Friday, February 16, 2007

24. Garden Review: Rikugien (Bunkyo-ku)

Rikugien is now a garden, but in the early 1700's, it was the residence of the feudal lord, Yoshiyasu Yanagisawa, who was famous for his literary accomplishments. The name Rikugien was taken from the six principles of composing Japanese waka poetry, which was derived from an ancient Chinese book, "Mao Chin".

In 1867, after the Meiji Restoration, the gardens were used as a villa by the Iwasaki family, owners of the Mitsubishi Group. It was also used as a temporary residence of the prime minister before being donated to the city and opening as a public park in 1937.

It is not a very large park, but it is a beautiful one. Walking paths surround a pond with an inlet. It was a nice, quiet retreat, especially if you first explore the traditional shopping area of Sugamo.

Hours of Operation: 9:00 - 17:00

Admission: 300 yen, but elementary school children and under, and those over 65 are free.

Address: 6-16-3 Honkomagome, Bunkyo-ku

The garden is just outside Komagome Station on the Nanboku Line, and is a very short walk from Sugamo Station on the Yamanote Line.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

23. Aquarium Review: Aqua Stadium (Shinagawa)

The Aqua Stadium is a new aquarium in the Shinagawa Prince Hotel Complex. When it first opened, there were a lot of advertisements, it looked great. Don't let the advertisements fool you like they did me. Do not go to this aquarium, you will be very disappointed.

Although it looks larger from the outside, and there is a fancy parking lot,... this is actually a very small aquarium. Most of the space is used for a dolphin performance pool and a sea lion show. The dolphins and trainers were not used to working with one another and the show was not up to par with others I have seen. The sea lion show was also pretty standard.

We visited the dolphin show first as it was about to start when we entered the aquarium. Little did we know that the few tanks we passed on our way there were most of the exhibits. All in all, I was not at all impressed, especially concerning the entrance fee of 1800 yen for adults, 1000 yen for ages 7 to 15, and 600 yen for ages 4 - 6.

One of the advantages stressed by this aquarium is that it is open late, that is the only impressive thing about it.

Hours of Operation: M-F: 12:00 - 22:00, Saturday: 10:00 - 22:00, Sunday and Holidays: 10:00 - 21:00.

Address: Takanawa 4-10-30, Minato-ku, Tokyo 108-8611, inside the Shinagawa Prince Hotel Complex. Phone: 03-5421-1111

Access: Directly across from Shinagawa Station. They also have a lot of paid parking.

22. Museum Review: Asakura Choso Museum (Yanaka)

Fumio Asakura (1883 - 1964) was a pioneer of Japanese modern sculpture. The building which houses the Asakura Choso Museum was his own studio and residence. It took almost seven years to complete in 1935.

Yanaka is my favorite Tokyo neighborhood. If you come to explore the area, make a stop at the museum. Asakura-san's sculptures are excellent, I especially liked his collection of cats. But again, I was more interested in the building itself. Half traditional Japanese and half modern, I just really enjoyed being able to wander around as if it were my own.
If you do visit, make sure to go up to the rooftop garden. There are good views of Yanaka from here, and also a nice overhead view of the Japanese garden the residence is built around.
This is a small museum, but if you are in Yanaka for sightseeing, I do recommend stopping here.

Address: 7-18-10 Yanaka, Taito-ku, Tokyo 110-0001
Tel: 03-3821-4549

Hours of Operation: 9:30 - 16:30, closed on Mondays and Fridays (open if a national holiday and closed the next day). Also closed from December 29 - January 3, and occasionally for administrative purposes.

Admission: Adults: 400 yen, Jr. High and Elementary School Students: 150 yen
*Group discounts available.
*Free with Grutt Pass.

Access: 5 minute walk from the North Exit of Nippori Station. There is not a lot of parking in this residential area.

For more information:

**Free entry with Grutt Pass 2007 (#10)

21. Museum Review: The National Museum of Western Art (Ueno)

The National Museum of Western Art was established in 1959 as Japan's premier museum specializing in Western Art. The main building displays pre-18th century paintings and Rodin sculpture. The new wing displays 19th to 20th century paintings, with a focus on French Modern paintings.

