Best-Kept Secrets: Tokyo’s Hidden Cultural Treasures
Tokyo may be home to some of the world’s most famous cultural sites, but Japan’s bustling capital is teeming with countless hidden gems awaiting exploration. As the most populated metropolitan area in the world, it’s easy to miss remarkable treasures in the sea of Tokyo’s awe-inspiring architecture, eclectic streets and breathtaking landmarks. Sure, touring popular hot spots is par for the course when visiting, but these largely untapped attractions deserve some major recognition.
First up, make a stop in the Shimokitazawa area for a relaxing afternoon of shopping. Sure, the Harajuku district might be Tokyo’s premier destination for retail therapy, but Shimokitazawa is the next best thing.
Without the large crowds and inflated costs found in Harajuku, visitors can leisurely browse trendy boutiques and quirky vintage shops. Thanks to independent retailers who make this area flourish, savvy shoppers can find affordable fashions and beautiful kimonos from yesteryear. While the area is far from a secret, it’s still the perfect alternative to the city’s other bustling shopping districts. Plus, it’s near the Shinjuku Station making it easily accessible from neighboring parts of the city.
Next, head over to Design Festa Gallery for a taste of art curated for everyone—yes, anyone and everyone. Created with the average artist in mind (there are no commission fees to show or sell), the gallery is the place where visitors can experience various forms of expression showcased in unforgettable exhibits.
From spellbinding paintings to eye-catching photography and illustrations, the ample space allows visitors to become fully immersed in the artist’s work and overall vision. With exhibits changing daily, patrons will never see the same thing twice, making a visit to this ultra-cool museum a must-see on any Tokyo tour.
Afterwards, get ready to have your hearstrings pulled by visiting the ultimate memorial for a man and his best friend. Hidesaburo Ueno, the late celebrated University of Tokyo professor, and his beloved Akita dog, Hachiko, are immortalized with a statue on the campus where Ueno taught in the early 20th century. Visitors might already be familiar with Ueno thanks to his contributions to Japanese society, but some may be unaware of the bronze statue that was erected in his and Hachiko’s honor in 2015.
The story of the inseparable pair is the stuff of legend. Ever since Ueno took Hachiko in as a pet, his faithful pooch met him at the Shibuya Station at the same time every day. His loyalty to his master didn’t cease even after Ueno’s death in 1925. It’s been reported that Hachiko continued to wait for his late owner seven days a week despite the weather until his own death nearly a decade later.
While a statue dedicated to the devoted dog has existed near the Shibuya Station for half a century, the monument of the reunited pair has only been around for two years, which makes it a hidden gem that’s worth a visit.
Finally, tap into your inner foodie and dig into the city’s unmatched dining scene. With more than 100,000 restaurants to choose from, selecting one off the beaten path is easy. Mus Mus is a good bet. Located near the glitzy Ganza area, this Tokyo pub is tucked away on the seventh floor of a nondescript office building—making it a semi-secret spot where locals and insiders go to grub. Known for its healthy options and delectable mixed rice and steamed dishes, Mus Mus will satisfy taste buds and give you bragging rights for having found this hidden culinary gem.
The city is ripe with cultural treasures that keep tourists and locals alike intrigued and fascinated by all the rich experiences the dynamic city has to offer—perhaps you’ll find your own hidden gem in Tokyo!