo At Night
Tokyo At Night
Tokyo At Night
Tokyo At Night
Tokyo At Night
Tokyo At Night
Tokyo At Night
Tokyo At Night
Tokyo At Night
Tokyo At Night
Tokyo At Night
Tokyo At Night
Tokyo At Night
Tokyo At Night
Tokyo At Night
Tokyo At Night
Tokyo At Night
Tokyo At Night
Tokyo At Night
Tokyo At Night
Tokyo At Night
Tokyo At Night
Tokyo At Night
Tokyo At Night
Tokyo At Night
Tokyo At Night
Tokyo At Night
Tokyo At Night
Tokyo At Night
Tokyo At Night
Tokyo At Night
Tokyo At Night
Tokyo At Night
Tokyo At Night
Tokyo At Night
Tokyo At Night
Tokyo At Night
Tokyo At Night
Tokyo At Night
Tokyo At Night
Tokyo At Night
Tokyo At Night
, , , ,
July 14, 2014 at 2:25 pm Comments (2)

The Yomiuri Giants & Tokyo Dome City

Add to Flipboard Magazine.

The Yomiuri Giants are the the New York Yankees of Japan. You can love them or hate them, but ambivalence is not allowed. They’re by far the richest and most successful team in Japanese baseball, with 22 titles under their belts. (The Saitama Seibu Lions are in second place with 13.) We took a trip to the Tokyo Dome to see the team in action.

Before the game started, we had a couple hours to kill. Luckily, Tokyo Dome City is a great place to kill time. An entire entertainment complex has sprung up around the stadium, with arcades, roller coasters, bars, restaurants, a mall, and even a hotel occupying a towering 47-story skyscraper. We went to the top of this building for a view over the dome, and then stopped by the arcade to challenge each other to a fierce match of video game pogo-jumping.

But the game was about to start, so we raced over to the 7-11 to stock up on beer and snacks — the ability to bring in your own supplies remains my favorite aspect of baseball in both Japan and Korea. The regular seats were all sold out, so we bought standing-room-only tickets, but I wasn’t too bothered… at least the stadium would be full, in stark contrast to the Swallows game we’d seen in April. But it turns out that standing-room in the Tokyo Dome is not good. There are only certain areas in which you’re allowed to stay, and the best spots are reserved by groups who have come in early and laid down their mats.

So we couldn’t see much. We maneuvered into an uncomfortable position behind the first-base line and, from our tiptoes, were able to catch some of the action. The Giants got off to a horrible start, dropping three runs in the first inning, and the crowd wasn’t exactly jubilant. Between each inning, we moved to a different spot, but never found a place which afforded a decent view. I don’t like leaving a match early, but the standing-room tickets had been half-price, so I felt justified in going home at the halfway point. The Giants ended up losing 7-2.

As a stadium, the Tokyo Dome leaves a lot to be desired. Baseball is meant to be seen outside, and being indoors ruins the atmosphere. That said, we’d have had more fun if we had planned properly and gotten actual seats. And the entertainment complex of Tokyo Dome City is certainly worth some time, even if you’re not going to the game. Overall, we enjoyed everything about the evening, except actually watching baseball.

Location of the Tokyo Dome on our Map

Great Gifts From The Japan

Yomiuri Giants Tokyo Dome City
, , , , , ,
July 5, 2014 at 11:11 am Comments (2)

Our Favorite Shibuya Sights

Add to Flipboard Magazine.

We spent many entertaining evenings in Shibuya, which has become one of the most exciting areas in Tokyo. There are so many bars, shops and things to do here, that it would be hopeless to attempt listing them all. But here were a few of our personal favorites.

Cat Street Tokyo
Cat Street

Perhaps the best way to approach Shibuya is along Cat Street, by way of Omotesando. This curvy lane follows the old path of the Shibuya River, and brings you past loads of cool designer stores, vintage clothing shops, and cozy cafes. It’s is one of the most popular areas among the young and hip of Tokyo, and serves as a relatively laid-back introduction to the craziness you’re about to experience in Shibuya. [Location]

Shibuya Goat Cafe
Sakuragaoka – Goat Cafe

Found on the quieter southern side of the tracks, Sakuragaoka has won fame not for its food or drinks, but for its doormen. In a cage outside the cafe are two braying goats. Sweet-tempered Sakura is white, while boisterous Chocolat has a brown coat. You can pet Sakura without fear, but take care if attempting to touch Chocolat; that feisty beast will head-bash anyone who gets too close. The goats are fun, but our favorite part of this cafe was its familiar atmosphere and excellent food. [Location]

Photo Boxes

Yes, fine, the most important thing is inner beauty. Blah blah, now shut up and get out of the way, so I can get inside this photo box and show you what real beauty looks like.

