As the heart of Japan, Tokyo is generally known for its bright neon lights clustered together with the tight houses and unending streets. With many facets to the city, there are many ways to explore the city. We explore the different sides of Tokyo, finding that there is more to the city that meets the eye, from finding peace in the outskirts of town, learning about generations worth of stories through fabrics, eating hearty protein-rich hotpots to greeting welcoming arms in traditional Japanese inns.
01. Hondo-ji Temple
Located at the outskirts of Tokyo, Hondo-ji Temple is a large temple complex where you can hide away from the hustle and bustle of the city. Known for its Irises and Hydrangeas during the summer, the temple boasts picturesque scenes all year round, with different hues of foliage that changes over the four seasons. Along the streets leading towards the temple, local markets sell seasonal vegetables, giving visitors free miso soup to warm up during the chilly weather. Truly a feast for the eyes and soul, the serenity of the temple brings refreshing balance towards hectic city life.
02. Weekends at Yoyogi Park
The famed city park right beside the Meiji Shrine comes alive during weekends, with various performances and cosplayers out near the bridge to showcase the quirkiness of the city. During Autumn, you can enjoy having a picnic amongst the ginkgo trees and the bright yellow leaves enveloping the grounds like a blanket. If you are lucky enough, you can get the infamous rockabilly group performing their signature dances in the center of the park.
03. BORO : The Fabric of Life
Visit the AMUSE Museum at Asakusa to learn about “Boro”, patched clothing of the Aomori tribe formed from multiple scraps of cotton stitched together like patchwork quilts. Originally born out of poverty, scraps of cotton were stitched together to form durable kimono-like quilts to protect families from the harsh winters. Immerse in the purity and honesty that each piece of fabric brings, telling heart-warming stories about the tribe’s bond with their garments, giving new light into the connection between dress and people.
04. Goshuin : Collecting Temple Insignias
A well kept secret and so-called collectors’ item of the locals is the collection of Goshuin, temple insignias usually consisting of the temple’s name gracefully written in calligraphy by the monks, along with a vermillion date and symbol of the temple stamped over it. In the past, Goshuin is given when offering a sutra that you wrote to temples. Nowadays, you can get it done on the special notebook (Goshuin-Cho) for 300 to 500 yen as a support to the temples. Full of character and always one-of-a-kind, Goshuin is a unique way to remember the temples you’ve been in Japan.
05. Chanko Nabe at Chanko Shibamatsu, Nakameguro
Warm yourself up to a healthy vegetable-based hotpots traditionally eaten by sumo wrestlers as part of their course. Hearty and protein-rich, the Chanko Nabe shop in Nihonbashi comes in a 3-course meal, with appetizers like sashimi, with more filling sides like creamy croquettes and tempuras. Unlike Chinese hotpots, the Japanese hotpots come directly with the vegetables and meat inside, and there aren’t much condiments, so as to enjoy the natural tastes of the food. There’s different choices of soup flavours like soy and salt-based, but we recommend the miso one!
06. Coffee break at Omotesando Koffee
Huddled in a quiet corner in the back alleys of Omotesando is Omotesando Koffee. Truly a hole-in-the-wall, the humble standing coffee place looks like a zen garden from outside. They are passionate about their coffee and they stick to the basics, making only classic coffee styles. Serious and no-nonsense, the place favours the quiet and the calm, with no loud chatter allowed in the premises.
07. Kimi Ryokan
Rather than indulging in hotels, opt for warm family-style Japanese inns complete with tatami mats, polished wooden floors and fluffy futons. Built since the 1950s, Kimi Ryokan is inspired by the dream to bring travellers from all around the world together, connecting each other to different cultures and heritage. As one of the few ryokans left in Tokyo, Kimi Ryokan maintains Japanese traditions together with modern needs for the customers, to enjoy the full experience. If you have time, gather at the rooftop terrace to talk to other travellers alike to meet friends from the other end of the world.