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Things to Do in Kanto - page 5

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Tokyo Disneyland®

The first Disneyland®to open outside the United States, Tokyo Disneyland®has been welcoming visitors since 1983. People can expect all of the usual magic that comes with a Disney®theme park—from Cinderella castle to the Mickey Mouse welcome—with an added dash of Japanese flavor.

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Thunder Gate (Kaminarimon)

The symbol of the Asakusa neighborhood in Tokyo, Japan, the impressive, large, red Kaminarimon, or Thunder Gate, gives visitors a grand welcome to Senso-ji Temple (Asakusa Temple). Standing 38 feet tall (11.7 meters), Thunder Gate gets its powerful name from Raijin, the god of thunder, one of the two deities it honors. Four statues guard Thunder Gate: at the front, the Shinto gods of wind and thunder attract the most attention. The other two – a Buddhist god and goddess - rest at the reverse side of the gate. Under Kaminarimon, a giant red lantern draws the eye next. The fragile piece was restored and donated to the temple complex in August 2003 to commemorate the 400th anniversary of the start of the Edo period.

Kaminarimon’s history dates back to the year 941, when a military commander constructed the now iconic gate. Over the centuries, it has been destroyed by fire at least three times, and has always been rebuilt on the same ground. The current structure dates to 1960. Today, locals gather at the imposing gate to pray for peace in the world, fruitful harvests, and protection against natural disasters.

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Beni Fuji no Yu Onsen

The Beni Fuji no Yu Onsen offers some of the best vantage points in the area. The large public bathhouse has both indoor baths and two rooftop ones, but no matter which pool you’re in, the views of Mt Fuji are stunning. The ones on the roof boast views of a zen garden and trees, as well as the majestic cone-shaped peak of Fuji in the distance. The outdoor baths are arguably best in the winter, when the hot, therapeutic water complements the cold air and snow-capped peak.

The onsen offers guests a multitude of services in addition to the baths. A restaurant serves local cuisine, while visitors can also purchase massages and beauty treatments. There is enough to do within the onsen that many people choose to spend an entire day here, making the unassuming onsen a true highlight of a trip to the Mt Fuji area.

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Haneda Airport (HND)

With over 85 million annual passengers, Haneda Airport—also known as Tokyo International Airport—is Japan’s busiest airport and handles all of Tokyo’s domestic flights plus a smaller number of international flights. The airport is also home to Japan Airlines and All Nippon Airways, as well as several low-cost carriers.

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Tokyo Metro (Tokyo Subway)

Tokyo's underground subway service is a major part of the city's enormous and efficient rail network. Two companies operate here—Tokyo Metro and Toei Subway—and they connect to above-ground lines in the Greater Tokyo metropolitan area. Getting around this huge city by metro is easy, especially if you avoid peak rush hours.

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Suntory Hall

Travelers planning to enjoy a little classical music while in Tokyo should plan to attend a concert at Suntory Hall. This lavish auditorium in the Ark Hills complex in Tokyo’s Akasaka District enjoys the best acoustics of any venue in the city, and a variety of nearby restaurants and bars make it a convenient destination for a night out on the town.

The hall opened in 1986 as the brainchild of Keizo Saji, the then president of Suntory Ltd. It was the first concert hall in Japan to be constructed using a vineyard design with seating surrounding the stage, an arrangement that facilitates the audience and musicians sharing in an immersive musical experience.

Suntory Hall is divided into two separate performances spaces, the 2,000-seat Main Hall, home to one of the world’s largest pipe organs, and the smaller, more intimate Blue Rose (Small Hall). The space hosts around 550 performances each year and is one of the regular venues for the Tokyo Symphony Orchestra and the NHK Symphony Orchestra.

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21_21 Design Sight
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Located in Tokyo Midtown within the city’s Art Triangle Roppongi, 21_21 Design Sight opened to the public in 2007 as a museum and exhibit space dedicated to all forms of visual design. The major art venue, housed within a concrete and glass structure, was the work of Pritzker Prize winner Ando Tadao in partnership with fashion designer Issey Miyake.

The name, inspired by the English term “20/20 vision,” was chosen to express the aim of the museum to generate and inspire forward-looking design. The museum houses rotating exhibitions and regularly hosts talks and workshops.

