To say that there is a lot to do and see in Japan is a gross understatement. After living in this country for six months now, I am still surprised at how many fun sights and sounds there are to visit within a nation only slightly smaller than California. Even locally, I have the awesome opportunity to be an hour’s train ride from Tokyo, the megacity with near-countless things to do for everyone.
So, I took my first solo trip (of likely many to come) this past weekend, camera in tow, to the Sumida/Asakusa area of Tokyo to go for a long walk. My first stop at lunch in Sumida was Chanko Tomoekata, a local favorite for the hot-pot meal Sumo wrestlers are known to eat in vast quantities. My dish included a healthy amount of food, even for my voracious appetite.
Food pictures aside, and with a full stomach of awesome Chanko, I set out to the Ryōgoku Kokugikan to see if I could catch some live sumo action. The May season is in full swing, so I hoped for the best. To my dismay, all tickets for the entire season were already sold out. At least this gives me another reason to come back for the September season, where I will definitely order tickets in advance. Instead, I walked a hundred meters over to the Tokyo-Edo museum, a very contemporary building with an interesting design that houses the museum on the 5th and 6th floors, with open space for the 2nd-4th floors.
After an inexpensive entrance fee of ~680 yen, visitors have access to a very extensive museum packed wall-to-wall with exhibits detailing the history of Japan, with an emphasis on the Edo period. Some exhibits even had interactive portions for visitors of all ages to try out.
For the few hours I was there, the main draw had to be the traditional Shamisen dual performance. I found a good perch on the upper floor, and posted up with my 105mm f/1.8 to capture it all. Below is one of the full pieces played. The NEX-7 still makes a decent camera for short videos, I may have to get an external microphone for it very soon. Note, due to time of upload, video is still processing the higher resolutions and may be hard to load depending on your internet connection.
I headed back out into the comfortable sunny weather soon after to continue my walk, this time visiting a couple of the local parks and gardens, notably the Kyuyasuda Garden and Yokoamicho Park.
Interesting to note, the flower amphitheater’s design, sporting many different designs and images as seasons go by. In that same park, you will also find a small exhibit of charred machines and tools. I am unsure what historical event they are from, however, as my translation app could not recognize the text on the signs.
When I finished my run of the parks in the area, my plan was to head over to the Kappabashi Shopping street, which sports nearly a kilometer of cooking shops that sell just about everything that anyone would need for their culinary passions. Of course, I had to cross the Sumida River first, and pass the Bandai-Namco building.
Before I could make it to the street, however, I noticed some drumming and wood flute piping coming from multiple back streets. The curious photographer I am, I headed over to find the beginning stages of Sanja Matsuri, or, the Three Shrine Festival. The festival is a very wild and happy one that is in honor of the three men who founded Senso-ji, which itself is Tokyo’s oldest and most significant temple. Happy to stumble upon such an occasion without planning, I dumped my previous plans to go cookware shopping and instead followed the parading portable shrines (mikoshi) around the city, catching a few neat sights along the way!
As I got ahead of the separate groups, I had a bit of time to check out Senso-ji and the surrounding grounds before things got too crazy (and before the sun went down!).
Finally, as the sun set, all the groups met up along a main street and paraded all the way through Nakamise Street to the temple!
Throughout the day, I noticed how difficult it was to capture the energy of the festival through just photographs. So, I put together a short series of videos along the way. It’s amazing how many people were involved for this occasion, especially when the whole crowd starts getting packed into Senso-ji! (Again, the video may take a bit to buffer depending on your internet)
After all the festivities, I wanted to make sure to pay a visit to Tokyo SkyTree, the massive tower of 634 meters that is still the tallest in the world. You may have spotted it looming in the background of some of the photographs above! It meant a lot of walking, including another trip across the Sumida River, so by the time I made it, the sky was pitch black.
Given the time constraints I had at that point in the night, in addition to it being well past the magic “blue hour” for some cool skyline shots I could have gotten at the top of the tower, I nixed my ascending plans and got something to eat instead to relax. In the end, I know it this will just be another reason to come back to Tokyo, just like seeing some live sumo!
That’s all for this fun walk through Tokyo, guys and gals, thanks for dropping by! I only explored a small portion of the city, but still got to see so much. I can’t wait to go back once I make more plans for another route to walk through. I love how the city takes care of its little patches of nature within the small gardens and parks, as well as how the atmosphere fills with excitement and fun during festival times. Until next time and as always, thanks for dropping by!