JSPS Quarterly
No.55 2016 Spring

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.

 on the map of Japan

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JSPS Quarterly No.55 2016