You can find Fashion Photo Booths all over Tokyo, but for some reason it took a trip to Shibuya before we felt brave (or drunk) enough to step inside one. Want freakishly huge eyes like a Disney character? Want smoother, lighter skin like the finest porcelain? Want your wrinkles to vanish along with the last of your self-regard? Then these photo booths are for you. Results can range from terrifying to hilarious. But probably not beautiful.

Uobei  Automated Sushi Restaurant
Uobei Automated Sushi

Sit down in front of a terminal at Uobei, and scroll through the options. Tuna nigiri, that sounds good. Salmon with mayo? Yes please. And a tempura shrimp roll for only ¥108? That’s crazy, I’ll take it. Selections made, you press “go.” A couple minutes later, a tray with three plates zips out along a magnetic belt, stationing itself in front of you. You grab the plates, press a button and zip, the tray flies off, back in the opposite direction.

Ostensibly prepared by humans, the sushi at Uobei is delicious and fun, but will make connoisseurs turn up their nose. One offering, for example, is cheeseburger sushi. Yes, we ordered it. Yes, we loved it. Though Uobei forces you to miss out on the human engagement which makes experiencing a foreign culture so rewarding, sometimes it’s nice to just look at color pictures of food, press buttons, and eat in blissful peace, no talking required. [Location]

Karaoke Tokyo

(With our friends from Chic Soufflé and Not Hemingway’s Spain)

Karaoke

You’re in Tokyo, so you’re doing karaoke. No, that’s not a suggestion, nor is it a threat. Just a simple declaration of fact. You’re in Tokyo, so you’re doing karaoke. Grab your friends, have some drinks, and relax. This isn’t American-style karaoke, where you’re asked to bleat in front of a huge crowd of strangers. In Japan, you rent a room, and the only people who will ever hear you are those you trust.

We thought that in Shibuya, karaoke might be too expensive, or that we’d have to wait in a long line. But in fact, this turned out to be the best place for it. There are a lot of halls, and maybe because they’re forced to compete, they’re cheap. You normally rent a room for an hour at a time, and the price includes all the drinks you want. The machines can be switched to English, and the song selection is excellent. Kanye West? Guns n’ Roses? System of a Down? 99 Luftballons? Shibuya’s karaoke halls have you covered. But as for your friends’ ears… they’ll have to cover those, themselves.

Crazy Shibuya
Maidreamin’

We sat down at our table in this below-ground restaurant in Shibuya, and were instantly made dizzy by the pixellated decor. Maidreamin’ is a cafe that takes its inspiration from the 8-bit world of Mario Brothers. I don’t remember any flirty french maids in the video game, but perhaps they were on Level Eleven.

We leaned back in our chairs and allowed ourselves to be entertained by a super-sweet cadre of hostesses who brought us food, served us beer, blew us kisses, taught us cutesy-pie songs, and even danced to ear-splitting J-Pop on a tiny stage in the middle of the cafe. It was a bizarre, very Tokyo-ish evening out and even though our personal tastes run more toward butlers, we had a great time. [Location]

