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Yoyogi National Gymnasium Showcase Tours

Yoyogi National Gymnasium Showcase Tours

Being a jeans-and-sweatshirt kind of guy, I do not go to Harajuku often. I have fashion writers for that sort of thing. Much younger fashion writers, who know the brands and can talk to Harajuku girls about the hottest new trends. I am glad I have those writers. There is no way I can approach a girl half my age and ask about what she’s wearing without the police becoming involved.

But there’s another side to Harajuku and Shibuya that doesn’t involve me embarrassing myself in a dressing room. I like history and I like a good story. Harajuku has a lot of stories, and Showcase tours can tell you all of them.

“This area used to be US military housing,” Yuka says. She is a slim Japanese woman who speaks English with an American Midwestern accent, a souvenir from a childhood spent in Chicago.

“Here?” We are standing on a bridge overlooking the grounds of Yoyogi National Gymnasium, designed by architect Tange Kenzo for the 1964 Summer Olympics. I look to the right and see the entrance to Yoyogi Park. If I crane my neck a little, I can see the entrance to Meiji Shrine.

“Right here,” she confirms. She relates the story of how the Gymnasium was built. We are on Showcase’s Harajuku – Omotesando Architecture Tour, but we aren’t just talking about building design techniques. A city’s history can be found in its construction choices. Why is this building here? What was here before? Go ahead and ask. The answers will tell you about a Tokyo on the rebound, a city that rebuilt itself to host the Olympic Games less than two decades after the end of a devastating war.

A short walk away from the Yoyogi National Gymnasium I learned about the Co-Op Olympia apartments, built in 1965. They were the first “100 million yen” apartments, and were the first in Tokyo to have a concierge service.

As befitting a place of its renown and stature, Harajuku and Shibuya are host to a number of unusual buildings. There is the famous Gyre building, designed by Dutch architects MVRDV, who envisioned a building a stack of spun tiles. Omotesando Branches, designed by Sou Fujimoto, incorporates trees into its design. The Louis Vuitton building’s shape is meant to evoke an impression of stacked suitcases, to give the viewer a feel of travel. And the Sunny Hills building? You just have to see it for yourself–

Sunny Hills Showcase Tours

But the tour isn’t limited to the large and famous buildings. Tokyo has a style all its own, and architecture has had to adapt to changing times and available space. Yuka pointed out a tiny, wedge-shaped building on an intersection near the Iceberg, Audi’s former showroom. That awkward building is an example of “pet architecture,” a term given to the quirky buildings that are built to fit in leftover urban spaces. Later on Cat Street, Yuka told us about the Onden River underneath. “Look at the buildings,” She said. The former family homes were all situated facing away from Cat Street itself, because there was no reason for Japanese people to build their houses facing the dirty, narrow river.

And Showcase Tours aren’t limited to the new. taking a side street, we curved around the back of several buildings and walked right next to a graveyard, mere meters from people buying new suits. We passed by to emerge at Zenkoji Temple, a beautiful example of ancient architecture hidden behind the bustling streets.

Zenkoji Temple Showcase Tours

There is also an example of how the other half lives–not far from the temple is a low-income housing area, slated for demolition. Rows upon rows of squat, stained apartment buildings choked with weeds and sprayed over with graffiti, but one only has to turn around to see billboards for expensive watches over buildings that likely seem worlds away.

The Showcase tour functions not just as an Architecture Tour, but also ably serves shopping tour. “We sometimes have trouble keeping the groups together,” Yuka admits. “People see all of these fabulous places and drift away to go shopping!” It’s not hard to see why, once you pass by the Prada Building and its specially-imported windows, or the side-street boutiques of Cat Street. Take notes! Shopping opportunities abound, and not just on the main streets. All brands start somewhere, and you might just be able to pick up a little something from a label before they get world-famous.

I toured all of these spots and many more, thanks to Showcase Tours. Our three-hour excursion ended with sore feet and a camera full of photos. Harajuku and Omotesando isn’t just for the fashionistas–there are stories here, and not just about the architecture. There is a history, and hidden places that you might otherwise miss if you were just passing by in pursuit of the latest trend.  So go ahead–you can always go shopping later. Showcase Tours are great for history buffs and architecture fans alike!

Showcase Tours Information

Website | Facebook (English) | Instagram

Phone (local): 050-5308-1745, 9am – 6pm

“Why Go?”: Get a personal architecture, history, and shopping tour from the people who know best!

Click on one of the links below to explore other places in Tokyo–

November 21, 2016 0 comment
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Japanese Interpretation Services

Are you coming to Tokyo for a business meeting with your Japanese counterparts? Mixing a little bit of sightseeing and shopping into your business trip? Or maybe you’re only here briefly, and don’t have a lot of time to figure out how to get to where you’re going or how to find what you want? EnableJapan.com can help! We now provide interpretation services, as summarized below.

 Simultaneous InterpreterConsecutive InterpreterAttendance Interpreter
Years of Experience5-10 years3-10 years1+ years
Used ForBusiness Conference Business Negotiations
Investor Relations
Business Conference Business Negotiations
Investor Relations
Personal Assistant
Booth Attendant
Price88,000 yen for 1 day (8 hours)
44,000 yen for 1/2 day (4 hours)
88,000 yen for 1 day (8 hours)
44,000 yen for 1/2 day (4 hours)
45,000 yen for one day (8 hours)
24,000 yen for 1/2 day (4 hours)

Why Choose EnableJapan.com’s Japanese Interpretation Services?

No matter your plan, our team of highly-skilled interpreters can assist you. Pitch your product to prospective clients, find the perfect gift to bring back home, visit that one place that you’ve heard about–you can do it all during your visit. With an one of our interpreters, there’s no need to worry about getting lost, being misunderstood, or having to settle for anything less than a perfect experience.

Shrine at Mt. Takao, Tokyo, Japan

How to Find Your “Best Fit” Japanese Interpretation Solution

EnableJapan.com Interpreters come in three varieties–consecutive, simultaneous, and attendance.

Consecutive Interpreters provide the sort of service made familiar in television and films. They wait for the first person to stop speaking, then interpret what was said to the second person. When the second person replies, the interpreter translates it back to the first person, and so on. This sort of interpretation is useful for business negotiations, conferences, investor relations, and other needs.

Simultaneous Interpreters (sometimes known as a “whisper interpreter”) provide interpretation of a language at the same time it is being spoken. This sort of interpretation is also useful for business negotiations, conferences, investor relations, etc., and are used in situations when there are no pauses for a Consecutive Interpreter to work.

Attendance Interpreters are new interpreters. They are native Japanese speakers who are fluent in a secondary language. Until they gain more experience, they work as linguistic personal assistants, booth attendants, etc.