I do not have a big interest in Western Art, but I was impressed by this collection. It has some serious works by: Monet, Renoir, Picasso, Van Gogh, Cezanne, Miro',... I especially enjoyed the 'old master' paintings, from Europe's late Medieval period through the end of the 18th century. Many were awe inspiring. All the paintings were labeled in Japanese and English.

If you are interested in Western Art, I do recommend this museum. I went on a cold, rainy day. It was a pleasant way to warm up and learn a little bit about some of history's most famous painters. It may not be the best choice for children as it was extremely quiet, and most would become bored rather quickly.

Address: 7-7 Ueno-koen, Taito-ku, Tokyo 110-0007
Tel: 03-3828-5131

Hours of Operation: 9:30 - 17:30 (closes at 17:00 in winter, open until 20:00 on Fridays, last admission 30 minutes before closing time). Closed on Mondays (open if a national holiday, closing the next day). Also closed during the New Year's holidays and for exhibition changes.

Admission: Adults: 420 yen, College students: 130 yen, High School: 70 yen.
*Regular admission is free for Jr. High students and younger, and seniors 65 and older.
*Permanent exhibition is free on every 2nd and 4th Saturdays and Culture Day.
*Special exhibitions are charged separately.

20. Museum Review: The Museum of Maritime Science (Odaiba)

The Museum of Maritime Science is a large museum dedicated to ships and everything related to them. The museum itself was built to look like a ship, and there are a number of real vessels surrounding it, some of which can be boarded and explored.

As a woman, I have never had much of an interest in ships. That said, I still enjoyed the museum . My husband, on the other hand, absolutely loved this museum. The first floor exhibits focus on ship history, design, propulsion, shipbuilding, and marine development. There are some excellent replicas of the most famous ships in history.
The second floor exhibits focus on maritime transportation, ships & seaports, ships & fishing, maritime safety, defending the oceans,...

The third floor exhibits focus on Japanese boats. I really enjoyed these as I am interested in Japanese history. There is also a radio-controlled boat corner, and a replica of a ship's bridge.
Outside the museum is the 'Yotei Maru', a ferry that connected Hokkaido and Honshu for over 20 years. Inside the ship are a 'Sea & Ship World' with some exhibits for children, and 'Seikan World', a re-creation of Aomori Station in the late 1950's.

Beside the 'Yotei Maru' is the 'Soya', a cargo icebreaker built in 1938 and used during WWII. Later it was used as Japan's first Antarctic observation ship. I enjoyed this exhibit most as visitors are able to get a feel of how life on board must have been like for the crew.

There are some basic English descriptions, but most are in Japanese. I was, however, given a very serious guide book that had some more detailed information and lots of photos.

The museum is obviously located waterfront, so there are some fantastic views of Tokyo Bay and of the shipyards nearby.
Most daughters would be bored here, but if you have a son, husband, or boyfriend, that is another story. Especially if they have an interest in boats, or even just in things mechanical.

Address: 3-1 Higashi-Yashio, Shingawa-ku, Tokyo 135-8587.
Tel: 03-5500-1111

Hours of Operation: 10:00 - 17:00, open until 18:00 on weekends and in summer. Closed Dec. 28 - Jan. 1.

Admission: Adults: 1000 yen, children age 5 - Jr. High 600 yen.

For more information:

Access: Odaiba is a man-made island in Tokyo Bay. To get there, take the Yurikamome Monorail from Shimbashi Station to Funenokagakukan Station (16 minutes). Paid parking is also available.
**Free entry with Grutt Pass 2007 (#44)

Friday, February 9, 2007

19. Museum Review: Matsuoka Museum of Art (Meguro)

The Matsuoka Museum is the private collection of Mr. Seijiro Matsuoka (1894 - 1989), an entrepreneur. The collection consists mainly of Oriental ceramics and Japanese style paintings. But, there are also French Impressionist paintings, stone figures of Indo-Gandhara, and antiquities of Egypt, Greece, and Rome. The display of stone figures and antiquities is permanent, but the other displays are changed every three to four months.

This is a small museum, but it is well laid out and the collection is interesting. It also looks out over a lovely Japanese garden. I visited this museum in combination with the 'Institute for Nature Study' and the Teien Museum, as they are all within walking distance of one another, and they are all completely different. Have lunch at a cool cafe nearby and you've got yourself a perfect day.