Tokyo Tower Framed Photo

More Photos from Cat Street
Cat Street Tokyo
Cat Street Tokyo
Cat Street Tokyo
Cat Street Tokyo
Cat Street Tokyo
Cat Street Tokyo
Cat Street Tokyo
Cat Street Tokyo
Cat Street Tokyo
Cat Street Tokyo
Cat Street Tokyo
Cat Street Tokyo
Cat Street Tokyo
Cat Street Tokyo
Cat Street Tokyo
Cat Street Tokyo
Cat Street Tokyo
Cat Street Tokyo
Cat Street Tokyo
Cat Street Tokyo
More Photos from the Goat Cafe
Shibuya Goat Cafe
Shibuya Goat Cafe
Shibuya Goat Cafe
Shibuya Goat Cafe
Another Beauty Box Photo
Beauty Booth
More Photos from Uobei Automated Sushi Restaurant
Uobei  Automated Sushi Restaurant
Uobei  Automated Sushi Restaurant
Uobei  Automated Sushi Restaurant
Uobei  Automated Sushi Restaurant
Uobei  Automated Sushi Restaurant
Uobei  Automated Sushi Restaurant
A Couple More Karaoke Photos
Karaoke Tokyo
Karaoke Tokyo
Another Pic from Maidreamin’
Crazy Shibuya
Random Shibuya Pictures
Crazy Shibuya
Crazy Shibuya
Crazy Shibuya
Crazy Shibuya
Crazy Shibuya
Crazy Shibuya
Crazy Shibuya
Crazy Shibuya
Crazy Shibuya
Crazy Shibuya
Crazy Shibuya
Crazy Shibuya
Crazy Shibuya
Crazy Shibuya
Crazy Shibuya
Crazy Shibuya
Crazy Shibuya
Crazy Shibuya
Crazy Shibuya
Crazy Shibuya
Crazy Shibuya
Crazy Shibuya
Crazy Shibuya
Crazy Shibuya
Crazy Shibuya
, , , , , , , , , , ,
June 20, 2014 at 12:04 pm Comments (2)

Ikebukuro’s Sunshine City

Add to Flipboard Magazine.

It’s best to take Sunshine City’s name at face value. And I don’t mean that it’s filled with sunshine, but that it’s truly a city of its own. This enormous complex spreads across four buildings, including the Sunshine 60, which became the tallest building in Asia upon its completion in 1978.

Sunshine City Tokyo

You could fly into Tokyo, take the metro to Ikebukuro, stay in the Sunshine City Prince Hotel, go shopping the in the Alpa mall, check out the Ancient Orient Museum, and entertain yourself at the Namja Town arcade. That’s a busy schedule, and you haven’t even left Sunshine City. In fact, you’ve barely scratched the surface of what this complex has to offer.

Over the next few days, you could shop in a second giant mall (the Alta), admire the view from the observation deck atop the Sunshine 60, check out the recently-refurbished aquarium, go to the planetarium, catch a show at the Sunshine Theater, play around at another arcade/theme-park called J-World, and choose your meals from around 90 restaurants. What a great vacation you’ve had in Sunshine City! (Next time you’ll have to check out this other city called Tokyo, which I’ve heard is okay, too.)

Jürgen and I experienced a mere fraction of Sunshine City’s attractions. After getting completely lost among the shops on the lower floors, we made our way to the World Import Mart Building, which hosts the two indoor theme parks, Namja Town and J-World. At the top of this building is the aquarium, and below that, a salon dedicated to Go, crowded with serious-looking guys bent over game boards.

We decided to entirely skip the Bunka Kaiken building, along with its Museum of the Ancient Orient, and instead wandered across the Rooftop Sunshine Plaza, on our way to the Sunshine 60. Here, one of the the world’s fastest elevators whisked us up to the top floor.

Considering the admission price, this isn’t among the better observation decks in Tokyo. It was crowded, and you’re not allowed close to the windows, except at a few points which are usually packed with people. But still, we enjoyed Sunshine City, another completely overwhelming place in the world’s most overwhelming city.

Location on our Map

Order Japanese Snacks From Here

Sunshine City Tokyo
Sunshine City Tokyo
Sunshine City Tokyo
Sunshine City Tokyo
Sunshine City Tokyo
Sunshine City Tokyo
Sunshine City Tokyo
Sunshine City Tokyo
Sunshine City Tokyo
Sunshine City Tokyo
Sunshine City Tokyo
Sunshine City Tokyo
Sunshine City Tokyo
Sunshine City Tokyo
Sunshine City Tokyo
Sunshine City Tokyo
Sunshine City Tokyo
Sunshine City Tokyo
Sunshine City Tokyo
, , , , , , , ,
June 18, 2014 at 7:51 am Comments (0)

Our Introduction to Kaiseki at Tofuya-Ukai

Add to Flipboard Magazine.

Kaiseki is Japan’s haute cuisine, a traditional meal of several individually-crafted dishes. It’s as expensive as it sounds, and since our budget won’t allow us to repeatedly indulge in kaiseki, we wanted to be careful about the restaurant in which we’d experience it. After considerable research, we decided upon Tofuya-Ukai. I doubt we could have made a better choice.

Kaiseki at Tofuya-Ukai

Found at the foot of the Tokyo Tower, Tofuya-Ukai is one of the most popular kaiseki restaurants in the city. From the moment we walked through the gate, we were enchanted. In the middle of noisy, modern Tokyo, the Tofuya-Ukai offers an oasis of serenity and tradition. A path through a Japanese-style garden, complete with cherry trees and a koi pond, brought us to the main building where a woman dressed in a kimono greeted us with a deep bow.

