Ochanomizu, Kanda, Yushima
Hijiribashi Bridge | Yushima Seido | Nikolai Cathedral | Kanda Myojin | Reiunji Temple | Yushima Shrine | Kyu-Iwasaki-tei Gardens | Sakaiinari Shrine & Benkei Well | Koanji Temple | Rinshoin Temple | Tokyo University | Sanshiro Pond | Akamon (Red Gate) | Japan Football Museum | Tokyo Water History Museum
Ochanomizu お茶の水, Kanda 神田, Yushima 湯島
Yushima is the area around Ochanomizu Station in Tokyo's Bunkyo, Chiyoda and Taito wards, and is famous for its history.
Yushima was a central quarter of old Edo (Tokyo's former name) and is associated with education and learning. Tokyo University and a number of other colleges are here. Over half of all Japanese university students study in Tokyo, and Ochanomizu is home to many of them.
Students means book stores. Across the Kanda River, south and west of Ochanomizu Bridge is the Kanda area, famous for its bookstores, and where numerous large book publishers also have, or used to have, their headquarters.
Three stations include the name 'Ochanomizu'
Ochanomizu Station was one of Tokyo's subway stations affected by the Aum Shinrikyo sarin gas attacks in 1995, as the area is close to several government buildings.
At the eastern end of the Marunouchi and JR stations, and just north of the Chiyoda line station's Exits B1 and B2, is the picturesque Hijiribashi Bridge.
Hijiribashi Bridge, built in 1928, is distinctive for its elegant arches, high above the Kanda River and railway lines below. At 93m long and 22m wide, Hijiribashi Bridge was built as part of the reconstuction of Tokyo after the disastrous earthquake of 1923, which damaged much of the capital.
Hijiribashi Bridge looks its best when lit up at night, but there are nice views from it during the day of the Kanda River - including the odd passing barge.
Hijiribashi translates literally as 'Saints Bridge'. The significance of its name lies in the fact that at its northern end is the venerable Confucian shrine of Yushima Seido. Also, just one block from its southern end is the 19th century Russian Orthodox Nikolai Cathedral.
From the JR Ochanomizu or the Chiyoda subway line Shin-Ochanomizu station, the easiest place to start is the Nikolai Cathedral.
From the Marunouchi subway line Ochanomizu station, it is easier to start with Yushima Seido, and then walk across Hijiribashi Bridge to Nikolai Cathedral after that.
Just south of Hijiribashi Bridge is the Nikolai Cathedral, a Russian Orthodox church completed in 1891. Look for the distinctive green onion dome. This Byzantine-style church was designed by Josiah Conder, the same architect who designed the Iwasaki-tei residence in the same vicinity.
The church is officially known as the Resurrection Cathedral of the Orthodox Church in Japan, but takes its common name from Archbishop Nikolai, who was the church's first administrator until his death in 1912. The church is open for services on Sundays.
Yushima Seido was established by the Tokugawa shogunate in 1690 as a Confucian shrine and was made a center of Confucian learning (known as the shoheiko) - one of the earliest institutes of higher education in Japan.
It was the center of learning for the trainee bureaucrats of the Edo era (1603-1867) of Japanese history. The present building dates from 1935.
Going down the steps of the Hijiribashi-mon takes you to the beautiful semi-wild grove of the Nyutoku-mon gate (constructed in 1704), flanked with a massive camphor tree (kusunoki in Japanese) on the left and an ilex tree (mochinoki) on the right.
The Kyodan-mon Gate ahead marks the site of the original academy building. Note the massive tortured sudajii tree (a member of the beech family) at top of the steps. Just beyond it is the Nishi-mon, or West Gate.
In front of you is the big black main building, the Daiseidan. Everything here is simplicity itself, basically in black, with simple designs in red. The roof of the hall is topped with two cocks at either end, with ravenous-looking tigers hunched and prowling on the roof lower down.
Retrace your steps back down to the Nyutokumon and out left and down a few more steps to the giant 4.57m high bronze statue of Confucius, gifted the temple in 1975 by the Taipei Lions Club.
Past that is the exit of the Gyoko-mon Gate. The groves behind the administration buildings near the Gyoko-mon Gate are idyllic in their wild greenery and full of songbirds. For the whole of Yushima Seido, allow yourself about 15 minutes.Access to Yushima Seido
From the Marunouchi line Ochanomizu subway station, take Exit 1, turn left past the Ochanomizu Post Office, with the Tokyo Medical and Dental University Hospital behind it, and walk about 100m to just before the ivy-clad Hijiribashi Bridge. Turn left up the steps, then left out of the steps to the intersection of route 17 & 403.
