This is a travel video about a short trip to Tokyo during the summer of 2018. My daughter and I spent three days there before continuing on to Canada. As we live in the region and visit Japan relatively frequently, we didn’t feel the need to visit any of the city’s must-see attractions. Instead, we focused on some of the lesser known tourist spots. Unfortunately, during the three days we there, Tokyo was experience a record-setting heat wave, so we didn’t do as much as we would have liked. The photo gallery for this trip is here: Tokyo Trip: Google Photos
Located in Sagami Bay near the town of Kamakura, this beach is about an hour by train from central Tokyo. It is not a spectacularly beautiful beach, but you can rent surfboards there and get away from the city for while. The small green train pictured in the video is the local Eno-den line. While we there we had brunch at bills, a cafe near the Shichirigahama train station. The cafe is know for its fluffy pancakes. The restaurant has a nice sea view, but between the restaurant and the beach is a busy highway, so it is not especially tranquil. When we arrived at the beach, the weather was hazy, but by the time we finished eating the skies had cleared. The beach is much more picturesque with blue skies, so do check the weather forecast before heading out.
A few train stops away is Kamakurakōkōmae station.The crossing by the station is the setting for the final scene of the Slam Dunk anime, so it is a popular Instagram spot.
teamLab Planets Tokyo
This was one the highlights of the trip. TeamLab is a collective of artists, musicians, computer programmers and engineers who specialize in creating immersive and interactive light and sound shows. They now have a permanent museum in Tokyo, teamlab Borderless (borderless.teamlab.art), but we went to their recent exhibition at Toyosu: teamLab Planets (planets.teamlab.art/tokyo). Both exhibitions require advance booking. I have a longer video and more detailed description of teamLab Planets show on my art blog: teamLab: Planets Tokyo.
I couple of years ago, I came across another of their installations in Kyoto. I have a photo gallery and article about that here: Kyoto: Light Festival at Tadasu no Mori and Shimogamo Jinja
The teamLab group does a great job of getting visitors through their exhibits while still allowing everyone plenty of time to enjoy the different environments.
This is a like a cat cafe minus the cafe part. The Nekobukuro cat playground is located at the Tokyu Hands department store in Ikebukuro. We were at the store buying souvenirs when we noticed that the floor directory listed a cat playground, so we decided to check it out. I have uploaded a longer video here, so if you like cats you can check it out: Nekobukuro video on YouTube.
We went there on a Sunday as I had read that there would be a flea market and live music performances. I had been expecting a much more lively atmosphere, but the flea market was tiny and there were only a couple of street musicians in the large park. We visited one of the temples at the park—Shinobazunoike Bentendo—where we listened to Buddhist chants as my daughter bought a paper fortune (the prediction printed on the paper did come true a few months later).
Sumida Fireworks Festival and Sensō-ji in Asakusa
After leaving the park we went to Asakusa. My daughter wanted to get a photo in front of Kaminarimon Gate, the entrance to the Sensō-ji temple complex (and a well-known Instagram checkpoint). She was a bit tired out, so she stayed in a dessert shop overlooking the gate while I went people watching. Most cities and towns in Japan have a summer fireworks festival and this was the day of Tokyo’s main festival. During the fireworks (hanabi) festival (matsuri), quite a few people will get dressed in traditional Japanese robes known as yukata. It was interesting to see the different kinds of styles on display and to see which people could pull off the look best. As we were heading to the river to to view the fireworks, we decided to go to dinner instead, so we just caught a few brief glimpses of the fireworks display on the way to the train station. We did catch another fireworks display in Ottawa a couple of weeks later.
Tokyo Tower and Sentai Kosodate Jizo
Another Instagram checkpoint my daughter wanted visit was Tokyo Tower. That day the sky was overcast and there was light rain, so the views were less than ideal, On the way we stopped to see the small statues in Sentai Kosodate Jizo (Unborn Children Garden). The statues are dedicated to the protection of children in general, and more specifically to those that were stillborn or miscarried. The garden is part of a the Zoujou-ji temple. The statues are known as mizuko (‘water child’) and are decorated with read caps and bibs as well as windmills. They serve to give grieving parents a way to come to terms with their loss.
