Of course, when we think of Tokyo, we imagine it as a big, bustling and modern city perfect for shopping and not as a historical city but I can assure that even in Tokyo, you can encounter ancient monuments and historical sites.
Some Information about Tokyo
In the 15th century the actual megalopolis of Tokyo was just a small village called Edo where a local feudal lord built a castle named 江戸城 (Edo Castle) but the small settlement earned more importance when the great Tokugawa Ieyasu, a historic figure who played a big role in the country’s reunification, started to build its palaces in Edo. Later, the Emperor made him a Shogun, which is a hereditary title and the most important political position in Feudal Japan. From now on, he became the only leader of Japan, even more important than the Emperor himself, and marked the beginning of Tokugawa era. Tokyo was heavily damaged by an earthquake in the twenties and later by the bombs during the Second World War, as Japan actively participated in this conflict, so many of the old buildings and monuments got lost. For this reason many of historical sites you can, now, find in Tokyo are not the original ones but have been rebuilt. Despite this fact, they still keep their historical charm.
Meiji Shrine – 明治神宮
This beautiful Shrine, which is located in a huge forest near the popular district of Shibuya, was built after the death of the Meiji Emperor in the 20th century to honor his and his wife’s spirits. The area is really huge and from the entrance of the park, marked with a big wooden Torii, to the main building of the Shrine takes at least 20 minutes. While wandering around, we found a big shelf containing many small and colorful barrels, I still do not know what it means but I guess they were used for the sake, the typical japanese alcoholic drink made of rice.
How to Reach
It is just adjacent to Harajuku station and very easy to find. If you have Japan Rail Pass, you do not need to use the metro lines to reach this place as the Yamanote Line is owned by JR.
Sensou-ji – 浅草寺
Another beautiful temple that you should not miss is Senso-ji, which is rumoured to have been founded in the 600, making it the oldest temple in Tokyo, to honor Kannon, a bodhisattva, a figure that plays an important role in the Buddhist religion. According to the legend a statue of Kannon was found in a river by two fishermen, after it was recognized its sanctity, the holy statue was put in a place where the people could come and worship it, that is to say a Temple. Adjacent to the buddhist temple, there is a lovely shinto shrine. In Japan it is common to find Temples and Shrines near each other,here religions can coexist peacefully.
Before reaching the main building of the temple you must pass through a very lively market, the Nakamise-dori 仲見世通り, full of japanese souvenirs and food. This place is one of the most famous in Tokyo, even for tourists as I saw here many westerners wandering around the stands searching for something to buy. There I bought a Yukata, which is the summer version of Kimono, and of course something to eat, the so-called Melon Pan.
How To Reach:
For those who own a Japan Rail Pass, I must say a bad news, that is near this temple there is no a JR station and to reach it you have to use the Tokyo Metro Line. Don’t do like me, I walked for hours searching for the closest JR station and it took almost 2 hours (I am still grateful to that old man who told me where the station was ahah). Just take the Ginza Subway Line, which is the orange one, and get off at Asakusa station.
Zojo-ji – 増上寺
Before reaching the Temple, you will pass through a red gate called Daimon 大門 (Great Gate) that during the war, was burnt and a few minutes later you will reach the Zojoji. The Temple is located just under the modern Tokyo Tower, for this reason there is an evident contrast between Modern and New which represents the essence of Tokyo at its best. When I went there, there were many people burning incense and praying to gods so did I, my first prayer in a temple 😀
Just on the right of Zojoji, you can encounter a weird place which looks like a cemetery….it is actually a cemetery but built for the Unborn Children. Inside it is full of small statues looking like a small Buddha covered with some sorts of scarves or blankets. I, later, discovered that it a common practice in Japan: they usually put some clothes or toys near the statue to accompany the tormented soul to the afterworld.
How To Reach:
To reach Zojoji Temple just take the JR Yamanote Line or JR Keihin-Tohoku Line and walking for 10 minutes until you will see the temple in front of your eyes.
Tokyo Tower – 東京タワー
I know it has nothing to do with old stuff but I had to write about Tokyo Tower, one of Tokyo’s most representative landmarks as I forgot to talk about in the previous article xD The Tokyo Tower is just a few minutes away from the Zojoji Temple and if you paid a visit here, you’d better not lose the chance to visit Tokyo Tower as well. I am aware that it is a very tourist thing to do but the sight of Tokyo from above is breathtaking, you never see its end! In order to enter, you have to pay a ticket (it is not expensive anyway and worth it): there are two kinds: one is more expensive and you can access the tallest observatory deck and the other cheaper, which grants you the access to the lower deck. I just bought the cheaper ticket but I really enjoyed the panorama over there!
I just spent 3 days in Tokyo so you can imagine how much I rushed in order to see everything in a so short period of time and I am aware of all the things I missed just to see the most tourist landmarks of Tokyo for this reason I hope to come back as soon as I can so that I can enjoy this wonderful city more and maybe do a bit more shopping in Harajuku, my favourite corner in Japan’s capital :3