The National Museum of Western Art, Tokyo

Located within Ueno Park, it displays Matsukata’s French collection that survived the second world war and was returned to the Japanese people. The French collection was recognized as French property under the terms of the San Francisco Peace Treaty (1951). As a goodwill gesture, a total of 365 art works were returned to Japan including 196 paintings, 80 drawings, 26 prints, and 63 sculptures. One of the stipulations of the French government was that a national art museum be established to house and display the art works, and this led to the Japanese government to found the National Museum of Western Art. Many important pieces were returned but others found their way into French museums or were sold.

Kojiro Matsukata (1865-1950) began collecting at the same time as Dr. Albert Barnes. He was a successful entrepreneur and used his fortune to collect European art. He was the third son of Count Masayoshi Matsukata, a Japanese Prime Minister. Kojiro Matsukata graduated with a PhD in Civil Law from Yale University in 1890. He first worked as his father’s personal secretary. He then became a senior executive of the Kawasaki Shipping Company eventually becoming its president. In 1922, The New York Herald described him as the ‘mysterious Japanese’ who had been buying art at extravagant prices.

His motives for collecting European art were philanthropic. He was motivated by the desire to provide Japanese artists with the real thing since many of them were creating oil paintings without having seen an example of the real thing.

Paul Durand-Ruel acted as one of his art dealers as did the London artist Frank Brangwyn. There was also Yashiro Yukio, and Tsuchida Bakusen, a Japanese painter living in Paris. Leonce Benedicte, Director of the Musee de Luxemborg, Paris also located paintings for Matsukata. Kojiro Matzukata also purchased many pictures form the collection of Wilhelm Hansen.

The Great Kanto earthquake of 1923 had dire consequences on the Japanese economy which consequently affected Kawasaki Shipping Company. He resigned as its president in 1928. His vast collection became part of the Kawasaki assets, with a significant portion being sold and scattered. He had already shipped many works to Japan in 1919 and 1920 but the 100% import duty persuaded him to leave the reminder in London and Paris.

His London collection was reported to have been destroyed in a warehouse fire in Knightsbridge on October 8, 1939. The French collection was seized by the French government as enemy property when Japan entered the war.

The Museum boasts one of the finest collection of Rodin sculptures in the world. The forecourt of the museum is the display area for Rodin’s sculptures – The Kiss, Gates of Hell, Burghers of Calais, and The Thinker. Also, on display is Emile-Antoine Bourdelle’s Hercules the Archer 1909. Within the museum, The Age of Bronze, Orpheus, Balzac (Last Study) and Man with the Broken Nose are exhibited. Also on view is Jean-Baptiste Carpeau, The Neapolitan Fisherboy.

Works that caught my attention included:

Petrified Forest Max Ernst

The Loving Cup Dante Gabriel Rossetti 1867

Madame Jean Renoir (Catherine Hessling) Andre Derain 1923

Salome at the Prison Gustave Moreau C1873-76

Roses Vincent Van Gogh 1889

Water Lilies Claude Monet

Eugene Boudin Beach of Trouville 1867

The Garden of Gethsemane c1518 Lucas Cranach (The Elder) (1472 – 1553) Jesus is praying. His three disciples are asleep. His jailors are entering at the Gate. There are many. An angel is looking down on Jesus. The Angel is holding a challis.

Joos van Cleve (c 1485 ? – 1540/41) Triptych: The crucifixion Flanked by the kneeling Donor and His wife. Christ is crucified on the cross. At his feet to his left are the Virgin Mary, Mary Magdalene, and a disciple (John, Peter?) and to the right, are the Roman Soldiers. Above Christ is a depiction of God.

Follower of Joachim Patinir (1485 – 1524) Triptych: Rest on the Flight into Egypt The Madonna is nursing the baby Jesus.

Jacopo del Sellaio (1482 – 1493) Votive Altarpiece: The Trinity, the Virgin, St. John and Donors (c1480 – 85) The trinity is depicted. Christ is crucified on the cross. The Holy Ghost which is depicted as a dove stands above Christ’s head, God the Father is in the background supporting the cross with his hands.

