4 Hours in… Tokyo


Despite being home to the world’s largest urban agglomeration economy and 51 Fortune Global 500 companies, Japan’s capital city has so much more to offer than commerce and industry. Kate Kennedy discovered a few things you might like to consider, should you have a few hours to spare.

1. Tokyo Tower
Tokyo Tower opened as a telecommunications hub in 1958. It has since developed into a tourist attraction and stands as a tribute to the success of Japan’s rapid industrialisation and economic growth. Located in the centre of the city, the structure’s two main observation decks, at 145 and 250 metres high, present a 360º panoramic view that showcases Tokyo’s very best sights – Tokyo Bay, Zojoji Temple and Mount Fuji among countless other landmarks.

2. Hamarikyu Gardens
This public park in Ch??, at the mouth of the Sumida River, opened on 1 April, 1946. The park is 250,165m² of landscaped garden surrounding Shioiri Pond, with the park itself surrounded by a seawater moat filled by Tokyo Bay. Once home to the Shogun Tokugawa family, the land was remodelled as a public garden park on the site of the family villa. Enjoy refreshments at a teahouse in Nakashima, in the middle of the pond in the garden that offers matcha and Japanese sweets in a tea-ceremony style. A peony garden, plum tree grove and cosmos fields have flowers for every season.

3. Zojoji Temple
Zojoji was founded in 1393, as an orthodox and fundamental nembutsu seminary for Jodo shu in the east Japanese region of Kanto. It was relocated to its present site in 1598, after the founder of the Tokugawa shogunate entered present-day Tokyo to establish a provincial government. When the Tokugawa shogunate ruled Japan, Zojoji became the family temple and a grand cathedral was built. It also served as an administrative centre to govern the religious studies and activities of Jodo shu. The cathedral, temples and the mausoleum were destroyed by air raids during World War II. Today, its cathedral and other structures have been rebuilt, and Zojoji continues to serve as the main temple of Jodo shu and the central nembutsu seminary for priests and novices.

4. Kabuki-Za Theatre
Enjoy a little classical Japanese dance-drama entertainment at Tokyo’s principal kabuki theatre. The original Kabuki-za theatre was a wooden structure, built in 1889. It was destroyed in October 1921 by an electrical fire. The second building was designed to be fireproof, but still displayed traditional Japanese architectural styles. It was restored in 1923, and again in 1950, after being struck by allied bombing during World War II. The structure was demolished in 2010, to address earthquake and accessibility issues, and re-opened on 28 March, 2013.

5. Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden
Shinjuku Gyoen was constructed on the site of a private mansion belonging to Lord Naito, a feudal lord of the Edo era. Completed in 1906, as an imperial garden, it was re-designated as a national garden after World War II and opened to the public. The 144 acres blends three distinct styles – French Formal Garden, English Landscape Garden and Japanese Traditional Garden – and is considered to be one of the most important gardens from the Meiji era.