Address: 5-12-6 Shirokanedai, Minato-ku, Tokyo 108-0071
Phone: 03-5449-0251

Admission: Adults: 800 yen, Students: 500 yen. Some discounts available.

Hours of Operation: 10:00 - 17:00 (last entry 16:30), closed on Mondays (except national holidays, then closed the next day) and the New Year's holidays. Also closed occasionally for exhibition changes.

Access: 6 minute walk from exit 1 of Shirokanedai Station. This museum is on the backside of the 'Institute for Nature Study' park.

**Free entry with Grutt Pass 2007 (#22)

18. Museum Review: Teien Art Museum (Meguro)

The Tokyo Metropolitan Teien Art Museum was once the residence of Prince Asaka, the eighth son of Prince Kuni. He was married to Princess Nobuko, the eighth daughter of Emperor Meiji. The house was built in 1933, in the Art Deco style of the 1920's and 30's. Unlike most museums, this one is itself an art treasure. I visited during the special exhibition, 'Art Deco Jewelry - Charles Jacqueau and the Brilliant Epoch'. The exhibition fit well with the interior of the museum, but I was much more interested in the building than the jewelry. In fact, I highly recommend this museum to everyone, it is not often that 'commoners' get an opportunity to see such a unique and grand residence. The gardens were very nice as well.

Address: 21-9, Shirokanedai 5-chome, Minato-ku, Tokyo 108-0071
Phone: 03-3443-0201

Hours: 10:00 - 18:00 (last entry 17:30). Closed on the 2nd and 4th Wednesdays (unless a national holiday, then closed on Thursday). Also closed during the New Years holidays and for exhibition changes.

Admission: Cost of admission varies according to the nature of each exhibition. A ticket for admission to the museum also covers the garden.
*Admission to the museum is free for the disabled and their helpers, and pre-school aged children.
*School children of all ages (in Tokyo) are admitted for free if they are making an educational visit accompanied by a teacher and museum must be contacted beforehand.
*Adults over 65 may enter for free on the third Wednesday of each month.

*Tickets can be purchased for admission to only the garden, but it is foolish to visit here and skip the museum.

Access: The museum is a 7 minute walk from Meguro Station, or 6 minutes from Shirokanedai Station. It is built in a corner of what is now the 'Institute for Nature Study' (see previous blog).

**Free entry with Grutt Pass 2007 (#20)

17. Park Review: Institute for Nature Study (Meguro)

The Institute for Nature Study is part of the National Science Museum. It is the only place left in Tokyo that is reminiscent of the former Musashino Plain. I had no idea that natural forest and wetlands of this size were sitting in the middle of Meguro. Except for the dull noise of traffic, it is easy to forget you are even in Tokyo. The park is home to many different kinds of plants, insects, birds, and other creatures. If you don't have time to leave the city, but you need some 'nature', this is a good place to visit.The park is nothing fancy, just walking trails through the woods and wetlands. For someone who lives in the countryside, nothing special. For someone who lives in the center of Tokyo, it is a nice oasis.

Address: 5-21-5 Shirokanedai, Minato-ku, Tokyo 108-0071
Phone: 03-3441-7176

Admission: Adults and College Students: 300 yen.
*Free for children and youths in grades 1 - 12
*Free with the Grutt Pass

Hours: 9:00 - 16:30 (last entry 16:00) from Sept. 1 ~ Apr. 30
9:00 - 17:00 (last entry 16:30) from May 1 ~ Aug. 31

Closed on Mondays (if a national holiday, closed on Tuesday) and closed the day after a national holiday (but remains open on Saturdays and Sundays). Also closed from Dec. 28 - Jan. 4.
Access: 7 minute walk from the east exit of Meguro Station of the Yamanote Line
4 minute walk from exit 1 of Shirokanedai Station of th Namboku and Mita Lines
**Free entry with Grutt Pass 2007 (#21)

16. Zoo Review: Tama Zoological Park (Hino City)

The Tama Zoo is a must see! Located in the Tama Hills suburbs of Tokyo, the zoo exhibits are set inside a forest of oak and deciduous trees, which make up 60% of the zoo area. Paved 'trails' run throughout the zoo, up and down hills, around ponds,... You'll not only view animals, you'll get lots of exercise and fresh air as well!