Paolo Veronese (1528-1588) The Mystic Marriage of St. Catherine (c.1547) The baby Jesus is caressing St. Catherine’s cheek and looking into her eyes. He is grasping his mother’s veil. St. Catherine is deep in thought and is staring into space. She is touching the chest of baby Jesus with her index and middle fingers. St. Joseph is looking on squatting in the background.

Giorgio Vasari (1511 – 1574) The Garden of Gethsemane (c1570?)

The angel is in the process of blessing Jesus with his right hand which is held in the air. In his left hand, he is holding a golden chalice. Jesus has his arms outstretched. He is kneeling and looking up to heaven. The jailors are led into the garden by Judas, his traitor, and his three disciples are fast asleep.

Joachim Berickelaer (c1534-c1574) Christ Carrying the Cross (1562) Christ has slipped. His left hand is supporting the cross draped over his shoulder and his right hand is resting on a rock. A Roman soldier who is standing to the right of the cross is about to whip the Lord. An elderly man has come to Christ’s help. He is attempting to lift the cross. Another Roman soldier is standing over Jesus and is about to hit him with his right fist. There is a precession of soldiers and passersby behind Jesus. There are many people standing and watching the procession on both sides. The Virgin Mary has collapsed and is being assisted by three women attendants. A beautiful young woman with her hands in prayer is looking on. Ahead of Jesus are two prisoners with their hands tied behind their backs. They are flanked by Roman soldiers. At the top right hand corner of the picture, there is a scene of the crucifixation. Jesus is tied around the waist with a rope. He is being pulled by two Roman soldiers. They are flanked by the executioner who is carrying over his shoulders a ladder from which is hanging a basket holding tools such as a hammer.

Saint Catherine of Alexandria Attributed to Simon Varet (1590-1649)

Philip de Champaigne (1602-1674) Mary Magdalene Oil on canvas. Before her on the table is a wooden makeshift cross, a book (the bible?) and a vase with a lid. She has her hands clasped in the prayer position. Here eyes are looking upward.

Saint Catherine of Alexandria Attributed to Giovanni Antonio Pellegrini (1675-1741)

Ary Scheffer (1795-1858) Greek women imploring the Virgin for Assistance 1826

1. Christ carried town to the Tomb 1855 Eugene Delacroix

2. The Education of the Virgin (1852) Eugene Delacroix

Claude Monet (1840-1928) 1 Charring Cross Bridge in London 2 Waterloo Bridge in London 3 Yellow Irises

Fernand Leger Red Cock and Blue Sky 1953

Do visit The National Museum of Western Art, Tokyo. You won’t be disappointed.

Originally posted on ThingsAsian.

How to Get There

JR Yamanote Line, 1 minutes from Ueno Station, Park Exit 
Keisei Line, 7minutes from Keisei Ueno Station
Ginza or Hibiya Subway Lines, 8 minutes from Ueno Station

Related Links
The National Museum of Western Art, Tokyo

Mt. Takao

My visit to Mt. Takao allowed me to experience Buddhism within a pleasing natural environment albeit if it was thronging with the masses. Living near Mt. Takao, I decided to visit on culture day, a national holiday in Japan. It was a sunny day and there wasn’t a cloud in the sky. I expected crowds and there were. I learned that residents of Tokyo flock to Mt. Takao, a mountain retreat in the outskirts of Tokyo, to get away from the hustle and bustle of the big city.

When I boarded the subway at Takao Keio Station, it was crowded. I barely made it inside and was squished against the doors. Beside me was a young mother and her baby son whom I hadn’t noticed until his sweet eyes found mine. He was very cute and unlike most young Japanese children who tend to cry or scream at the sight of my presence, he didn’t. I was relieved and he’d smile at my jabbering. His young mother too.

Luckily I didn’t have to wait long in line to board the chair lift to take me up the mountain. While waiting to get on the chair lift, just below in the square in front of Kiyotaki Station, a marching band began to play music which led me to think of the Sally Ann of all things. The chair lift gave me a fright. The chairs lacked seat belts and the benches were narrow and far too narrow for my large touche. So, I held on to the bars for dear life. It’s times like these that I think I should slim down but I don’t believe in diets. There were two sometimes three Japanese persons sitting comfortably on the chairs while I took up most of the chair myself. Here was another occasion when I stuck out like a sore thumb. What’s a large man gonna do, eh? My thoughts of slimming down quickly faded as I took in the nature going up and noticed the many colored chair lifts. There were signs everywhere and public announcements in English asking passengers not to litter or smoke. Would anyone be so stupid to do either? I shouldn’t ask such silly questions. Not once did I let go of the bars. Just one jerk would send me crashing to ground which lay only a feet below. Perhaps, I needn’t have worried but I was relieved when I got to the top.

There are many paths to choose from. I picked the one that would take me through Yakoin, a Buddhist temple, and to the very top of the mountain. The path to the temple is lined with red lanterns and bronze statues of Bodhisattvas. The path was thronging with people mostly going in one direction. It was cool and the air fresh. Food vendors and restaurants lined the path and even a monkey zoo. I loved the views of Tokyo that lay beyond the mountain tops and taking in the surrounding greenery some turning colour.

As I neared the Temple complex, I climbed up a set of stairs, 108 of them. I counted. The first of many that I would climb. According to Buddhism, 108 is an auspicious number. The Buddhist rosary has 108 beads. There are 108 symbols of the Buddha. There are 108 feelings/desires/passions which delude humans and blind (bind) them to the wheel of Samsara (suffering). On New Year’s eve, Buddhist temples bells are rung 108 times (Joya no Kane). The resonating symbolically cleanses and releases people from the 108 worldly sins. The 108 steps represent the 108 desires. By climbing all 108 steps one can erase those desires. Each bead of the Buddhist rosary represents one of the 108 desires. By offering 108 prayers one is released from the 108 attachments. Here’s the breakdown:

There are six senses sight (eyes), sound (ears) smell (nose), taste (mouth), touch (body) and thought (mind). (6)

There are three kinds of sentiments, like, dislike, and indifference for the above. (3 times 6 = 18)

There are 2 conditions of the heart, pure and impure for the above. (2 times 18 = 36)

There are 3 aspects of time, past, present and future, for the above. ( 3 times 36 = 108 desires)

I visited Yakoin then the temple above Yakoin, Momiji, which looked very Chinese in style decorated with dragons in vibrant rich colours. Yakoin dates from the Nara period. On display were three kakebotoke (hanging icons). These are images on flat bronze surfaces.

When I got to the top, I had a quick peak and turned around. It was thronging with people and there was no place to sit or stand. On my way down from the top, the Chinese looking temple was the stage for some cultural events. So, I stopped and took in the performance. The first was a dragon dance. It was fascinating to watch and somehow I had the sense that the dance was connected to its conversion to Buddhism. At one point, the dragon made his way into the audience. People were shrieking and trying to get near to give it a touch, pat, caress or maybe a squeeze. “Would it bring them good luck?” I wondered. He then returned to the stage and picked up a scroll with his mouth, thrown to him by a member of the troupe, which he then unrolled. Then, everyone clapped and cheered. I wish I knew what it said. Then, there followed a dance by another young man dressed as the fox (inari) god. He was dressed up in a white fox costume and wore a fox mask. Toward the end of his performance he threw goodies to the crowds. Everyone shouted “over here, over here” in Japanese.

I visited Yakoin again and explored the complex. There was a smaller temple nearby surrounded by 88 statues of Buddha on pedestal columns. There were all alike. I overheard a gaijin say in a piercing loud voice, “There’s another one in Osaka.” There were surrounded by Jizo and a few larger Buddhist statues on pedestals too.

As I understand it, these 88 Buddha statues represent the 88 temples in the Shikoku pilgrimage. They allow one to make the rounds here, letting one stop at each one to offer a coin and a prayer. There’s a box that lets you exchange a hundred yen coin for a bag of one hundred one yen coins. How very thoughtful I thought. Also, for a hundred yen, you can buy a rock and inscribe it with your name and leave it at the temple. There were families picnicking on the lips of the smaller temples nearby and then someone began to ring the temple bell which flooded the complex with its vibrations.

