Bunkyo is known as the "Literature Capital" of Tokyo beginning in the Meiji period when scholars and politicians lived there. Home to many of Tokyo's great attractions, Bunkyo is an area that you do not want to miss.
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What to Experience...
Satsuma Biwa | Bee・Wah
The chosen instrument of Benten, the goddess of music, eloquence, poetry, and education, the Biwa is an essential to traditional Japanese music. The short necked fretted lute has its origins from the Chinese “Pipa” and was one of the most popular instrument in Japan. The Biwa was traditionally performed by blind singers, though this changed with time and the emergence of new Biwa types. However, due to the Westernization of the Meiji period (1868-1912), the Biwa was almost completely neglected. With efforts from Japanese musicians to protect traditional Japanese music, the Biwa was revived again post-war. The Biwa is embraced today by both Japanese and foreign musicians. Lose yourself in the calming melodies of the Biwa with a professional Biwa musician.
Koto | Koh・Toh
Recognized as the national instrument of Japan, Koto has a long and romantic history in Japanese culture. The 13-string musical instrument was introduced to Japan during the Nara Period (710-784) from China. The koto typically has 13 strings, stung over 13 movable bridges, and played through plucking with the thumb, index finger, and middle finger. The famous Japanese tale, The Tales of Genji, tells the story of Gengi, a man who fell in love with a mysterious woman after hearing her play the koto, despite never having seen her. Today, the koto has decreased in popularity due to the influence of Western pop music. Though, koto is occasionally used by Western pop music artists, such as Queens, David Bowie, and Dr. Dre. Fall in love with the sound of the koto at Detouur’s koto experience.
Shodou | Sho・Doh
Find Zen through the soft and fluid brush strokes of Shodou. Shodou translates to “the way of the brush” and is an esteemed form of calligraphy with strong connections to Zen Buddhism. Originated from Chinese calligraphy in the Tang Dynasty, Shodou has transformed to reflect Japanese traditions and aesthetics. With strong influence from Zen Buddhism, shodou emphasizes the clarity of one’s mind (known as mushin, a no mind state) before the letters can flow onto the paper. The art tells a story about the calligrapher and reveals the calligrapher’s mastery. Today, there are two styles of shodou: toyo style, which originated in China and mainly uses Chinese characters, and wayo style, where Japanese hiragana is used. Come experience the wayo style shodou with Udoyoshi-sensei, and learn how to create beautiful Japanese calligraphy with ease.
What to See...
Nezu Shrine 根津神社
Nezu Shrine, one of Japan's oldest sanctuary is located in the heart of Shitamachi, in Bunyko ward. Often underrated by tourists, Nezu Shrine gives you a glimpse of Japan’s religious quirks. The Buddhist swastikas that can be found around the Shinto Shrine are the remnants of the syncretism of the Kami and the Buddhas, brought out by the state roughly around the year 870. The two were recognized as different enterprises with the Meiji Restoration, but Nezu Shrine with its cultural significance was not allowed to remove its Swastika ornaments to preserve the architecture. The Inner grounds of the shrine blooms azalea providing a splendid landscape of pink, purple, white and orange tints during the Tsutsuji Matsuri (Azalea festival) held through April and May.
What to Do...
Where to find inspiration...
Scai the Bathhouse スカイザバスハウス
Formerly a public bath, this building was renovated to welcome a contemporary art gallery in 1993. Scai the Bathhouse promotes both Japanese and International artists who wish to establish a presence abroad or in the country. Avant-garde is the keyword of the gallery and is well endorsed, thanks to the multiple exhibitions throughout the year. Not far from the Bathhouse, you can experience the attractions of the lively shitamachi of Yanesen.
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What to Eat...
Nezu no Taiyaki 根津のたいやき
Find the locals queing outside this street stall for taiyaki. Taiyaki, literally “baked snapper”, is a century old snack appreciated among all ages. The snack got his specific shape from the tradition of eating “tai” (snapper) during festival as a sign of luck. Using chargrills and cast iron clamp, the red bean paste is sandwiched between a crispy wheat flour skin. For the modest sum of 170 yens, get your azuki taiyaki like a local and wonder the towns of Yanesen.
Kayaba Coffee カヤバ珈琲
Not far from Scai the Bathhouse gallery, you will find a cosy place called Kayaba Café. Its exterior following the Japanese traditional style and the interior resembling the modern European style, this cafe is the epitome of Taisho-Modan style. This spot is perfect if you like spending time with a nice cup of coffee and a scrambled egg sandwich. Offering a variety of morning, lunch and diner set, come at anytime of the day and you will always be satisfied! Take a few steps further in the same street and you will find Kayaba Bakery, Japanesely French!
Onigiri Café Risaku おにぎりカフェ利さく
You probably came accross おにぎり (Onigiri) a couple of times during your stay in the Land of the Rising Sun. Whether stopping by the konbini or in a station shop before catching a train, the rice and seaweed based meal is perfect to satisfy your craving. Despite its fame for being the perfect “to-go meal”, the onigiri can be perfected to an artistic level as well! You should take the time to sit down and enjoy the variety of onigiris served in this cafe. Not only are they handmade, but also prepared with products of quality.