Tuesday, November 18, 2008

55. Museum Review: Hatoyama Kaikan (Bunkyo-ku)

The Hatoyama Kaikan was once the residence of the famous Hatoyama family. A Western style residence that was built in 1924, it had fallen into disrepair, but was renovated and is now a memorial hall commemorating the Hatoyama family's contributions to politics and education in Japan.
The Hatoyama's have been active participants in Japanese politics for many years. Most recently, Kazuo Hatoyama (1856 - 1911) was once Vice-Foreign Minister, Speaker of the House of Representatives, Tokyo University professor, and the President of Waseda University. Ichiro Hatoyama (1883 - 1959) was once Secretary of the Cabinet, Minister of Education, and a Prime Minister. Iichiro Hatoyama (1918 - 1993) was once the Vice-Minister of the Ministry of Finance, member of the House of Councilors, and Minister of Foreign Affairs. Yukio and Kunio Hatoyama are currently members of the House of Representatives.

The home was built by Ichiro Hatoyama, and it was here that he helped form the present Liberal Democratic Party.

There are currently three memorial rooms; one dedicated to Ichiro, another to his wife Kaoru, and another to Iichiro Hatoyama. There are also some lovely sculptures of Kazuo, and his wife, Haruko, in the garden.

Haruko founded what is now Kyoritsu Women's University, and she contributed to women's education for many years. Kaoru Hatoyama became schoolmaster of Kyoritsu Women's University.
The residence has some very beautiful stained glass windows, and a lovely rose garden. I don't think the home is impressive enough to go out of your way to see. But, it is a short distance from Chinzanso, Edogawa Park, and Gokokuji Temple. In combination, they would be a nice sightseeing choice.
Entrance Fees: adults 500 yen, older students 300 yen, elementary and Jr. high students 200 yen. Discounts for the elderly and groups of 20 or more.
Address: Bunkyo-ku, Otowa 1-7-1

It is a 7 minute walk from the 1a exit of Edogawa Station. And, an 8 minute walk from exit #5 of Gokokuji Station.

Hours of Operation: 10:00 - 16:00 (last entry at 15:30). Closed on Mondays.

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

54. Museum Review: The Baseball Hall of Fame & Museum (Bunkyo-ku)

Located within the premises of the Tokyo Dome, the Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum is for baseball lovers, especially those with an interest in Japanese baseball. The museum is divided into sections, all dealing specifically with baseball in Japan:

1) Highlights and New Acquisitions
2) Professional Baseball
3) History of Baseball
4) Amateur Baseball
5) Baseball Hall of Fame
6) Special Exhibitions
7) Event Hall - Hands on Baseball Experience
8) Library

Very few of the exhibits are labeled in English, but I was given an extremely thorough pamphlet on my way in.

I don't have much to say about this museum because I do not have any interest in Japanese baseball. It was well put together, exhibits were easy to see,... but I really only recommend this museum to those who like Japanese baseball, otherwise most of the memorabilia has little significance.

Admission: Age 6-15: 200 yen; Adults: 500 yen; Age 65 and up: 300 yen

Hours of Operation:
March - September: 10am - 6pm
October - February: 10am - 5pm

Closed most Mondays and during the New Year's holidays.

Address: 1-3-61 Koraku, Bunkyo-ku 112-0004
*The entrance is located to the right of Gate 21 of the Tokyo Dome.

Phone: 03-3811-3600

They do have an excellent English website: http://english.baseball-museum.or.jp/index.html

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

53. Amusement Review: Tokyo Dome City (Bunkyo-ku)

A section of Bunkyo Ward, Koraku is an entertainment playground. The centerpiece is the famous Tokyo Dome, but it is surrounded by an area called 'Tokyo Dome City'.

An amusement park takes up a large part of this area. Rides seem to hang over the city streets, and they actually go through buildings and each other! They can all be ridden separately, or an 'all you can ride' pass can be purchased. The amusement park is built into the Tokyo Dome City, so it is free to walk around the rides.
Built halfway around the amusement park is 'La Qua', a building filled with over 70 shops and restaurants. There is also a natural hot springs spa built into the upper floors.

Towering over everything is the 155 meter Tokyo Dome Hotel. I recommend having the buffet lunch at the 'Artist's Cafe' on the 43rd floor. Named after the artists that perform in the Tokyo Dome, make sure you reserve ahead of time to get a table right by the window. The city views are fantastic! If you are in the area at night, stop by the bar for the same great view, often with live music performances.

Also within the Tokyo Dome City is the 'Japanese Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum' (see next review). The Tokyo Dome itself hosts over 60 baseball games a year, as well as a number of other sporting events (boxing, American football, monster trucks,...). There are also special exhibitions, the most famous being the yearly 'International Great Quilt Festival' held every January (photo below).

The Tokyo Dome City also contains the largest JRA WINS horse race betting complex in Tokyo. Here you'll see many down-on-their-luck Japanese men hanging out, smoking heavily, trying to win their way out of disfortune. A large game center is beside WINS, in addition to games there are batting cages, bowling, and more.

