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Tokyo – Daimon March 13, 2012

Posted by Dru in Japan, Kanto, Tokyo, Travel.
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Author’s Note:  Dru’s Misadventures has moved to HinoMaple.  Please venture on over there to read “Tokyo – Daimon” complete with photos.  http://wp.me/p2liAm-Mz

Daimon is an area that is fairly unknown to a majority of tourists in Tokyo.  It is better known as Hamamatsucho or even Shiba.  Being Tokyo, many neighbourhoods are so close to each other that it can be difficult to distinguish between the different areas.  This is one such area.  Stretching from the east side of Hamamatsucho Station all the way to Tokyo Tower, the Daimon area is not the most entertaining areas but one of the secret gems of Tokyo.  For those with little time, there is no real reason to visit, to be completely honest, but if you have the time, you will be rewarded with beauty and tranquility that is not found outside of the area.

Daimon itself is a very bland area.  It is a modern symbol of how most of Japan’s cities look.  It has the appearance of being a small city in Japan with rows of boring rectangular buildings.  In all directions you look, you will find it difficult to tell where you are unless you can see Tokyo Tower.  Adding to the blandness is the fact that the area around Hamamatsucho is very busy transfer point as it is the end station of the Tokyo Monorail which runs to Haneda Airport.  The east side of Hamamatsucho is the home of the Kyu Shiba Rikyu Gardens but unfortunately I haven’t visited that area yet but I hope to do so in the near future.  The garden is considered the most beautiful in Tokyo and must be worth a visit.  I often just head straight from Hamamatsucho Station to Zojoji which is just a few minutes on foot.

Zojoji is a very beautiful Buddhist temple located near the foot of Tokyo Tower.  It is a large complex that houses one of the most tranquil temples in Tokyo.  I have visited many temples and shrines but Zojoji is one of the few inviting temples that encourage people to go inside and pray.  In some temples and shrines, the prayer area can feel a bit strange as the doors may be closed, or the setting can feel a little less inviting.  It is worth the time to just sit down and soak up the atmosphere inside the temple itself.  It is a very quiet atmosphere where you can only hear the various prayers people make as they throw their money into the collection boxes.  As I mentioned in a previous post about the best temples and shrines in Tokyo, Zojoji is one of the most picturesque.  With Tokyo Tower in the background, you can really get a good sense of history and modernity.  The surrounding grounds are also interesting with a small hall adjacent to the main one.  Behind the small hall is a mausoleum for some of the members of the Tokugawa shogunate, one of the first shogun clans to rule Japan.  They are revered in Tokyo and I would say one of the most, if not the most important clan in Japanese history.  Unfortunately you do have to pay a small fee to enter the mausoleum grounds itself.

To the south of Zojoji is Shiba Park.  It is not a very popular park and very often overlooked by most people.  Most tourists will cut through Zojoji to head directly to Tokyo Tower.  I prefer a small stop in Shiba Park as it is somewhat of a unique park in Tokyo.  The entrance makes the park look like a very small park.  It is an open field with trees in the back.  What is hidden is a large mound with stairs heading up the mound at the back of the open field.  Few people, aside from the locals visit this area.  It is a wonderfully quiet area with mostly local tourists exploring the area.  There are a few monuments in the area but for those longing for some nature, specifically a forest like feeling, this area is perfect.  With trees blanketing the entire hill, you will be hard pressed to find a lot of natural sunlight as the trees filter out most of the sunlight.  There are a lot of interesting corners of the park that can be explored.  It won’t take a long time to explore the entire park but it is worth it if you have the time.

Flanking Zojoji are two hotels.  The Prince Park Tower is located to the south of Zojoji on the west side of Shiba Park.  It is a tall modern tower that is a nice hotel to stay in, albeit somewhat less convenient than many other hotels.  There is a small open field located next to the hotel that is a nice way to cut through to Tokyo Tower rather than going through the main route next to Zojoji.  On the north side of Zojoji is the Tokyo Prince Hotel.  This is one of the most written about hotels in Tokyo.  Various novels that are set in Tokyo often use the Tokyo Prince Hotel as one of their locations.  While it is often referred to in various novels, it is also well known for its swimming pool.  In the summer, the pool is open to the public for a fee and it is one of the most popular swimming pools in the city.  This is mainly due to the good views of Tokyo Tower next to the hotel itself.  Unfortunately, for a regular tourist, this is probably not an important place to visit and the building itself is architecturally boring.  The area itself is more important than the hotel but for the curious, there is no harm visiting the hotel itself.