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Lazona Kawasaki Plaza

Nicknamed “the land of anything you could want,” Lazona Kawasaki Plaza is one of the biggest shopping centers in Kanto, with some 300 retailers under one roof. Popular international brands like Gap, Zara, Tommy Hilfiger and UNIQLO are intermixed with Japanese brands.

Shoppers who’ve worked up an appetite have plenty of options, including a giant food court on the first floor and over a dozen full-service restaurants on the fourth floor. The top floor of the five-story mall houses a gym, cinema complex and event space. Also worth seeing, especially for architecture buffs, is the building itself. The roof of Lazona Kawasaki Plaza was designed by Catalan architect Ricardo Bofill to make use of natural light to illuminate the retail space.

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Fujiko F Fujio Museum (Doraemon Museum)
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In 1951 manga artists Hiroshi Fujimoto and Motoo Abiko partnered together under the pen name Fujiko Fujio to create the now-famous Japanese manga series Doraemon. The Fujiko F Fujio Museum celebrates this long-running series about a robotic cat who travels back from the 22nd century.

The rather extensive collection of Fujiko Fujio work includes original artwork from Doraemon and several other series, as well as a hands-on area, theater, manga reading room and several life-size Doraemon characters scattered throughout the grounds. An English audio guide (free with admission) offers commentary on both the artists’ lives and their works on display. The extremely popular Doraemon-themed cafe serves dishes inspired by the series.

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Japanese Sword Museum (Token Hakubutsukan)

The well-curated Japanese Sword Museum (Token Hakubutsukan) showcases the ancient art of sword making and is home to more than 150 artifacts. Swords, mountings, armor and metal work are beautifully displayed in this tiny Tokyo destination.

The four-story structure houses a gallery and bookstore, where items are available for purchase in a variety of languages. Displays offer visitors English translations with details on the design and use of swords, including some that date back more than 900 years.

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More Things to Do in Kanto

Natural History Museum and Institute, Chiba

Natural History Museum and Institute, Chiba

Around 30 miles (50 kilometers) outside of central Tokyo, the Natural History Museum and Institute, Chiba is dedicated to the natural and human history of Chiba province. The museum has a large collection of geological finds from the region as well as dioramas showing the flora and fauna of the area.

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Shiba Park (Shiba Koen)

Shiba Park (Shiba Koen)

Founded in 1873, Shiba Park (Shiba Koen) is Japan’s oldest public park. It’s best known for the distinctive red and white Tokyo Tower that looms over it. The park provides much-needed open space in the crowded central city, and it’s a great place to take a walk while in this part of Tokyo. Visitors can also admire the ancient trees in the park, as well as the temple at its center.

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Kawagoe Ichibangai Shopping Street

Kawagoe Ichibangai Shopping Street

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In Japan’s Edo period, Kawagoe was a prosperous castle town and due to it escaping damage during World War II, the city still has many of its old streets still in tact. Kawagoe Ichibangai Shopping Street is lined with traditional buildings on both sides, making it full of character — the ideal place to learn about the history of the area while enjoying a spot of shopping.

This small street is around 400 meters long and is situated less than a kilometer north of Hon-Kawagoe Station. The style of the buildings are that of traditional Japanese warehouses (kura), that were specifically designed to be fireproof after a large fire ripped through the area in 1893. These days, many of the buildings are either shops or restaurants catering for a burgeoning tourist crowd.

Ichibangai Street is best explored on foot as part of a Kawagoe walking tour that also takes in the old city’s other attractions, such as Dream Street, Spatiotemporal Bell, Snack Street, and Kawagoe Hikawa Shrine.

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Kawagoe Hikawa Shrine (Kawagoe Hikawa Jinja)

Kawagoe Hikawa Shrine (Kawagoe Hikawa Jinja)

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Known as the shrine of love, the Kawagoe Hikawa Shrine(Kawagoe Hikawa Jinja) is said to be around 1,500 years old. Its impressive entrance gate, called a torii, stands at 15 meters tall (around 50 feet). The main shrine is adorned with delicate carvings and has been listed as an important cultural building within the region. It is also a popular place for people to get married, as well as the site of a summer festival featuring tunnels of colorful wind chimes, live music, and even a ‘shrine bar’.

