jump to navigation

Tokyo — Otemachi January 3, 2012

Posted by Dru in Japan, Kanto, Tokyo, Travel.
Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
comments closed

Author’s Note:  Dru’s Misadventures has moved to HinoMaple.  Please venture on over there to read “Tokyo – Otemachi” complete with photos.  http://wp.me/p2liAm-Is

Otemachi is a small business district north of Tokyo Station.  By all means, it is not a place most tourists would ever consider visiting.  It is an area that is virtually shut down on Sundays.  It is devoid of any open shops and restaurants which makes looking for food a near impossible task.  While there is almost nothing to do on the weekends, it is an interesting place architecturally and they do have various events scheduled in the area.

The first thing to understand when visiting the Otemachi area is to learn how to get around.  For most people, entering via Tokyo Station will be the easiest.  Entering via Otemachi Station will also be easy, but the labyrinth of underground passages makes this a very daunting task.  The street is much easier to get around, but due to the changeable weather at times, this is not always feasible.  Being close to the Imperial Palace, it is often rumoured that most of the tunnels around Otemachi were originally built in the build-up to World War II and that there are several secret tunnels still remaining.  Unfortunately, a walk through the tunnels of Otemachi is nothing interesting.  It is a typical labyrinth of access tunnels that will get you lost.  Otemachi Station itself is situated in a square shape around one block making transfers from one line to another very inconvenient.

Otemachi is one of the oldest areas of Tokyo and it is currently undergoing revitalization.  In many areas of Otemachi, you will see various construction sites and buildings in various degrees of completion.  Some of the older buildings will be around for many more years, but like the neighboring Marunouchi district, the old buildings have been destroyed or in the process of being destroyed.  If anything, you can get a great sense of Tokyo’s construction industry and how it functions when building high rises.  When visiting some of the newer buildings, you can find a lot of surprises.  The older high rises are generally closed to the public, but newer buildings are open with shopping floors in the basement.  As Otemachi continues to be revitalized, it is looking less and less distinct from neighboring Marunouchi and will soon be indistinguishable.

Otemachi, for tourists, is well known for being located at the entrance to the Imperial Palace East Gardens.  A short walk across the street from Otemachi is the main entrance to the East Gardens.  Located adjacent to the entrance is the Wadakura Fountain Park.  It is a beautiful park with many fountains.  It is just as beautiful, if not more, at night when the fountains are lit up.  While these are the large parks in Otemachi, Otemachi also has many tiny parks and areas to relax.  Similar to Marunouchi, this area has many secrets waiting to be discovered if you look for them.

As I mentioned in the beginning, Otemachi is an area that can easily be skipped by a typical tourist.  Neighboring Marunouchi has more things to do while Otemachi is a true business district.  There are many offices in the area and very little else.  Most people will just pass through on their way to the East Gardens and that’s pretty much it.  For those living in the area, or rather working in the area, it can be a treasure trove of secrets.  You can find passages underground that you never knew existed.  You can find small parks that are populated only by people working the surrounding buildings.  You can also find the typical “slaryman” of Japan.  Unfortunately, you won’t see them in their natural after work environment, the bar.  For that, you’ll have to walk across Tokyo Station to the Yaesu district.

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 — Imperial Palace East Gardens May 17, 2011

Posted by Dru in Japan, Kanto, Tokyo, Travel.
Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
comments closed

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。

Tokyo – Naka-dori (Marunouchi) February 15, 2011

Posted by Dru in Japan, Kanto, Tokyo, Travel.
Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
comments closed

Author’s Note:  Dru’s Misadventures has moved to HinoMaple.  Please venture on over there to read “Tokyo – Naka-dori (Marunouchi)” complete with photos.  http://wp.me/p2liAm-Cf

Naka-dori is a single street that stretches from Otemachi/Tokyo Station to Hibiya. It is a relatively unknown street in Tokyo and a great gem. If you have read my post about the Marunouchi area, you will know that is lined with various pieces of art. If you have read my post about Christmas lights in Tokyo, you will know that the street is lined with Christmas lights every year. This street has seen a huge revival in recent years due to the completion of several tall sky scrapers. For those who wish to enjoy a short afternoon or those who have been to Tokyo before but only visited the Imperial palace, this is a nice street to take a stroll.

Starting from Otemachi Station itself, finding Naka-dori can be a little challenge. The street starts between the exits of B1 and C14 of Otemachi Station. From there, it’s extremely easy to navigate as you are already on Naka-dori. This area of Naka-dori isn’t very interesting as they are still doing a few renovations but you can already see some of the changes that have occurred. One of the first things you will notice is that the entire street is lined with trees. This is a rarity in Japan, especially Tokyo. The trees may not be that big, yet, but they will continue to grow each and every year.

Most of the action starts next to the Marunouchi Building. From here, you can get a better feel for the street itself. The street feels more alike a European street than a Japanese street, yet it’s in the middle of a big city. The street is all brick lined, and as mentioned, also lined with trees. There are lots of various planted gardens along the street as well to give the entire area life.  This is a large change from the typical drab and lifeless streets of most areas in Tokyo. The biggest attraction along Naka-dori has to be the free art. If you have seen my post on the Hakone Open Air Museum, or if you yourself have been there, this is an area where you can see something similar. From the Marunouchi Building all the way to the Marunouchi Police Station, you will see various works of art lining the street. Some are new, some are old. Most of the art is actually on loan from the Hakone Open Air Museum.  This is probably due to the fact that the owner of almost every building in the area happens to also be the owner of the Hakone Open Air Museum. It’s a wonderful collection that will make you wonder what the artist meant, and some will also make you wonder if it is actual art. Needless to say, it’s something that can be enjoyed.

Naka-dori ends when you reach the Peninsula Hotel. While you can go a little farther, the atmosphere actually changes. After you pass the Peninsula Hotel, you will come to a plaza with a small statue of Godzilla. It’s a nice secret within Tokyo that is a must for anyone who wanted to meet Godzilla himself. The plaza is also a nice place to visit to see various hand prints and signatures of various famous people. The majority of the plaques are of Japanese people, but there are famous western actors and actresses as well. It’s similar to the Grauman’s Chinese Theatre in Hollywood where you can see the hand and feet imprints of various famous people. The only difference is that these are inverted. They are actually coming out of the floor. If you head a little further south, you will come to the end of the interesting area when you hit the Imperial Hotel. This is a famous Tokyo hotel that is the official hotel for royalty. While most royalty and heads of state will stay in Akasaka in the official guest residence, others will stay here. Next to the hotel is the famous Takarazuka theatre. This is an all female theatre troupe where all roles are acted by women. It is very famous amongst women in Japan and they are well known throughout Japan. You can often see hundreds of people lining the street waiting for the famous actresses to come out and wave to the crowd. It can be a little daunting to walk through but it provides an interesting scene to see.

Naka-dori is one of the best secret gems of Tokyo. While you may not see the “traditional” side of Japan, you will definitely enjoy the slow big city life. It’s a unique area that can’t be replicated. Ginza may be the posh shopping area for the wealthy, and Daikanyama is the posh area for the hipsters, but Naka-dori is the place for the office workers to run along and for tourists to stroll.

Naka-dori Information:

Naka-dori Official Site (Japanese): http://www.marunouchi.com/nakadori/

Takarazuka Revue Official Site (Japanese): http://kageki.hankyu.co.jp/
Takarazuka Revue (Wikipedia): http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Takarazuka_Revue

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。

%d bloggers like this: