I live in Tokyo, the world’s largest metropolis, but my home is in the western region. Most tourists focus their attention on the busier areas like Ginza, Akihabara, Shibuya, or Shinjuku, but do not know of the many exciting places in western Tokyo along the Keio Line. The eastern side of Tokyo has more oceanic sights, but the western side has many lively towns which compelled me to move away from the larger, more crowded places and into the smaller, suburban parts. For your next Tokyo vacation, here is are my top 15 fun recommendations in western Tokyo.
15. See How Fun Trains Can be at Keio Rail Land
nakashi on Flickr
We all know that the Japanese train system is arguably the best in the world. The train line most commonly used in western Tokyo is the Keio Line, which opened in 1913. Thus, the Keio Rail Land Museum was built to show people how cool trains can be. Located right next to Tama Zoo (which I will get to later) at Tama Dobutsukoen Station, it contains Keio Line train cars from different eras and provides details about their names and their history. If you love toy trains, this tiny museum has a miniature town with the Keio Line as the train circling the tiny area. Outside the building, there is an actual train car where you can operate the different levers and speed dials just like a real conductor.
14. Read a Good Book at Setagaya Literary Museum
This museum/library is filled with great books and is also a nice place to relax. Don't be fooled by the title. This literary museum is not just a paradise for bookworms. It has a lot to offer. Because Setagaya Ward is the birthplace of so many great Japanese authors, like Roka Tokutomi, all of their books are on display here. At the museum, you can see exhibitions with beautiful artwork from talented artists and every year the museum presents an artists award to the ward’s most talented artist, poet, musician, or writer. They even have a gift shop in the lobby with couches I like to nap on.
13. Party With the Japanese at The Kurayami Matsuri at Okunitama Shrine
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The Kurayami Matsuri is an annual festival at Okunitama Shrine, one of Tokyo’s 5 major Shinto shrines. People from all over Japan come to attend this event. Japanese festivals are quite entertaining and lively events and this one has all of the Japanese festivities one could ask for. Portable shrines, fireworks, thousands of people gathered to celebrate in ancient Japanese costume, and traditional drum music going off until well into the night. The festival takes place from April 30 to May 6. On the final day, it lasts until 4 AM. It just goes to show how the Japanese work hard and play hard.
12. Go Fishin’ at Musashino-en Fishing Pond
Mark on Flickr
Japan is a fish-eating society and has lots of great fishing ponds and lakes where people love to fish. Musashinoen Pond, located near Nishi-eifuku Station, is a small fishing hole that will provide a relaxing spot to sit, think and angle some big ones. It has 2 separate ponds full of koi (Japanese carp). You will be given a time limit though. The prices differ based on what time you choose: 500 yen for 30 minutes, 700 yen for one hour, 1900 yen for the whole day, etc. There are discounts for kids too. If you wish, you can go to the nearby restaurant and have your catch cooked for you.
11. Immerse Yourself in Mingei at the Japanese Folk Art Museum
Photo from Wikipedia
Jean-Pierre Dalbéra on Flickr
At this museum, located near Komaba-todaimae Station, you can find wonderful ancient art from Japan and many other countries. It contains over 17,000 different art works known as ‘mingei’ in Japanese including ceramics, paintings, textiles, and woodworks. The building itself is beautiful to walk through since it was built in 1936 and uses all ancient Japanese furniture and building materials creating the feeling of entering a by-gone era. It may be only a tiny two-story building, but it contains a wealth of beautiful and fascinating creations.
10. Become an Anime Fan at The Ghibli Studio Museum in Mitaka City
Francesco on Flickr
Tokyo Times on Flickr
As many anime fans like me know, Ghibli Studio is the animation studio behind great movies like My Neighbor Totoro, Spririted Away, Grave of The Fireflies and Naussica: Valley of The Wind to name a few. Although it looks bright and youthful, the museum is not only for kids. It has museums for anime art and technology. There are exhibitions featuring artwork designed by the animators giving people a chance to see the dazzling visuals only a Japanese animator could imagine. For film buffs, there is The Saturn Theatre presenting short films by Ghibli’s animators shown only at the museum. After gazing at anime delights, you can also relax at their rooftop café. It is a ten-minute walk away from Kichijoji Station.
