Bunkyo, Tokyo: The Little Edo Area of Tokyo
Besides Shibuya, Shinjuku, Asakusa, and other big, touristic areas, Tokyo still has a lot more to offer. If you have more days to spend in Tokyo and want to explore other areas—I mean the quiet and local ones—Bunkyo could be in your list.
Things to do in Bunkyo
Most likely you have never heard of it before. The neighborhood is more of a residential and educational area rather than a commercial one. Wards or stations in Tokyo are interestingly named based on the history or characteristic of the place. Bunkyo means the ‘culture capital’. Japanese novelist Natsume Soseki used to live here. The area is also home to Tokyo Dome, Judo’s Kodokan (community), and University of Tokyo.
Just like many places around Japan, when you walk around, you can find some shrine and temple nearby. Although in Tokyo the most well known amongst tourists are Meiji-Jingu Mae and Asakusa Senso-Ji. Meanwhile, Bunkyo has Nezu Shrine. What is special about this shrine is the row of small, red toriis (gates), which look like the smaller version of the famous Fushimi Inari Torii in Kyoto. The shrine has an azalea festival from Mid-April to the start of May, so the shrine will have more visitors during this time of the year.
Inside the shrine complex, around the row of torii, you will find an arrangement of stones called Bungo no Ishi (Stone of the Literary Greats). It was said to be the place where authors Natsume Soseki and Ogai Mori sat and found inspiration for their masterpiece works.
Torii in Nezu shrine
Of course! I’d say that the most charming point of this area is the quiet, old, local atmosphere of the neighborhood. When you get off at Nezu Station to walk to Nezu Shrine, you will find the typical old Japanese houses and buildings. You will still even find some old candy shops that sell various traditional Japanese sweets. The area also has many unique cafes and shops, such as a gallery shop that sells all kinds of souvenirs about Shiba Inu dogs, one of the most popular pets in Japan. Definitely you should pay a visit if you’re a dog-lover or just love cute stuff. Most of the visitors are girls who constantly say “kawaii-!” to almost everything inside the gallery.
In addition, there is also a café whose owner is a collector of board games from all over the world. At this café visitors could relax with their friends as they play the game together.
There are some tea shops, too, that you can come to buy some tea to bring back to your country. When I went there, the owner showed the visitors how to make green tea. You could also visit the exhibition of ukiyo-e (Japanese woodblock print and painting), and experience making the art by yourself! After getting tired of walking around, I recommend you visit the Yuu Café near Nezu station, a small coffee shop inside a wooden house built 80 years ago. Inside the café, it is quiet and calm, like being in temple.
There is a lot to do in the ultra-metropolis that is Tokyo and for a great piece of nostalgia and a comfortably friendly atmosphere, Bunkyo is the perfect place to be. So take the train on the Chiyoda Line to Nezu Station and see what wonderful hospitality awaits.