Japan Society Summer Staff Picks: In and Around Tokyo

If you're thinking about visiting Tokyo, you've come to the right place: each of these recommendations, individually selected by Japan Society staff members, reflects the wide array of activities, ranging from breath-taking hot springs to gourmet cafés and restaurants in or around the city that one can spend days exploring. Regardless of your tastes and interests, there will certainly be something on the list for everyone.

Arakawa River Bank

"Best for a good stroll to get a glimpse of good old Tokyo. It’s also where the family in Yasujiro Ozu’s 1972 masterpiece, Tokyo Story lives. Get off at Horikiri station on the Tobu Line where the son, Koichi lives and where the parents Shukichi and Tomi stay. Walk along the bank towards Yahiro Station (which used to be called Arakawa station) where the station scene was shot. Though the trains and stations have changed, the area remains mostly untouched…except for the looming Tokyo Sky Tree in the distance."
--Aiko Masubuchi, Program Officer, Film Program

2-2-3 Arakawa, Tokyo

Cat's Cradle: Coffee Shop/Café/Kissaten Indulgence

"Cat’s Cradle is the best getaway for individuals who want to feel like a local. Tucked away right beside the renowned Waseda University’s main campus, they serve delicious drip coffee, assorted sweets and a small selection of lunch dishes. The best thing about this shop is the atmosphere; a coffee shop sporting all kinds of travel books to read while you rest, some stationery and other small items for sale, and a small rotating gallery space. You can’t ask for a more perfect place to sit and relax. Enjoy the authentic Tokyo local style."
--Lana Kitcher, Development Associate, Individual Giving

Address: 538, Tsurumakichou, Waseda, Shinjuku, Tokyo

Edo-Tokyo Museum

"This expansive museum focuses on daily life in Tokyo (then called Edo) during the Edo period (1603-1868) with intricate scale models, life-size recreations, and live performances that allow visitors to experience what life was like in pre-modern Tokyo. Afterwards, enjoy a delicious bowl of chanko nabe (a hot pot dish often eaten by sumo wrestlers) at one of the many nearby restaurants in this neighborhood famous for sumo; Tomoegata (2-17-6 Ryogoku, Sumida, Tokyo 130-0026) is among the best."
--Lydia Gulick, Development Associate

Address: 1 Chome-4-1 Yokoami, Sumida, Tokyo 

Fukushima Organ Dou

"Located in Shimokitazawa, a lively neighborhood made up of crowded alleys and passage ways surrounding the train station with the same name, Fukushima Organ Dou is a small restaurant and store started by the Fukushima Organic Agriculture Network. It supports organic farmers from Fukushima by using their produce in the restaurant and sells fruit, vegetables and goods from Fukushima. Lunches are simple, delicious and very reasonable, and the staff is incredibly friendly. Take in your surroundings while you enjoy amazing food accompanied by that special charm that only Tokyo can provide."
--Betty Borden, Director, Innovators Network

Address: 4-44-2 Daita, Setagaya, Tokyo

Hakone Onsen

"Located close to Mt. Fuji and only an hour outside of Tokyo by train, Hakone Onsen has been known for centuries as one of Japan’s most popular spa resorts. With more than one hundred Japanese-style inns and abundant high quality water hot springs (like the one pictured above featured at Hakone Yuryo), Hakone Onsen is a must-visit place to experience the beauty and quality of traditional Japan."
--Tiffany Ferentini, Language Center Assistant

Address: Yumoto 698, Hakone-machi, Ashigara-gun, Kanagawa


"Located in bustling downtown Ginza, Ito-ya is a paradise for those obsessed with stationery! The two building complex offers anything and everything one could think of, from calligraphy supplies to picture framing services. One could stay here all day going through floor by floor picking the perfect and unique Japanese stationary. Also consider Kinokuniya (a great book store where one can spend hours) and Tokyu Hands (a department store) in a nearby Shinjuku shopping complex to look at new and amazing stationaries."

Ito-ya- 15-7-2 Ginza, Chuo-ku, Tokyo
Kinokuniya and Tokyu Hands- 5-24-2 Sendagaya, Shibuya, Tokyo

Kamakura Daibutsu and Enoshima
Day Trip

"If you’re looking for a respite from Shibuya and Shinjuku, head to Kanagawa Prefecture for a day trip. The Daibutsu, or Great Buddha, of Kamakura is an iconic symbol of Japan, and Enoshima is a neat little island with a fascinating history and mythology that has just the right amount of shops and attractions to fill the day. If you’re feeling bold, try the shirasu!"
--Micah Fukazawa, Development Associate

Address: Kōtoku-in, 4 Chome-2-28 Hase, Kamakura, Kanagawa Prefecture
From Kamakura, take the Enoden train a short ride to Enoshima Station

