Kasai Rinkai Park

There’s a lot more to Tokyo parks than just Yoyogi and Shinjuku-gyoen. Kasai Rinkai Koen is a seaside park on the edge of Tokyo Bay between Odaiba and Tokyo Disneyland. It’s the largest park in central Tokyo, and is home to an excellent bird sanctuary. There’s also an aquarium, acres and acres of grounds to stroll in, and a huge field of poppies that blooms around Golden Week.

Getting there:

From Tokyo Station, take the Keiyou (not the Keio) Line to Kasai Rinkai Koen Station. It takes about 15 minutes and costs 210 yen. The park is just a one-minute walk from the station.

Tel. (03) 5696-1331

Website: http://www.tokyo-park.or.jp/park/format/index026.html (In Japanese only)

Jomyo-in, the Jizo Temple

I rode my bicycle past Jomyo-in Temple hundreds of times on my way to work, never suspecting that it might be worth visiting until last year they started doing construction on it, and I got a look inside because one of the walls was torn down. It’s actually pretty interesting because its filled wall-to-wall with thousands of Jizo sculptures.

Before the Meiji Restoration, all of Ueno Park and a lot of it’s surroundings were one huge temple called Kan’ei-ji, and Jomyo-in was one of its 36 sub-temples. Kan’ei-ji was closely associated with the Tokugawa Shoguns, and Jomyo-in is named for the mother of the fourth Tokugawa Shogun, Tokugawa Ietsuna.

The temple was renamed Jomyo-in in 1723. The front gate is said to date back from this time.

The jizo thing was started by a monk called Myoun, who became the chief priest of the temple in 1876. He was originally from Osaka, and at the age of 25, while living as a hermit at a temple in Nikko, he came have great faith in Jizo. He started out with the idea of making a thousand jizo statues, but when they were finished, he started thinking big and decided to go for 84,000. The temple and some sites that I checked seem to indicate that there really are 84,000 jizo statues there, but there clearly aren’t.

There’s a really cool 360 degree panoramic photo of the temple here: http://www.360cities.net/image/jomyoin#695.86,-9.07,110.0

And a video here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UY_gi-UPjo4&playnext=1&list=PL851D134A302A2D60

The temple is right next to the entrance of the Yanaka Cemetery.

There’s a very good map and detailed access information on this PDF: http://www.yes-tokio.es/pictures/fichas%20zonas/yanaka.pdf

Here is the temple’s official homepage, in really difficult to read Japanese: http://www.tendaitokyo.jp/jiinmei/jinss/ss3jyomyo.asp

 

Fearsome Nio at Entsuu-ji Temple

Entsuu-ji is a kind of a cheesy-looking Zen Temple near Minami-senju Station in Tokyo, but it has some really cool Buddhist sculptures.

These are kongo rikishi, the “power lords of the diamond realm,” and they stand guard at many Buddhist temples in Japan. Bare-chested, sneering deities, the kongo rikishi are not your average Buddhas. Unlike the serene Kannon, Amida and Jizo statues, their ferocious faces and body-builder physiques are meant to frighten off evil spirits from the temple grounds, and in fact, they’re not true Buddhas at all, but rather protectors of the Buddha.

Kongo Rikishi also represent the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end.

Look closely at their faces and you’ll notice that one, the Missha Kongo (the secret-knowing Kongo) always has his mouth closed, and one, the Mishabe Kongo, (the secret-speaking Kongo) always has his mouth open.

Entsu-ji probably isn’t worth a special trip, but you might want to combine it with a visit to the Yoshiwara former red-light district or the Kotsukappara Execution Grounds.

Here is the temple’s homepage (in Japanese only) http://www6.plala.or.jp/entsuji/

Getting there: From Minami-senju Station, go out of the West Exit, turn left, and walk to the stop lights. Turn right and walk north to the next set of lights. Turn left, and walk to the second set of lights, which is a big road called Nikko Kaido or Route 4. Cross the street, and turn left. Entsu-ji will be on your right. You can also take Exit 3 from Minowa Subway Station, turn right, and north on Nikko Kaido/Route 4. Coming from Minowa, Entsu-ji will be on your left.Address: Tokyo, Arakawa-ku, Minami-senju 1-59-11 (Japanese: 東京都 荒川区南千住1-59-11)

TEl. 03-3891-1368

These are Kongo Rikishi (aka Nio),Kongo rikishi, the “power lords of the diamond realm,” stand guard at many Buddhist temples in Japan. Bare-chested, sneering deities, the kongo rikishi are not your average Buddhas. Unlike the serene Kannon, Amida and Jizo statues, their ferocious faces and body-builder physiques are meant to frighten off evil spirits from the temple grounds, and in fact, they’re not true Buddhas at all, but rather protectors of the Buddha.

Kongo Rikishi also represent the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. Look closely at their faces and you’ll notice that the one on the left, the Missha Kongo (the secret-knowing Kongo) always has his mouth closed, and the one on the right, the Mishabe Kongo (the secret-speaking Kongo) always has his mouth open.

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G-Cans Water Tunnel

For years, people living by the Tonegawa, Arekawa, and Edogawa Rivers faced the threat of terrible floods during the typhoon season. Every few years, anywhere between a few dozen and tens of thousands of houses would be inundated with water, and as the Tokyo metropolitan area expanded, the problem was only growing worse.

In the early 1990s, someone came up with the idea of huge underground discharge tunnels for the rivers to prevent flooding. Construction started in 1993, and 13 years later, the G-Cans Water Discharge Tunnel was completed. It’s a really impressive structure, and and the facility is open to tourists. I visited this December and found it to be really impressive.