The zoo is very large, the guide map said '52.3 ha'? Almost all of the animals are in very natural habitats, and they all looked very happy and healthy. It is always a good sign when you see a large number of babies. I was especially impressed with the effort made to explain how a zoo operates and why animals are kept the way that they are (unfortunately, these explanations are only in Japanese). For example, there is a single Asian elephant in a smaller, all concrete enclosure. I remarked that compared to the rest of the zoo, it was rather sad.

My husband then read me a sign that explained why. She was alone because her partner of many years had died and she did not like any of the elephants the zoo tried to introduce. She wanted to be alone. The habitat was concrete because elephants feet are very sensitive. If a habitat is not large enough, bacteria builds up and infects their feet. So, concrete is sometimes better than actual dirt. There were signs like this all over the zoo. The only animals that I felt truly sorry for were the rhinoceroses. And, compared to Ueno, they were living in luxury.

There are four zones in the zoo. First, the 'Asian Habitat', with a number of Japanese native animals, tapirs, red pandas, snow leopards, orangutans,... The Orangutan habitat is especially impressive. Huge towers have been constructed, connect by ropes, on which the orangutan can travel from one end of the park to the other. I also was impressed by the birds of prey habitat. Injured birds are brought in and they are given a chance to heal before being released back into the wild. They have a huge cage/dome in which to fly around in. Second, the 'African Habitat', with elephants, zebras, chimpanzees, giraffes, cheetahs, lions,... Special care was taken to keep animals that are naturally in groups together. In this area, the lion exhibit is a standout. It can be viewed from above, or guests can ride the 'Lion Bus' to get an up close and personal look (like driving through a safari park). There is an extra charge for this bus (adults: 350 yen, children 3-15: 100 yen, adults 65 and older: 100 yen). This bus operates from 10:00 - 16:00. The third zone is the 'Australia Habitat', with emus, kangaroos, koalas, kookaburras, and more.

The fourth zone is the 'Insectarium', an indoor natural environment of streams and flowers where butterflies fly freely in front of your face. If you look closely, you might also find beetles, and other bugs hiding among the greenery. We saved this for last and we loved it!

Kids will be thrilled with this zoo, and so will adults. My husband and I were there all day long. We had a great time hiking up and down the hills, waiting to see what was around each corner.

I would recommend bringing a stroller for small children, and parents should be ready for some steep hills. I would also recommend packing a picnic lunch. There is some food available, but there are picnic tables everywhere, if you bring your own lunch, you can just stop whenever you get hungry.

Tama Zoological Park
7-1-1 Hodokubo, Hino-shi, Tokyo 191-0042

Hours of Operation: 9:30 - 17:00 (last entry at 16:00), closed on Wednesday (closed the next day if a national holiday or Tokyo Citizen's Day) and December 29 - January 1.

Admission: Adults: 600 yen, 65 and older: 300 yen, Children 13-15: 200 yen.
*Admission is free for Jr. high students who live or attend school in Tokyo, children 12 and under, the disabled and their helpers.
*Admission is free to everyone on Green Day (April 29), The Zoo's Anniversary (May 5), and Tokyo Citizen's Day (October 1).

**Free entry with Grutt Pass (#55)

Thursday, February 8, 2007

15. Museum Review: Fukagawa Edo Museum (Koto-ku)

The Fukagawa Edo Museum is actually a reproduction of 19th century riverside Edo. Visitors can walk around the narrow 'streets', exploring the shops and homes as they go. It is not a large museum, but it a good way to get a feel for what life was like many years ago in Tokyo.

A large screen on one wall changes colors to imitate different times of the day, mostly sunset. All of the structures can be entered, many of the props inside can be picked up and examined. There is no information in English, but this is not a problem as most of the exhibits are self explanatory.

This is not a museum you can spend the day in, more like an hour. It is, however, located in a part of town that most foreigners never visit. If you decide to visit, wander the main street as it is very quaint. It is even better in September when they hold a scarecrow contest.

Other sightseeing spots nearby include the Kiyosumi Teien (garden) and MOT (the Museum of Contemporary Art, Tokyo). Both have been reviewed on this site.

Address: 1-3-28 Shirakawa, Koto-ku, 135-0021
Tel: 03-3630-8625

Admission: Adults: 300 yen, Jr. high and Elementary School Students: 50 yen.
*No admission allowed to children not accompanied by adults.