Aside from Zojoji and being a way to access Tokyo Tower, Daimon is not really an important place for tourists to visit.  I feel that it is a very nice hidden gem in the city and worth a visit for Zojoji alone.  It doesn’t take a long time and you can easily visit Tokyo Tower at the same time.  Combining it with an afternoon trip to Roppongi can help as well, and Tokyo Tower is pretty well connected to other areas of Tokyo via the Tokyo Metro System.  It can be difficult to choose but if time is on your side, make plans to visit the Daimon area.

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Tokyo — Imperial Palace East Gardens May 17, 2011

Posted by Dru in Japan, Kanto, Tokyo, Travel.
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Author’s Note:  Dru’s Misadventures has moved to HinoMaple.  Please venture on over there to read “Tokyo – Imperial Palace East Gardens” complete with photos.  http://wp.me/p2liAm-DC

 

I have written in the past about the Imperial Palace but I have almost always neglected to visit the East Gardens.  The East Gardens are a free area of the Imperial Palace that is home to one of the most beautiful gardens in Tokyo.  Being a free garden makes it more special as there are few if any gardens in Japan that are open to the public.  The East Gardens are situated on the north east corner of the palace grounds.  It can be a little difficult to find at first as most people will head to the main palace, or the Kokyogaien, the southern park.  There are three entrances to the East Gardens, but most people will use the main Otemon gate.  It is easily accessible from Tokyo Station or Otemachi Station.  Upon entry into the gardens from Otemon gate, you will be within the Sannomaru grounds.  When visiting a Japanese castle, or former castle, they have “marus”.  A maru is literally translated into circle, but for a castle, it can be roughly translated into an area or section.  Each section is fortified by walls and defences.  Think of a traditional European castle with an outer and inner wall.  This is no different except traditionally there is no ring, but rather areas.  The Sannomaru area is not a very interesting place, to be honest, but it is a typical tourist “entrance”.  You will pass a small entrance where you must grab a tab.  This is mainly to keep track of who is inside the park, especially when closing.  You must return this as you leave.  Don’t worry about having to pay for anything as everything is free.  Once inside, there is a small museum and souvenir shop within the Sannomaru area.  The Sannomaru Shozokan is a museum housing works from the Imperial Collection.  The collection is rotated to display various items that were gifted, donated, or inherited by the Imperial Family.  You can see various works of art within this very small museum.  It is actually just one room with various works of art inside.  The souvenir shop is equally as small offering very simple gifts such as chopsticks and a few books about Japan.  Calendars of the Imperial Family are also available, however making use of the building as a rest stop is a good idea.

On the self guided tour, you are supposed to head up to the Honmaru area first.  This is the largest area and home of the old Edo Castle when it was standing.  I found the garden in this area to be somewhat sparse compared to the Ninomaru area, but the historical importance of this area is much higher.  You can see various remnants of the old castle along with a little information of what they were used for.  Sticking to the centre of the garden will take you to various planted gardens.  The centre of attention for this area has to be the Oshibafu.  It is a large grass lawn that is used for Imperial ceremonies at times.  In reality, I found it to be a bit boring and stuck to the outer circle where you can see more trees and plant life.  The Honmaru area is filled with various fruit trees, rose bushes, and bamboo groves.  Aside from the plant life, the Tenshudai is the main artificial focal point.  It is the remaining foundation of the old Edo Castle before it was destroyed.  It is used more as a viewing platform these days but the view is only of the Honmaru area itself.  If you are expecting a nice view of the surrounding area, you will be disappointed.  There is also the Tokagakudo Concert Hall.  It is a tall concert hall with various pieces of art on the sides that depict the different seasons of the year.  It is one of the most beautiful buildings in the gardens, but keep in mind that it is a modern styled building.  The other buildings are all traditional buildings that have a lot of history, such as barracks for soldiers.  You can’t really compare old and new things in terms of beauty.

The Ninomaru area is the most beautiful area of the garden.  This is where you will see the most life.  If you approach the area from the back of the Honmaru area, not from the Otemon entrance, you will be delighted with a view of either the Ninomaru area or plum trees.  The Bairin-zaka Slope, or plum grove slope, is absolutely beautiful during the plum blossom season (March).  You can see two varieties of plum blossoms, both light and vibrant pink.  They are very similar to cherry blossoms and provide an early taste for the famous cherry blossom season.  The Suwano-chaya Tea House and Ninomaru Garden are located near the plum tree grove and are, in my opinion, the focal point of the Ninomaru area.  The Tea House is not open to the public but it is a traditional looking tea house.  The surrounding trees make this a very picturesque area.  To one side of the tea house is a small section of trees.  There are 47 different trees with each tree representing a different prefecture in Japan.  The Ninomaru Garden is another beautiful area with a medium sized coy pond and a small waterfall.  You can climb up a small embankment to the top of the waterfall where you will get great views of the Ninomaru gardens.  The Ninomaru Gardens are a great place to relax in the afternoon.  You may not be able to find a nice place to sit, but you will definitely find it peaceful.

