A millennium ago or so the legend goes, the Hirokuma brothers found the statue of Kannon (the Bodhisattva of Mercy - the deity alleged to have great powers in purifying people and granting them true happiness) in their fishing nets, and the village chief dutifully enshrined it. The Asakusa Shrine was thus established in 1649 and the three persons in the legend were consecrated as gods of the shrine, hereby earning it the nickname Sanja-sama (the shrine of the three gods). Undoubtedly one of the most famous shrines in Tokyo, it also hosts the Sanja Festival in May.
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.
Residing amid rolling, open parkland, the glorious Kōkyo (Tokyo Imperial Palace) is an ethereal structure commanding might and magnificence. Fronted by the rejuvenating Fukiage Garden, East Garden and Ninomaru Garden which are enlivened by an alluring autumnal glory, the palace is steeped in history and unabashed architectural excellence. The Imperial Palace has been the official residence of the Emperor and Empress of Japan since Tokyo became the political and imperial capital in 1868. Located in what was once the inner section of Edo Castle, the seat of the Tokugawa shogun, this piece of prime real estate in central Tokyo is enclosed by walls and moats. The magnificent visage gives way to an interior which is just as elegant, comprising Hōmeiden State Banquet Hall, the Rensui Dining Room and the Chōwaden Reception Hall among other sections. Only on two occasions - January 2 (New Year) and 23 February (Emperor Naruhito's birthday) do the Emperor and the Royal Family emerge and wave to the gathering crowd from behind bulletproof windows. A magnificent nexus of modernist architectural styles fused with rooted, traditional nuances, the Imperial Palace is the crowning glory of Tokyo.
Ueno Zoological Gardens, over a 100 years old, contains a multitude of birds, Siberian tigers, monkeys, gorillas, Giant Pandas, giraffes and other animals from all over the world. A monorail links the two separate areas within the zoo, and there is also a children's petting zoo at the southern end. A pagoda-like structure on one end of the park adds some Japanese history into the mix. Neatly combining history and wildlife, this attraction makes for a particularly rewarding experience for children.
Founded in 1926, the Tokyo Metropolitan Art Museum displays a wide range of Japanese art forms in its six huge galleries. Apart from organizing exhibitions of traditional Japanese crafts, graphic design and calligraphy by contemporary Japanese artists, the museum also holds art lectures and workshops for upcoming enthusiasts. Admission prices vary as per the exhibition. For more details, check the website.
Watching over the increasingly-cosmopolitan landscape of Sumida, Tokyo Sky Tree is one of the tallest of its kind in the whole of Japan. The tower is indeed a beacon of the city's contemporary bent and an amalgam of the country's traditional tastes and elements of Neo-futuristic architecture. Boasting a monumental scale of 634 meters (2080 feet), this lofty tower is home to many attractions including a restaurant, a cafe, an aquarium and a couple of observation decks that afford astounding views of the metropolitan cityscape beneath. Also doubling as a broadcasting tower, Tokyo Skytree prides itself on its glorious standing as one of the world's tallest towers. A sight of magnificence and luminescence at night, Tokyo Sky Tree is not only a dominating feature of Sumida's skyline but is also a majestic embodiment of the city's ever-evolving face.
Lixil Gallery is located on the 2nd floor of the Tokyo Tatemono Kyobashi building. It plays a crucial role in taking emerging artists under its wing, and giving them a platform to showcase their artworks. Established in 1982, the trendy place boasts an eclectic repertoire of exhibitions all year round so check website for details. At this same floor, you can also see contemporary ceramic-artworks at Galleria Ceramica.
The term art has come to mean a lot of things other than the cliched painting and music. Song, music, dance, visual art, graphic designing and sculpture are a few of the other art forms which have become popular over the years. ASK? Art Space Kimura promotes various forms of art and culture in the city of Tokyo. To know more about the events and the place, do visit their website.
Gallery Koyanagi is tucked away at the back of the Koyanagi building, on the eighth floor. Here you will find around thirty artistic spaces, all occupied by well-established artists, both local and foreign (Sophie Calle, Rei Naito, Yoon Hee Chang). It's a space that requires time and quiet (it's one of the largest commercial art spaces in Tokyo) and both shall be richly rewarded.
Kobo Gallery is in fact a podium to help showcase some of the best abstract arts from local, national as well as international artists. With more focus on local and national artists, Koba helps in promoting the abstract artists to help build healthier competition. Located in an old fashioned building, the art works keep changing on a frequent basis.
The Mitsui Memorial Museum houses priceless paintings and other works of art that have been wonderfully preserved by the Mitsui family. One can get a deep insight into Japanese culture over the centuries. Check website for details of upcoming events.
Idemitsu Museum of Arts is located on the 9th floor in the Teigeki building. Since its 1966 opening, the Idemitsu has earned a reputation for housing excellent ceramics, the Chinese portion of which is among the most extensive to be found in Japan. The collection also includes byobu (folding screens), lacquer, painting, Chinese bronzes, scrolls, calligraphy, and tea utensils. For study and research, representative shards from various Japanese kilns are on display in a separate room. The first museum director, Sazo Idemitsu acquired this collection over a 70-year span. In addition, the Idemitsu owns more than 400 works of the French religious and expressionist painter Georges-Henri Rouault (1871-1958).