Hours of Operation: 9:30 - 17:00 (last entry at 16:30), closed the 2nd and 4th Mondays of each month (closed the next day if it is a national holiday). It is also closed around the year end, for changes to the exhibition - 6/12 - 16, and 2/13 - 15, and random maintenance days.

Access: By train - 3 minute walk from Kiyosumi-Shirakawa Station (Toei Oedo Line & Hanzomon Line)

Website (Japanese only):

**Free entry with Grutt Pass 2007 (#42)

14. Aquarium Review: Kasai Sea Life Park (Edogawa-ku)

The Kasai Sea Life Park is located within Kasai Rinkai Koen. If you like aquariums, you won't be disappointed. This aquarium focuses a lot on the oceans surrounding Japan. There main exhibit is a huge, donut-shaped tank filled with bluefin tuna and hammerhead sharks. Interesting to note that the designers of the tank didn't do their fish research. The design was to allow the tuna to travel in a full circle. Unfortunately, tuna like to see what's in front of them, and the narrower 'corners' of the tank didn't allow that. So, the fish constantly have to turn around when reaching those areas. Only an occasional smaller tuna gives the full circle a try!There is a display on the shoreline of the Kanto area, a kelp forest, a focus on the 'Sea of Tokyo',... There are also exhibits focusing on other oceans of the world, and the penguin exhibit is Japan's largest.Upon exiting the main building, I thought I'd seen everything. I was pleasantly surprised by a final exhibit called 'Nature Along the Water's Edge'. In the grounds outside the aquarium, they have recreated a natural setting of streams and freshwater ponds mimicing those found around the Kanto area. There was even a huge grassy lawn where fish kites could be flown. The kites were just laying in the grass for anyone to play with.

I definitely recommend visiting on a sunny day, and combining the aquarium with a picnic in Kasai Rinkai Koen. I wouldn't recommend the aquarium on a really busy day though, as it would be difficult to get a good look into all of the tanks.

Hours of Operation: 9:30-17:00 (last entry at 16:00), closed every Wedneday (changed to Thursday if it is a national holiday or October 1) and from Dec. 29 - Jan. 1.

Admission: Adults:700, Jr. High Students: 250, Seniors 65 and older: 350 yen.

*Disabled, Children under 11, and Jr. High students who reside in/or attend school in Tokyo are free. There are group discounts for groups of over 20.

**Use of strollers may be restricted on peak days.
**Free entry with Grutt Pass 2007 (#47)

Wednesday, February 7, 2007

13. Park Review: Kasai Rinkai Koen (Edogawa-ku)

Kasai Rinkai Koen is a waterfront park along Tokyo Bay, between the Ara River Flood Control Canal and the Edo River. It is also very close to Tokyo Disneyland. The park opened in 1989 and is the largest park within the 23 wards of Tokyo. I was very impressed with this park, and I plan to visit it again and again.

There are a number of things to see and do within the park. The busiest is the 'Tokyo Sea Life Park', an aquarium that has been written up separately. There are also two artificial ponds, one fresh water and the other brackish. These ponds are a bird sanctuary with an observation 'rest house'. Walking trails run in and around the sanctuary, a wonderful way to get some exercise and view nature at the same time.
On the other side of the park is a huge Ferris wheel set right in the middle of a big, green rolling landscape. All of the above attractions are connected my a labyrinth of walking trails that all lead down to the ocean.
The view out into the bay is wonderful, and if it is really clear, you can see Mt. Fuji! Two manmade sand flats have been constructed along the sea. One is a wildlife reserve, but the other is connected to the mainland by a beautiful bridge. As long as the weather is nice, this is an ideal place to visit for exercise, relaxation, to get in touch with nature,... without having to travel very far at all!
It is possible to make an overnight visit, as the Hotel Seaside Edogawa is located within the park. There are also a couple of restaurants, and during the day, a number of food carts. For those with small children or disabilities (or those who just want to take a ride!), there is a cute little tram that constantly runs around the park.

Address: Rinkai-cho 6-2-1, Edogawa-ku, Tokyo (Zip: 134-0086)
Kasai Rinkai Park Service Center: 03-5696-1331

By train: 1 minutes walk from Kasai Rinkai Koen Station of the JR Keiyo Line.
By car: Shuto Expressway Wangan Line, Kasai Exit (just before Tokyo Disneyland). Paid parking only.
By boat: This is a great way to get to the park! Boats leave regularly from Hinode Pier (see previous blog).