For English information on everything I've mentioned, visit this site: http://www.tokyo-dome.co.jp/e/dome/

Access: Tokyo Dome City is located in the southwest corner of Bunkyo Ward. Korakuen Station (on the Marunouchi and Namboku Subway Lines) and Suidobashi Station (Mita Subway Line and JR Chuo Line) puts you right in the center of the 'City'. It is also a very short walk from Kasuga and Iidabashi Stations. Here is a nice map of the area:

52. Garden Review: Koishikawa Korakuen (Bunkyo-ku)

Koishikawa Korakuen is one of Tokyo's oldest and most beautiful Japanese landscape gardens. The Tokugawa daimyo (feudal lord) Yorifusa Mito began construction of the park in 1629. It was completed by his successor, the famous Mitsukuni Mito, as part of his daimyo yashiki (feudal lord residence). Mitsukuni Mito was interested in Chinese teachings, so he named the garden 'Korakuen'. Koraku means 'enjoying afterwards', from a Chinese proverb stating 'a governor should worry before his people and enjoy after his people'. The landscape design incorporates a mix of Chinese and Japanese influences.When built, the residence helped guard the approach to Edo Castle from the north. It also protected the Kanda Aqueduct, Edo's main water source. There was an arsenal at this location from 1867, and it was eventually turned into a public park and national historic site in 1952.
This photo shows an area of the garden where rice was planted, raised, and harvested by Mitsukuni Mito's son. Mitsukuni thought it was important for his son to know how difficult it was to grow the precious crop.

I recommend doing some research on Mitsukuni Mito before visiting this garden. Many TV series have been created about this incredible man, the most famous is the fictionalized 'Mito Komon'.

Admission: 300 yen
Open everyday, except during the New Year's holidays
Hours of Operation: 9:00 - 17:00

Address: Koraku 1-6-6, Bunkyo-ku
A short walk from Iidabashi or Korakuen Stations. It is right behind the Tokyo Dome.
Phone: 03-3811-3015

Monday, February 18, 2008

51. Park Review: Shioiri Park (Arakawa-ku)

Minami-Senju is not a popular area of town for tourists. It is right in the middle of Tokyo's 'Shita-machi', older neighborhoods of the working class. This area of Minami-Senju, however, is brand new and so is Shioiri Park. Shioiri Park has all the basics: baseball fields, tennis courts, large grassy lawns, picnic & BBQ areas, and an excellent playground. Located along the Sumida River, there is also a lovely cycling course. I was also impressed that although the riversides are concrete, they left a nice section of reeds right at the waters' edge.I was surprised by, a huge, beautiful, traditional-style building that sits between the park and the Tokyo Metropolitan College of Industrial Technology. It is actually the 'Shirahige Nishi Pump Place', a water treatment facility. What a way to hide an unsightly necessity! (It is the large building on the left below).
Minami-Senju hosts a very large train freight depot. The Shioiri Park area lies just beside it, and the entire area, including all of the residences (mostly high-rise condos), are very new. I don't know what the area was before, but its 'renewal' is very impressive.

I recommend this park for those who want some wide-open space, but don't want to travel very far to find it!

The park is a short walk or bus ride from Minami-Senju Station. There is also reasonably priced parking available.
By the way, keep your eye out for English language tourist brochures of Arakawa Ward. They are excellent. I would never have know about this park if I hadn't read about it in their brochure.

50. Park Review: Arakawa Amusement Park (Arakawa-ku)

The Arakawa Amusement Park is one of Tokyo's best buys and a great place to bring small children! Originally a villa for the feudal lord, Todo Takatora, it is the only city-run theme park in the city of Tokyo. The site became a brick factory in 1872, and later was changed into 'Arakawa Gardens', a private park with amusement facilities. It was shut down during WWII, but reopened in 1950 as the current 'Arakawa Amusement Park'.
The park is not very large, but there are a lot of things for children to do. First, there are some rides including a small ferris wheel, merry-go-round, mini-train, and pedal-powered 'sky' cars.
There is also a roller coaster that is known as 'the slowest roller coaster in Japan'. It was perfect for the 7 year old I took on my second visit. It was the only ride we did twice!Also in the park is an 'Animal Plaza'. In addition to some caged animals (monkeys, birds,...), there is a great petting zoo. Kids get a chance to get up close and personal with goats, deer, sheep, rabbits, and really cute guinea pigs! On a second visit to the park, the petting zoo was kept clean, but the waste in some of the other cages needed to be dealt with.
Many were enjoying a couple of small fishing ponds. This area was quite popular with older elementary school boys and their fathers. The park also contains some grassy picnic areas, some fast food outlets, and some great blow-up 'attractions'. There was also a live music performance the day I was there (traditional Japanese drumming, flutes,...).

If you just want to look around, the entrance fee is 200 yen for adults, 100 yen for children. For 1400 yen, and adult and child can enter together and they receive 12 tickets. Each ride 'costs' one ticket for a child, two tickets for an adult. Extra tickets can be purchased if necessary.

Hours of Operation: 9:00 - 17:00, closed on Tuesdays

Tel: 03-3893-6003

Address: Nishi-Ogu 6-35-11, Arakawa-ku. Arakawa Ward is located just outside the Yamanote Line, above Ueno.

Transportation: The coolest way to get to the park is by the Toden Arakawa Streetcar, the last remaining streetcar in Tokyo. The train starts at Waseda or Minowabashi. It is also accessible by bus, by water cruise boat, and by car. Reasonable parking is available nearby.