EnableJapan.com interpreters–

  • Have over a year of training in one of Japan’s interpretation schools;
  • Have backgrounds in a wide range of specialized fields, including finance, IT, and other business fields;
  • Have 5+ years of experience as internal interpreters in a variety of companies;
  • Have 5+ years of experience as freelancers.

What kind of interpreter is best for your needs? Email us to find out!

And After the Big Meeting…

mt-fuji02

If you’re not certain what you want to do in Tokyo, we can also help with that! Not only do we have an excellent website for you to explore, we also have a number of long-time Tokyo residents on staff who can make recommendations based on your interests. If it’s here, we can find it! So if you’re coming to Tokyo and need help getting around, email us with your schedule and desired itinerary. We’re waiting to hear from you!

EnableJapan.com’s Japanese Interpretation Services

Time Blocks Available: EnableJapan.com interpreters are available in 4- and 8-hour time blocks.

Rates: As per the table above. Rates are for interpretation and guide services only. Dining, shopping, and other expenses are not included. Transportation can be arranged for additional fees.

Inquiries: Email us at info@enablejapan.com

“Why?”: A fast-moving and worry-free Tokyo experience for work and play!

Click on one of the links below to explore other options in Tokyo–

October 6, 2016 0 comment
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Tell Lifeline

Immediate Help and Resources for English-Speakers in Japan

 

 

TELL Lifeline: 03-5774-0992. Free, anonymous telephone counseling all across Japan, 9:00 am – 11:00 pm daily

Police: 03-3501-0110. Monday – Friday, 8:30 am – 5:15 pm. After hours, dial 110 and stay on the line. They will find someone who can help you.

Fire & Ambulance: Dial 119 and stay on the line. They will find someone who can help you.

Poison Control: US Air Force Hospital Yokota, 0425-52-2511, ext. 57740. 24 hours.

Other Emergency Resources

About TELL Lifeline

TELL Lifeline

Tokyo can be a rough city. Crowded trains, language barriers, and difficulty adjusting to a new land and a new way of life can chip away at the confidence and soul of even the most stalwart expat. Family issues, money problems, addictions, and the other ailments facing the modern city dweller may cause some to simply give in to despair.

If you are living in Tokyo, you may feel isolated from others and that your problems are overwhelming. But help is available in the form of the TELL Lifeline. Founded in 1972, TELL has helped hundreds of thousands of people throughout Japan.

 

How the TELL Lifeline Can Help You

The original TELL Lifeline service is the free, anonymous counseling number: 03-5774-0992.

TELL Japan website | Facebook | Twitter

But you do not have to be in dire need to call or visit their website for help. TELL offers numerous services to the community, from counseling services to outreach programs to a wiki for handling everyday annoyances.

Counseling: Sometimes life can be overwhelming, and more in-depth assistance may be needed. It doesn’t matter whether you live in the middle of Tokyo or in a small town in Kyushu – you can call TELL and get help (phone number for counseling services is 03-4550-1146 in English and 03-4550-1147 in Japanese). TELL offers services to adults, youths, children, and even has resources for issues in the workplace.

TELL can set up face-to-face counseling or provide it over the Internet, so distance is not a reason to avoid calling. Japanese National Health Insurance does not cover counseling, but TELL offers a sliding-scale fee system to make care affordable to those who need it.

Outreach Programs: An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. TELL offers a number of outreach programs, covering topics ranging from Child Protection and Anti-Bullying to Exceptional Parenting and Suicide Awareness and Prevention, and a whole lot more. Visit the website or call 03-4550-1911 to learn about their programs to help you and your family live a happier, safer life.

Online Directory: TELL’s online directory can help you with a multitude of not-emergency-but-still-important issues. the wiki covers topics ranging from legal and health issues all the way down to finding a bookstore or library so you can read a bedtime story that night. Best of all, you can contribute to this wiki, allowing English speakers living in Japan to pool their knowledge and help each other.

How You Can Help the TELL Lifeline

TELL offers a wide range of services to the community, but they need help too! TELL receives no government funds and relies on the community to help them continue their good work.

Donations: You can donate directly to TELL via Paypal, Bank Transfer, or Postal Transfer, either as a one-time donation or by offering monthly support. Donations are tax-deductible.

You can also donate goods and services, such as bottled water and energy drinks, serviceable IT gear and office supplies, etc. as detailed in the link.

Volunteer: TELL needs you! TELL is always looking for counselors for the TELL Lifeline. Although difficult, there are many rewards for becoming a a Lifeline Phone Counselor beyond just helping those in need. If you want to become a Lifeline Phone Counselor, follow this link for more information.

Not all volunteer opportunities require a large commitment. TELL always needs volunteers for events and to help with office work at busy times of the year. Follow the link to learn more about volunteering.

Sponsorship: Corporate sponsorship plays a very important part in supporting TELL services. If your company is interested in supporting TELL, follow this link to find out more.

Upcoming Events

TELL is constantly raising awareness for suicide prevention and other issues. They hold a regular Pub Quiz at the Hobgoblin in Shibuya, an annual Runathon, and many other events. Keep up with the latest TELL events on their website by following this link.

Life can get you down sometimes, but that doesn’t mean you have to face everything alone. Take care out there, Japan. TELL is here if you need them.

For more information on living in Tokyo, please click on one of the links below–

September 22, 2016 0 comment
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Did you come to Tokyo looking for ninja? Of course you did! Why else would you come?!?!

Ninja Restaurant

The best-known enclave of most-honorable shadow warriors is located at the Ninja Restaurant in Akasaka. But finding them is not an easy task! First, one must make contact with shadowy figures in order to make a reservation. Reservations may be made up to two months ahead of time via the Ninja Restaurant website reservation form (Google translated, but usable). For reservations of less than two days’ notice, one must use the telephone device.

What? One does not speak Japanese? It does not matter! The ninja are skilled in the speaking of English, both in person and on the telephone device! Call the number 03-5157-3936 and humbly request dining space for your unworthy self! If space is available, they shall accommodate! Honor demands it!

Ninja RestaurantAnd now, one must journey to the restaurant itself. The door is hidden to the common passerby. But it shall be revealed to you! But when you discover it, the journey is not over! To learn the secrets of ninja dining, one must cross the bridges, pass over the river of ninja smoke, and brave the corridors until one reaches the ninja village. Failure is not acceptable!

Ninja Restaurant

Upon arrival, you will be seated in one of several secluded dining areas, where a server shinobi will see to your dining needs. The Ninja Restaurant offers 10 main courses, which you will have selected while making your reservation. For those who refrain from meat, the Ninja Chefs have thoughtfully accommodated with a vegetarian main course option. Do you have other dietary restrictions? The ninja have thought of this! One cannot surprise a ninja! The Ninja Chefs also offer a main course option which excludes the serving of pork and alcohol.

