I spent most of the weekend wandering around one of Tokyo’s hidden gems, the Fukagawa (“Deep River”) neighborhood in Koto-ku.
Compared with, say, Shinjuku, Shibuya, or Minato, Koto-ku is not the place you normally think of going to if you’ve got nothing to do. However, it’s well worth a stroll around for half a day or so, if only to get away from what Shinjuku, Shibuya and Minato have too much of and enjoy doing nothing that involves crowds of people and wads of cash.
Fukagawa and the areas around it have strong ties with sumo and haiku, the Yokozuna stone bearing the names of all 68 generations of yokozuna champions being there, and it also being the place where the haiku poet Matsuo Basho set off on some of his treks around Japan.
Kiyosumi Teien Gardens are a slice of landscaping paradise, the Fukagawa Edo Museum makes for a whimsical 15 minutes back in time as you wander around an indoor reconstruction of an Edo-era Tokyo neighborhood (complete with mechanical cat on the roof that miaows!), and the temples and shrines – and there are scores of them – are not your gray concrete boxes squeezed between buildings with a statue or two out front, they are, on the whole, full-fledged domains with space to wander around freely, often with enough rituals going on to keep you fully absorbed in what’s happening.
Eitai-dori is a lively shopping street chock-a-block with reasonably priced mainly-Japanese fare from sushi (lots of them) to noodles to bento shops. Massive Kiba Koen Park is nearby for the kids to go crazy in, and if you insist on your helping of haute couture for the day, there’s the big sleek Museum of Contemporary Art Tokyo just 10 minutes walk away.
Read and see more about Fukagawa here.
Buy tea ceremony quality green tea online from GoodsFromJapan.