Walking Tour of Chiyoda – Imperial Garden, Kitanomaru Park & Yasukuni Shrine
Chiyoda is located in the very heart of Tokyo, with many subway stations providing access into this area – Kudanshita Station, Tokyo Station, Hibiya Station, Yurakucho Station – to name a few. There are many museums, scenic and historic spots to see in this area. The following route and attractions are just one possible means I explored.
Getting off at Kudanshita (accessible via the Shinjuku Line, Tozai Line, Hanzomon Line), a short 5 minutes walk on foot takes you to the Yasukuni Shrine. Many would know about the Yasukuni Shrine as a historically and politically controversial site, attracting much news coverage. While there were indeed signs detailing the commemoration of Japan’s controversial war heroes, the place was much like any other shrine you would see in Tokyo. People were seen praying at the shrine, and elementary school children were seen ending off a day’s school trip there. There were memorials and monuments throughout the grounds, and the Yushukan Museum is a war museum to visit for those who are more historically inclined. More information on the Yasukuni Shrine and the Yushukan Museum can be found here and here respectively.
Another 5 minutes walk from the Yasukuni Shrine takes you to Nippon Budokan, an indoor arena that hosts Japanese martial arts events (wrestling, judo, aikido etc.) as well as big musical events. On the day that I went, Korean-Pop idol group 2PM happened to be having their concert there!
Walking towards the gardens situated right beside the Budokan brings you to Kitanomaru Park. Kitanomaru Park is a public park, once used as extended grounds for Japan’s historical Tokugawa family. The park is beautiful in the late afternoon, with families seen having picnics and youths gathering with their friends. The expanse of lawns, ponds, and trees create an idyllic sight, a space that you would hardly expect in the heart of a metropolitan area.
Taking a less than 10 minutes walk through the Kitanomaru Park and crossing an overhead bridge brings you to the adjacent East Gardens of the Imperial Palace. The East Gardens are a part of the Imperial Palace grounds that is open to the public. Surrounded by a huge moat, entering the East Gardens is an experience in itself.
Inside the Gardens, a watchtower stands, allowing you to overlook the East Gardens grounds. The huge lawn, beautiful Japanese-style gardens make the East Gardens another lovely place to rest at after a day’s walk. Do note that the East Gardens has varying opening hours throughout the year and admission times close by the late afternoon. Hence, do start your day early or head to the East Gardens first before exploring the other suggested sites. Opening hours can be checked here.
Photo: Kabacchi on Flickr
Other sites of interest include the Science Museum as well as the National Museum of Modern Art, Tokyo located within the Kitanomaru Park. For those who are up for more walking, a 20-minute walk could get you to the Marunouchi business district, where office buildings are lit up way past office hours due to people working overtime.
From 17:00 to 20:00 hrs the entire area is well lit up for the year end illumination and ambling around the area is a treat for the eyes.
Or else, a short ride on the subway to Tokyo Station will get you there too.
Photo: Hideya HAMANO on Flickr
You can then end off the day by shopping or eating at the numerous shopping centres and eateries there. And this time of the year each of these places is beautifully lit up for the year-end illumination.