After visiting Tokyo Tower, We walked around the nearby neighborhood of Roppongi for a while. I had read that one of Louise Bourgeois’s giant spider statues was there and having already written an article about those on my art blog (Giant Spider Sculptures by Louise Bourgeois), I thought we should check it out. When we got there I realized I had walked right past it a half hour earlier. There was just so much going on—like a mini-exhibition of a dozen or so Doraemon statues—that one could be oblivious to a 30-foot metal spider.
We checked out three art galleries at Complex 665:
- Shugoarts, featuring an exhibition of super-soft landscapes by Naofumi Maruyama
- Taka Isshi Gallery, featuring the nature-inspired minimalist works of Yukinori Maeda
- Tomio Koyama Gallery (featuring digitally altered photos by Cambodian artist Khvay Samnang and portraits by Malaysian artist Shoosie Suilaman
Visiting galleries is a good alternative to going to a museum—you can get a little dose of culture without having to trek your way through a huge building. Before heading back, we did stop by to take a quick look at the National Art Center, which is a gorgeous building (if you have time and like art, do check it out). .
When I went pick up the airport express tickets at Nippori station, I thought I would see what was around the station. Nearby is the quiet neighborhood of Yamanaka, where there are several small temples. These are not included in the video as I just took photos. I visited Hongyoji temple and Kyooji temple. Behind the main building at Hongyoji is a kind of cemetery in which the death names of people are inscribed onto wooden posts known as sotoba.
You can read more about this district here: trulytokyo.com/yanaka-tokyo-most-traditional-district
As our hotel was in Shin-Otsuka, we often ate at restaurants one train station away in Ikebukuro.
My daughter chose the restaurants, so I should thank her for the delicious choices. The restaurants featured in the video are:
- bills Shichirigahama: Fluffy pancakes! I was originally going to let my daughter order those and I would get something like an omelette. However, the pancakes were irresistable.
- Red Rock Ikebukuro: This is a popular chain of restaurants specializing in beef. I have heard the restaurant usually has very long queues, but we went a bit later than normal and were in an relatively unfashionable neighborhood, so we could just walk in (after ordering at the vending machine outside).
- Jojoen Ueno Shinobazuguchi: Jojoen is a Yakiniku (barbecued meat) restaurant chain.
- Katsumidori: This sushi restaurant was in the Ikebukuro branch of the Seibu department store. A lot of the big department stores in Japan have a restaurant floor and the food is always of good quality (I think). This was the one restaurant we had to queue up for. We hadn’t had sushi yet and we were about to leave Japan, so we queued up before the lunchtime opening. We also had a meal at the Ikebukuro branch of the Parco department store—at the roast eel restaurant Hitsumabushi bincho.
- Ichiran Ramen Roppongi: This is a famous chain of restaurants that specialize in tonkatsu pork-bone soup (and by specialize I mean ‘only serve)’. It is an odd dining experience as you sit in a one person booth with a little curtain blocking your view of the kitchen. You pass the paper with your order on it under the curtain and your food comes back the same way. You can learn about the whole ordering and dining process here: thepetitewanderess.com/ichiran-ramen-tokyo
About the Video
The video footage was shot using a Fujifilm X100T camera, a Sony Nex-7 camera and an iPhone.
The background music is Chillvolution and is the 23rd song in my free background music series. Like other songs in this royalty-free music series, you can use it for free for non-commercial purposes (as well as in monetized YouTube videos that are otherwise non-commercial in nature). You can download the song at my website Chillvolution: New Song in Background Music Series).
The girl in the video, my daughter, is ‘Jadie Jade’ and she has her own lifestyle and travel channel (her videos are in Cantonese): www.youtube.com/channel/UC4UNGDKO0eFIgilfpv8qrwg
Whenever I visit Japan, I will stop by an record store and pick up some CDs. Here are some videos of the artists whose CDs I got on this trip:
Lucie, Too (cheerful indie rock)
Hitsujibungaku (dreamy indie pop, the band’s name means ‘sheep literature’)
Nulbarich (funky jazzy pop, like Jamiroquai):
Suchmos (funky jazzy pop, but with a bit of rock mixed in)
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