Set Current Location
The Imperial Palace East Gardens is one of the only parts of the Imperial Palace grounds that is fully open to the public. It was the innermost line of defense for the now gone Edo Castle and as a result, it has moats, guard houses and walls. A beautiful Japanese garden was planted in place of the buildings that formed the second-most inner ring of defense - it's a lovely place to visit and walk around, particularly in the spring and summertime. The park is closed on Mondays and Fridays.
Belonging to the Nichiren sect, a major homegrown branch of Buddhism in Japan, this temple stands in an area where Nichiren, the sect's founding priest, exercised enormous influence. The temple pagoda, which dates to 1622, is among the three oldest in Tokyo. It was erected in honor of a family of painters, the Hon'ami. Cherry trees and an attractive gate made of zelkova, (keyaki) similar in design to that at Zojoji in Shiba, make this an appealing temple to visit.
This tiny Zen Buddist temple's main hall, originally constructed in the 19th century, resembles a traditional Japanese storehouse, or kura. Well-to-do families built these storehouses with thick walls and barred windows to protect their valuables from fire. Perhaps this explains why the temple survived the great Kanto earthquake in 1923 and the subsequent second world war bombings in 1945—quite rare among the city's wood-constructed buildings.
Priests added the name "Hagidera" to this temple at the same time they planted bush clover or hagi. At one time, it was reputed that there were 126 different species of bush clover in the precincts, which caused even the poet, Basho, to visit. The garden here (which still boasts a number of the 126 varieties of clover) together with its small Buddhist statues, makes this temple a worthwhile stop.
Shogun Tsunayoshi, a strong advocate of Confucius, established this major Confucian shrine in 1632. A forerunner to Tokyo University during the Edo Period (pre-1868 Tokyo), the buildings were a government sponsored school for training bureaucrats. Formerly located in Ueno Park, the shrine was relocated to Yushima in 1691. The main hall dates to 1935 and was designed by prominent architect Chuta Ota. The hall, which houses a 17th century image of Confucius, is open on Sundays, but the courtyard can be seen any day.
Directly in front of the main entrance of Hotel Okura's parking lot is Kihachiro Okura's contribution to the museum world. Set in an exquisite Japanese-style building and established in 1917, this private museum is notable for being the first of its kind in Japan. Changed seasonally, the eclectic collection includes screens, Noh masks and costumes, ancient books, paintings, ceramics and imposing sculptures.
Kabuki-za, the main kabuki theater in Tokyo since 1889, usually features two daily performances each consisting of three or four plays, and the repertoire is changed monthly. For 650 Yen, non-Japanese-speaking visitors can hire earphones that give an explanation in English. The visitor who does not have time for an entire performance can buy a ticket for the 4th floor to watch part of the show, but earphones are not available. Five restaurants provide a wide range of Japanese food and refreshments for visitors.
Both nagare and gongen style architecture are represented in these austere buildings, reflecting the taste of Yoshimune Tokugawa, the shogun who is associated with this shrine. A pair of splendid gingko trees greets the visitor at the top of the stone-stepped approach. Kaishu Katsu, who was pivotal in the smooth transition of the Meiji Restoration, lived in the vicinity of the shrine and even used its name in the title of his memoir, "Hikawa Sewa" (Pure Talk from Hikawa).