Yasukuni Shrine and the districts along Yasukuni Dori Avenue (Akihabara “Electric Town”, Jimbocho and Ochanomizu)
Electronics of the future, books of the past, a traditional shrine, and a Russian Cathedral – just some of the things you’ll encounter along Yasukuni Dori Avenue.
Yasukuni Dori Avenue runs through the districts of Jimbocho, Ochanomizu and Akihabara. In layout this part of the city closely resembles the layout of seventeenth century Edo, the former Tokyo. In that time merchants and craftsman of the same profession tended to cluster together. This meant districts were largely dominated by a single trade. Today books dominate Jimbocho, electronics dominate Akihabara and universities, sports shops and music shops predominate in Ochanomizu.
Akihabara “Electric Town” (Electronics)
In the Meiji Era (1868 to 1912), Akihabara specialized in domestic goods and accessories, in the inter-war years it was bicycles, but now.. read more on Akihabara.
Evocative – with printed matter tightly packed, neatly stacked and uniformly beige, bookshops, are the specialty of Jimbocho.
Most of the shops can be found along Yasukuni Dori Avenue. Sanseido, Tuttle, and Issei Do all sell English titles; other shops have other specialities. Watch out too for unexpected little anomalies such as the glasses shop entirely devoted to the ” John Lennon Eyewear Collection”!
Fifty percent of Japan’s student population studies in Tokyo; the large bulk of them in Ochanomizu. By Tokyo standards it’s a picturesque district – the Kanda River runs through it. It’s also known for musical instrument shops, sports shops and the St Nikolai Russian Cathedral.
Outside the main entrance of JR Ochanomizu Station, the English signposts are fairly clear. Nihon University, Nihon Denki (electrical engineering) University and Meiji University are all private universities. They occupy many of the buildings along Meidai Dori Avenue.
Also along Meidai Dori Avenue you’ll find the musical instrument shops. You’ll have to look hard for anything traditional like a shamisen (Japanese lute) or a shakuhachi (Japanese wind instrument) – glam rock, albeit to its most comical extreme, seems to be very much the vogue.
The sports shops are situated on Yasukuni Dori. With the odd golf club thrown in, it’s surfing gear that predominates in summer, while in winter, it’s skiing and snowboarding.
The St Nikolai Russian Orthodox Cathedral is on Hongo Dori Avenue close to the Hijiribashi Exit of JR Ochanomizu Station. It dates back to 1892. As cathedrals go it’s nothing special, but as another of those Tokyo anomalies, it’s worth a glance.
Two bridges cross the Kanda River. From either of the bridges, at dusk, the reflection in the water of the crisscrossing train tracks against the neon skyline can be breathtaking. The neon “Laox” sign marks Akihabara.
Close to each bridge you’ll find an entrance to Ochanomizu Subway Station. When members of the Aum Cult attacked the Tokyo subway system with gas on March 20th 1995, this was one of the stations targeted. Akihabara Station was also affected. Both stations are on lines that run close to governmental buildings.
Opposite Ochanomizu Bashi Bridge (the bridge closest to the main exit of the JR station) the rather institutional looking building is Tokyo Medical and Dental University Hospital. Kandamyujin Shrine and Yashimaseido Temple are also on this side of the river. Although heavily indicated they’re not Tokyo’s best, so think carefully before embarking on the ten-minute walk.
Famous for its cherry blossom trees that bloom in late March/early April, Yasukuni Shrine is one of Tokyo’s most beautiful; it’s also one of the most controversial. By law, Japan is committed to keep politics and religion separate, but with the Yu Shu Kan Memorial Museum in its grounds, Yasukuni Shrine is in fact a war memorial.
Yasukuni Shrine is situated on Yasukuni Dori Avenue, not far from Jimbocho (nearest station: Kudanshita on the TOEI Shinjuku Line).
National Diet Building
The National Diet building in Nagatacho is not that inspiring but is surrounded by attractive tree-lined streets. The building is open to the public weekdays and guided tours are available.
Further information: National Diet of Japan Website
How To Get To…
JR Akihabara Station is on the JR Sobu Line, the JR Yamanote Line and the JR Keihin Tohoku Line.
Akihabara Subway Station is on the Hibiya Line.
Jimbocho Station is on the TOEI Mita Subway Line and the TOEI Shinjuku Subway Line.
JR Ochanomizu Station is on the JR Chuo Line and the JR Sobu Line.
Ochanomizu Subway Station is on the Marunouchi Subway Line.
Kudanshita Station is on the Hanzomon Subway Line, the Tozai Subway Line and the TOEI Shinjuku Subway Line.
Starting from Yasukuni Shrine if you walk down Yasukuni Dori Avenue in the direction of the Indian Embassy and the Science Museum (look at the signs outside Kudanshita Station) you’ll soon be in Jimbocho. Carry on walking and when you reach the sports shops – this is Ochanomizu (turn left into Meidai Dori Avenue to get to Ochanomizu Station and the Kanda River). By continuing on still further, you’ll eventually find Akihabara. The entire walk takes about twenty minutes.
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Featured image in this article by Toshihiro Gamo CC 2.0