Dedicated to the deified spirits of Emperor Meiji and Empress Shoken, this Shinto shrine was originally constructed in 1920 at the site of an iris garden that is known to have been favored by the royal couple. Emperor Meiji ascended to the throne in 1867, at the height of the Meiji Restoration, drawing Japan from the veils of feudalism and into the modern era. The traditional nagare-zukuri shrine is built amid a teeming, evergreen forest of over 10,000 trees from across Japan; a token of gratitude donated by the people. Simple, yet elegant, the Meiji Jingū is isolated from the hustle and bustle of the city, its verdant shroud softening the sounds of the vibrant metropolis that is Tokyo. Nearby lies the enchanting inner garden, a field of iris blooms in June. The Imperial Treasure House at the shrine also exhibits the coronation carriage and several other intriguing mementos of Emperor Meiji and Empress Shoken. The shrine that stands today is a reconstruction of the original, which dates back to 1958 after its predecessor was destroyed during World War II.
The Tokyo National Museum displays a bevy of sculptures, paintings, calligraphy, archaeological objects and other decorative arts. Broadly divided into Japanese, Chinese and Korean forms, the museum's collections are nothing short of artistic preservation of Asian history and culture. Exhibitions, lectures and gallery talks are held regularly, so visitors can gain access to some valuable information about the world's largest continent. The museum also stores historical documents dating back to the 10th and 11th Centuries.
Ryogoku Kokugikan is the largest indoor area in Tokyo; it can hold over 100,000 spectators comfortably at a time. The arena is designed keeping international standards in mind, as a lot of overseas tourists flock here during matches which are held every January, May and September. Refreshment stands serving alcoholic and non alcoholic beverages, and easy parking facilities are available. Do not forget to try out the legendary Yakitori which is Japanese style barbecue chicken, served during matches. A visit here is not merely a visit to an arena; it is a taste of a slice of the Tokyo life.
This striking Buddhist temple is one of Tokyo's oldest, originally established in 645 CE in honor of the goddess Kannon. Legend has it that in 628 CE, two brothers found a small statue of the goddess in the Sumida River which miraculously returned to them each time they submerged the idol. The majestic Kaminarimon, or Thunder Gate, guards the approach to Kinryū-Zan Sensō-Ji, its most distinctive feature being a massive paper lantern painted in shades of red and black to resemble a storm cloud. Beyond this lies the Nakamise, a pathway lined with colorful stalls selling traditional crafts and snacks. The temple itself is a magnificent sight, its main hall a grand spectacle replete with intricate details, and large paper lanterns strung from a ceiling held up by towering columns. Set alongside a five-tiered pagoda, the shrine is a vividly vibrant place of worship which is also one of the city's best known. The original temple was damaged during the Second World War; the existing structures are recent additions.
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.
Nestled in the recesses of Nagatachō, the iconic Hei Shrine upholds the spirit of the Shinto school. The temple enshrines Oyamakui-no-kami, its architecture comprising traditional elements like pointed roofs and scarlet, lacquered furnishings. Dating back to 1478, this revered shrine was originally built inside the Edo Castle to serve as protection from enemies. It was moved to its present site in 1659, with its role as guardian of the palace unfazed and unchanged. Although the facade is insignificant concrete, the torii gate bears inscriptions and glorious images of monkeys, which are believed to be messengers of the shrine's deity. A fine collection of Tokugawa swords and other relics are also on display in the shrine museum. An iconic sanctum in the midst of Tokyo's cosmopolitan din, the shrine does not just reverberate with an ardor which has shaped the religious course of the country, but also carries within itself legendary traces of the Kamakura eon.
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.
The impressive bronze statue of a mounted warrior in the park outside Tokyo's Imperial Palace shows Kusunoki Masashige, who lived from 1294 until 1336 and fought for the Emperor Go-Daigo to prevent the Kamakura shogunate from taking control of Japan. Kusunoki Masashige helped defend two fortresses at Akasaka and Chihaya and thus allowed Go-Daigo to return to power, at least briefly. During the Edo period, Masashige became a legend and great hero, representing courage, loyalty and devotion to the Emperor. For this reason he was revered by the World War 11 kamikaze pilots, who saw themselves making a similar sacrifice for their Emperor. -AH
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.
Last century, this was the parade ground for the Japanese Army, and now the nations first western style park has become an oasis for tired workers who on sunny days gather at lunchtime and have a few minutes repose from office-related stress. On weekends, the place is popular among courting couples. Close to the Imperial Palace and a short walk from Ginza, the Park also has a library, public tennis courts, restaurants, a flower shop and an open-air arena where concerts are often held.
Not everything is glitzy and expensive in Ginza-- Komparu-yu, the oldest senta (bath house) in Ginza, retains it's original two baths. One is nurui (lukewarm) and the other is atatakai (hot); the lukewarm bath, however, is hot enough for most visitors. Entrance is within 500 yen; a steal considering that these baths have survived since 1863.
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.