9. Shop or Go Clubbing at Kichijoji
Even if you are only sightseeing, Kichijoji is an exceptionally delightful area to look around or eat. From Kichijoji Station, the covered street known as Sun Road is full of huge varieties of shops and restaurants to keep you busy throughout the day. At night the city is active too with clubs and bars all over and a famous alley known as Harmonica Alley, which gets lit up at night by lanterns. Be sure to spend a day at the exquisite Inokashira Park to relax in nature or take a boat ride in Inokashira Pond. This park is so respected, that the Keio Line has a separate train line leading to it.
8. See Culture and Science in Chofu
Naoya Fujii on Flickr
A ten-minute bus ride from Chofu Station. For people interested in space exploration, they go here at the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) headquarters. People come to the Tanegashima Space Center for a tour of the incredible research and development labs and planned space missions JAXA is creating. Chofu is also home to CIFA (Chofu International Friendship Association), which tries to increase friendships with foreigners living in the area by hosting events with foreign guests and offering free Japanese lessons.
7. Tour the Kewpie Mayonnaise Factory at Sengawa
Japanese mayonnaise may be slightly different from western mayonnaise: more vinegary and with added umami ingredients. You can see the differences if you take a Mayo Terrace tour at the Kewpie Mayonnaise Factory in Sengawa. The tour is only in Japanese, but there are plenty of entertaining visual aids to make it easy and fun to see how mayonnaise is made. Be sure to register online or by telephone. Sengawa has lots of famous Tokyo brand stores situated in the small area like Tokyu Hands, Shimachu Homes, and Uniqlo so you can shop at all the great ones in one day. It is also the location of the relaxing Kemurinosato onsen. How do I know all so much about this? Because I live here.
6. Ride a Lion Bus in Tama Zoological Park
kawabata on Flickr
Have you ever ridden a lion? How about a lion bus? That is exactly what they call them at the Lion Garden at Tama Zoological Park located near Tama-doubutsukoen Station. From the bus windows you can view the real lions up close. Of course the zoo is very large too, giving visitors plenty of animals to see and guided tours.
5. Meet Hello Kitty at Sanrio Puroland
This amusement park, located near Keio Tama Center Station is Tokyo’s second most popular besides Tokyo Disneyland. Puroland’s main appeal is popular Japanese characters like Hello Kitty, My Melody, and Gudetama with lots of shops, rides, and live shows featuring their themes. This is a great destination for families and especially young girls. Summer season will be the best time to visit and see the bright, evening firework shows. Be sure to get your picture taken with your favorite character. The park is completely indoors so it is OK to travel there in any weather.
4. Wake Up and Smell the Fuji at Mogusaen Flower Garden
osanpo on Flickr
I looked up and saw many pedals fall on my head. That is what you too will get at the Mogusaen Flower Garden near Mogusaen Station. If you are interested in a beautiful walk through a flower garden, this place will not disappoint. The garden features a wide variety of plants and animals to walk around and see. The main sight is a small gazebo covered with wisteria (fuji in Japanese), exciting the eyes and nose with impressive colors and scents.
3. See the Excitement at The Tokyo Racecourse
And they’re off! Horse racing is very popular in Japan and at the Tokyo Racecourse (Tokyo Keibajou), one of the largest in the world at Fuchukeiba Seimon-mae station, you can bet on which horse you think will win. The establishment is technologically advanced, with automatic betting machines where you can place bets and receive winnings. There are English and Chinese speaking guides to help explain the betting process and information about the races and building. The family can enjoy the racecourse too with a museum dedicated to race horsing culture and even horse-drawn carriage rides on the track. But of course be careful with how much you spend.
2. Have Fun Adventures at Yomiuri Land.
Jeremy Thompson on Flickr
Here is yet another theme park, but Yomiuri Land was opened in Tokyo before Disneyland or Sanrio Puroland and thus has a deep connection with different generations carrying the same title as the country’s most popular newspaper—The Yomiuri Shimbun—and baseball team—The Yomiuri Giants. The park’s rides include huge roller coasters and a giant Ferris wheel in which you can view all of Tokyo (including Skytree) from the top. Summer will be a great time to visit since it has a water park with a giant pool open only from July. If you desire to relax, there is an onsen to help calm your nerves.
1. Climb on Mount Takao
Photo by yoshi_107
Besides Mount Fuji, there is another mountain all Japanese people aspire to climb one day. Mount Takao located at Takaosanguchi station. One of the very last stops on the Keio Line, this mountain is a very scenic and beautiful hike that is entertaining to walk on even if you are not a hard-core hiker. The panoramic view of Tokyo from the top alone is worth hiking to. You can choose from eight different hiking courses that suit you best. The mountain also has a monkey zoo, waterfalls, a suspension bridge, and a science garden at the base.