My Tokyo Guide
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Updated: April 2, 2018
The distinctive Tokyo Tower looms above the thriving Hamamatsucho district that has all the usual suspects of a business hub—office towers, luxury hotels and salaryman-oriented izakaya. But you will find respite amid the hustle and bustle with the area's rich history and greenery.
For travelers who fly into Haneda Airport, Hamamatsucho Station—just 20 minutes away on the Tokyo Monorail—is their gateway to Japan's busy capital. It is also near Takeshiba Pier, where ferries to the Tokyo Islands depart, and Hinode Pier, where you can board water taxis that tour Tokyo Bay. Near the station is the 163-meter tall World Trade Center, which was briefly Tokyo's tallest building when it was completed in 1970. You can get a panoramic view of Tokyo from the rooftop observatory, including the nearby Tokyo Tower and Tokyo Bay. The station is served by the JR Yamanote and Keihin-Tohoku lines. Just five minutes away is the Daimon Station on the Toei Asakusa and Oedo Lines.
Relax with a stroll in the traditional Hama-rikyu Gardens, which feel a world away from the teeming metropolis. Located on the bay front, these gardens were built during the Edo period (1603-1867) as a feudal lord's residence and duck hunting grounds. Remnants of an old moat and reconstructed duck hunting blinds allude to the garden's former days. Take a break from walking at a teahouse in the middle of the garden pond, where you can enjoy green tea and traditional Japanese sweets.
The Zojoji Temple was founded in 1393, before being relocated to its current site in 1598. Step through the majestic vermilion gate—a relic of the past—into one of Tokyo's most significant Buddhist places of worship. It is one of the most stunning too, with Tokyo Tower looming large behind it and the grounds of Shiba Park all around. At its peak during the Edo period, there were more than 120 buildings on the temple grounds. It was the family temple of the Tokugawa shogunate that ruled Japan at the time. Over time, many of the original buildings were destroyed by fire, disasters, or World War II air raids. Six shoguns are still buried in a mausoleum on the temple grounds.
See Tokyo from above at the 333-meter tall Tokyo Tower, which has gained global prominence for its distinctive shade of orange and its lattice structure. There are two observation points, at 150 meters and 250 meters high. If you're lucky, you might see the majestic Mt. Fuji in the distance. Built in 1958 as a symbol of Japan's post-war economic boom, Tokyo Tower is now the second tallest structure in all of Japan. There is a wide range of restaurants and souvenir shops at the foot of the tower, as well as an aquarium and an arcade. And if you are a fan of the Japanese manga series One Piece, the permanent theme park is not to be missed.
Tokyo Shiba Tofuya Ukai, located at the bottom of the Tokyo Tower was once a merchant's residence during the samurai era. It now stands out for its timeless Japanese aesthetic with grounds that feature a torii gate, ornamental koi pond and garden. The tofu restaurant is run by the Ukai Group that owns a series of equally atmospheric restaurants—including one specializing in charcoal-grilled chicken near Mt. Takao and teppanyaki in Ginza and Omotesando. You will be served by staff clad in kimono, and taken through winding passages and hallways to your own private dining room set against a verdant Japanese garden. True to their craft, the restaurant makes their own tofu. Pair your traditional multi-course kaiseki menu with sake made at the on-site brewery, which moved from Yamagata Prefecture and has a history of more than 200 years.