The Institute for Nature Study is a natural sanctuary located in the heart of Tokyo. Unlike other gardens in the metropolis, the park’s mission is to preserve the forest in its natural form — vegetation is allowed to grow freely as it would in the wildest regions of Japan. The institute will appeal either to those seeking a meditative experience in the peaceful forest or those interested in Japan’s indigenous plants.
Restaurant-boats are a common sight along the Sumida river in the evening but can also be seen in great numbers in the bay of Tokyo.
On the menu : typical isakaya-style fare or okonomiyaki and plenty of beer. Some of them have a terrace accessible on the roof to take a breath of fresh air and enjoy the night scenery of Tokyo.
The sight of Tokyo Skytree is quite surreal in the night sky of Tokyo. One very good spot to see Tokyo Skytree is located a short walk South-East of Sensoji temple close to the Asakusa train station. On the northern riverbank of Sumida river, a short set of stairs lead you to a walkway right next to the water.
You will get a very good view of Tokyo Skytree, and if you are there at dinner-time, you will see a lot of boats pass by. Those brightly-lit boats are “Yakatabune” where you can eat and drink while cruising the Sumida river. This type of restaurant-boat is a landmark in Asakusa.
To the right of Skytree, you will also see the strange golden sculpture atop the New Asahi building. Many Japanese refer to this sculpture as the “Golden Ounco” which translates to “Golden Poo”.
This is not an unusual sight in Japan. Many restaurant chains and small joints use these machines to save on labor costs and to streamline the ordering process.
Don’t be fooled by the look of the machine, many good affordable restaurants use those. If you are lucky they will have a fancy display with pictures. Making a choice will be easy.
If you are less lucky, everything will be written in Kanji without photos. Don’t be discouraged, I’ve often been in this situation as well. Adopting a puzzled expression on your face is a good solution. More often than not, a staff will come and help you choose with whatever English they know. Not only your getting great food but some original human interaction, perhaps with the cook himself.
As for the technicalities: simply insert some bills in the machine and push any button you like. Paper receipts will come out for each item, you should bring those to the table of your choice where a staff will come acknowledge your order. FYI beer is spelled like ビール.
When it comes to detailed information about attractions in Japan, Japan-guide is hard to beat! It is simply the most complete reference of touristic destinations, cultural customs and touristic guides available about Japan. It would take years, or decades, for any neophyte traveler to cover Japan-Guide’s exhaustive list of castles, parks, restaurants and museums.
Every entry on Japan-guide is accompanied by a complete description including the price of the attraction, the opening hours, the address, and a simple map with useful info about nearby roads, scenic paths and trains/bus stations. It also sometimes provides bus schedule, which is very practical when most local information is in Japanese!
Also, every touristic landmark is ranked by popularity (most visited). Although this can be sometimes misleading as most visited does not necessarily imply the best, it is still a good indicator of which attractions have the most to offer. Although the visual appearance of Japan-guide can be a bit dense at times, make sure to pay a visit before your next trip to Japan, it might inspire and simplify your trip organization!
I found some very interesting shots from Naoki Ishii. Many of his flickr photos are about flowers and nature but a few of them also concern Japanese temples and cityscapes.
Finding a good train route or schedule in Japan can sometimes be tricky, but with the right tool it can become much easier. Of course, google map can do it, but its interface can be sometimes complicated to use while in a rush.
That is where Jorudan becomes handy. With its clean interface that is easy to use on any smartphone, one quickly understands why it is a popular choice among the Japanese. Whether you need to take metro in Tokyo, local trains in the countryside or move rapidly across the country with the Shinkansen, Jorudan has all the info necessary, and will provide a route with transit time as smooth as it can be.