Introducing Japan: Tokyo, Waseda University and Neighborhood
Dr. Barbara Geilhorn
If you were asked to give a typical image of
Tokyo, you might first think of a cold and
stark mega-metropolis with unforgiving
skyscrapers staring down on the streets below.
However, that is just one part of Tokyo.
Surrounding the hubs of skyscrapers are many
charming and intricate old neighborhoods
scattered about the city.
The neighborhood around Waseda University,
where I live and do research, is one of those
maze-like places filled with beckoning
enchantments. Though located well within the
city’s center, the area gives you a cozy feeling
with its many local restaurants, cafés, shops,
narrow streets and cute gardens. The campus
comprises a mix of modern architecture
and a few old buildings dating back to the
university’s early days. Its historical assets
include the Okuma Auditorium, where lectures
and concerts are held and whose clock tower
chimes six times a day. I personally love the
Tsubouchi Memorial Theatre Museum for its
great collection of art and theatre materials and
its one-of-a-kind stimulating exhibitions.
Close to the campus is the Okuma Garden,
named after the founder of Waseda University,
Shigenobu Okuma (1838-1922). It is an inviting place to go and relax during a lunch
break. In the spring, you can enjoy viewing
cherry blossoms around the campus or take a
walk through Shin Edogawa Park, which runs
along the Kanda River and boasts a beautiful
lane of cherry trees. The Chinzanso hotel
garden, known for its beautiful camellias, is
also close by.
Also within walking distance is the Kagurazaka
district, with lots of tiny shops offering
Japanese teas and sweets, small gifts and
handicrafts as well as delicious foods. Before
the Second World War, the district had been a
popular pleasure quarter that was en vogue with
bohemian writers and artists. Strolling around
its back alleys, you can still get a feel for those
older times. Another don’t-miss attraction is
the Awa Odori Festival at Zenkokuji temple
in the summer, in which energetic dances are
performed by dancers of all generations from
cute kids to the most venerable citizens.
Literally, there is no end to the cute little
neighborhoods that can be explored and
enjoyed in Tokyo. Clusters of them are found
everywhere in the twinkling window light of
skyscraping office buildings.