The East Gardens are a pleasant surprise for me.  I was expecting it to be a little boring and to be honest 5 years ago I would have found it boring.  While the rest of the Imperial Palace grounds are nothing to get excited about the East Gardens is a small exception.  It’s a great place to spend a few hours enjoying the nature Japan has to offer.  It offers a wide variety of plant life that you would see if you toured all over Japan.  You can also get a small taste of what a traditional Japanese garden will look like.  Of course each garden in Japan is different but this garden is not extremely different compared to others in Japan.  It isn’t very traditional, and the landscape is set within the castle grounds itself.  The plants are more “modern” compared to a traditional Japanese garden, but you will still get a better feel of a Japanese garden at no cost to yourself, aside for the time it takes to tour the area.  It’s definitely a good place to visit if you have the time.

Imperial Palace East Garden Information:

Japan Guide: http://www.japan-guide.com/e/e3018.html
Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tokyo_Imperial_Palace

このblogは英語のblog。もし私の英語は難しい、日本語のquestionは大丈夫。

Maps January 31, 2010

Posted by Dru in Uncategorized.
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Author’s Note:  Dru’s Misadventures has moved to HinoMaple.  Please venture on over there to read “Maps” and other posts from this blog.  http://wp.me/s2liAm-maps 

For a time at the end of 2009 till 2010, I was creating maps to accompany my posts.  Unfortunately, I no longer have the time to keep this up.  I will continue to keep these existing maps online and you may continue to view them along with the posts that are here at Dru’s Misadventures.

Dru

MAPS:

Ajinomoto Stadium (2010-01-31)
Japanese Football: Kashima Antlers VS FC Tokyo
Japanese Football: Urawa Reds VS FC Tokyo

Asakusa (2010-01-31)
Part I
Part II

Ginza (2009-10-25)
Part I
Part II

Gundam (2010-01-31)
Shizuoka

Harajuku (2009-11-01)
Part I
Part II

Japan’s Top 3 Views (2010-01-31)
Amanohashidate
Matsushima
Miyajima

Jingu Stadium (2009-12-06)
Japanese Baseball: Tigers VS Swallows

Makuhari Messe & Chiba Lotte Marine Stadium (2010-01-31)
2009 Tokyo Motor Show
Japanese Baseball: Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles VS. the Chiba Lotte Marines

Nippori (2010-01-31)
Nippori

Odaiba (2010-01-31)
Part I
Part II

Otaru (2009-11-28)
Otaru
Otaru Snow Gleaming Festival

Samezu (2010-01-31)
Converting a License in Japan

Shibuya (2010-01-31)
Part I
Part II
Part III

Shinjuku (2009-11-15)
Part I
Part II
Part III

Suzuka Circuit (2010-01-31)
2009 Formula 1 Fuji Television Japanese Grand Prix

Toyocho (2010-01-31)
Renewing a License in Japan

Tsukiji (2010-01-31)
Tsukiji

Tokyo (Ginza – Part II) March 24, 2009

Posted by Dru in Japan, Kanto, Tokyo, Travel.
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Author’s Note:  Dru’s Misadventures has moved to HinoMaple.  Please venture on over there to read “Tokyo (Ginza – Part II)” complete with pictures.  http://wp.me/p2liAm-8a

Exploring the North-East section of Ginza is probably the better area in terms of shopping for high end goods, but for reasonably price goods, the South-West area is better.  The South area is filled with reasonably priced bars and restaurants, but they may not always be friendly to foreigners.  To experience the standing bar experience, many foreign people go to the 300 bar.  It’s a nice place, but very smoky and a minimum 2 drink buy.  I tend to avoid it, but when friends really want to go, I don’t always have a choice.  This area also has a few karaoke bars to have a little fun.  On Chuo-dori, you can head to Matsuzakaya which is a department store that caters to older women.  You will also run into Zara and the first H&M store in Japan.  You can also check out the “Lion” pub.  They have two locations on this side of Chuo-dori.  It’s a nice place that gives you a “European” feel, but to be honest, it isn’t worth it on a holiday, but if you want to go, it’s very popular for Japanese people.