Some restrictions must apply to dining in such a dangerous environment. As befitting a stealthy warrior, the environment inside of the restaurant is as dark as a moonless night. Reservations including children (up to 14) may only be scheduled at 5 PM on weekdays, and one must accompany one’s children whenever they depart from the dining area. The Ninja Restaurant must be kept safe for guests!

Also, please note that normal persons are not usually not able to photograph a ninja due to their speed and stealth. But one may ask any ninja encountered to refrain from escaping in a cloud of smoke long enough for the photograph to be taken. The ninja is most hospitable and accommodating!

Ninja Restaurant

The Ninja Restaurant serves good food and provides quality entertainment (complete with vanishing ninjas). Ninja will not accept less than the best! But you may find that your money has vanished as well, as plates can be upwards of 20,000 yen. But it is of no matter! If sleight-of-hand illusions, hidden passageways, and a taste for theatrics—and good food—piques one’s interests, one must accept the hospitality of the Ninja Restaurant! There is no other choice!

Ninja Restaurant Akasaka Location Information

Website (via Google Translate) | Facebook | YouTube | Reservations Online

Reservations by Phone: 03-5157-3936

Nearest Station: 2-minute walk from Akasakamitsuke Tokyo Metro Subway Station (Tokyo Metro Ginza Line or Tokyo Metro Marunouchi Line) (click on the google Map for directions)


Hours of Operation: Monday – Saturday 5 p.m. – 12 a.m.; Sundays and Holidays 5 p.m. – 11 p.m.

“Why Go?”: You will go! You will accept the hospitality of ninja and good food! It is too late to refuse! They know who you are!

Click on one of the tags below to explore other dining options in Tokyo–

 

June 24, 2016 0 comment
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My Scotch

Japanese whisky

It can get quiet in Roppongi, if you know where to go. After all, the bar and clubbing scene isn’t for everyone. Sometimes you would rather not have to deal with a TV blaring or a chipper bartender trying to drum up conversation. Occasionally, you are in the mood for a quiet Japanese whisky in a subdued setting.

MyScotch is eight floors up from the noisy Roppongi streets. It is dark and quiet, its décor elegantly understated to provide no distraction to your thoughts. And if you’re there at the right time of day, you can look out the narrow window and catch the sun as it descends below the skyline.

The drink selection at the bar is backlit with muted lights, and what a selection it is. Japanese whisky is taking the drinking world by storm, winning several different categories in the World Whiskies Awards. MyScotch has a sophisticated whisky selection, from the award-winning Yamazaki and Nikka selections to older and rarer whiskies that are out of production.

My Scotch
Sitting at the bar, I asked for the osusume, the specials. Our bartender lines up a number of Japanese whisky bottles on the bar for perusal. It is a fine representation of the bar’s offerings, ranging from Nikka’s Miyagikyo Single Malt to the rare Karuizawa 15 Years. The Karuizawa distillery has closed, explains the bartender, and this bottle is one of the last in existence.

I choose the Yamazaki Single Malt 12 Years, and my companion selects the aforementioned Nikka Miyagikyo Single Malt. The bartender pours our selection in to a tumbler with a spherical ice ball, which are carved by hand on a daily basis at My Scotch Piano Bar. The Yamazaki had a bitter yet enjoyable edge, perfect for relaxing after a long day. The Miyagikyo Single Malt is smoother, and was an easy introduction for my friend (normally a beer drinker) to Japanese whisky.
My Scotch Piano Bar MyScotch does not limit themselves to whisky. There is a light menu available (English subtitled) and Suntory Premium Malts on draft. Happy hour starts upon opening and runs until 8 p.m. Piano performances are held on most nights, starting around 7:30 p.m.

So stop by, sit back, and relax. Let the music soothe, and enjoy the fine selection of whisky from Japan and elsewhere. Your busy life and the noisy city below can wait for a while.

My Scotch

My Scotch Piano Bar Information

Website | Facebook (Japanese only) | Twitter (Japanese only)
Nearest Station: 6-minute walk from Roppongi Subway Station (Hibiya Line or Toei Oedo Line) (click on the google Map for directions)


Hours of Operation: Monday – Saturday 6:00PM – 2:00AM; Sundays and Holidays 6:00PM – 12:00AM.
Live music 7:30 PM to 12 AM.
“Why Go?”: Enjoy world-famous award-winning Japanese whisky in a relaxing environment.
Click on one of the tags below to explore other bars in Tokyo–

June 23, 2016 0 comment
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Gundam Cafe, Odaiba, Tokyo

Listen man, I know your secret.

How? Because it’s not really a secret. I have a kid too. And I love the little guy, just like you love your little guy or girl. But we all know that some kid activities are excruciating. Yes, it’s for their development, bless their dear little hearts. So we go to dance recitals and school plays and soccer games that look like a greased pig chase.

Which is ok, when you’re home. You can sit on the sidelines and wave in between emails, or chitchat with the other parents. And when someone finally catches that greased pig, you can escape back to the homestead and relax in familiar surroundings.

Well, that’s not what’s going to happen here. Maybe the Big Meeting is over early; maybe you’re on vacation or an extended layover. Whatever the reason, you are in one of the most exciting cities in the world with your spouse and your 2.3 children. You’re in Tokyo, darn it, and you’re going to do something fun. Together, as a family! And you are going to do something that you cannot readily do back home. No, Mom and Dad (or however you organize yourselves), there’s not going to be any waving from the sidelines on this trip. Put on your walking shoes, we’re gonna do Tokyo!

 

WHO WANTS BREAKFAST?

Who wants breakfast? You want what? A Japanese breakfast?

No. No you don’t. Trust me on this one. Your kids are thinking “Anime-Os” with a Giant Robot Prize inside the box, but that’s not what they are going to get. A Japanese-style breakfast comes with things like baked fish, rice, pickles, soup, and other assorted unidentifiables. I’m pretty open-minded about what I eat, but fish and pickles is too much culture for that early in the morning.

For a Western-style breakfast, your hotel will be the most convenient spot. But if you must go somewhere, you can try Anna Miller’s in Shinagawa (visible across the street from the Takanawa exit; open daily 0730-0300) or the Terrace at the Westin Hotel in Mita (closest train station is Ebisu on the Yamanote line, and you’ll have to take a taxi from there; breakfast 0630-1030 daily).

But we’re traveling with kids here, and we all know how this goes. You pay a wad of cash for the buffet, and all the kid will eat is a single forkful of eggs and a half-bowl of cereal. Past experience tells you that he or she will be hungry in half an hour, but the little ankle biter adamantly refuses to eat anything else. Until, of course, you encounter the first McDonald’s after you leave the restaurant, at which point they begin howling about how hungry they are. Thus, the big fight begins.

