Tokyo is an expansive metropolis filled with exciting activities. If you want a special, off-the-beaten-path experience, try some of these hidden gems!
Jiyugaoka offers beautiful alleyways lined with boutiques and cafes with European themes – it is the only place worldwide where Totoro-shaped cream puffs can be found! Enjoy all of them thanks to Cathay Pacific flights available on several routes, including Toronto to Tokyo.
Nezu Shrine was established almost 200 years ago during the Edo Period and remains one of Tokyo’s oldest shrines, boasting beautiful red buildings surrounded by lush greens. Originally located in Sendagi, its current location was moved here by Tokugawa Shogun Tsunayoshi and later considered to be one of Emperor Meiji’s Ten Shrines of Tokyo. Additionally, during April it hosts its Azalea Festival where visitors can marvel at thousands of vermilion torii gates lined up along azalea gardens – truly must-see event for anyone visiting Japan!
Asides from its 6,600 square-meter azalea garden, other key attractions of note include Romon Gate and Otome Inari Shrine. Romon Gate is known for its two-story structure which makes it one of the most appealing gates among tourists; additionally it also has a small bridge where people can go through to cleanse themselves of sins as they pass by it.
Otome Inari Shrine is a secondary shrine located within its grounds that features hundreds of small torii gates. Photographers love taking pictures here as it overlooks a longish koi (carp) pond and offers contrast against the deep red of other torii gates. Furthermore, this attraction houses Kamiguchi Guro’s personal collection of Japanese traditional clocks which have been donated as well.
Shiro-Hige Cream Puff Factory
Fans of Studio Ghibli films shouldn’t miss this extraordinary cafe! Nestled away in Setagaya’s quiet suburb, it has the rare distinction of receiving permission from Miyazaki Hayao (founder/director of Studio Ghibli), to create Totoro-inspired desserts.
Shiro-Hige Cream Puff Factory is located about 20 minutes by train from Shinjuku, at Setagaya-Daita Station and about five minutes’ walk away. There you will see signs for Tolo Coffee & Bakery before continuing a 5-minute journey on foot to Shiro-Hige Cream Puff Factory.
Once inside, it’s almost like entering My Neighbor Totoro! Everywhere you look are adorable decorations featuring Totoro by Hayao Miyazaki as well as his hand-painted pictures. On the first floor is the bakery while upstairs offers a comfortable cafe where visitors can sit back and enjoy beverages and sweets.
Desserts at this cafe and bakery use ingredients sourced from various regions across Japan, such as white peaches sourced from Kanoiwa in Yamanashi Prefecture which is known for its abundant peach production. Alongside popular custard and chocolate flavors such as strawberry custard and chocolate mousses are offered alongside strawberry, matcha mango chestnut caramel banana flavors that vary by season. Both bakery and cafe operate year round but only seasonal dessert offerings can be expected at times.
One of Tokyo’s greatest gems, Asakusa Shrine is an important Shinto shrine dedicated to three men who founded Sensoji Temple in 7th Century. While much smaller than its grander neighbor, Asakusa is nationally designated as an Important Cultural Property and its buildings amongst some of Japan’s oldest structures.
Like Kaminarimon, Asakusa Shrine features two statues that represent fishermen and village elders who found the Kannon statue — another prime example of Japan’s unique blend of religions: this figure is venerated at Sensoji while those responsible are honored here (with three nets representing their fishing rods as its symbolism).
In addition to its torii gates, the shrine’s main hall is dedicated to the Holy Kanzeon Boddhisattva; an esteemed deity said to ease people’s suffering and make their dreams come true. Visitors often gather there during Sanja Matsuri festival held over a weekend in mid-May for prayerful offerings at its main hall.
Asakusa Shrine is easily accessible from Nakamise Dori and definitely worth a visit. Explore its history on a self-guided walking tour or by downloading GPSmyCity: Walks in 1000+ Cities mobile app; it works offline so no data plan is necessary when traveling abroad.
Nezu Kaichiro founded this museum in 1941 to house his personal collection. Following Kaichiro’s death, his son Nezu Yasuhei continued adding works from all types of media: calligraphy, painting, sculpture ceramics metalwork bamboo crafts textiles and archaeological specimens among its impressive 7,400 works; it features seven National Treasures as well as 88 Important Cultural Properties and 94 Important Art Objects among them.
Alongside art, the museum features a stunning Japanese garden and tea house. Spanning 17,000 square feet, its design allows visitors to take in its different aspects from various vantage points; making this oasis feel less isolated in busy Omotesando. There are ancient statues and monuments scattered around, along with waterfalls, ponds and streams running through its center; popular spots for people wanting to relax or have picnics here!
The Museum is open seven days a week except Mondays and certain holidays, with admission tickets costing 1,300 yen for adults and 800 yen for students; discounts are offered to families and seniors. In addition, it hosts various events and offers guided tours in English and Japanese as well as offering snacks and drinks at its on-site cafe – its website also offers more details regarding ticket pricing and information.
Tokyo boasts everything from high-end designer boutiques and youth fashion shops, to specialty craft stores and artisan crafts outlets, offering shoppers a diverse shopping experience. Additionally, unique souvenirs like green tea Kit Kats or multi-strand pearl necklaces make Tokyo an unforgettable shopping destination.
Ippodo’s tea shop on Teramach Street provides everything from sencha to hojicha and even genmaicha tea varieties, as well as its famed range of matcha qualities. Additionally, there is even an elegant tea room where customers can relax while tasting some of Ippodo’s high-quality green tea offerings.
Ippodo’s business philosophy is deeply rooted in Zen Buddhist values of harmony, respect, and purity – an approach which has proven successful over centuries and which is evident in their tea ceremonies that may last several hours each time they are performed.
If you want a less formal way of experiencing Japanese green tea, check out a “cha-no-yu” cafe instead. These self-service tea spots provide you with hot water pots, cups and tea leaves as well as traditional Japanese sweets – an excellent way to sample its many varieties and discover how they’re prepared! One such tea cafe can be found directly connected with Tokyo Station: Daimaru Tokyo store is home to such an establishment!
One of Tokyo’s finest hidden gems is Chihira Junco, an android used as staff at a prominent mall in Tokyo and serving customers using her impressive trilingual capabilities – Japanese, English and Chinese! Chihira serves both local visitors as well as foreign ones! She makes for an effective tourist information assistant.
Junco was created by Japanese electronics giant Toshiba and first made his debut last year at Aqua City shopping complex. Since then, Junco has been welcoming visitors at Aqua City’s tourist information center. According to Toshiba’s news release, this lifelike machine now greets visitors.
Junco may only currently possess limited abilities, but she will soon be capable of answering queries and offering assistance. By 2017, it is anticipated that she will gain speech recognition technology that enables her to respond to inquiries from all languages.
Odaiba is home to various shopping and amusement centers, including DiverCity Tokyo Plaza with high-end fashion brands and souvenir shops as well as Decks Tokyo Beach; both offer unique amusement centers that pay homage to Japan’s 1950s and 1960s culture – featuring retro confectionary stores, game arcades and a boat-inspired outdoor deck filled with cafes. Furthermore, there are several temples and shrines nearby, including Nezu Shrine with over two millennia of history behind its walls as well as Gotokuji Shrine with its Torri archways and tunnel-like paths – as well as several temples and shrines from which one may gain insight.