The ride down the chair lift was more spectacular than the ride going on. I was overwhelmed by the beauty before me. When leaving the station, the line to the chair lift stretched way into the distance and the square was jam packed with people. Lucky it ain’t me waiting I thought.

I would have liked to have had lunch near the station but alas all the restaurants were packed to capacity with dozens of people waiting outside to get in. So, I skipped lunch and headed on home. Would I visit again? Yes, I would but not on a national holiday.

Originally posted on ThingsAsian.

How to Get There

Keio Railways offer the cheapest and fastest connections to Takaosan. Direct semi-limited express trains, which take about 50 minutes and 370 yen, leave the underground Keio Shinjuku station every 20 minutes. Takaosanguchi Station, the train’s terminal station, is located at the foot of the mountain.

The JR alternative is by Chuo Line from Shinjuku to Takao Station (540 yen, about 50 minutes), where you transfer to the Keio Line and ride one more station to Takaosanguchi Station (120 yen, 2 minutes).

Related Links
Keio Line (English)
Takao-San Official Website (Japanese Only)
Mt. Takao Guide by Keio Railway (English)

Hama Rikyu Gardens

Asakusa is a part of Tokyo that I keep coming back to partly because it’s so unpretentious and laid back.

From Asakusa, I took a river boat cruise to Hama-Rikyu park, which was once the private property of the Tokugawa Shoguns. I have been here before to take in the beautiful grounds that overlook the Sumida River. The boat lets you off at the park.

The park is an oasis from the city that lies just outside its gates. It’s a lovely way to spend an afternoon and a great place to unwind and relax. The park features many paths that meander through the park. The silence is broken by the shuffling of feet, the squawking of crows, the chirping of birds, and the din of traffic. On my walk along a path, I came upon several feral cats roaming about. They seemed very contented.

Hama Rikyu Gardens by vera46

On my walk along the boardwalk, I came upon a plaque. It reads as follows:

Shogun oagari ba

Here was the site of a the port where Tokugawa Tycoon got into and off a boat from Sumida river to Hama Palace and cruised. In 1868 Yoshinobu, 15th Tokugawa Shogunate (the last Tycoon) came from Osaka and got off the war ship Kaiyo-maru at this port and returned to the Edo castle by horse.

There’s a beautiful tea house on site which serves Japanese tea in a beautiful ceramic bowl. It’s lovely just to sit on the veranda of the tea house and take in the surrounding beauty of the landscaped grounds. I was sad to leave.

On my way out, I walked along the flower gardens. They are now filled with fields of yellow flowers that glowed in the light. I sat for a moment by the 300 year old pine, a reminder of the Tokugawa Shogunate, and a historical living relic of the past. As I left the park, piped music was playing and a taped English message came on announcing the park was closed, “The garden is now closed. Thank you very much for visiting.” The voice was of a young woman speaking in a very dramatic halting way.

“Thank you” I said to myself as I left the park.

Originally posted on ThingsAsian.

Nakano Broadway

When I first entered Nakano Broadway I didn’t know what to expect. As I entered under the large red sign into the long corridor that makes up the first floor I wasn’t at all impressed. I was expecting a grander welcome that wasn’t there, at least not on the first floor. I saw a regular cheap ¥100 shop, a suit shop, and a cute place with socks representing each of the prefectures of Japan, but I didn’t see anything right away that would have given me any sense of what this place was hiding. At least not until I saw the Japanese idol trading card shop. Then I knew I was getting warmer and just a bit closer to the Otaku heaven this place has a reputation for. I didn’t have the time to stare and gawk though. I was ushered by my escort upstairs by way of escalator just as quickly as could be done through the crowd. Once on the top floor my eyes began to open wide to the world of Japanese pop culture. It was a treasure trove of Japanese pop culture mania or should say it is the mother load. That is Nakano Broadway, a hobbyist dream come true.