There are a bunch of videos here. The website and videos are in Japanese, but just click on “broadband” or “narrowband” to watch them.

Official Site (mainly in Japanese): http://www.ktr.mlit.go.jp/edogawa/project/g-cans/frame_index.html

Tokyo City Keibajo Racetrack

The Tokyo City Keibajo Racetrack is an excellent, almost free place to spend an evening in Tokyo. It’s known for it’s “Twinkle Races,” which are held in the evenings.

I was surprised that I didn’t see a single foreigner here when I went.  It’s cheap (just 100 yen) and entertaining, and the horses are gorgeous.

Races are held every 30 minutes on the hour and half hour.

The English website has a guide to gambling.

The racetrack is quite easy to get to. Just take the Tokyo Monorail to Oikeibaj0-mae Station. Go out of the station, turn left, and it’s just a two-minute walk to the track. There are also free shuttle buses from Shinagawa and Kinshicho Stations on Twinkle Race days.

Unfortunately, the race schedules are not available in English, but you can see them here: http://www.tokyocitykeiba.com/01/

Races are held on the dates in blue or orange. Blue indicates night races and orange indicates afternoon races. The next races are going to be held from October 4 to 9, and then from the 18th to the 23rd. They’re run from around 2:30 in the afternoon until 8:00 at night.

The official Tokyo City Keiba-jo Website (Japanese)

The official Tokyo City Keiba-jo Website (English)

Motorboat Racing

Motorboat racing is one of four forms of legalized gambling in Japan, and there are racecourses all over the country. A couple of weeks ago I went to the Heiwajima Racecourse.

It was pretty interesting and I was happy with the photos I got, but it’s probably not for everyone.

Most of the people who go to watch the races are middle-aged and older down-on-their-luck males, and no one seems to get very excited about the races themselves. I don’t think I saw anyone smile the whole time I was there. It’s quite interesting, though, and admission is only 100 yen.

If you show up with a camera, a security guard will tell you that you need permission and take you to a little room where you have to fill out a simple form and promise not to take photos of the other spectators.

These Ryoichi Sasakawa statues are outside every Motorboat Racing facility.

Getting there:
From Tokyo Station, take the Keihin Tohoku Line to Omori Station. From there, go out the East Exit. There’s a free shuttle bus that runs every ten minutes on race days. The shuttle runs from 9:40 AM to 430 PM and leaves from Bus Stop #4. You can also walk (10 min.) from Heiwajima or Omori Kaigan Stations on the Keihin Kyuukou Railway. Here’s a map.

Here’s an explanation of the races: http://www.kyotei.or.jp/contents/basic_e/

Here’s an old but very interesting Sports Illustrated article.

A blog called Tokyo Times has a completely different take on Motorboat Racing from mine.

Boso no Mura Folk Village

The Boso no mura is a fantastic blend of history, nature, and beautiful architecture in Chiba, near Narita Airport. It doesn’t seem to get many visitors, which is really a shame because it’s a really worthwhile tourist spot – very educational, entertaining, and great for photography.

The main attraction is this re-created samurai town. The buildings are amazing, and inside there are people demonstrating traditional crafts. Depending on the day and time, there’s Ukiyoe printmaking, blacksmithing, bamboo crafts, straw crafts, ceramic art, weaving, etc. You can even try your hand at things like making pottery or children’s toys. You can see photos of all the buildings on this page, but it’s in Japanese only.

There’s also an old farm that is actually under cultivation. Here are more details, again, in Japanese only, but with lots of photos.

This Jomon Period history museum is really well-done, and has some very interesting displays. In the back, they have Jomon Period houses, and a lonely-looking old man came and talked my ear off for 15 minutes about Jomon house-building techniques.

I only had to wait about 30 seconds to get this photo of the main street of the town with no people walking through it.

You can try on samurai armor for free too.

The admission fee is only 300 yen.

The problem is that it’s kind of difficult to get to. You have to head all the way out to Narita Station and then take a bus for 20 minutes.

Website in English: http://www.chiba-muse.or.jp/MURA/e/index.html

Location: 1028 Ryukakuji, Sakae-machi, Imba-gun, Chiba Prefecture, 270-1506, Japan.
Phone +81-476-95-3333

Much more detailed website in Japanese: http://www.chiba-muse.or.jp/MURA/index.html

From Ueno Station, take the Joban Line and get off at Abiko. From there, take the Narita Line to either Narita or Ajiki Station. It’s about one hour to both stations, and costs 890 yen. You can also take the Keisei Line to Narita, which is only 810 yen and requires no transfer.

From Narita Station, go out the West Exit to the taxi stand. Take the bus bound for Ryuukaku-ji Shako (Japanese: 竜角寺台車庫). It takes about 20 minutes costs 390 yen.

From Ajiki Station, take the bus for Ryuukaku-ji Shako (Japanese: 竜角寺台車庫). It’s eight minutes, and the bus costs 210 yen.

Here is the bus schedule from Narita: 8:25, 8:47, 9:10, ※9:40, 10:10, 13:08, 13:38, 14:12, ※10:40, 11:38, 12:10, 12:38, 14:50, 15:15, 15:40, 16:15
※Weekend buses from Apr. to Nov.

Here is the bus schedule from Ajiki: 8:13, 8:56, 10:02, 12:31, 13:21, 14:21, 15:21, 16:30, 16:54, 17:43

The last bus back is at 18:57 from Ajiki and 15:39 from Narita. Call 0476-95-3333 for more bus information.

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