My Tokyo Guide
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Updated: February 28, 2019
When you're strolling through Tokyo's ultramodern canyons of glass and concrete buildings, it can be easy to forget that this is a seaside city full of rivers, lakes, ponds, and canals. Consider this short selection of activities a starting point for exploring your own water-themed day.
Kiyosumi Gardens offers manicured lawns and lush foliage in any season, plus a photogenic pond with resident ducks, carp, and turtles. At the water's edge you'll find stepping stones formed from beautiful slabs of rock. Winding paths present engaging scenes every step of the way. Trees, flowers, and wooden pavilions make beautiful backdrops for photos to share with family and friends. At the far end of the park is a monument to Japan's most famous haiku poem, which is about a frog plopping into an old pond. To get a sense of the tranquility that inspired the poet Matsuo Basho, aim to visit Kiyosumi Gardens in the morning.
Just a ten-minute walk away, you will encounter the powerful presence of the Sumidagawa River at Kiyosu Bridge. This 90-year-old structure was modeled on a famous bridge in Cologne, Germany. Go up the flight of steps just a short walk to the left to enjoy lunch in a restaurant with a great view of the bridge and the river itself.
At PITMANS, you can enjoy a meal while looking out at the Sumida River. Their speciality is barbecue, grilled for you by professionals. Try it casually at lunch, or in the evening as a main meal. The home-brewed craft beer and Eggs Benedict (on the breakfast menu) are particularly recommended.
If an afternoon walk appeals to you, your next destination is 4 km up the Sumidagawa in Asakusa. The riverside path offers engaging sights, including flowers, seagulls, boats, and barges, while haiku on plaques offer a reminder that you are still in Basho territory. As you walk, you will pass some tempting places to visit, including the Ryogoku Kokugikan sumo stadium, as well as the Edo-Tokyo Museum and the Sumida Hokusai Museum, both located behind the stadium.
Keep walking beside the Sumidagawa River, cross at Komagata Bridge, then walk towards Azumabashi Bridge and you'll soon find Cafe Mersault. In addition to excellent handmade cakes and coffee, the cafe has a terrace seating six to eight people that offers a great view of Tokyo Skytree and the golden flame atop the Asahi Beer Hall.
Now you're just a short stroll from the beating heart of old Tokyo, Asakusa. Sensoji Temple draws visitors from all over the world and is one of Tokyo's must-see spots. But you will find so much else to enjoy in Asakusa as well, ranging from rickshaw rides to river trips, and craft shops to colorful arcades. Visit the multi-floor Asakusa Culture Tourist Information Center to explore your options and find out about the latest hotspots, as well as experiences that will take you back in time to the days of Edo, as Tokyo was once called.
An 8-minute ride on the Ginza Line, the oldest subway in Japan, will take you to Nihonbashi, the place that is literally in the center of Tokyo. At one end of Nihonbashi Bridge you will find information about the zero-kilometer marker. This bridge is the point from which, for centuries, the distance to every other location in Japan has been measured.
Here, looking out over the dark evening beauty of the Kandagawa River, enjoy food and drink made with Japan's finest ingredients at Ichinoichinoichi Restaurant & Bar. If French fries with squid-ink sauce is too adventurous, there are plenty of delicious alternatives, including steamed sea bream on rice. The drinks selection includes excellent examples of junmaishu sake.