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Topping your Last Visit to Tokyo

Article and photography by Steve Gillick

In the spirit of adventure, it’s always a pleasurable challenge to return to a favourite destination with the goal of indulging in brand new experiences.

Tokyo is perfectly suited to this quest for ‘the new’. In fact, only a few days after the opening of the new Shibuya Scramble Square, we stood on the Sky Stage, 230 meters (755 feet) above the famous multi-directional pedestrian crossing (the Shibuya Scramble), under a big, beautiful blue sky. This open-air observation deck affords magnificent 360 degree panoramic views of the City of Tokyo. A philosophical thought, etched in glass, emphasizes unity and commonality for all those who stand on the ‘stage’:

Shibuya at your feet – Tokyo all around you – both connected to the world beyond. At the center of everything you stand, one with the sky.

One floor down in the Sky Gallery, visitors sidle up to the windows, as close as they can, to look straight down to street level. Interactive art exhibits reinforce the theme of one sky uniting visitors from around the world. For those who have visited Tokyo’s other observation decks (Tokyo Tower, Tokyo Skytree, and more), the Sky Stage is really the topping!

For a different kind of interaction with nature, the Nezu Museum is soothing to the soul. Featuring the fine art collection of the philanthropist Kaichiro Nezu, the building was designed by architect Kengo Kuma to complement and emphasize the natural beauty of the area. Visitors enter along a bamboo and stone pathway and then after appreciating the art inside the Museum, they stroll through the beautiful treed, green garden of walkways, ponds, statues and lanterns. It’s a total escape from the sights and sounds of the busy city and it works!

In Gotokuji, just outside the city of Tokyo (but still part of Tokyo Prefecture), travelers pounce on the idea of visiting the Cat Temple. Just beyond the three-storied pagoda, they visit a shrine where a small statue of Kannon, the Goddess of Mercy, is surrounded by thousands of ‘Maneki-Neko’; figurines of white cats with red ears and collars, who raise a paw to beckon or ‘wave-in’ good luck. A 16th century legend recalls that a powerful feudal lord, caught in a violent storm, was invited by a cat to take shelter in the temple. Now visitors purchase cat figurines and place them at the shrine in hopes of having their wishes fulfilled.

And for those looking to admire pagodas there are five-storied pagodas in Asakusa and Ueno Park as well as the beautiful Ikegamihonmonji Pagoda about 30 minutes outside the city of Tokyo. Peaceful experiences continue a few train stops away at Senzokuike Park with a walk around the lake, sightings of the rare Hummingbird Moth, and birding opportunities that include Great Blue Herons, Black-crowned Night Herons, flocks of feral, lime-green, Rose-ringed Parakeets, and the Kawasemi or ‘river cicada’, also known as the Common Kingfisher.

And these were only some of the highlights of a return visit to Tokyo that included first-time visits to the Okutama nature area and the amazing volcanic scenery on Miyakejima, one of the Izu Islands. With so many activities in Tokyo Prefecture, it’s actually very easy to ‘top’ your last visit with new, innovative, exciting and rewarding adventures.