After checking our reservation, she showed us to our table. And I don’t mean, she pointed us to a spot across the dining room full of other guests. No, we followed her on a circuitous course through the building, which looks more like the residence of a powerful daimyo than a restaurant. She led us through a hall with enormous sake barrels and down a long hallway, before sliding open the doors to our compartment. We removed our shoes and stepped into a simple tatami-floored room with large windows looking out onto the garden.

Our kaiseki lunch was served in seven courses. As indicated by the restaurant’s name, tofu is the house specialty and was the centerpiece of the main dishes. I don’t mind tofu, but have never understood its appeal. However, I’d never had tofu like this. Delicate and rich, the white squares floating with kelp in a large copper pot were so pure and lovely, I didn’t want to touch them. All the tofu served at the Tofuya-Ukai is made in-house, and it’s delicious.

The food was just a single part of what made the experience so memorable. The quarters were lovely, and I’d have been satisfied to simply spend an afternoon sitting on the tatami and looking out onto the garden. And the service! The waitresses brought in the plates one by one, theatrically placing each in front of us with precise, studied movements. The plates and bowls were always different, individually suited to each dish, and the presentation of the food was thoughtful, emphasizing the freshness and color of the ingredients.

The Tofuya-Ukai wasn’t cheap, but it was worth every penny. Kaiseki is an essential Japanese experience, and one we’re happy to have had at Tofuya-Ukai. If you’d like to eat here yourself, make sure to get reservations early, as the restaurant fills up weeks in advance.

Location on our Map

We visited the Tofyua-Ukai with friends from Spain, one of whom writes about food on the blog Chic Souffle. If you can read Spanish, or just want to see more mouth-watering photos of the food we ate, check out her take on the Tofuya-Ukai.

Japanese Cook Books

Kaiseki at Tofuya-Ukai
Kaiseki at Tofuya-Ukai
Kaiseki at Tofuya-Ukai
Kaiseki at Tofuya-Ukai
Kaiseki at Tofuya-Ukai
Kaiseki at Tofuya-Ukai
Kaiseki at Tofuya-Ukai
Kaiseki at Tofuya-Ukai
Kaiseki at Tofuya-Ukai
Kaiseki at Tofuya-Ukai
Kaiseki at Tofuya-Ukai
Kaiseki at Tofuya-Ukai
Kaiseki at Tofuya-Ukai
Kaiseki at Tofuya-Ukai
Kaiseki at Tofuya-Ukai
Kaiseki at Tofuya-Ukai
Kaiseki at Tofuya-Ukai
Kaiseki at Tofuya-Ukai
Kaiseki at Tofuya-Ukai
Kaiseki at Tofuya-Ukai
Kaiseki at Tofuya-Ukai
Kaiseki at Tofuya-Ukai
Kaiseki at Tofuya-Ukai
Kaiseki at Tofuya-Ukai
, , , , ,
June 4, 2014 at 8:39 am Comments (2)

A Trip to the Kabuki-Za Theater

Add to Flipboard Magazine.

Japan’s most famous cultural offering, Kabuki, is not an art form meant to cater to Western tastes. The performances can last all day long. The acting, done exclusively by men, is second-fiddle to the make-up and costumes. Monologues go on interminably. The music is strange and the dialogue is usually recited in an exaggeratedly affected, chiming manner. There is no earthly reason why Jürgen and I should have enjoyed it. But we did.

Kabuki Theater Tokyo

Kabuki emerged in the 1600s, and was originally performed entirely by women. These were often courtesans who might be purchased, and the shows were suggestive and bawdy. Kabuki was a natural fit in the red light districts of Tokyo, and drew audiences of every social class. Hoping to curb prostitution, women were eventually banned from performing, and acting duties were handed over to young boys… which did exactly nothing to curb prostitution. Performances were often interrupted by fighting in the audience over the affections of the most attractive young lads.

Soon enough, Kabuki acting became the exclusive domain of mature males, and the performances grew less ribald. It developed into an art form whose popularity spread like wildfire through Japan. Although the capital of Kabuki was undoubtedly the red light district of Yoshiwara (until the end of legalized prostitution in 1958), the most prominent theater has long been found in Ginza. The Kabuki-za was originally built in 1889, destroyed by fire in 1921, rebuilt in 1922, destroyed by the earthquake of 1923, rebuilt in 1924, destroyed by Allied bombing in 1945, rebuilt in 1950, destroyed in 2010 due to structural flaws, and rebuilt again in 2013. Phew.

