Further afield – Tokyo

One of the largest and most fascinating cities on the planet, Tokyo is very ‘modern’ but very different from Western cities. Not sure I’d agree with Monocle magazine that it is the best city in the world to live (I have a slight bias for Auckland…) but it is a great place to visit.

Japanese Gardens
Some of the best in the country can be found in Tokyo, and many hit my soft spot of beautiful greenery surrounded by high-rise buildings (see also New York’s Central Park). After a while they do start to look rather similar, the Japanese reached perfection and stopped, with their combination of heavily managed trees, koi carp filled lakes, tea houses, and ornamental bridges, but they are beautiful. For more comprehensive guides check out Japan Guide and the Tokyo Park Association, but here are a few suggestions…

Hama Rikyu Garden, a favourite of mine, with more variety than most and in a great setting
DSCF4978 Hama-rikyu Gardens DSCF4961 Hama-rikyu GardensDSCF4941 Hama-rikyu Gardens

Shinjuku Gyoen, one of the largest parks in the city, filled with workers on their lunch break and families enjoying space outside their famously small apartments
DSCF6874 Shinjuku Gyoen Park DSCF6912 Shinjuku Gyoen Park

Rikugi-en, beautiful place, with a famous view from the Fujishiro-toge Hill over the gardens
DSCF7255 Rikugi-en Gardens DSCF7266 Rikugi-en Gardens Kyu-Furukawa Gardens, built by an Englishman, this features a traditional English house at the top of the hill, then rose beds, and down to a traditional Japanese garden at the bottom of the hill
DSCF7301 Kyu Furukawa Gardens DSCF7323 Kyu Furukawa GardensDSCF7295 Kyu Furukawa Gardens

Kiyosumi Tei-en Gardens, mostly lake, but with a nice path around the edge of it
DSCF5274 Kiyosumi Tei-en Gardens

Honmaru Higashi Gyoen Gardens, the east gardens of the Imperial Palace, with some impressive fortifications
DSCF7163 Honmaru Higashi Gyoen Gardens

Tokyo has, as you’d imagine, some pretty interesting architecture, if not a patch on Chicago, New York or London. They were never bombed to the degree that Tokyo was in WW2 or suffered the huge earthquake related fire storms of 1923, though the 1666 Great Fire of London and Great Chicago Fire in 1871 would have been close. To be honest much of the built architecture in Japan is pretty horrific, but Tokyo is a huge city with plenty to see.
DSCF5004 View from room DSCF6940 DSCF7358DSCF5467DSCF4995

Tokyo Metropolitan Government Center, a skyscraper modelled on Paris’s Notre Dame Cathedral, in Shinjuku, free entry to some of the best views of the city
DSCF7366 Tokyo Metropolitan Government Center DSCF6943 Tokyo Metropolitan Government Center DSCF6829 Tokyo Metropolitan Government CenterDSCF6843

Kyu-Iwasaki-tei, not much of a garden but has a beautiful Western style house with a huge veranda, and a Japanese style extension
DSCF7328 Kyu-Iwasaki-tei Gardens DSCF7336 Kyu-Iwasaki-tei Gardens

Take the Yurikamome Monorail out over the Rainbow Bridge to Odaiba to see some eclectic architecture, including the mildly diverting Museum of Maritime Science, built in the shape of a ship (with great views from the tower, including a capacious station car park!), and the iconic Fuji TV building
DSCF5506 Yurikamome Monorail to Odaiba DSCF5518 Rainbow Bridge DSCF5532 Museum of Maritime Science DSCF5562 Museum of Maritime Science DSCF5569 Museum of Maritime Science DSCF5526 Fuji TV Building

Frank Lloyd Wright spent six years in Japan. Sadly the amazing Imperial Hotel was demolished 1967, but Myonichi-Kan close to Mutekiya is representative of his style
DSCF7223 Myonichi-Kan Frank Lloyd Wright DSCF7234 Myonichi-Kan Frank Lloyd Wright

Art and culture
As expected from a city of Tokyo’s size and history there are some great museum and art galleries

Edo-Tokyo Museum, a fascinating museum, housed in a striking building, covering the history of Edo, pre-1868 Tokyo, with some great models
DSCF5618 Edo-Tokyo Museum DSCF5594 Edo-Tokyo Museum DSCF5647 Edo-Tokyo Museum

The Roppoingi area is very funky, with the Mori Art Museum and National Art Centre home to various touring exhibitions. Visiting the Mori Art Museum gives you access to the top of the Roppongi Hills Mori Tower, with great views across the city
DSCF5054 Roppongi Hills DSCF5056 Roppongi Hills DSCF5099 Roppongi Hills DSCF5021 National Art Centre DSCF5033 National Art CentreDSCF5097 DSCF5095

Tokyo National Museum, pretty massive with an extensive if not hugely exciting collection of worthy historical items
DSCF5205 Tokyo National Museum DSCF5207 Tokyo National Museum

Fukagawa Edo Museum, smaller than the Edo-Tokyo Museum but arguably gives a better feel for the period, with replica buildings and rooms to explore
DSCF5298 Fukagawa Edo Museum

Yushukan Miltary Museum, scarily jingoistic, particularly in relation to Japan’s behaviour overseas, but does contain a good amount of military hardware if that’s of interest
DSCF7136 Yushukan Miltary Museum DSCF7142 Yushukan Miltary Museum

National Museum of Western Art, housed in a brutalist Le Corbusier building, with a good collection of Impressionists and religious paintings
DSCF5236 National Museum of Western Art DSCF5240 National Museum of Western Art

Other things of interest
Asakusa, home to Asakusajinja Shrine, one of largest and most impressive temples in the city, and the famous Nakamise shopping street
DSCF5305 Asakusa DSCF5318 Asakusajinja Shrine DSCF5322 Asakusajinja Shrine DSCF5307 Nakamise

Ueno Zoological Gardens, a good range of animals but housed in cramped facilities, quite horrible to see the condition in which the polar bear and others are kept
DSCF5135 Red Panda Ueno Zoological Gardens DSCF5163 Ueno Zoo

Yasukuni-jinja, the temple at the heart of some very uncomfortable Japanese / Chinese relationship issues whenever the Japanese Prime Minister visits
DSCF7113 Yasukuni-jinja

Tsukiji Market, world-famous fish markets, which even without getting up at a ridiculous time to see the tuna auctions, are still well worth a visit, though you may be put off seafood for a while
DSCF5475 Tsukiji Market DSCF5479 Tsukiji Market

Author: jontycrane

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