Cross the road. Go right (i.e. back the direction you came, but on the other side of the street). You can turn left into Yushima Seido's Nishi-mon (West Gate), but it is better to approach it from the Hijiribashi-mon, sogo down the steps to the left just before the start of the bridge.
From the JR and Chiyoda line side of the river, go to the other side of the road and cross Hijiribashi. Just past the end of the bridge, go down the steps on the right.
Akihabara Electronics Town
Going out the Gyoko-mon Gate and continuing down Sotobori-dori Avenue 500m will take you to the Akihabara electronics mecca of Tokyo. The main 6-lane Chuo-dori Avenue between the Manseibashi intersection and Sotokanda 5 intersection, 600m north, is closed to traffic on Sundays and swarms with pedestrians.
Just north of Yushima Seido is Kanda Myojin shrine, which in May hosts Kanda Matsuri, one of Tokyo's big three festivals after Asakusa's Sanja Matsuri and Hie Shrine's Sanno Matsuri.
Kanda Myojin is over a 1000 years old but moved to Kanda in 1616 when the shrine deity became the protector of Edo and of the fortunes of the Tokugawa regime.
The shrine's vermillion main building dates from 1934 and is known for the hundreds of paper lanterns which decorate it.
After the rather spare, albeit elegant, Yushima Seido, Kanda Myojin is a riot of intricate design and lavish color. It is a very famous venue for Shinto rituals, which tend to be the happy events like birth, marriage, passing exams, growing up. (Dying is for the Buddhist temples).
The Shichi-Go-San (7-5-3) Festival for children who turn 3, 5 or 7 that year is on November 15, at which time the grounds are festooned with all things cuddly and cutesy.
Vermilion and gold abound, and the extensive, alnost mazelike, grounds make for happy wandering.
Just to the left of the main gate past the purification font is a smiling, fat-ear-lobed, mallet-wielding Daikoku, (or Daikokuten) the god of wealth - one of the pantheon of the Seven Dieties of Good Fortune.
Just to the left of him is an aviary with tiny Java rice finches and shisocho (a kind of Chinese/Himalayan pewee).
Behind the main shrine are a number of buildings dominated by the massive-doored safe storehouse, flanked by small colorful Shinto shrines.
As with Yushima Seido, turning left out of here and crossing Kandamyojin-sakashita intersection will bring you to the electronics/duty free mecca of Akihabara.
Go down the steps at the back of Kanda Jinja, go left, turn right at Shimizu-sakashita intersection, then left at the next traffic lights, and on your right after the next set of traffic lights is Reiunji Temple.
Founded in 1691, Reiunji was another important temple in old Edo.
Reiunji is very big and placid after the stimulation of Kanda Jinja. Reiunji's tree-lined precincts are pleasant, but the dark-wood-and-gilt grandeur of the temple itself is somewhat let down by its dull tarmacked forecourt.
The impressive main hall dates from 1976, so suffers a little from the impersonal, "by-the-manual" feel of a lot of older Japanese architecture. In contrast to its dark, expensive-looking gleam is the simple, modest elegance of the small ancilliary shrine (see photo above).
Reiunji Temple is where neighborhood families play ball - not really where tourists go. Visit only if you're really into temples.
Yushima Tenmangu Shrine
Further north still is Yushima Tenmangu Shrine (popularly known as Yushima Tenjin), the famous shrine of scholars. It is near Yushima Station on the Chiyoda Subway Line. Take Exit 3 and it's less than a minute's walk to your left.
(From Reiunji Temple, go back two traffic lights in the direction you came from Kanda Jinja to Mikumi-sakaue intersection, turn left and walk about 250m.)
200 meters north-west north of Yushima Shrine, close to Ueno Park, is Kyu Iwasaki-tei Gardens, the former palatial home of the third president of the Mitsubishi Group, Hisaya Iwasaki. It was designed by the British architect Josiah Condor (who also designed the Nikolai Cathedral), and completed in 1896.
The wooden interior of the house is done throughout in 17th century Jacobean style. There is an attached Japanese-style house and a billiard room reached via an underground passage (tunnel not accessible to the public).
Conder worked on other commissions for the Iwasaki family in Tokyo and designed the famous Rokumeikan, built in 1883 for entertaining foreign diplomats and VIPs.
The house and gardens are open to the public throughout the year and the entrance fee is 400 yen.
Heading north again from Kyu Iwasaki-tei is Sakaiinari Shrine and Benkei Well.
The Benkei Well is associated with the legendary warrior Benkei and his master Yoshitsune. The legend of Benkei and Yoshitsune has similarities with the story of Little John and Robin Hood in England.
