Which parts of Tokyo do you recommend to see?
There are many tourist attractions in central Tokyo, which enable you to explore cultural diversity as well as the historical depth of the city. The Imperial Palace located on the former site of Edo Castle and the Sensoji Temple in Asakusa are certainly among the most popular spots to see a glimpse of traditional culture in Japan. If you visit the Tsukiji Market early in the morning, you would feel the lively atmosphere of the fish auctions. At the Kabuki-za Theatre, which is just walking distance from the Tsukiji Market, one of the traditional popular plays, Kabuki, is on. You can also enjoy a short walk in the traditional stroll gardens, such as the Rikugien Gardens in Hon-Komagome and the Koishikawa Korakuen Gardens in Korakuen.
Tokyo is an international metropolis as well. In Shin-Okubo, for example, there are large Korean and Muslim communities; in the latter several Halal food shops are available. If you would like to learn the international interactions of Japan with the West in the early modern period, the cultural hybridity in the architectural styles of the Kyu-Iwasaki-tei in Ueno and Kyu-Furukawa-tei in Nishigahara would be of interest.
From the observation floors of the Tokyo Tower in Shiba Park, Mori Tower at Roppongi Hills in Roppongi, or the Tokyo Skytree in Oshiage, you will be able to have a marvellous view of the diverse city of Tokyo.
Sensoji Temple and Tokyo Skytree, Tokyo
Kabuki-za Theatre, Tokyo
Which museums do you recommend to visit in Tokyo?
Ueno Park houses some of the most important museums in Tokyo. The Tokyo National Museum displays one of the finest and the most comprehensive collections of Asian art, including a number of national treasures of Japanese art, from the antiquities to the modern era. The Gallery of Horyuji Treasures is a hidden gem of the Tokyo National Museum, where, in the building designed by the architect Yoshio Taniguchi, visitors can see a part of the great treasures of Horyuji Temple in Nara. In Ueno Park, there are also the National Museum of Nature and Science; the National Museum of Western Art; the Tokyo Metropolitan Art Museum; and the University Art Museum, Tokyo University of the Arts.
In other areas, the Edo-Tokyo Museum in Ryogoku shows the local history of the lively capital of Japan, from the time when the city, then called Edo, was formed as a castle town of the shogunate, to today. If you are curious about modern art in Japan, you may find the National Museum of Modern Art, Tokyo interesting. Its annex, the Crafts Gallery, is within a short walking distance of the museum, where visitors find a display of fine craft works in the modern period, in the former headquarters building of the Imperial Guards.
Also, there are a lot of private art museums in Tokyo where visitors can enjoy some of the loveliest collections of art and artifacts in Japan. Those include the Idemitsu Museum of Arts in Marunouchi; the Mitsui Memorial Museum in Nihonbashi; the Nezu Museum in Minami-Aoyama; and the Suntory Museum of Art at Tokyo Midtown, Roppongi.
Tokyo National Museum, Ueno, Tokyo
What are the destinations worth visiting outside of Tokyo?
Nikko and Hakone are among the most popular places that you can reach within a few hours from Tokyo by train. In Nikko, there is Nikko Toshogu, the UNESCO World-Heritage shrine, where Tokugawa Ieyasu, the first shogun of the Edo period (1603-1867), is enshrined. Nikko is also known for its beautiful nature. You can visit the Kegon Waterfall, which is one of the top three waterfalls in Japan, and also enjoy the nice view of the Lake Chuzenji. Hakone is a traditional spa destination. In addition to hot springs, there also is the Lake Ashinoko, from which you would have a marvellous view of Mount Fuji.
Kyoto, which is the former capital of Japan, is another great tourist destination and is about two hours and a half from Tokyo by bullet train. The former imperial palace, Nijojo, the Kyoto National Museum, the Koryuji Temple which houses the beautiful wooden statue of Bodhisattva are among the number of places to visit in Kyoto.
From Kyoto, Nara, the first permanent capital of Japan established in 710 C.E., is within an hour by train. The bronze statue of Buddha in the main hall of the Todaiji Temple is the largest Buddha in Japan (the second largest which appears in the 1956 film, Around the World in 80 Days, is located in Kamakura). In the Horyuji Temple, you can see the building complex which is of the oldest wooden constructions in existence in the world, as well as many important Buddhist artworks dated from the 7th Century C.E.
To Hiroshima, it takes about four hours from Tokyo by bullet train. The Peace Memorial Park is located in the city centre of Hiroshima, on the ground zero of the 1945 atomic bomb explosion. The Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum in the park is a fine example of the modernist architecture in Post-WWII Japan. You can make a side trip to Miyajima Island within one hour from Hiroshima city centre by train/tram and ferry. The Itsukushima Shrine, another UNESCO World-Heritage Site, which is famous for its ‘floating’ torii gate, is located on the coast.
The cultural legacies of the Fujiwara family in Hiraizumi, Iwate Prefecture in the north-western part of Japan, could be another subject of interest. The Fujiwara family was the most powerful clan in Japan in the Heian Period (794-1192 C.E.), and a branch of the family gained power in Hiraizumi from the 11th to 12th century C.E. The Chusonji Temple symbolizes their power; the Konjikido on the site is covered in gold.
Todaiji Temple, Nara
Atomic Bomb Dome at the Peace Memorial Park, Hiroshima
Chusonji Temple, Hiraizumi, Iwate
Do you offer any student guide services for those who wish to travel around Tokyo?
Unfortunately, the ISPA conference committee is not able to mediate any traveling guide services. However, there are several free guide services available, as listed on the official Tokyo Convention & Visitors Bureau (TCVB) website. Please refer to the links below to find further information:
- Official Tokyo Travel Guide: http://www.gotokyo.org/en/index.html
- Volunteer Tokyo Guide Service: http://www.tokyofreeguide.org/
- Tokyo SGG Guide Club: http://tokyosgg.jp/index_e.html
- Japanese Red Cross' Free Guided Tour Services for Physically Challenged People: http://www.tok-lanserv.jp/eng/sub3_sgg.html