I didn’t realize that half of this stuff ever existed, but a lot of it reminded me of going though my grandparents attic and seeing some of the old toys that were my dad’s when he was growing up, but these were way freakier and not as dusty. These were spotless toys and they were everywhere and some perfectly preserved with boxes and all. Some were out and some were secured behind glass, but each seemed to have its place. It was obvious by just walking around and seeing a few of the shelves that there was a great deal of care put into the display of these mighty little figures and toys. There was of course the familiar Robbi The Robot from Forbidden Planet, Speed Racer, and Astro Boy filling up the shelves in various forms from trading cards to life-sized replicas, but after that all familiarity was gone. The most strange and somewhat disturbing thing I saw was a crucified Ultraman that seemed to be all the rage as he was everywhere. There were creatures and characters here that I’m sure are most beloved by most Japanese, but that I had no idea of who or what they could be. And they were rampant and scattered about, ambiguous in their domain. It was awesome nostalgia meets today’s now! It was glorious and spectacular!

But it wasn’t all toys here. There were all sorts of hobbies on display. There were manga books and anime cels. There were cosplay costumes of every type and character. There were air gun shops full of military realistic weapons and even more realistic if not realistic suits, helmets, badges, and outfits. There were those key chain/phone doodads made to look like everything cute under the sun. There were maid cafes, movie posters, record, and DVD stores. There was even a yo-yo shop and I’m sure stuff that I’m not mentioning that I might still be blinded by if I try to recall. All together it was a reminder of being a kid, and if you looked not even so hard, you could see the wanting eyes of window shoppers as they studied the toys and figures of their yesterdays through the glass. And it was all marked and priced and ready to be loved. And then, there were the people that were living their childhood still. Dressed to the nines in outfits and splendor that a kid’s imagination can only fathom and few can fashion.

We kept popping in and out of shops all day meticulously doing our own gawking at the shelves. We spent most of the time mentioning our own memories that were sparked by the pop amalgam and bursting into laughs at the more than occasional site of the absurd. It was fun. When we made it back to the bottom again we were both starving, but that’s a different story.

The Shrines of General Nogi and the Emperor Meiji and his consort, Empress Shokan

The serenity of General Nogi’s shrine overwhelmed me. It is nestled amongst the concrete jungle of the city. It’s an oasis of peace and calm and filled with landscaped grounds. The silence was broken by the occasional shuffling of feet or the chirping of birds. Two huge sets of Torii and guardian lions lead the way to his shrine. The son of a samurai family he pursued a military career culminating in his victory over the Russians.

On site is a small museum dedicated to preserving his memory. On exhibit are his rifles, saddle, medals, gold watches, and a myriad of photographs and scrolls/citations.

Regrettably, there isn’t much information available in English but don’t let that stop you from visiting the Nogi Shrine.  There is a plaque however in English and Japanese describing his house and stables. He was very proud of his horses. There’s a walkway wrapped around his house that lets you peak inside. It sounds morbid, doesn’t it? It’s a little eerie to say the least. His house has been left as is.

The grounds are lovely, immaculate, and inviting, and are a testament to Japanese gardening. The shrine and its surroundings, I found, express an inherent Japanese sensibility, which is bestowing honour amongst its beloved.

Two stops away on the Tozai line is the Meiji shrine. It’s definitely worth a visit. It’s situated amidst a beautiful park and wood lots. It’s breathtaking and evoking the splendor and glory of Japan’s former emperor who was at the helm of its transformation into a powerful, modern nation along with his devoted General Nogi. The Toriis marking the way to the Meiji shrine are imposing. They must be the tallest in the land. The grounds are immaculate. I thought the park must be an oasis for the people of Tokyo from the stress of city life.

There’s a plaque along the way to the shrine that cites a poem of Emperor Meiji, which hints at his essence. Here it is:

By gaining the good and rejecting what is wrong, it is our desire that we’ll compare favourably with other lands abroad.
Poem by Emperor Meiji

Emperor Meiji was a shining light in the modernization of his country by embracing Western ways and customs. He cut off his topknot and donned Western clothes.

