Sugamo is a neighborhood renowned for its main shopping street, named Jizo Dori, which some refer to as the Harajuku of elderly people. The most famous store of Sugamo specializes in red clothes. It is actually a Japanese tradition to offer a piece of red clothing to someone who turns 60 years old. The district is also home to the Koganji where pouring water over a special statue of Buddha can cure your ailments.
Kawagoe is known as little Edo since its old historical buildings are reminiscent of old Tokyo at the time it was named Edo. It was once a strategic location for trade with Tokyo. Kawagoe makes a perfect day trip from Tokyo and will please those who like to walk in a charming neighbourhood and sample local delicacies sold at the many food stalls and gift shops.
The Honmaru Residence is the only remaining structure of what was once the Kawagoe Castle. It used to serve as the lords residence and office. The building is now a museum that features a garden and several historical artefacts.
The god enshrined at the Fukurokujujin temple is known to bring happiness and prosperity. The temple features a “hidden” garden that is particularly beautiful in autumn.
The god of success, good fortune, business and mariage is enshrined at the Kumano shrine in Kawagoe. Visitors to Kumano can purify themselves by washing their coins in a special fountain. The most peculiar feature is perhaps the small passage leading to the shrine whose sides are covered by round stones. Those who venture on this path barefoot are in for a good massage!
The Kiyosumi Teien garden is designated as a site of scenic beauty. Troughout its long history, the garden was the home of important political figures and wealthy merchants. For example, it once belonged to Mitsubishi’s founder and was used for the enjoyment of his employees and guests. The garden is now open to the public. Kiyosumi garden is built around a pond and features many stepping stones that allow visitors to get closer to the water. Beware of the Suppon, the Japanese soft shelled turtle that won’t hesitate to bite your fingers. They are actually strict carnivores!
The Tamagawa Sengen Shrine is located on a small hill close to Tamagawa station. The shrine features a large observation deck overlooking the Tamagawa river so it a great place to have an overview of the region. One of the shrine’s altar has a large stone sphere that reminded me of the Dragon Ball manga, something I have seen only at the Tamagawa shrine.
Rikugi-en is a famed Japanese garden located in the Northwestern sector of Tokyo. Like many Japanese gardens, the park features a pond surrounded by small hills and beautiful vegetation. We visited the park after a rare snowstorm that affected the area of Tokyo so we witnessed the garden in a very unusual and beautiful snow-covered state. As a relief to the cold, we got to enjoy a warm tea while basking in the sun at the lakeside teahouse.
Summer is the season of Japanese festivals, or Matsuri in Japanese. When visiting the neighbourhood of Okurayama in late summer, we were pleasantly surprised by the ongoing festivities of the Okurayama Matsuri. The local shrine’s Omikoshi (festival float) was being carried around in the streets by locals. In the evening, Yatai food stalls were lining up the street leading to the small local shrine. We ate choco bananas and got purified by a shinto priest at the shrine.
The National Art Center is among the largest art museums of Japan and features only temporary exhibits. At the time of my visit there were nice exhibitions about modern architecture and paintings. The architecture of the museum is very modern and the facade is completely covered with glass panels. Access to the atrium is free and visitors do not have to but tickets for the whole museum but only for the exhibitions that they wish to visit. This museum is a must for those interested in art as it features diverse collections, whether modern or classical, which change over time.