Blazing a woodland trail through Shin Kiba

| Jun 30, 2013

Blazing a woodland trail through Shin Kiba

Even if you can’t read the kanji for Shin Kiba, you’ll sniff out its meaning of “new wood place” the moment you arrive. The Yurakucho subway line’s terminus there in eastern Tokyo smells like a cedar closet. Inside the station, a display of Japanese ...

Wisteria wanderings in Kameido

| May 26, 2013

Wisteria wanderings in Kameido

Each year, I tell myself I have to make time to enjoy the famed trellises of wisteria blossoms at Kameido Tenjin in Tokyo’s eastern Koto Ward. Then, I blow it. This year, I enlist my mother-in-law, who’s savvy about such things, to get the ...

Spring training in Mukojima

| Feb 24, 2013

Spring training in Mukojima

It’s hard to think of February as springlike, what with snowfalls, freezing winds and a dusting of dead leaves everywhere. But I know from experience that the intrepid Prunus mume, or plum tree, blooms this month, and a trek to see some blossoms seems ...

Mining gems in Okachimachi

| Jan 26, 2013

Mining gems in Okachimachi

On early maps of Edo, as Tokyo was known prior to 1868, Okachimachi is rendered as a town (machi) densely packed with the tiny dwellings of okachi — low-ranked, poorly paid samurai infantry.

Seeking out what's in store for Kuramae

| Oct 28, 2012

Seeking out what's in store for Kuramae

Back when Tokyo was Edo and Tokugawa shoguns ruled the land (1603-1867), the burgeoning city’s most vital staple, rice, was protected in kura (storage houses) along the right bank of the Sumida River. Then, by the simple expedient of adding mae (in front of) ...

Over the top ambitions in Mukogaoka

| Jun 24, 2012

Over the top ambitions in Mukogaoka

The neighborhood of Mukogaoka — literally, “Yonder Hill” — huddles under clouds clustered like violet hydrangea blossoms the morning I arrive to explore. From Hon-Komagome Station on the Nanboku subway line, I head east with a cautious eye skyward through a rust belt of ...

Rolling around Sendagi

| May 27, 2012

Rolling around Sendagi

The Yanesen district of central Tokyo, whose name features bits of the names of the three neighborhoods it comprises (Yanaka, Nezu and Sendagi), charms visitors with its temple-studded streets, craft shops and prewar architecture. Oddly, though, maps in either Japanese or English rarely guide ...