So the theater has a history of 125 years, which just happens to be the exact length of a normal kabuki performance. These things are long, often lasting from the late morning until the evening. Mercifully, it’s possible to purchase tickets for a single act, which might be 90 minutes long. The procedure to buy single-act tickets is complicated but manageable. A good run-down can be found here.

Kabuki Theater Tokyo

But don’t buy single-act tickets! We did so, and regretted the decision as soon as the show started. Kabuki is bizarre, indecipherable, tiring, silly, often boring, and utterly awesome. From the moment twenty ladies-in-waiting appeared on the stage, we were captivated. The play we were attending, Ichijo Okura Monogatari, dealt with the loyalties of a woman who had married into a rival clan, but the plot didn’t matter at all. This was about the acting, the make-up, the costumes and the set design. It was a lot of fun, and we were upset that we couldn’t stay for the subsequent acts.

Another problem with single-act tickets is that the seats are found way up at the top, in the theater’s worst section. From this height, you can’t see much of the detail in the actors’ expressions, nor the intricacy of their dress.

I didn’t expect to enjoy Kabuki anywhere near as much as I did. It’s hard to describe what’s so great about it… and when I try explaining it to friends, they look at me like I’m crazy. But I’m not crazy! Kabuki really is great, although you probably won’t believe that until you see it for yourself.

Location on our Map

(Unfortunately, the Kabuki-za is very strict about their “no photography” rule, so we weren’t able to get any pictures of the performance itself. You’ll have to see it yourself!)

Cheap Flights To Tokyo

Kabuki Theater Tokyo
Kabuki Theater Tokyo
Kabuki Theater Tokyo
Kabuki Theater Tokyo
Kabuki Theater Tokyo
Kabuki Theater Tokyo
Kabuki Theater Tokyo
Kabuki Theater Tokyo
Kabuki Theater Tokyo
, , , , , ,
May 27, 2014 at 5:16 am Comments (2)

The Tokyo Tower and the World Trade Center

Add to Flipboard Magazine.

Although it’s been unseated from its position as Japan’s tallest structure (and, at 333 meters, is positively Lilliputian in comparison to the new champion, Oshiage’s 634-meter SkyTree), the Tokyo Tower remains a popular tourist attraction. Modeled on the Eiffel Tower and painted bright orange, the tower has been a part of the city’s skyline since opening in 1958.

Tokyo Tower

Our reaction to the Tokyo Tower was mixed. It’s a shameless copy of the much grander Eiffel Tower, but still an impressive sight. Maybe it’s the bold orange color which contrasts so strikingly against the normal steel gray of the city’s skyscrapers. Or maybe it’s the weirdness of seeing the Eiffel Tower in Japan. Regardless, we consider the Tokyo Tower to be one of the city’s coolest structures.

Unfortunately, visiting its observation deck isn’t all that great of an experience. The view is nice, but the observation deck is always crowded, and more than a little annoying. Besides, when you’re inside the Tokyo Tower looking out, the best-looking building has effectively been removed from sight.

World Trade Center Tokyo Video

For a superior view, walk to the nearby World Trade Center. It’s not as tall as the Tokyo Tower, but the observation deck at the top of this building is cheaper to visit and much more serene. The huge windows are spotlessly clean and you can sit at them for as long as you want, without impatient tourists trying to shove you aside. You’re even allowed to bring in your own food and drinks. And there, in the foreground, is the Tokyo Tower in all its bright orange glory.

Locations on our Map: Tokyo Tower | World Trade Center

List of great hotels in Tokyo

More Views from the Tokyo Tower
Tokyo Tower
Tokyo Tower
Tokyo Tower
Tokyo Tower
Tokyo Tower
Tokyo Tower
Tokyo Tower
Tokyo Tower
Tokyo Tower
Tokyo Tower
Tokyo Tower
Tokyo Tower
Tokyo Tower
Tokyo Tower
Tokyo Tower
Tokyo Tower
Tokyo Tower
Tokyo Tower
Tokyo Tower
More Views from Tokyo’s World Trade Center
World Trade Center Tokyo Video
World Trade Center Tokyo Video
World Trade Center Tokyo Video
World Trade Center Tokyo Video
World Trade Center Tokyo Video
World Trade Center Tokyo Video
World Trade Center Tokyo Video
World Trade Center Tokyo Video
World Trade Center Tokyo Video
World Trade Center Tokyo Video
World Trade Center Tokyo Video
World Trade Center Tokyo Video
World Trade Center Tokyo Video
World Trade Center Tokyo Video
World Trade Center Tokyo Video
World Trade Center Tokyo Video
World Trade Center Tokyo Video
World Trade Center Tokyo Video
, , , , , ,
May 21, 2014 at 8:52 am Comments (3)

