Back in the early 90s I lived in Japan for three years working as an English teacher in the Tokyo area. I had a fantastic time and made lots of friends and had many formative experiences. So imagine how excited I was about coming back twenty years later! And this time I was going to do all the things that I didn’t have the time or the money to do when I was younger.
Tokyo is a huge city and travel times can be long despite the highly efficient public transport system. If you’re visiting the best thing you could do is to stay somewhere near a Yamanote line station (the green metro line pictured above). Similar to London’s Circle line, except much busier, the Yamanote follows a circular route through all the central Tokyo districts, so you can access many of the main sights in the most travel efficient way.
For the first week I rented an AirBnB in Meguro, a fashionable residential neighbourhood in the southern part of the Yamanote loop. The flat was about fifteen/twenty minutes’ walk from Meguro Yamanote Line station which is fairly standard.
I chose to stay in Meguro because I could easily take the Yamanote line to nearby entertainment districts like Ginza to the east and Shibuya to the west (see later posts), and because there was a concentration of places I wanted to see (this post) and things I wanted to eat (next post) in the local area. You can see all these places on my rather intense Google map here and read a guide about the central neighbourhoods here.
The best time to experience this is mid March to early April but you need to keep an eye on the blossom forecasts as it varies each year.
I did harbour illusions of jogging down the riverside each morning but I was there in December when it didn’t look so inviting.
In terms of architecture, Meguro has this gem…
Tokyo Metropolitan Teien Art Museum, 5 Chome-21-9 Shirokanedai, Minato-ku, Tōkyō-to 108-0071, www.teien-art-museum.ne.jp
This art museum is housed in one of Tokyo’s only Art Deco buildings, the former residence of Prince and Princess Asaka. The art gallery only takes up a couple of rooms and the rest of the house is still pretty much as it was when the royal couple lived here. The rooms still retain all their original furniture and fittings which were designed in a collaboration between Japanese aritsans and European artists. If like me you love Art Deco, it’s definitely worth a visit. The garden in its autumnal finery was lovely too. Click on the photos to enlarge them.
Can’t remember where it was but I stumbled across this small temple somewhere near the station. Click to enlarge.
Other interesting buildings I noticed when I was walking around Meguro was this incredibly thin apartment block.
Generally residential architecture in Tokyo is really bland but this unusual block near the river stood out.
This was another intriguing place in Meguro, although the weak of stomach might want to stop reading here…
Meguro Parasite Museum, Chome-1-１ Shimomeguro, Meguro-ku, Tōkyō-to 153-0064, www.kiseichu.org
Yup, you read right, a parasite museum. Granted this is not to everyone’s taste but it was better than walking home in the rain one day, and it is quite fascinating in a gruesome way. The 300 hundred specimens are part of a collection of around 45,000 which was put together by Kamegai Satoru, a Japanese doctor in the second world war. Damien Hirst has nothing on him.
The star exhibit is this tape worm which is nearly nine metres long! It came from the stomach of a forty year old man.
There is plenty of other spooky stuff. Again, click to enlarge.
Hopefully that hasn’t put you off looking at my next post about food!