The West area continues to Ginza tradition of expensive shops.  You will find many good, but expensive restaurants in this area.  Along Chuo-dori, the most notable shop is Uniqlo.  It’s a famous Japanese brand that promotes a simple, no brand style.  The clothes are very cheap and generally of good quality.  This shop also has a few Ginza exclusives to attract more people into the shop.  There are also a few specialty shops selling traditional Japanese items.  Along Harumi-dori, you will see Giorgio Armani and the Sony Building.  The Sony Building is very popular for tourists.  You will be able to see the latest gadgets that Sony has to offer.  They do sell most of the products and a few overseas models, but it’s just a fun place to play with all the cool toys.  Sometimes they even offer special exhibitions for art.  The basement has various goods within Plaza.  Plaza is Sony’s own convenience store that sells many foreign goods.  If you are also looking for cheap food in Ginza, going across the street to the Mosaic building, you’ll find reasonably price restaurants in the basement.

While Ginza is a wonderful place to look and shop, due to the price of the products, it’s more of a tourist area and for people with money.  If you continue south-west, you’ll reach Shinbashi, which has many cheap places to eat and drink.  Going north, you’ll reach Yurakucho, which offers cheaper shopping and a few electronic shops.  Due to the increase of tourists in the area, I am noticing less people heading to Ginza for shopping, but if you are out to see people, it’s a great way to see the stylish side of Tokyo.

このblogは英語のblog。もし私の英語は難しい、日本語のquestionは大丈夫。

Tokyo (Ginza – Part I) March 17, 2009

Posted by Dru in Japan, Kanto, Tokyo, Travel.
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Author’s Note:  Dru’s Misadventures has moved to HinoMaple.  Please venture on over there to read “Tokyo (Ginza – Part I)” complete with photos.  http://wp.me/p2liAm-88

Continuing on my Tokyo series, here, I’ll talk about the very famous district of Ginza.  Ginza is famous for being an upscale shopping district in Japan.  It’s is always compared to 5th Avenue in New York, Oxford Street in London, and Champs Elysees in Paris.  The shopping is top notch with the biggest name brands located within this small area.  To give you an idea, you can walk the perimeter of Ginza in about two hours.  Ginza is bounded by an elevated highway, which makes it easy to know when you leave Ginza.  While the south-east border has an underground highway, it’s still easy to tell the border as there is a huge street to cross.  The heart of Ginza has to be 4-chome (yon-chome).  Whenever you see pictures of Ginza, you are probably seeing 4-chome, or a picture very close to it.  Taking the train to Ginza is also relatively easy.  Finding 4-chome is also easy, but you can easily get lost at the same time.  Thankfully, there are several maps in the underground area of the station, but once you find it, it’s easy to explore Ginza.

4-chome, as I said is the most famous intersection in Ginza.  Running north-east to south-west is Chuo-dori.  It’s the main strip for Ginza.  On weekends and national holidays, the street is usually closed to traffic to allow pedestrians a wide space to enjoy their shopping.  Many local merchants also set out tables and chairs so you can have a nice rest in the sun, if it’s sunny.  Running north-west to south-east is Harumi-dori.  It’s a very busy street with relatively fewer things to see, but still a good destination.

On the North corner of 4-chome is the department store Wako.  It’s famous for its high prices and extreme luxury.  It’s a nice place to take a quick look at things you could never afford, unless you are very rich.  For something reasonable, exploring into the North, you’ll find Printemps which is a popular department store for younger women.  The entire North side of 4-chome is full of expensive luxury shops that have both no name shops and brand name shops.  It’s a wonderful area to just walk around and explore the many different shops.  There are also several mid range to expensive restaurants in the area.  Notable shops include Gucci and Emilio Pucci on Harumi-dori, and Kimuraya (bread shop), Chanel, Cartier and Apple.

The East side of Ginza 4-chome is probably the most popular, in terms of shopping.  On the corner, you have the Mitsukoshi department store.  Next door, you have the Matsuya Ginza department store.  Both are relatively the same, in terms of what they offer.  They both have large underground food shops where you can buy a lot of delicious Japanese and foreign foods.  It’s a must see for most people.  Behind Matsuya Ginza, you’ll also find the first Starbucks in Japan.  It’s a relatively small building, but the coffee is cheap for the Ginza area.  If you continue past Matsuya, you will run into Bvlgari, Tiffany & Co., and a large stationary shop called Itoya.  You can find almost any type of pen, pencil, or even painting accessories.  It’s a must see if you like stationary.  Travelling south-east into Higashi Ginza (East Ginza), you’ll reach the Kabukiza.  It’s a famous kabuki theatre.  Kabuki is an old style of theatre that is akin to the old Shakespearean theatre of England.  It’s an all male cast and tickets for the upper deck are relatively cheap.  You can even rent headsets that will give you information as to what is happening.  I hear it’s a wonderful place to visit on a lazy afternoon, but if you don’t have the time, it’s probably nothing you’ll cry about.

This is the end of Part I of this two part series. The second part is available at PART II.

このblogは英語のblog。もし私の英語は難しい、日本語のquestionは大丈夫。

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