If you suspect this is about to happen to you, avoid the stress and go to a bakery. They are everywhere in Japan—in department stores, in front of train stations, and in their own little shops on the street. Japanese bakeries have breads, donuts, croissants, pastries, and all kinds of other baked breakfast goods. Some of them even have coffee, mom and dad! And even if the kids don’t want all of whatever they get, you can put it in the bag and save it for later. Or eat it yourself, which is my recommended solution.

 

AKIHABARA

Akihabara Stores, Akihabara, Tokyo

This is where your nerd children want to go. If they’re older, coming here is probably the only reason they will risk being seen together with their parents in the first place. Akihabara is on the Yamanote line, is very easy to get to, and is foreigner-friendly.

If you are into anime and video games, you will be in heaven. Akihabara is the place where good nerds go when they die. Shops selling toys, figurines, video game paraphenalia, t-shirts, and related items are located here. There is no one best place to shop, so browse everywhere! Half the fun is souvenir-hunting through the bins and the little shops. The back streets are also a treasure trove of oddities, full of ¥100 bottle holders for your backpack, keychain bubble-wrap popping simulators, and possibly your very own camera drone. It’s worth a look.

Akihabara duty free shopping, Akihabara, Tokyo

Thanks to the huge duty-free shops, souvenirs of other kinds are also available. Everything from ninja t-shirts to fridge magnets all the way up to cameras and household appliances, the duty-free shops have them here. English-speaking staff are available at all locations to answer your questions. If you must have an appliance, buy it here. Items from the duty-free stores are adapted to work in your country of origin, which likely has different voltage/amperage requirements than Japan. This may not be the case if you make a last-minute stop at a department store before getting on the plane to go home. And many of the duty-free shops deliver to hotels!

Then there’s Don Quioxte. I have no idea what this store’s connection is to the literary figure, but it is a must-see. The best way to describe this place is as a cross between Wal-Mart and Spencer’s Gifts. It has the mundane (snacks, drinks), the strange (poo-shaped hats, Engrish-printed clothing), to the outright bizarre (boob pillows, maid outfits). The top floor is the AKB48 theater, where you can watch members of the famous all-girl pop band perform (for tickets, go to http://www.akb48.co.jp/english/overseas/index.html).

Don Quijote, Akihabara, Tokyo

Arcades are also a big part of Akihabara. They may be as common as dinosaur stampedes where you’re from, but Japan’s arcades know what they are up against–few games here are something you could get on a console at home. UFO Crane games, a taiko drumming game, Puzzles and Dragons Battle Tactics (which is apparently a thing), multitudes of fighting games, and head-to-head Gundam battle arenas were the highlights of my visit. Go inside and check out the card game/video game hybrids so you can see what your grandkids will be wanting for Christmas in 2040. Drop a few coins in the newest gee-whiz game or play a few of the classics. What kid doesn’t want to tell his friends at school that he played video games in an actual Japanese arcade?

Here’s another fun thing to do at the Sega arcades. The bathrooms have “peeing games” at the urinals (sorry ladies, I have no idea what’s in your powder room–couches and “Gone With the Wind” on continuous loop?). The screen is over the urinal, and to play you just step right up, no coins needed. Walk around, load up on liquids, then go into the arcade and do your business. I played one with a full bladder and ended up filling four and a half cans of pee. I don’t even know what that means or why you should be impressed, but there it is.

There are places to eat once you get hungry, but Akihabara is a grab-and-go kind of place. For fine dining, look elsewhere. If you are not planning to go to Odaiba (see below), there is a Gundam Cafe here (outside the Akihabara JR Station Atre1 Gate), where you can get lunch and some souvenirs. The Gundam Cafe is right next to the AKB48 Cafe, if you are more into the girl band than you are into giant robots. There are several coffee cafes in the area that offer sandwiches, and of course, two area McDonald’s for your picky eaters.

CAUTION NOTE #1: If you want to purchase anime, video games, or other electronic material, make sure that they will be compatible with the media systems you have back home. The small store owners will tell you, but it might be safer to buy that sort of material at one of the many duty-free shops in the area.

CAUTION NOTE #2: Ok, I know you’ve heard of it, so here it is: anime porn. Keep the kids away from anyplace that is bright pink, has the “No Under 18” sign, or has artwork of improbably-proportioned anime models over or around the door. The shops that sell these kinds of items aren’t ubiquitous and are usually subtle in their sidewalk advertising, but you could encounter them. Forewarned is forearmed.

CAUTION NOTE #3: “Not smoking indoors” is not a thing that has caught on in Japan yet, and arcades are particularly heinous. Check the floor signs to see if smoking is allowed on that floor. If your kids are particularly sensitive to smoke, going into an arcade that allows smoking may not be a good idea. If they can take it, have fun, but it’s always a good idea to limit your exposure to secondhand smoke.

 

ODAIBA

I am a married man. Women want to shop. Therefore, it is inevitable that I (or maybe you) will get dragged on a shopping trip. It’s a cliche for a reason. Are you done not laughing? Good. Let’s continue.

It will do no good to explain to your significant other that (beyond the obvious regional variations) they have the same stuff at Japanese malls that they do in the malls where you come from. The same stores, even. That just makes her mad and even more determined to get her retail therapy on. But I am here to help! With a little mental judo, convince your one-and-only that Odaiba is the place to go for all of her shopping needs. That way, you and the kids can do something besides drag yourselves through the same jeans store you have back at your local mall.

GETTING THERE

At Osaki station (on the Yamanote line), change to the Rinkai line (dark blue; get on the train going towards Shin-kiba). Eleven minutes and ¥330 later, you will be at the Tokyo Teleport Station, in the middle of the Odaiba shopping area (what, you don’t have teleport stations in whatever backwater you’re squatting in? You poor dears). From here, you can walk or taxi to any number of malls. Here are the highlights–

AQUA CITY

Ramen restaurants, Odaiba, Tokyo

What? You’re going to Japan, and you are going to eat at McDonald’s?!?!? I think not. The Me-Matsuri Food Court on the fifth floor of the Aqua City Mall specializes in ramen and is easily accessible to English speakers. There are actually several different styles of ramen, all reasonably priced (¥600-¥1100, depending on what you get). All menus are in English–just choose, point, and pay. If the weather is nice, you can even sit outside and get a view of the Rainbow Bridge and Tokyo Tower. I remarked that I saw a blue shell fly across the bridge to knock out the leader; my son rolled his eyes. No one likes the blue shell. (open 1100-2300).

For the picky eaters, there are a couple of American fast-food places in the food court on the first floor. But maybe you can convince them to try Kua’aina Hawaiian Burger place (same food court) or the Longboard Cafe on the third floor. It’s worth a shot.