The soul of the Meiji emperor and his consort’s are enshrined here. If you wish, for 500 Yen, you can purchase a votive plaque, an ema, and write out a wish or wishes, which are then offered up by the Shinto priests.

I walked over to the Treasure House, which houses artifacts belonging to the Emperor and his Empress. Regrettably, it was closed today. Perhaps, I thought I’ll get another chance to visit. Nevertheless, I very much enjoyed my visits to the Meiji and Nogi Shrines and came away with a deeper understanding of Japanese history.

Originally posted on ThingsAsian.

Japan Paper Museum

The Japanese Paper Museum is located in a lovely park near Oji station. It traces the history of paper making from its origins to the present. Getting there was half the fun. I took a rail car, which is in walking distance from Minowa Station on the Hibiya line. The rail car (toden) lets you off at Oji station and from there it’s a 10 minute walk to the museum. It was standing room only on the tram as the limited seats are reserved for the elderly.

The museum is very new and it has a “je ne sais quoi” quality about it. And English speaking visitors are provided with English pamphlets, which allows one to take in and enjoy the exhibits. La piece de resistance as they say in French is having the opportunity to look at the world’s largest woodblock print.

Here’s the description:
The largest woodblock printing in the world
(An image of Kujyaku myoo-peacock, God of wisdom)

The Japanese woodblock printing technique of “ukiyoe” which was developed in the Edo period declined in the Meiji period but survived as an elaborate reproduction method of old prints. In order to introduce the high level of woodblock printing technique of Japan, Toshimo Mitsumura, founder of Mitsumura Printing Co, exhibited “An image of Kujyaku myoo” at the St. Louis International Exposition and was awarded an honorary gold cup. The woodblock printing displayed here was restored in 1990 after eight months work, using the original woodblocks. The original is a Buddhist print of the Sung dynasty (AD 960 – 1279) of China and is in the possession of the Ninna temple (Kyoto) and is designated a national treasure. Both sides of 22 pieces of woodblocks made from cherry wood were used and printed 1303 times. The process served to demonstrate the best use of washi. The Kozo paper was specially made by Iwano Paper Mill located in Imadetecho, Fukui prefecture. It was designed to endure prints more than a thousand times and for this, two sheets were molded together to create a thickness of 0.3 millimeters. One sheet is peeled off when prints are mounted. Also, it was dyed in old colors to bring out resemblance of the original print. Also dosa was brushed onto the paper to prevent expansion and contraction of the paper and blurring of the pigment.

The God of wisdom is seated on peacock, which has its elaborate feathers spread out. Two of the his six hands are held in gassho. He has 3 faces. It’s very beautiful and so unusual.

Another item that caught my eye was the
“Million Pagodas and Dharanis (Buddhist charms which are one of the world’s first printed papers)”

Here’s the description from the plaque:

In 764 AD after the rebellion of Fujiwara Nakamaro was suppressed, for the sake of the peace of the country, a million 3-storied miniature wooden pagodas were made by order of Empress Shoutoku. In 770, they were dedicated to ten major temples including Houryu and Kofuku temples. Dharanis (Buddhist charms) were placed inside the pagodas and are now regarded to be one of the oldest printed matter which the year of printing is bibliographically established. The paper used is made from hemp and Kozo material and regarding the method of printing, there are two shools, one asserting wood block and the other, copper plate. At present, a part of 1 million pagodas and dharanis remaining in Horyu Temple are designated national important cultural properties.

Papermaking got its start in Japan during the Nara period when the famous Prince Shotuku began promulgating the spread of Buddhism. As the copying of sutras became popular, the demand for paper increased. On exhibit are segments of sutras from different periods. They include:

Ancient Buddhist Scripture
(Nanbokucho period 1336 – 1392)

Ancient Buddhist Scripture
(Kamakura period, 1281)

Ancient Buddhist Scripture
(Early Heian period, 810 – 823)

Ancient Buddhist Scripture
(later Heian period, 1000 – 1191)

On display is a letter from the 8th Shogun Yoshimune (Edo period 1725 – 1745), chirimen paper for ornamenting the hair (age unknown), paper toys (“change a wig”, Edo period, 1861), and old story books (Edo period, 1850 and 1853). There are also many samples of paper, and many beautiful ukiyoe prints. Galleries 3 and 2 are devoted to the paper making process.

