In the heart of Tokyo there is a cultural, historical and very attractive location: Yotsuya. As an example of its charm and appeal there are 5 spots that you cannot miss. Let's soak in traditional Japan!
Sophia University (上智大学 – Jôchi daigaku)
Founded in 1913, the university was built under the ideas and principles inspired by the Spanish Jesuit Francisco de Xavier. The Spanish Jesuit came to Japan in 1549, willing to spread Jesuit's teachings. However, the university originally aimed as a way of spreading this Christian faith, became a tool for sharing knowledge. Not for nothing the motto of Sophia University is “truth of light”. Nowadays, is one of the most prestigious university both in Tokyo and Kanto area.
Located at 3 minutes walking from JR Yotsuya station, right in the middle of the campus Kultur Heim, the first built building is still visible.
Akasaka State Guest House (赤坂迎賓館 – Akasaka Geihinkan)
Continuing with our walk, located at 5 minutes from the university, it can be found the Akasaka State Guest House. At the end of a beautiful promenade erects this sublime European style building.
Inspired in the world-famous Château de Versailles (Palace of Versailles), this facility built in 1909 has been the accommodation for overseas royal and diplomatic visits during they staying in Japan.
Despite it is not open to the public,it is worthy to go for a walk in the surrounding area. Highly recommendable during spring. The views with the cherry blossoms will delight the eyes of the walkers.
Hattori Hanzo's grave (服部半蔵 – Hattori Hanzô)
Have you seen “Kill Bill”? Does the name “Hattori Hanzo” ring a bell? If it does, you will be glad hearing that it actually existed and you can visit his grave!
According to the legends, Hattori Hanzo was the best ninja during Edo period. He worked under the command of Tokugawa's family and he was recognized as a very talented pilfering. Perhaps, he could be considered the most famous ninja in the world.
Walking about 5 - 7 minutes from JR Yotsuya station, you will find a small temple with a quiet and traditional graveyard. Following a small path you will find a tomb apart from the rest. There is the grave of the renowned ninja.
Teramachi “the young leaves” (寺町·若葉 – Teramachi·Wakaba)
This neighbourhood used to be a maze of streets during the Edo period. The small streets were full of little shops and floods of people that made the city breath alive. Even nowadays the streets remain an intricate networks of streets were you can walk and lose yourself for a while.
If you consider the idea, do not forget to try the “taiyaki” (たいやき) typical from the quarter. Freshly baked, this fish-shaped sweet with “anko” heart (sweet red beans paste) will definitely make your outing sweeter and warmer. Highly recommended on winter.
Ghost Story of Yotsuya (四谷怪談 – Yotsuya Kaidan)
Last but not least, Yotsuya district even has its own ghost story. For those braver and willing to bring their nerves on edge, Yotsuya has a spot for them too. Yotsuya was the stage of one of the most famous ghost stories in Japan: “Yotsuya Kaidan”, translated as “Ghost Story of Yotsuya”.
Once upon a time there was a married couple who lived in Yotsuya, Oiwa and Iemon. The wife was cursed with a weak health and her husband, tired of taking care of his wife and willing to marry a younger woman, decided to kill her by adding poison to her medicines. Instead of killing Oiwa, the poison disfigured her face. Finally Oiwa died, and Iemon married the new lady. Far from resting in peace, Oiwa's ghost came back to torment Iemon, leading to an epic tragedy of revenge, madness and death.
Walking 15 minutes from JR Yotsuya station there is a small temple in honour to Oiwa and her ghost. General belief says that those who dare to enter under their responsibility, should show their respect to Oiwa's memory, or they will be cursed by her ghost and suffer a terrible disfigurement. Do it or not... at your own risk!