Dedicated to the God of Marriage, there is a good chance of witnessing a wedding procession on your visit to the Kawagoe Hikawa Shrine. The site is surrounded by greenery and is not as crowded with tourists as other famous shrines, meaning if there is no wedding or festival during your visit, it’s a peaceful place to relax and take some photographs.

The shrine also has its very own restaurant; Musubi cafe serves various meals and desserts throughout the day and has a gift shop selling books and other souvenirs to remember your visit. Hikawa Shrine can be visited as part of a Kawagoe Walking Tour, which also takes in other famous attractions in the city.

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Tokyo Photographic Art Museum (Tokyo Metropolitan Museum of Photography)

Tokyo Photographic Art Museum (Tokyo Metropolitan Museum of Photography)

Housed within a four story building in Yebisu Garden Place, the Tokyo Photographic Art Museum (Tokyo Metropolitan Museum of Photography) displays an extensive permanent collection of some 33,000 photographs from around the world within its recently renovated galleries.

While the emphasis of the collection is on Japanese photography, visitors can also wander through three rotating galleries featuring historical and contemporary works from Japan and abroad.

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Tokyo Joypolis

Tokyo Joypolis

Experience the thrills of one of Japan’s largest indoor theme parks at Tokyo Joypolis, in Odaiba. Spanning three floors, this SEGA-themed amusement center offers over 20 games and attractions, including virtual reality experiences, 3D attractions, amusement rides, simulators, arcade games, and even an indoor roller coaster.

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Ashikaga Flower Park

Ashikaga Flower Park

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Visit Ashikaga Flower Park to see one of Japan's best displays of blue, white, and pink wisteria (“fuji” in Japanese). Less than two hours from Tokyo, it's the country's largest wisteria garden with more than 350 wisteria trees, including one that is more than 100 years old and whose branches create a huge umbrella of blue fuji flowers.

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Roppongi Kaguwa Japanese Dance Cabaret

Roppongi Kaguwa Japanese Dance Cabaret

Swap the modern streets of Tokyo for the red light district of the Meiji era during an evening of theatrical performances at Roppongi Kaguwa, a cabaret dinner show based on oiran (Japanese courtesan) culture. Acts blend classic and contemporary Japanese traditions by combining dance and acrobatics from samurais and geishas.

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Maxell Aqua Park Shinagawa

Maxell Aqua Park Shinagawa

Maxell Aqua Park is an aquarium with a difference. Combining tanks of marine creatures with LED illuminated displays and music, it offers an elevated entertainment element. Located inside the Shinagawa Prince Hotel complex, the park is best-known for its dolphin show in which the mammals jump into the air and perform acrobats.

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LEGOLAND® Discovery Center Tokyo

LEGOLAND® Discovery Center Tokyo

LEGOLAND® Discovery Center is an indoor amusement park located in Tokyo’s waterfront Odaiba district. The center houses more than three million LEGO® bricks, as well as attractions including a Miniland Tokyo—a dioramic cityscape filled with mini reconstructions of some of Tokyo’s most famous landmarks—a 4-D cinema, and themed rides.

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Mother Farm

Mother Farm

Just east of Tokyo you’ll find Mother Farm, an animal- and flower-focused amusement park. Get to know the animals in the petting zoo, or spend the day sheepshearing and horseback riding while enjoying the slower pace and fresh air of the countryside.

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Nasu Stained Glass Museum

Nasu Stained Glass Museum

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At the Nasu Stained Glass Museum, you’d be forgiven for thinking you had left Japan and entered the English Cotswolds. Designed to look like an English manor, the building is home to antique works of stained glass art, as well as a pipe organ. Art and antiques enthusiasts will enjoy visiting the museum on a day trip from Tokyo.

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Namjatown

Namjatown

Namjatown is an indoor theme park on the second floor of the Sunshine City shopping complex in Ikebukuro, Tokyo. The park is operated by Namco, the creator of Pac-Man and many other arcade games. Stop by to experience themed dining, carnival-style games, a haunted house, and a line of character mascots exclusive to the park.

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Tobu World Square

Tobu World Square

At Tobu World Square, see some of the world’s most famous sights without leaving Japan. Just outside Nikko, the park displays more than 100 miniatures of architectural landmarks, about half of which are UNESCO World Heritage sites. Travelers of all ages enjoy spotting icons such as the Pyramids of Giza and the Eiffel Tower.

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