Tuesday, February 6, 2007

12. Sightseeing Review: Tokyo Cruise Boat (Hinode - Asakusa)

To get a true taste of traditional Tokyo, visit Asakusa. The best way to get there is by river cruise boat. The boats run from Hinode Pier, a two minute walk from Hinode Station of the Yurikamome Monorail. The Yurikamome Line starts in Shimbashi (on the Yamanote Line). You can also walk to the pier from Hamamatsucho Station (10 minutes).

Upon arrival, look for the 'Hinode Passenger Terminal'. It is a small, new building, and the name is in English. Inside are ticket machines with English instructions. A one-way ticket to Asakusa is 760 yen.

Check this website for departure times and more information:

The cruise boat travels at a leisurely pace up the Sumida River, passing under 12 bridges. If you sit inside near a speaker, there are brief English descriptions of the bridges. If you travel during the spring, make sure to ride on the left side of the boat as the cherry blossoms are quite beautiful. The ride upriver takes about 35 minutes. Views from the boat are not incredible, but it is obviously more scenic than the subway.
If you travel in the opposite direction, another option is to get off at Hama Rikyu Garden, once the suburban residence of the Tokugawa family. After enjoying the garden, it is a 10 minute walk to Shimbashi Station. It is possible to go from the garden to Asakusa, but the boat will head to Hinode first, then backtrack past the garden. One problem with traveling from Asakusa are the crowds. There is almost always a long line of people waiting for the cruise boat. From Hinode, I've never had a problem getting a good seat by the window.

There are other options from Hinode Pier. Boats run to different parts of Odaiba, and also to the Ooi Seaside Park/Shinagawa Aquarium. Since Odaiba is in the middle of Tokyo Bay, views from these cruises are very scenic.

Thursday, February 1, 2007

11. Museum Review: Science Museum (Kitanomaru Park)

The first mistake I made in visiting this museum was coming by myself. The Science Museum is mostly for children, and is best when visited as a family. Make that a Japanese family. I was given an excellent and thorough museum guidebook, but many of the exhibits were hard to figure out without command of the Japanese language.

That said, any child interested in science, or in 'touching' things, will have fun running around trying to figure things out. There are 5 floors covering just about every area of science you can think of: illusions, optics, mechanics, electronics, the universe, construction, metals, the Internet, environmentalism, energy,... the list goes on and on. There are also workshops offered throughout the day. The workshop schedule was translated, so non-Japanese speakers are welcome to join.

The Science Museum was founded by the Japan Science Foundation, opening its doors in 1964. The exhibits do seem a little dated, but they were still interesting and educational. The Japanese kids who were there seemed to be having a very good time, and they were definitely learning. If you decide to bring your children, bring along a couple of their Japanese friends as well. I think the museum is best for children in grades 1 through 9.

The Science Museum is located within Kitanomaru Park, which is connected to the Imperial Palace. I was impressed with the park, I didn't even realize it was there. A picnic lunch, followed by a visit to the museum, would be a nice family outing.

Address: 2-1, Kitanomaru-koen, Chiyoda-ku, Tokyo.
Phone: 03-3212-8544

Hours of operation: 9:30-16:50, closed from December 29 to January 3.

Admission Fee: Adults 600 yen
Jr. and Sr. High Students 400 yen
Elementary to 4 years old 250 yen

Access: The museum is a 7 minute walk from Takebashi Station of the Tozai Line or Kudanshita Station of the Tozai/Hanzomon/Shinjuku Lines. It is very close to the Nippon Budokan Hall.
**Free entry with Grutt Pass 2007 (#15)

10. Museum Review: Idemitsu Museum of Arts (Marunouchi)

The Idemitsu Museum of Arts displays works of art collected over 70 years by Sazo Idemitsu, the founder of Idemitsu Kosan Co., Ltd. The main collection focuses on different types of Asian art, shown periodically, theme by theme.

Currently the exhibition is called, "Elements of Design in Calligraphy". As I stated in an earlier blog, I do not have a special interest in calligraphy, but it was close to the Mitsuo Aida Museum and there was a discount ticket in the Grutt Pass. Items on display included screens, scrolls, fans, pottery, books,...