The museum has a gift shop selling Japanese paper, cards and many objects made from paper, which much to my surprise are reasonably priced. Also, the museum next door features a small cafe where one can grab a bite to eat.

If you have an interest in paper, do give it a visit. You won’t be disappointed!

Originally posted on ThingsAsian.


Ok this place is just fun and for two reasons. The guys working there all look like they are out of the new Willy Wonka movie for one. The other reason its so much fun and reminds me even more of the Willy Wonka movie is that they make CANDY! And its so good! They are making it right there in the store so its gotta be fresh. And it is! The place smells amazing! It smelt like cotton candy pina coladas in there. These guys are real artists or caramel artesans as they claim. There were all sorts of things made out of candy in the store. It was all so cute. I didn’t think the toothbrush candies were that cute, but maybe it will get the kiddies to brush their teeth after eating a ton of this stuff. No message there, right? They make those old fashioned lollipops, the ones with that swirl around and around, too.

I’ve always been more of a hard candy girl myself, not to say I don’t indulge in chocolate, but I love biting down on hard candy. I can’t suck on anything for long. I like that crunch and the pop that it makes as I grind my teeth into it. It’s that simple. And when you have something as flavorful as papabubble pop in your mouth you’ll too understand.

Needless to say I didn’t leave the store empty handed. I got a lollipop and a mixed pack of bite-size hard candies. And I’m not sharing!

Arai 1-15-13 Nakano, Tokyo

Onsens in Tokyo

Looking for a place to relax? It’s not easy to slow down in a city as busy as Tokyo, but you would be surprised that you don’t have to go far to enjoy some hot and relaxing therapeutic water. The city offers its own geothermal concoctions of which you would expect only from a pricey resort further up in the mountains. Onsens in the city are nothing new, but there are a few newer places that are worth the visit and the experience. The list below is of some of the most relaxing soaking spots around the city.

Note: Tattoos are not popular in onsens as they are associated with criminal activity. So, if you have one, you may be asked to leave. Best to cover it up with a bandage or heat patch, if possible.

La Qua

1-1-1 Kasuga, Bunkyo-ku. Tel: 03-3817-4173

Open daily: 11am – 9pm

Nearest Station: Korakuen

Oedo Onsen Monogatari

2-57 Koto-ku. Tel: 03-5500-1126

Open daily: 11am – 9pm

Nearest Station: Telecom Center(Yurikamome Line) also free shuttle buses depart from Tokyo, Shinagawa, and Kinshicho Stations

Machida Roten Garden

358 Aihara-cho, Machida-shi. Tel: 042-774-2681

Open daily: 10am – midnight

Nearest Station: Hashimoto

Seta Onsen

4-15-30 Seta, Setagaya-ku. Tel: 03-3707-8228

Open daily: 10am – 11pm

Nearest Station: Futako-Tamagawa.

Niwa No Yu

3-25-1 Kouyama, Nerima-ku. Tel: 03-3990-4126

Open daily: 10am – 11pm

Nearest Station: Toshimaen

Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden

Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden is a breath of fresh air and is a beautifully landscaped and maintained park. It has a long history that can be traced back to the beginning of the Edo period. The grounds were the first residence given to Kiyonari Naito, a hereditary vassal of the shogun, leyasu Tokugawa. It was in the Meiji period that the government established a Naito Shinjuku Experimental Station to promote modern agriculture on the land. The Station was used to study western methods of growing fruits and vegetables, silk raising, and stock farming.

The area, in 1906, became the Imperial Garden. In 1949, the garden was opened to the general public and named the Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden and is controlled by the Ministry of the Enviroment.
the park contains an English Landscape Garden, French Formal Garden, and a Japanese Traditional Garden. Besides gardens there are some interesting architectural finds and facilities as well.

