Culture

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Experience the surviving and evolving culture in the fast-paced Japanese capital where its heritage goes back from hundreds of years to millennia. From appreciation of the arts and gardens to cosplay and religious worship, the interests of Tokyoites can be staggeringly varied.

Asakusa

Photo: Wikimedia
Askusa Sensoji Tokyo Japan

Experience the old Edo culture of Tokyo in this bustling district, which was once a theatre and entertainment hub. Today, the centre of attraction shifts to Sensoji temple which pays homage to Kannon (Goddess of Mercy), attracting thousands of visitors each day.

Sandalwood incense, shuincho stamp print and sutra booklets make good souvenirs. Huge crowds congregate on festival days of the temples and shrines to watch the processions, the biggest of which is the Sanja Matsuri in May.

Shophouses built in the 1950s-60s still offer 19th century services and goods, from ryokan stays to geisha services. Grilled eel, loaches cooked in hotpot, hot millet dough with red bean paste, tempura and rice crackers are among the old-school bites offered here.

Try old-world gaming in an ageing amusement park or catch a classic Japanese movie at a cinema.

Admission
Free

Address
2 Chome-3-1 Asakusa, Taitō-ku, Tōkyō-to 111-0032, Japan

Opening hours
Sensoji temple compound is open 24/7, but the main hall is open from 6am to 5pm daily (it opens from 6.30am between October and March).

Best way to get there
Take the Metro Ginza line to Asakusa station.

Phone
+81 3-3842-0181

Harajuku

Photo: Reuters/
A store clerk brings out a pair of boots for a customer in Tokyo's Harajuku shopping district

This district has been the centre of Japanese street fashion in modern times, where youth dress up in over-the-top eclectic styles on Sunday to show off what they fancy best.

Mirroring characters from cosplay to their favourite idols, the participants display a bewildering array of looks. Dress up and join in this fun unplanned fashion show outside the Harajuku station exit.

If you need a respite from the madness, stroll into the forested Meiji Shrine - which houses imperial treasures, a short distance away. Or head for Omotesando, where upscale boutiques promote another kind of culture that Tokyoites also relish - window shopping.

Admission
Free

Address
Japan, 〒150-0001 Tōkyō-to, Shibuya-ku, Jingūmae, 1 Chome?18, 1 丁目 18

Opening hours
Catch the Harajuku fun starting in the morning on Sunday.

Best way to get there
Take the JR Yamanote Line to Harajuku station, or the Meiji-jingumae station served by the Chiyoda or Fukutoshin Lines.

Kabuki-za

Photo: The Japan Times

Founded in the late 19th century, this theatre is a landmark in the upmarket shopping district of Ginza. Catch a traditional Japanese song-and-dance drama presented by all-male actors in a modern theatre setting today after refurbishments.

For a closer look at the gorgeous costumes used in famous dramas as well as props and musical instruments, pop into the Kabukiza Gallery.

The Kabuki-za has kabuki-themed souvenir shops, a rooftop garden and a shrine, which is open to the public.

Admission
A single act ticket is about 1,000 to 1,500 yen ($12 to $18). The whole show can cost from 4,000 to 20,000 yen ($50 to $250) or beyond. Celebrity performers like the Somegoro family are very popular, so book your tickets early.

Address
Japan, 〒104-0061 Tōkyō-to, Chūō-ku, 中央区Ginza, 四丁目12?15

Opening hours
A matinee begins at 11am while an evening performance might end after 8.30pm.

Best way to get there
Take the Hibiya or Asakusa line to Higashi Ginza station. Exit 3 leads directly to the theatre.

Phone
+81 3-3545-6800
Photo: Wikimedia Commons/John W
Pond in the Imperial Palace East Garden (Kokyo Higashi Gyoen), Tokyo.

Also known as the Kōkyo Higashi Gyoen, it is part of the inner palace area but is open to the public. The lovely garden is the former site of Edo Castle's innermost rings of defence, but none of the main buildings remain today, except for moats, walls, entrance gates, guardhouses and some ruins.

A picturesque woodland with a pond and teahouse makes a perfect postcard photo.In the garden too is the Museum of Imperial Collections, which displays thousands of artworks owned by the imperial family.

As the number of visitors is limited at any one time, it hardly feels crowded. It is an ideal escape from the maddening crowds at Tokyo station not far away.

Admission
Free

Address
Japan, 〒100-8111 Tōkyō-to, Chiyoda-ku, Chiyoda, 1?1

Opening hours
9am-4pm in Nov-Feb, to 4.30pm in Mar–mid-Apr, Sep & Oct, to 5pm in mid-Apr–Aug. Closed Mon and Fri all year-round

Best way to get there
The Otemon entrance is only short walk from Otemachi station on the Chiyoda, Tozai, Marunouchi, Hanzomon and Mita Subway lines. It can also be reached in a 15-20 minute walk from Tokyo station.

Phone
+81 3-3213-1111
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