Atago Hill and the NHK Broadcast Museum

Add to Flipboard Magazine.

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
, , , , , ,
May 18, 2014 at 11:29 am Comments (2)

Asakusa’s Owl & Parakeet Cafe

Add to Flipboard Magazine.

“This is fun,” I said to the girl working at the cafe, raising my voice to be heard above the squawking. “But it would never be allowed in America!” She looked at me, baffled, and asked why not. At this moment, there were six parakeets on my head, and bird poop was running down my shoulder. Something was pecking at my neck and, in the next room, people were petting an eagle. I considered explaining, but decided against it. Regarding animal cafes, the rift between our cultures might be too wide.

Asakusa’s Owl & Parakeet Cafe

We had visited a dog cafe in Busan, and cat cafes have become popular in a few European cities. But Tokyo always enjoys taking things to the next level. In addition to dog and cat cafes, this city has cafes dedicated to goats, turtles, snakes, rabbits… and owls. We showed up at Asakusa’s Owl & Parakeet Cafe, not long after it opened to the public.

On entering the downstairs cafe, my first thought was “This place is tiny,” followed immediately by “Holy crap, that’s a huge eagle!” It was right next to me, definitely within pecking-distance. My primal instinct ordered me to flee, but given the size of the room, there was nowhere to go.

In a cage in the corner, we found two fluffy baby owls, just one month old and already quite large. Above them sat a couple full-grown owls, and we were encouraged to go ahead and pet them all, including the babies. I hovered my hand above one owl, trying to pet her, but she kept a steady eye on my fingers, pecking whenever they came too near. Eventually she calmed down and I was able to scratch the back of her head.

Asakusa’s Owl & Parakeet Cafe

This was already crazier than any other “cafe” I’d ever been to. But now we passed into the larger “parakeet room” and the crazy level went from 10 to WTF?!? Flying around wildly were over sixty squawking parakeets who, from the moment we entered, were fighting with each other for the honor of perching atop our heads. Those who couldn’t find room on our heads contented themselves with our shoulders, arms and hands. One feathered fellow, who I never actually laid eyes on, nestled into a comfortable position at the back of my neck, which he would occasionally nibble.

The girl working in the cafe put a container of seeds into my hand, which I appreciated because I had just been thinking that this needed to get even more insane. The birds immediately recognized the container and dove for my hand, trying to pry the lid off. “You can pet them,” said our guide, as though this were something I had the slightest desire to do. Instead of petting them, may I wring their necks?

May I run screaming from the room?

Asakusa’s Owl and Parakeet Cafe is hard to classify as “fun,” and it’s certainly not a cafe in which you’d want to drink coffee, but it’s quite an experience. How much you enjoy it depends entirely on how much you love birds.

Location on our Map

Learn Japanese

Asakusa’s Owl & Parakeet Cafe
Asakusa’s Owl & Parakeet Cafe
Asakusa’s Owl & Parakeet Cafe
Asakusa’s Owl & Parakeet Cafe
Asakusa’s Owl & Parakeet Cafe
Asakusa’s Owl & Parakeet Cafe
Asakusa’s Owl & Parakeet Cafe
Asakusa’s Owl & Parakeet Cafe
Asakusa’s Owl & Parakeet Cafe
Asakusa’s Owl & Parakeet Cafe
Asakusa’s Owl & Parakeet Cafe
Asakusa’s Owl & Parakeet Cafe
, , , , , , , ,
May 5, 2014 at 10:19 pm Comments (5)

The Imperial Palace Tour

Add to Flipboard Magazine.

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

« Older Posts

Tokyo at Night It should come as no surprise to learn that the world's largest city lights up spectacularly at night. Whether you're in Shinjuku or Ginza, Tokyo changes completely once the sun goes down.
For 91 Days