Sony Explora, Odaia Tokyo

After lunch, you can occupy the time of younger children at the Sony ExploraScience Museum. Obviously, the “science” focuses on Sony products, but the interactive exhibits are a lot of fun and it’s a neat thing to do for an hour or two. My son and I enjoyed the voice pitch-switcher and the motion-capture puppet screen (I got a robot to dance the Robot!). Be sure to compete in the electronic Smile rankings and try to get the best smile of the day! (5th floor, open 1100-1900; Adults ¥500, Children ages 3-15 ¥300, under 3 years old free).

Sony Explora, Odaiba, Tokyo

DECKS TOKYO BEACH SHOPPING MALL

Alright, Lego fans, here’s your spot. Decks Tokyo Beach Shopping Mall is right next to Aqua City. And inside on the third floor is Tokyo’s Legoland Discovery Center! Even if you’ve been to one of the other Legoland theme parks, you can come here to see Japan-specific brick sculptures, like a Lego sumo match, or a room-sized model of Tokyo. Stop in the shop; even though the Lego is waaaay more expensive where you are from, you can snag a ¥350 minifigure from the current collector’s edition set, or a ¥700 keychain of your favorite Lego character. Singing an awesome song is optional, but if you forgot the words, don’t worry–it’s playing constantly while you’re in the store. I’m sure the clerks love that. (open 1000-2000 on weekdays , 1000-2100 on weekends; admission for all ages is ¥2200 walk-up)

Legoland, Odaiba, Tokyo

Decks also has a Madame Tussaud’s Wax Museum, so older children who may not Lego-inclined can go inside and have their picture taken with their favorite celebrity. (Open daily 1000-1900; Adults ¥2000, Children ages 3-15 ¥1500, discounts available online.

If you want to see both a Lego Tokyo Tower and a wax Angelina Jolie, you can get a discount on a combo ticket pack.

DIVER CITY TOKYO

This mall is a little farther away than the other two, but don’t worry; you can see it from Aqua City or Decks. It also gives you time to spin a tale. This one requires a little bit of prep.

Seed this dad joke with a few episodes of the Gundam anime series in the months before you come to Japan. You can find it on your Netflix. Before you get to Diver City, make sure the kids know that you flew a Gundam and had all sorts of interstellar adventures before settling down and becoming their dad. “Yep, all that’s over now,” you might say. “I parked the old girl around here somewhere before I walked away. I wonder if it’s still here…”

Gundam Statue, Odaiba, Tokyo

Then you take them behind Diver’s City, and look! Dad’s old Gundam is still here! The 18-meter tall attraction is constantly surrounded by people taking pictures, and surely no one would mind helping out the former pilot by taking a picture of him with his kids in front of his old rig. Afterwards you can stop by the nearby Gundam Cafe and pick up a souvenir or two (I recommend a coffee cup). There is a Gundam Front trailer outside near the Gundam, where you can pick up a model if you feel inclined.

Gundam Cafe, Odaiba, Tokyo

On the seventh floor is the gold mine–there is a Round1 Stadium and the Gundam Front Tokyo, right next to each other!

The Gundam Front Tokyo contains a museum of Gundam figures (free to enter), a shop, and a clothing store. You can also visit the inner areas and see the art museum and some awesome dioramas (open daily 1000-2000, Adults ¥1200, Children ages 3-15 ¥1000, you can buy in advance for ¥200 off)

Round1 Stadium is an indoor amusement park/recreational facility. You and your kids can play some indoor basketball, try a batting cage, go roller skating, and even ride a mechanical bull. There are video games all over the place, including a four-player Pac-Man machine and a strange game in which the objective is to do as much damage as possible by rage-flipping a table. There is a rest area with massage chairs (great for worn-out adults) and a classic video game arcade with hits from the 80s and 90s. The pricing scheme for all of this entertainment is rather bizarre (if you can make heads or tails of it, you are a better man than I), but the mall has an interpreter phone service you can use to figure it all out. As you can see from the price list, it can get expensive, but I never had a bad time there. Also, the odd hours mean that if you are suffering from jet lag at a nearby hotel, you can sneak out and get in a few rounds on the mechanical bull. (Open 7 days a week. Monday – Thursday 1000-0600 the next day; Fridays and public holidays 1000-all day; Saturday 24 hours; Sundays and holidays open until 0600 the next morning. The facility will not allow children aged 15 and under in after 1800 or 16-18 year olds after 2200).

Have a little extra time to spend in Odaiba? Check out our photo tour of Odaiba for some more ideas on things to do. 

For  more tips on traveling in Tokyo with kids, visit our article Getting Around Tokyo with the Family.

36 Hours in Tokyo: Touristy/Off the Beaten Path Mix has even more ideas for you!

June 13, 2016 0 comment
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Asakusa Top Five Water Bus Tokyo Japan

You did it! You got through your 10+ hour flight, navigated the trains, waded through the crowds, and finally made it to the world-famous Sensō-ji Shrine in Asakusa. You navigated past the Thunder Gate, down Nakamise-Dori, and finally through the Hōzomon Gate to the shrine proper. You impressed your hosts and friends by doing all of the right things (which you knew how to do because you read our How-To Visit a Shinto Shrine article, right?), and maybe did a little bit of shopping on the way.

But now what? If this is your first trip, it’s likely that just finding Sensō-ji Shrine took longer than the actual visit. So now you are in Asakusa, wondering what to do next.

No problem! Here at EnableJapan.com, we collected our Top 5 Spots in Asakusa (other than the shrine)!

5. Asakusa Culture Tourist Information Center

What’s Here? Asakusa’s Tourist Information Center is the place to go for information in English (and many other languages). There are always volunteers ready to help you find souvenirs, restaurants, and sightseeing spots. They can also help you access the Taito Free Wi-Fi available throughout the Asakusa area (or you could get connected ahead of time with our handy guide to Phone and Wi-Fi services in Tokyo). The Tourist Center is easy to find, being right across the street from the Sensō-ji Shrine’s Thunder Gate.

Website | Facebook

Hours of Operation: open daily 9:00 am – 8:00 pm

4. Float Down the Sumida River with Tokyo Cruise

Top 5 Spots in Asakusa Water Bus Tokyo Japan

What’s Here? Take a trip down the Sumida River in a spacecraft boat from the future! Visit the Odaiba shopping area or just take in the view of the skyline. Multiple routes and English audio guides available.

Website (via Google Translate) | Facebook

Hours of Operation: varies; see their “Flight Status” page for details

3. Kitchen Town Kappabashi Street

What’s Here? The shops of Kitchen Town are devoted to supplying equipment, utensils, and other items required to run a restaurant. If you visited a restaurant in Tokyo and saw the cook use a peculiar gadget you’d like to have in your home, chances are you can find it here. And if it’s a high-quality kitchen knife that you’re after, you can’t do better than the famous Kamata Kappabashi knife store on the main street.