Kamakura and Zeniarai Benten

"Most tourists usually visit the main Tsurugaoka Hachimangu shrine and walk through Komachi dori, which is always a bustling place. Although much less crowded, people sometimes visit the Zeniarai Benten, a Shinto shrine that contains mystical water that allegedly brings good fortune (money-wise) to its visitors. One of the main attractions of this location is the washing or cleansing of the money to bring good fortune. You can take in the scenery of quiet, residential Japan on the way to the shrine, as you will walk through a quaint and picturesque residential area of Kamakura. Don’t forget to walk by the Koga Residence, a stunning 100-year-old Western style manor, formerly owned by the Koga family (and was used as the officers club for the occupational forces right after WWII), which went through a renovation and was recently turned into a restaurant named Kamakura-Koga."
--Fumiko Miyamoto, Senior Program Officer, Innovators Network

Address: 2-25-16 Sasuke, Kamakura, Kanagawa

Meiji Jingu

"A Shinto shrine dedicated to the Emperor Meiji (b. 1852 d. 1912, reigned 1867-1912) and Empress Shoken (b. 1849 d. 1914), this is an oasis of calm amidst the hustle and bustle of Tokyo. The shrine itself lies deep within a 170-acre forest of 365 different species, donated from throughout Japan when the shrine was built. The simplicity of the shrine’s traditional architecture and beauty of the natural setting make this a wonderful spot for an afternoon stroll."
--Lydia Gulick, Development Associate

Address: 1-1 Yoyogikamizonocho, Shibuya, Tokyo


"This is the remaining 'garden' created by Matsudaira-clan as part of their property in 1659. The scenic view and calming atmosphere will provide a great break from the busy city. Currently, it is owned and administered by the University of Tsukuba Elementary School, the oldest elementary school in all of Japan."
--Yoko Shioya, Artistic Director

Address: 112-0012 Bunkyo, Tokyo


"Built in 1890, this concert hall is the starting point of Western music in Japan after the Japan opened its door to the Western countries. This hall used to belong to Tokyo University of the Arts, but it has now been relocated into the nearby Ueno Park and designated as an Important Cultural Property by the Japanese government."
-Yoko Shioya, Artistic Director

Address: 8-43, Uenokoen, Taito, Tokyo

Tokyo Midtown Galleria

"If you love the finer things in life, head to Tokyo Midtown Galleria. Grab a freshly made French croissant at pâtisserie Sadaharu AOKI Paris; find luxury Japanese and European clothing and accesories at The Isetan Salone; beautify your home with domestic items handcrafted by skilled artisans sold at WISE ・WISE tools; splurge on furniture and décor items by Japanese designers and manufacturers at Time & Style midtown; satisfy your inner-child coloring cravings with a deluxe wood box of 120 colored pencils at Faber-Castell; and end the perfect day with fine dining at Union Square Tokyo, featuring American food with an Italian soul and Japanese artistry. A quick tip: Save for a shopping fund before you go, as you will want to buy everything in the building."

Address: 9 Akasaka, Akasaka, Minato

Zakka & Craft Shopping at Yuzawaya and Parfaits at Takano Fruit Parlor

"Japan’s continued tradition of craftsmanship is evident in its hobby shops, with Yuzawaya being its epicenter. The store has it all, with traditional fabrics to modern kawaii prints, kits for felting, sashiko, origami, and yarn. Also in the Takashimaya Times Square department store, stop by Tokyu Hands for stationary and gifts. After all that shopping, take a break at Takano Fruit Parlor, a café and sweets shop known for its decadent, high-quality fruits. They serve amazing parfaits and cakes piled high with seasonal delicacies, layered with fresh cream or jelly. Be sure to pace yourself! If you are in need of some inspiration before your trip, you can also check out the Tokyo Craft Guide, a website for craft shopping adventures in and around Tokyo. Enjoy!"
--Angela Salisbury, Database Manager

Address: Takashimaya Times Square in Shinjuku (Yuzawaya is on 11F, Takano is on 5F)
A two-minute walk from Shinjuku JR station, New South Exit
Takashimaya Times Square Building, 5-24-2 Sendagaya, Shibuya, Tokyo

Photo Credits: Photo © Aiko Masubuchi, Tokyo Story © 1972 Shochiku; Photo © Good Coffee 2012 – 2015; Photo © Lydia Gulick; Photos © Betty Borden; Photo © Hakone Yuryo 2015; Itoya © Wikimedia Commons; Kamakura Buddha Daibutsu © Wikimedia Commons; Photo © Kentaro Ohno; Photo © Lydia Gulick; Photo © Bunkyo City; So-gakudo © Wikimedia Commons; Tokyo Midtown Galleria © Wikimedia Commons; Takashimaya Times Square © Wikimedia Commons, Parfait © Takano 2015.

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