With the Olympics hopefully coming up this year, it’s a good time to learn more about Japan if you’re going there, or even if you’re only dreaming of going. One place to start is with 100 Tokyo Sights, a beautiful and informative book.
Tuttle Publishing kindly sent us a copy of 100 Tokyo Sights: Discover Tokyo’s Hidden Gems by Stephen Mansfield to read and review in exchange for our honest review.
This is a small book with a lot in it. There are 240 6″x6″ pages. Think of it as a mini coffee table book – perhaps a nesting table book, or a bedside table book – have a look at it before falling asleep and dreaming about visiting the locations within in person.
At the back of this book are travel tips such as when to go, earthquakes, safety, traveling as a family, Wi-fi availability, etc.
On the cover of this book is the gold sculpture on the Asahi Beer Hall, was affectionately known as ‘The Golden Turd’ by gaijin (foreigners). In 2002/3 there was a capsule hotel located just to the right of where this photo was taken. On certain nights of the week there was a floor of the hotel on which women could stay. It’s a good experience, if you have the chance to stay in one.
5 Parts to Exploring the Tokyo Sights:
As Tokyo is such a huge metropolis, you should make a game plan before you go. Will you concentrate on just one area, or do you have more time to explore different regions of the city, or perhaps even the surrounding area? Mansfield has divided this book into the following 5 regions.
- Exploring Central Tokyo
- Exploring Northern Tokyo
- Exploring Southern & Eastern Tokyo
- Exploring Western Tokyo
- Excursions around Tokyo
Exploring Central Tokyo
Central Tokyo has the Imperial Palace, which when built was the world’s largest fortress, at its core. You can visit the East Garden grounds for free when it’s open, with the interior grounds being open to the public only twice a year.
There is a lot of fashionable shopping to do in this area. From the recently constructed Tokyo Midtown Hibiya Complex to Ginza Six Shopping Mall, as well as the Okuno Building Arts & Curios Shops.
Northern Tokyo Sights
I always stopped by Akihabara, also known as “Electric Town,” to purchase film for my camera (that was a while back), as well as to wander through and marvel at the latest Japanese technology that’s on display here.
Ueno Park is a short walk from the underground and worth a wander through. Through to the other side you’ll find Tokyo National Museum, where I spent a morning, but only saw part of what it held.
One place I didn’t get to, unfortunately, was Kappabashi, aka “Kitchenware Town,” where you’ll find everything you can think of: knives, iron teapots, uniforms, and the infamous wax food models that you’ll see in windows of almost every casual restaurant in the country.
Also of interest may be Jizo-Dori (“Healing” Street) where those with ailments go to visit temples, funeral supply shops, or wash or rub statues to help relieve their own ailments.
Exploring Southern & Eastern Tokyo
This area of the city is built on a fault line, so there’s always the risk that the next time to return to Tokyo, this area may no longer exist, having crumbled away, so be sure to put it on your agenda.
This is the district in which you’ll find both the Tokyo Tower and the Tokyo Skytree overlooking the city. The famous Roppongi Hills is also here. Three times a year you can watch live sumo wrestling at the National Sumo Stadium (it’s as interesting to watch the spectators as it is the sport, in my opinion). I do with I’d have known about the Tomioka Hachimangu Flea Market and it’s interesting items!
If nature is your jam, then Hyakka-en, the “Garden of a Hundred Flowers” looks like a beautiful location. If you’d like to see nature as it was before it was tamed, try a walk around the Institute For Nature Study.
Western Tokyo Sights
This is the area for artists and those who like to observe the less-structured side of Japan. Kabuki-cho Entertainment District can be found here, although it’s not place you’d want to take your children. Don’t get it confused with Kabuki-za, which is not in this district, but is where you can watch Kabuki, one of the three traditional performing arts of Japan.
If you haven’t heard of the Yayiu Kusama Museum, look into it; some of the images are well-known, and even emulated by others.
One place you’ll want to take the family is to the famous Shibuya Crossing – the largest scrambled crossing in the world, I believe. Although it can seem chaotic, there is an astounding amount of orderliness to it.
One way to learn more about the history of Japan and to envision how it would have looked centuries ago is to visit Edo-Tokyo Architectural Museum. I love this type of ‘open air’ museum – admire the architecture, learn about the historic industries, and even a few stories of life at the time. I’ve never been disappointed.
Excursions around Tokyo
Although Tokyo has many gardens and parks, sometimes you just want to travel outside of the city and see what the surrounding area has to offer. There are many places you can visit in a day, and even more if you time the public transportation just right.
I travelled to Nikko with a friend to see the Royal Mausoleums, which was quite interesting (we weren’t fortunate enough to see the resident monkeys, however). An excursion to Kamakura to see one of the 3 ‘Great’ Buddha’s of Japan was how I spent my last day in Japan. I didn’t know about getting to the island of Enoshima, however…maybe next time.
A day trip to Yokohama is fun; one of the world’s largest China Towns is here, also a futuristic area and a ride up a glass elevator to an observation deck, You can see old European/British styles of architecture here, and it’s a good place to wander around and see what you see.
New (to me) places that have captured my attention are Oya Machi Stone Village, which looks unique (as do so many places in Japan) with the buildings made of stone rather than wood as is more common throughout Japan to help flexibility during earthquakes. I’d also love to go rafting down the Arakawa River at Nagatoro. The colours and landscape in these photos remind me of the Iya Valley, but easier to get to.
My goodness, 100 Tokyo Sights has taken me down memory lane, and I’m so happy to see that the Japan I know and love is still there, even if the number of tourists have increased with time. I never thought Tokyo would interest me (I declined a job in the area for my position in Toyama), but every time I returned to Tokyo, I found there was always so much to the city. We started off as cool acquaintances, but swiftly became good friends.
Use this book to learn more about Tokyo and the surrounding area, admiring the gorgeous photographs, or give it as a gift to someone you’d like to introduce to Japan.
If you’re interested in purchasing 100 Tokyo Sights, it’s available through:
- Tuttle Publishing
- Great bookstores near you
If you’d like to know more or would like to follow Tuttle Publishing, you can connect with them through their website, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest (and you can see our other Tuttle reviews here).