Another peculiarity of Japanese restaurants (at least to foreigners) is the “replica food” model stores. The plastic food samples you see in the restaurant windows? In Kitchen Town, you can buy the kits to make everything from burgers and fries to soba and beer. Creating replica food samples has expanded from restaurant displays to people who make them as a hobby.

replica food Top 5 Spots in Asakusa Tokyo Japan

Website | Facebook

Hours of Operation: varies by store, but most are open daily 9:00 am – 5:00 pm

2. Asakusa Hanayashiki Amusement Park

What’s Here? The oldest amusement park in Japan, perfect for a few hours with the kids. the highlight of the park is the Ninja Training Experience in the on-site ninja dojo. Don’t play it off on me–you’re going, and you’re going to get the T-shirt. OR IT’S THE DIM MAK FOR YOU!

Website | Facebook | The Ninja Page You Really Want To See

Hours of Operation: open daily 10:00 am – 6:00 pm

1. Tori no Iru Bird Cafe

Top 5 Spots in Asakusa Tori no Iru Bird Cafe Asakusa Tokyo Japan

What’s Here? Owls and parrots and toucans, oh my! Visit the parrot room, where you can re-enact a scene from an Hitchcock movie just by buying some birdseed! See our in-depth review here!

Hours of Operation: Weekdays 1:00 pm – 8:00 pm, Weekends 11:00 am – 8:00 pm. No reservation required.

Liked our article on the Top 5 Spots in Asakusa? Click on one of the tags below to explore other places in Tokyo–

 

May 9, 2016 0 comment
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Moving is stressful enough, but moving to a different country with young children can be even more harrowing. Where will they go to school? Who will they play with? What can we do on the weekends?

Several of our interns, staff members, and freelancers have either attended or currently have children attending one of the  International Schools in the Tokyo. Our picks for the top Tokyo international schools from preschool all the way through law school are–

Top Tokyo International Schools : The Top 5

 

The British School in Tokyo

In our opinion, the best international school in all of Japan. They accept students with British and Commonwealth passports, which means that students with two Japanese parents likely won’t be enrolled.

The British School has two campuses. Students up to Year 3 will attend the Shibuya campus, and high-level students will attend the Showa campus. There are rumors that a Roppongi campus will open by 2022.

Age Range: Nursery School through Sixth Form (ages 3-19)

Area: Shibuya-ku, Tokyo (Nursery to Year 3) and Showa (Year 4 to Year 13) (maps available; please make an appointment before visiting)

Website ||| Contact Information ||| Tuition

The American School in Japan

A popular choice for international couples, this large school is located in Chofu and offers bus service from central Tokyo. Emphasis is on individuals rather than groups, as befitting the source country.

Age Range: Nursery School to High School (ages 3-18). Offers an English Immersion program.

Area: Roppongi and Chofu, Tokyo (maps available; please make an appointment before visiting).

Website ||| Contact Information ||| Tuition

 

Tokyo International School

Next to Temple University’s Japan campus, TIS is another top school regarded to be the equal of the British School in regards to academics. And they are just as hard to get into; they have strict entry criteria that ensures that only the best students get in. They are centrally located in the Minato  ward and have a small campus (though larger than the British School and Nishimachi).

Age Range: Kindergarten through 8th Grade (ages 5-15)

Area: Minami-Azabu, Tokyo (map and contact information available; please make an appointment before visiting)

Website ||| Contact Information ||| Tuition

Nishimachi International School

This is a top school for producing bilingual students–homework is given both in English and Japanese. Although they have a small campus, their longstanding commitment to bilingual education makes them a desirable school. The student body has a high percentage of Japanese mothers.

Age Range: Kindergarten through 9th Grade (ages 5-16)

Area: Minami-Azabu, Tokyo (maps available; please make an appointment before visiting)

Website ||| Contact Information ||| Tuition

International School of the Sacred Heart

Although boys can attend the kindergarten program, Sacred Heart is one of the top Tokyo international schools for girls that is located on the Sacred Heart University campus in Hiro-o.

Age Range: Kindergarten through High School (ages 5-18)

Area: Shibuya-ku, Tokyo (Map available; please make an appointment before visiting)

Website ||| Contact Information ||| Tuition

 

Other Top Tokyo International Schools

Aoba-Japan International School

AOBA International school has two campuses –  one in Meguro Ward, near Daikanyama and One in Nerima Ward. While Meguro campus is very small (two houses converted to school), the Nerima campus has large area, as it was converted from a regular Japanese elementary school.

Age Range: Kindergarten through High School (ages 5-18)

Area: Hikarigaoka and Meguro, Tokyo (Maps available; please make an appointment before visiting)

Website ||| Contact Information ||| Tuition

 

Canadian International School of Tokyo

Age Range: Preschool through High School (K3 – 12th grade)

Area: Shinagawa-ku, Tokyo (maps available; please make an appointment before visiting)

Website ||| Contact Information

Happy Days International Preschool

Age Range: Preschool (15 months to 6 years old)

Area: Ebisu, Tokyo (maps available; please make an appointment before visiting)

Website ||| Contact Information | Tuition

India International School in Japan

Age Range: Kindergarten through High School (ages 5-18)

Area: Tokyo and Yokohama (Maps available; please make an appointment before visiting)

Website ||| Contact Information ||| Tuition

 

K International School Tokyo

Age Range: Kindergarten through High School (K1-12th grade)

Area: Koto, Tokyo (maps available; please make an appointment before visiting)

Website ||| Contact Information ||| Tuition (2016-2017)

KAIS International School

Age Range: Elementary through High School (1st-12th grade)

Area: Shinagawa-ku, Tokyo (maps available; please make an appointment before visiting)

Website ||| Contact Information ||| Tuition

Kanto International Senior High School

Age Range: Senior High School (9th-12th grade)

Area: Shibuya-ku, Tokyo (maps available; please make an appointment before visiting)

Website ||| Contact Information

Lycee Francais International de Tokyo

Age Range: Kindergarten through High School (ages 5-18)

Area: Takinogawa Kita-ku (maps available; please make an appointment before visiting)

Website ||| Contact Information

 

Montessori School of Tokyo

Age Range: Preschool to Middle School (2-14 years old).

