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Culture Tourism Destinations in Tokyo


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Alternate Routes · Asia · japan · Tokyo · Arta Tabaka

Culture Tourism Destinations in Tokyo

Author: Arta Tabaka3 COMMENTS

Culture Tourism Destinations in Tokyo

My favorite Tokyo area is the one where I am living now - Chuo Line. It remained almost unaffected by a building boom in Tokyo, which continued throughout the 1980s, so you won't see any skyscrapers there. This old residential area attracts more and more people nowadays, who don't crave for modern cityscape behind their windows.

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Chuo Line is quite long one, and I live in Kōenji, which is the name of the train station and the surrounding area, too. Kōenji is a small enclave of artists, musicians and similar folks and is renowned for its chilled-out atmosphere, many restaurants, vintage shops and recycle-stores. It's also famous for its active nightlife.

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People usually wake up only around 11am and start going about their daily chores around 1pm, and it's all regardless deep-rooted assumptions that Japanese people work from early morning to late at night. Open air cafés are crowded, too, even though elsewhere in Japan they don't like eating on the streets. In Kōenji, on the contrary, life is bubbling there!

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Pole Pole

As I study film in Tokyo, I often visit two movie theatres in the neighboring to Kōenji prefectures. One demonstrates mainly Japanese independent film classics, the other - Japanese independent documentaries. Pole Pole cinema in Higashi-Nakano area is small and humble place while Laputa cinema in Asagaya stands out with its spacecraft-like construction, alluding to the spaceship in the animation film Laputa: Castle in the Sky (1986) by the famous manga artist and anime director Hayao Miyazaki. It is worth visiting at least for its rooftop café and a French restaurant, as films both here and at Pole Pole are screened only in Japanese.

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The National Film Centre (, in its turn, is a huge 8-floor building and shows at least five films per day, also in English language. For a special fee you can get a private film screening, too. The center houses also a library and an exhibition hall.

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After enjoying a good movie, a historic Tanaka area near Nishi-Nippori train station is yet another place worth stopping by. It's a hub of art galleries with my favorite SCAI the Bathhouse (Kashiwayu-Ato, 6-1-23 Yanaka, Taito-ku, among them. It is set in a building that once served as a public bathhouse. Japan is rich in hot springs and bathhouses or sento are an integral part of daily social life there (in big cities healing baths of natural spring water is replaced by artificially-made hot mineral water). Sentō architecture features high ceilings and typical wall paintings.

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On many occasions it is Mount Fuji rising on a background of a bright blue sky. This avant-garde art gallery has carefully preserved the authentic décor, which gets along perfectly with woks of such authors as Anish Kapur or Kaoru Hirano. (I truly recommend visiting some public baths - they are equally good anyplace in the city.)

As strange as it may seem, Hara Museum of Contemporary Art (, is located in Tokyo's business district. The prestigious museum is set in a white and compact mansion house with a garden and a café that serves as a small and cozy venue for concerts and performances.

Also The Watari Museum of Contemporary Art (, featuring Asian and Japanese art, is worth attention. The building alone, designed by a Swiss architect Mario Botta is fascinating to see, not to mention its rich exhibition program with Yayoi Kusama exhibition being among the recent ones.

Many art festivals and other large scale cultural events are taking place in Tokyo and its neighborhood, such as Setouchi Triennale (, taking place on multiple small islands that surround the main island. Some islands are inhabited only by few old grannies, while internationally acclaimed artists and architects are creating their masterpieces there every time when the triennial takes place. Small boats can get you around the islands to view these artworks at any time after the triennial, and this route can be extended even to several days.

Echigo-Tsumari Art Triennale ( is held in largely untouched Echigo-Tsumari rice production area. Thanks to the art triennial, many old rural Japanese homesteads are restored to new life.

In my opinion, one of the most interesting art and architecture destinations outside Tokyo is Site of Reversible Destiny Park (, near Nagoya. It was designed in 1995 by Japanese architect Shusaku Arakawa and his French-born wife Madeline Gins. After writing an architectural manifesto, claiming that humans can achieve immortality through architecture, the duo created this truly unique park. It features only curved lines and prevailingly green and yellow colors. Unexpectedness is the central experiences there, and visitors, wandering through the Site, gain opportunities of rethinking their physical and spiritual orientation to the world.

There are several Madeline Gins and Shusaku Arakawa designed buildings in Tokyo as well, for example, hotel building in Mitaka district (2005).

The 54-hectare Yoyogi Park is one of the most favorite recreational areas in Tokyo. The site was used in 1964 as the Olympic village, but now its green lawns under big trees are used for playing ball, badminton and other sport. People gather there for picnics, dance and play musical instruments.
I would suggest popping in some karaoke venues too, as it has almost turned into my habit after visiting a bar or a restaurant. Japanese people hold in high regard their local artists, especially musicians.

Shimo-Kitazawa area is famous for its theatres and live music performances, as well as its music stores and vintage shops where you can find real musical gems, including vinyl records.

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Maro Akaji

Kichijoji Theater offers exquisite dance performances of the butoh company Dairakudakan ( These dance performances with drama and other elements are traditionally enacted by near-naked performers in white body make-up.

Shin Okubo district is home to the world's busiest railway station and a multitude of Korean restaurants, spice- and food-stores, too. Do not miss Shinjuku Golden Gai area either with its labyrinth of narrow streets and tiny, room-size bars, gathering mostly artists and a creative crowd of the city. Moreover, each bar there has its own contingent of regulars.

Nantoka Bar is a fantastic bar located in Kōenji neighborhood (3-4-12 Koenji kita, Suginami-ku). For a certain price, you can rent rooms there for an entire night, and that is not all yet! You can come up with your own menu, cook the food and serve it to guests. Oftentimes we direct our guest to Nantoka bar and then just put them all to work. This way we have managed to have lovely Spanish evenings with genuine Spanish foods and drinks!

Speaking of shopping, Tokyo doesn't stand out with colorful marketplaces, with exception of the famous Tsukiji Market. Even though exciting tuna auctions are open for spectators, the regulations limiting tourist access to these events are becoming stricter. At the same time, flea markets, taking place on Saturdays in parks and temple areas are gaining growing popularity. Each market has its own specialty, for example, bicycle flea market.

By the way, there is Riga Collection shop in Tokyo (1-26-1 Kamimeguro, Meguro-ku,, offering Latvian-made goods. It is comfortably located in the very center of the city, Nakameguro area. Yojiro Kawashima, the owner of the shop, is a man who once has received a helping hand from two Latvians in the USA.

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