Landmarks of Tokyo

Japan is a unique country with an interesting dynamic of mixing modern culture with tradition. Born from years of rule under emperors and shoguns, it has come to simultaneously embrace both Buddhism and the Shinto religion fostering a deep-rooted culture of honor and respect. Whether walking the streets, visiting a temple, or witnessing them at work, the people of Japan can be found along a vast spectrum embracing both the old and new.

Residents walk down a street leading towards the sacred Senso-Ji Temple.

Known for its large hanging lanterns, the Senso-Ji Temple is often crowded with visitors looking for a respite and spiritual connection. A large cauldron is a common stopping point to make an offering by placing burning incense into the bowl, and then wafting and waving the smoke towards yourself as a form of spiritual purification and blessing.

A young girl in full kimono dress, visits Senso-Ji Temple

The Nakamise-dori is the walkway from the street leading in towards the temple and is lined with stalls and small shops offering everything from traditional snacks, to souvenirs, to traditional incense, swords and keepsakes.

Visitors crowd the walkway stopping at various shops as they make their way from the street to the temple
Various keepsakes and souvenirs can be purchased here

Once upon the entrance of the temple, visitors light incense, place in the caldron and pray as the smoke is waved towards them in a effort of purification.

Visitors pray at the caldron

Another famous area to see a varying degree of Japanese is in the ultra fashionable district called Ginza. It is the equivalent of New York's 5th Avenue, boasting designer boutiques such as Louis Vuitton, Fendi, Guicci, Hermes, and their flagship Mikimoto Store. Here it's common to see the chic and fashionable walking the streets boasting a European flair to their personal style and wardrobe.

Ginza District

And of course just walking the streets whether day or night can afford much different perspective of the people of Japan. A typical intersection in the business district showcases residents in conservative and conformity in wardrobe, whereas more casual options may be seen at a night market just outside a train station.

Tokyo residents on their way to work
Night market outside the Shinagawa train station

But nothing shows the diversity of the people as does the famous Shibuya Crossing or Scramble. Often shown in movies and tv shows, it is the world's most famous crossing where traffic stops to allow pedestrians from all directions to cross at once. It is one of the city's well known fashion districts for the young, but more recently gained international recognition in 2015 for passing a local ordinance granting same-sex couples the right to partnership certificates.

Shibuya Crossing

Another must-see landmark is Zojoji Temple, a Buddhist Temple in the Shiba neighborhood of Tokyo. Famous for being the family temple of the Tokugawa Shogunate, it was subsequently transformed into a public park and is frequently visited due to its close proximity to the Tokyo Tower.

Zojoji Temple

Upon entry to the temple, there is a bowl where patrons sprinkle incense, clap their hands together twice to envoke Buddha, bow twice, and then pray. You can then throw change into a slotted box as an offering, and then proceed further into the temple for quiet reflection.

Incense bowls
Interior of the temple

Another particular and unique area of Zojoji is the Garden of the Unborn Child. There, hundreds of small statues are placed in honor of a child lost due to miscarriage or being still born. When a parent loses their child, they can choose a statue in the garden and decorate it with small clothing and toys. There is a belief that the garden is protected by Jizobosatusu, who guards the souls of stillborn children. He protects the souls and brings them, hidden from demons, to the afterlife because they have not had the chance to do good deeds necessary to make it to the afterlife.

Statues in the Garden of the Unborn Child

Zojoji being the official temple of the Tokugawa, is also the resting place of 6 Tokugawa shoguns. Behind a large locked gate, lies the burial place of those shoguns and several other prominent members of the family such as one of the princesses as well as children of the infamous family.

One of the burial plots of a Tokugawa Shogun

Gate leading to the burial plots of 6 shoguns
Tokugawa Shogun burial plot

And last but not least, is a visit to the bustling district of Harajuku. Widely regarded as the festering of underground punk culture, the district was once lined with teens dressed in alternative, edgy wardrobe highlighted with psychadelic hair. The girls are known as Harajuku Girls and were even featured in pop singer Gwen Stefani's 2004 and 2005 world tours. Long since gone, Takeshita Street, is only a few blocks long hosting kids and teenagers eagerly shopping through youth-oriented streets and cafes. It's not uncommon to see sales girls dressed alternatively in an effort to attract patrons.

Created By
Yasmin Tajik
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