Area: Minato-ku, Tokyo (maps available; please make an appointment before visiting)

Website ||| Contact Information ||| Tuition

 

Poppins Active Learning International School

Age Range: Preschool (11 months to 6 years)

Area: Ebisu, Tokyo (maps available; please make an appointment before visiting)

Website ||| Contact Information ||| Tuition

 

Sesame International Preschool

Age Range: Preschool (6 months to 6 years old)

Area: Hiroo, Shibuya-ku, Tokyo (maps available; please make an appointment before visiting)

Website ||| Contact Information

St. Mary’s International School

One of the top Tokyo International schools for boys. There is a high percentage of Japanese students, and a focus on Japanese culture and language.

Age Range: Kindergarten to 12th grade (ages 5-18)

Area: Setagaya-ku (maps available; please make an appointment before visiting)

Website ||| Contact Information

 

Summerhill International School

Age Range: Preschool (15 months to 6 years old), daycare for babies 3 months to 12 months old. Conducts Japanese classes daily.

Area: Minato-ku, Tokyo (map available; please make an appointment before visiting)

Website ||| Contact Information

Temple University, Japan Campus

Age Range: College (Undergrad through Masters/Law School available). A branch of the main campus in Philadelphia, PA.

Area: Minato-ku, Tokyo (maps available; please make an appointment before visiting)

Website ||| Contact Information

 

Willowbrook International School

Age Range: Preschool (15 months to 5 years old). Offers both an English program and a dual immersion (bilingual) program.

Area: Minato-ku, Tokyo (map available; please make an appointment before visiting)

Website ||| Contact Information ||| Tuition

Yokohama International School

Age Range: Early Learning, Elementary through High School (ages 3-18)

Area: Yokohama (35 minutes from Shinagawa station in Tokyo, map available; please make an appointment before visiting.

Website ||| Contact Information ||| Tuition

April 27, 2016 0 comment
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3D Statues Shibuya Loft Tokyo Japan

“Nice statues,” I said to my photographer. “They’re very detailed, almost like… ‘by God Eliot, it is like a photograph from life!’’’

3D Statues Shibuya Loft Tokyo Japan

“What are you talking about?” my photographer asked, snapping photos. “And my name is Andrew, not Eliot.”

“These statues! They’re actually 3D photographs!”

And they are! On the 6th floor of the Shibuya LOFT is the LoftLab 3D Studio, where you can get dressed and strike a pose in front of a circular setup of 102 high-speed cameras. After that, LOFT’s technicians will edit your photo and print a statue of you using one of their state-of-the-art 3D printers!

3D Statue LOFT Tokyo Japan

“But how can I get one of these for myself?” you ask. Well read on, and we’ll show you how it’s done!

STEP 1 – THE APPOINTMENT

It is better to make an appointment for this experience. It might be possible to get in without an appointment, but what if you can’t? Wouldn’t that be awful? To prevent disappointment, ask your hotel concierge or a Japanese friend can help you make a reservation for your 3D photographic experience at the following Tokyo-area LOFT locations—

Shibuya Loft 3D studio (TEL 03-3462-3863; reservations accepted 10:00 am – 9:00 pm daily)

Yūrakuchō Loft 3D studio (TEL 03-5223-6210; reservations accepted 10:30 am – 8:30 pm daily)

STEP 2 – GETTING READY

Each LoftLab 3D studio has a waiting and dressing room, where you can get yourself ready for your 3D statue debut. What, you’re going to go in your street clothes? Where’s the fun in that? There’s nothing to stop you from putting on your wedding dress, or your James Bond tuxedo (complete with martini), or you ski suit and snowboard. Or your Mario costume!

3D Statue LOFT Tokyo Japan Mario

Do you see that? That is not a Photoshop. That is what one of these statues looks like up close.

For your photo, you don’t have to limit yourself to just one subject. You and that special someone can be photographed together and preserve that moment forever.

3D Statue LOFT Tokyo Japan

And the LOFT at Yurakucho has a special deal for those of us with furry friends. Thanks to the high-speed cameras, you and your best four-legged pal can be in a statue together! Pet photos and statues are only available at the Yurakucho LOFT by appointment, so make sure to call and make an appointment beforehand.

STEP 3—STRIKE A POSE!

It’s ok to just pose, but c’mon! When is the next time you are going to be able to get a statue of yourself made? Go ahead and strike a kung fu pose! Or if you are into more active pastimes, the LoftLab 3D Studio’s cameras can capture you in action with a soccer header, puck flip, or baseball catch.

STEP 4–PAYING FOR IT…

At all LOFT locations, you get a discount of 5% off your purchases (over 1080 yen) just for shopping there! Just show your passport at the counter to claim your discount. Also, all three LOFT locations are registered Japan Tax-Free Shops. After checking out, take your receipts and passport to the Tax Refund Counter to have the tax portion of your purchase refunded. No waiting in line at the airport!

STEP 5—WAIT FOR IT…

It may seem disappointing, but it takes a fair amount of time to for one of LoftLab’s 3D printers to build your statue. But never fear! LOFT will ship your statue to you approximately three weeks after the photo is taken. But think of it this way—a few weeks after you return home, you can get a present from yourself from Japan!

STEP 6—DISPLAY PROUDLY!

And what will you do with this stunning masterpiece? Statues of children (at the varying stages of their lives) are great gifts for parents and grandparents, and a collection of family members will be a wonderful memento of your trip. And if you get really crazy with costumes, you’ll be able to play “Where’s Waldo?” by inserting yourself into your action figure collection. Just be sure to avoid placing your statue in sunlight and keep it away from water.

And think of it—if it’s already possible to make a 3D statue of yourself, how long will it be before a 3D printer can make figures with articulated joints? With molded hands and crazy 3D printed accessories and a Kung Fu grip? In a future visit, it may be possible to get an action figure of yourself. Now there’s some souvenir technology we can all appreciate.

LoftLab 3D Studio Location Information

Website (via Google Translate)

Nearest Stations:

Yūrakuchō LOFT: 3-minute walk from Yūrakuchō Station (reachable via the Keihin-Tōhoku Line, Yamanote Line, and Tokyo Metro Yūrakuchō Line)

 

Shibuya LOFT: 7-minute walk from Shibuya Station (Hachiko exit) (reachable via the Yamanote Line)

 

Hours of Operation: Yurakucho LOFT 10:30 am – 9:30 pm daily; Shibuya LOFT 10:00 am – 9:00 pm daily.

Estimated Price: Varies depending on pose and accessories; see price guide for details

“Why Go?”: Get a 3D statue to put on your mantle!

March 25, 2016 0 comment
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Shrine Entrance FI, Tokyo, Japan

I was nervous the first time I visited a Shinto shrine in Japan. I mean, I have a passing familiarity with Western religion, so I generally know what is and isn’t acceptable in a church or synagogue. But a shrine? I didn’t know what to do, what to say, and I had Ricky Bobby-esque anxieties about what to do with my hands. I certainly didn’t want to make anyone angry by bowing or clapping at the wrong time, or by accidentally treading on sacred ground. Heck, I didn’t even know what the sacred ground looked like, much less how to avoid trampling it.