The Kyu-Goro-Tei (Taiwan Pavilion) was built in 1928 to commerorate the wedding of the Showa Emperor(Emperor Hirohito). It’s an authentic example of Chinese Minnan style architecture and was named one of Tokyo;s Historical Buildings in 2004.

The Kyu-Gokyu-Sho was built as a rest house for the imperial family in 1896. It’s wooden design is based on American Stick Style architecture, popular during the late 19th century. In 2001 it was designated an Important Cultural Property.

The Rakuu-tei is a tea house located in the Japanese Traditional Garden and you can enjoy a cup of tea while taking in the beauty of any season.

Of note is the Shinjuku Gyoen Eco-House. The design of this facility is environmentally-friendly and has its own solar panels to generate electricity. The halls of the Eco-House include exhibits that aim to promote environmental awareness.

There is also a spacious restaurant located within the Shinjuku Gyoen Eco-House facility.

The Greenhouse is currently under reconstruction.

The park is open during all seasons and something to offer in each. In Spring, there are 75 different varieties of cherry blossom and a giant yulan magnolia tree said to date from the Edo period worth seeing. In Summer, the French Fomal Garden and water lilies bloom among the songs of cicadas. Autumn brings a change in color of all the tress and an annual Chrysanthemum Exhibition. Winter offers bird watching and the sweet smells of narcissus flowers.

Hours 9am – 4:30pm
Closed: Mondays(Tuesdays when Monday is a national holiday)
Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden is closed for New Year from December 29 to January 3.
Open continuously including Mondays during:
-March 25 thru April 24 for cherry blossom viewing.
-November 1 – 15 for its crysanthemum exhibition.

200 yen if over 15 years old
50 yen for 6-14 year olds
Free for under 5 year olds
Group discounts start at 30 persons


Parking is available from 8am-8pm

-to the park’s Shinjuku Gate from JR Shinjuku Station (south exit), about 10 minutes walk; Shinjuku Gyoen Mae Station, exit 1, on the Marunouchi subway line, about 3 minutes walk; Shinjuku San-Chome Station, exit C5, on the Shinjuku subway line, about 5 minutes walk.

-to the park’s Okido Gate from Shinjuku Gyoen Mae Station, exit 2, on the Marunouchi subway line, about 3 minutes walk.

-to the park’s Sendagaya Gate from Sendagaya Station on the JR Sobu line; Kokuritsu Kyogijo Station on the Oedo subway line, about 5 minutes walk.

More info can be found here:
Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden – English site

Tokyo Bay – Vingt et un – Restaurant Ship Cruise

The Vingt et un restaurant cruise in Tokyo Bay was a great bit of fun for this posters birthday.  I won’t tell you which one it was though.  But I will tell you about the cruise and food.  The best time I think to go is in July or August during the Hanabi Season in Japan.  Almost every Saturday there are firework festivals throughout parts of Tokyo which you should be able to spot from the ship.  We were lucky enough to see one that seemed like it was in Odaiba, but even if you can’t see a fireworks show the skyline of Tokyo is fun and filled with such attractions as Tokyo Tower, Rainbow Bridge, and a giant multi-colored ferris wheel.

The Vingt et un Cruise lives up to it’s name. “Vignt et un” means twenty-one in French, like the game of Black Jack. But I think its more like 21st Century as the entrance to the ship made me feel like I was walking into a scene from Star Wars.

There are two cruises available one is 120min the other 140min.  The 120min cruise was just time to eat, so if you want to get up and look around go ahead and do so.  

The food was great and came in courses. There was a Hawaiian theme to the music complete with Hula dancer, which made the night a little more interesting. I got a few giggles out the dancer and ukulele player/singer, I will admit. Wine is extra but not so much as its under $10 a glass. And since it was my birthday, I did get a great tasting cake with my name on it followed by even more dessert.

For more information you can visit their site or call 03-3436-2121. Sorry I think it’s only in Japanese.