Benkei is the simple, strong, warrior monk with unserverving loyalty to his leader Yoshitsune.
Yoshitsune and Benkei meet on a bridge in Kyoto, where, at this stage of the story, Benkei is a brigand robbing people who cross the bridge of their swords. A sword duel commences and Benkei is beaten by the more agile Yoshitsune. Thereafter Benkei pledges allegiance to Yoshitsune and the pair embark on a life of adventure.
The plaque at the well tells of the comfort the water brought during the American air raids of World War II.
Turning west from here brings you to Koanji Temple, a small neighborhood temple built in the style of a traditional Japanese warehouse or kura.
Koanji Temple dates from the Edo period and has thick outer walls and strong shutters for protection from the fires, that periodically raged throughout Japan's wooden cities.
South of here is Rinshoin Temple, AKA Bodaiji Temple, built in 1624, containing the grave of Lady Kasuga (died 1643), wet-nurse to the third Tokugawa Shogun, Iemitsu Tokugawa.
The temple is hedged with trifoliate orange trees (karatachi) and is known locally as "Orange Tree Temple". In 1887 philosopher Enryo Inoue established his Tetsugakukan (Philosophy Hall) utilizing Rinshoin Temple as a temporary classroom.
Heading further west brings you to the main campus of Tokyo University in Hongo, Bunkyo Ward.
Tokyo University (or Todai for short) is Japan's most prestigious university. It was founded in 1877. The extensive campus grounds are a pleasant place to stroll through, especially at the weekend.
The campus contains some notable historic features such as Sanshiro Pond (previously Ikutokuen) and the Akamon (Red Gate). The campus was formerly the Tokyo residence of feudal lords (daimyo) from Kaga (present-day Ishikawa Prefecture), which was centered on the domain capital, Kanazawa.
Feudal lords were obliged to keep a residence in Edo and visit the capital every other year under a system known as sankin kotai, so that the shogunate authorities could keep a watchful eye on them.
Besides Todai, other universities in the area are: Nihon Denki University, Meiji University and Nihon University.
On the main campus of Tokyo University, look for the thickly wooded area, walk in, and you will find Sanshiro Pond.
Sanshiro Pond was considered one of the most beautiful gardens in old Edo (the old name for Tokyo). Established in 1615, the shape of the garden represents the Japanese character for heart (kokoro or shin) and displays the classical eight landscapes and eight borders.
The name Sanshiro comes from a novel of that name by Natsume Soseki set around Tokyo University. The feeling of being in a city completely disappears as you wander this tranquil spot.
Although steady footing is maybe required when wet, the path and stepping stones around the pond are worth navigating for the various vantage points on the pond's beauty.
The distinctive and symbolic Akamon (Red Gate) was built in 1827 for the daughter of Shogun Ienari Tokugawa, named Yasuhime, for her marriage into the Maeda household to Nariyasu in 1828.
The eaves of the gate display the crest of the Maeda family, who were the hereditary feudal lords of the Kaga domain (present-day Ishikawa and Toyama prefectures in northern central Japan).
The Akamon Gate, which underwent extensive repair in 1961, is registered as an Important Cultural Property.
The grounds of Tokyo University's Hongo campus are planted with ginkgo trees, known for their endurance and longevity, and the ginkgo has become the symbol of the university.
Turning back towards Ochanomizu Station on Hongo-dori, the first major left turn before the Tokyo Garden Palace Hotel takes you along "Soccer Street" aka Football Avenue to the Japan Football Museum.
The modern museum presents a retrospect of the 2002 World Cup held in Japan and Korea through video and football artifacts, including jerseys and other memorabilia from the successful tournament.
The museum also reveals the history of soccer in Japan and includes a gift shop with official merchandise and original soccer goods of the Japan national team and J-League teams. JFA House 3-10-15, Hongo Bunkyo-ku, Tokyo Admission: 500 yen. Hours: Tues-Fri 1pm-6pm; Sat-Sun 10pm-7pm
Tokyo Water History Museum
The Tokyo Water History Museum is on the other side of Hongo-dori from the Japan Football Museum.
The 3-storey museum traces the history of Tokyo's water system from the Edo Period to the present day.
Admission is free and the museum is open from 9.30am-4.30pm every day. Tel: 03 5802 9040.
Accommodation in Kanda
The Kanda area is a popular place to stay, being close to Tokyo Station, Akihabara and a number of historic sights. Choose from our recommended hotels and hostels in Tokyo or compare and book a hotel in Tokyo with Agoda.