If you’re reading this, you are probably in a similar situation. You’d like to visit one of those magnificent Shinto shrines that you have heard about, but you want to be careful to do it the right way and not give offense. And not only are we here to help, we got some expert help ourselves! For this article, we visited the Shinagawa Jinja in Shinagawa and were expertly assisted by Negi-Sama Suzuki, a Shinto priest.

Photography

Can you take pictures at a Shinto shrine? Many shrines have beautiful architecture and artwork, and it would be a shame not to snap a memento, right? In general, it is acceptable to take photos on the temple grounds using small cameras or smartphones. There are some areas where photos are not permitted (such as the inside of the shrine itself), and those areas are labelled with the international “no photos” sign.

Also, shrines would prefer if you didn’t show up with professional equipment (TV cameras, tripods, etc.). Such things tend to get in the way of other visitors and detract from the shrine’s peaceful atmosphere.

 

Arriving at the Shrine

Shinagawa Shinto Shrine Entrance Tokyo Japan

So you’ve entered the shrine and the first thing you see is a long, flagstone path with torii gates at regular intervals. And now you have to make your approach to the shrine proper.

The first thing you need to know (and Mr. Suzuki was especially quick to point it out, so it must be a pet peeve of his) is that you are not supposed to walk in the center of the path. The center of the path is reserved for the kami (gods and spirits) only, like a spiritual fast lane. I saw no gods coming and going during my visit, but I doubt that I would want to be in their way if they decided to return (or depart) while I was there.

The next thing you need to know is to bow at each torii gate. If you spend any time at all in Japan, you will be doing quite a bit of bowing when talking to other people. However, the shrine bow is a little different; every time you bow, you want to bend your body all the way to 90 degrees (see the video if you are unsure how to do this). Please note that this isn’t a Bruce Lee movie or a martial arts competition; there is no opponent to keep your eye on.

 

The Purification Fountain

Purification Fountain Shinagawa Shinto Shrine Tokyo Japan

At Shinto shrines, you will usually see a purification fountain somewhere in the vicinity of the shrine itself. Many people skip these, but it might be good to have a surprise up your sleeve if people think you’re just another out-of-town visitor.

First, you’ll pick up the ladle with your right hand and fill the cup in the fountain. Now back up! You don’t want to commit a faux pas like I did in the video and allow water to drain back into the fountain. So with the water in the ladle, first wash your left hand (allowing water to spill into the drain below), then your right hand. You will then put water in your left hand and use that to wash out your mouth (spitting into the drain next to the fountain). After that, you will wash your left hand again. If there is any water left after all of this, tilt the ladle upwards to drain, then replace it where you found it for the next person.

 

The Main Shrine

The main shrine will be the largest building on the grounds. Depending on your timing, there may or may not be a line leading up to the shrine area.

When you get to the front, the first thing to do is bow (remember, 90 degrees). You then put your monetary offering in the box (10 yen is okay, but you can do more if you like) and ring the bell one time. Now you bow twice, clap twice, and pray (the folded hands being similar to the Christian tradition). Once you are finished, you bow once more and then back away. Be careful not to turn completely around; apparently the gods find the view of your posterior offensive, and may be inclined to give it a good kick if no one is looking.

Another thing you will see at a Shinto shrine is an Omikuji fortune box. For 100 yen, you can select one fortune. At larger shrines (such as Senso-ji Shrine in Asakusa) you would be able to get one in English, but in smaller places you will only get one in Japanese (this is where having a Japanese friend comes in handy). If your fortune is good, keep it! If it is bad, you can tie it to the nearby tree or other designated place and leave your bad luck behind.

 

Smaller Shrines

Shinto shrines usually house more than just the one main shrine. There are many smaller shrines on the grounds of the Shinagawa Jinja, each dedicated to a kami or some other aspect of human concerns (such as the fox shrine for business). These smaller shrines have coin boxes for offerings, so be sure to have yen ready when you stop (10 yen is an appropriate amount to offer).

Offering Box Shinagawa Shinto Shrine Tokyo Japan

Most shrines are simply of the bow-and-pray-and-donate variety, though there are some that require a little more from the visitor (such as the coin washing shrine in the video).

 

Omamori

Omamori Shinagawa Shinto Shrine Tokyo Japan

At the end of your visit to the shrine, you can buy an omamori at the administrative building. Omamori are small charms devoted to one aspect of human concern or another, offering protection for the holder. Some are for protection from illness, protect travelers, and success in business, while others have more practical goals (such as the round “bumper sticker” that protects your car from accidents). Omamori are not particularly expensive (500 yen and up) and are wonderful souvenirs of your visit.

 

And Other Things You Might See

Beyond the shrines, there is another feature you might notice about the Shinagawa Jinja and similar shrines. These shrines have large mounds, studded with small shrines, leading to a larger shrine on top. These are fujizuka, and are stand-ins for Mount Fuji. In the past, climbing Mount Fuji was a religious devotional rite, but some worshipers grew old or infirm and were unable to complete the journey. Fujizuka were established at many shrines to enable worshipers to complete the rites that they would otherwise be unable to perform.

If you visit a shrine around the New Year, you will find it to be very crowded. You have encountered everyone at hatsumōde, their first trip to the Shinto shrine in the New Year. It’s a great time to go to the shrine, so don’t let the long lines put you off of your visit! The Shinagawa Jinja conducts blessings, mochi poundings, and sells many omamori and omikuji.

Shinto shrines are also the focal points for matsuri festivals. If you’re in town at the right time, you can join in the festivities and help carry a mikoshi shrine! See our Matsuri How-To article for details.

One thing I found surprising about shrines were the large number of food and game booths on the temple grounds during festivals. I had visions of Jesus making a whip of cords and laying a beatdown on money-changers and dove-sellers, but this is normal for shrines during festivals. Feel free to enjoy yourself without fears of spiritual wrath!

I hope that we have made you a little more comfortable with the idea of visiting a Shinto Shrine in Japan. I’d like to close by thanking Negi-sama Suzuki and the Shinagawa Jinja for helping us out. So get your camera and coins ready and be sure to visit a shrine during your trip to Japan!

 

Shinagawa Jinja Shinto Shrine Information

Shinagawa Tourism Association website

Nearest Station: Shimbamba Station on the Keikyu line

 

Estimated Price: Donations (10 yen per shine is appropriate); Omamori can be purchased for 500 yen and up

“Why Go?”: See a beautiful and accessible example of a Shinto shrine; climb a fujizuka if you don’t have time to go all the way out to Mount Fuji. Get an omamori and omikuji as a memento of your trip!

March 11, 2016 0 comment
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