I was not overly impressed with the museum itself. There was nothing to distinguish it from any other museum except for its excellent view of the Imperial Palace. To visit this museum, you must have a real interest in the subject matter of the exhibit.

For those truly interested in calligraphy, this was probably an excellent exhibit. But, for me, it all just started running together. Each item had a basic English description, but there was no translations of what was actually written (as there was in Japanese). I would have been in and out of this museum in record time if the view of the Imperial Palace had not been so good. With all the free Japanese tea (3 types) you can drink available, I sat for a while in a comfy chair, relaxing, staring out the window.

The museum is located on the 9th floor of the Teigeki Building, 3-1-1, Marunouchi, Chiyoda-ku, Tokyo 100-0005.

The phone number is 03-3213-9402.

Hours of operation: 10:00-17:00 (last entry at 16:30). Fridays 10:00-19:00 (last entry 18:30). The museum is closed on Mondays (except national holidays), during the New Year's break, and for changes of exhibits. Always check before visiting, there are some lengthy closures.

Access: The museum is a short walk from JR Yurakucho Station, or from Subway Yurakucho and Hibiya Stations.

Admission: Adults: 1000 yen (800 with Grutt pass, or if in a group of 20 or more)
College and high school students: 700 yen
Free for Jr. High students and younger, but they must be accompanied by their parents.

For more information, check their website: Scroll to the bottom of the page for a link in English.

The current exhibit runs until February 12th. The next exhibit, 'Shino and Oribe - The Elegance of Vessels', runs from February 20th to April 22nd.

A permanent exhibit of pot sherds (broken pieces) excavated from Egypt and sites around Japan is also on display.
**Free entry with Grutt Pass 2007 (#19)

9. Museum Review: Mitsuo Aida Museum (Marunouchi)

Mitsuo Aida was a famous calligrapher and poet who passed away in 1991. He once wrote, "I merely express the natural way people should be as humans and the true way to live. To accomplish that, I borrow the format of brush-and-ink calligraphy."

I had never heard of Mr. Aida, but entrance to the museum was free with my Grutt Pass, so I decided to check it out. Although I admire the beauty of calligraphy, I don't have any special interest in it. That wasn't important, as I found this museum inspiring.

First, the atmosphere. Again, in running with a Japanese theme, earth tones prevailed. In fact, in the main hall, the walls and floor seemed to be made of earth itself. The only sounds to be heard was running water (and in some areas, the air-conditioning).

Many of Mr. Aida's works are on display, and each one is completely translated into English. Because I am able to read hiragana and some kanji, I could read and understand some of his poems without the English, as they were simple and to the point. For example, "sono mamade iiga na", or "It's fine, just as it is."

Most were much more difficult, but reading what I could in Japanese, then reading in English, was an interesting challenge. If nothing else, I just enjoyed the serenity of the exhibit and the opportunity to contemplate many of the basic concepts of life.

Another of Mr. Aida's poems (translated) read, "The flowers are supported by the branches, the trunk supports the branches, the roots support the trunk, but we can't see the roots."

It would be just as easy to read his poems in a book, but I think the museum encourages one to really pay attention to what Mitsuo Aida was trying to say. It is a small museum, but I think it is worth a visit! But, I would not recommend bringing children. The silence is an important part of the experience.

The Mitsuo Aida Museum is located inside the Tokyo International Forum building, B1, 3-5-1, Marunouchi, Chiyoda-ku, Tokyo 100-0005. Just enter the building and take the escalators down, the name of the museum is in English.

The phone number is: 03-6212-3200.

Hours of operation: 10:00-17:30 (last entry at 17:00). Closed on Mondays, except when Monday is a national holiday.

Admission: Adults 800 yen
Jr. & Sr. High students, seniors 70 and older: 500 yen
Elementary Students 200 yen
Children kindergarten age and under are free.
*Group discounts are available.

For more information, check their website:

The International Forum is less than 5 minutes walk from Tokyo and Yurkucho stations, as well as the Hibiya/Nijubashimae/Ginza Subway stations.

Some of my favorite poems, by name: 'Jibun', 'Shiawasewa itsumo', 'anatano kokoroga', 'toki', 'michi', 'sono hito', 'makeni mawaru',...

**Free entry with Grutt Pass 2007 (#18)