Enjoy the Nostalgic Edo Era Atmosphere! 20 Recommended Sightseeing Spots in Ryogoku
Ryogoku, famous for sumo wrestling, is dotted with various tourist attractions such as a museum that portrays the history of Tokyo, a new art museum, and parks where you can enjoy nature. This time, we will introduce you to a selection of 20 tourist attractions in Ryogoku, where the working-class culture of Edo flourished. Please refer to it when you visit Tokyo.
Oct 01 2019 (Sep 09 2020)
Selection of 10 Tourist Attractions in Ryogoku
The Kokugikan is a must when visiting Ryogoku. It is the facility where the Honbasho (major professional sumo tournament) is held 3 times a year in January, May, and September. In addition to being a venue for the Honbasho, it is a multi-purpose hall which can hold more than 10,000 audience members, equipped with the latest acoustic and lighting facilities. Thus, it is also often used for music events, professional wrestling, and boxing matches as well as sumo.
It is a good idea to schedule your visit to Ryogoku to coincide with the major sumo tournament dates and watch a sumo match. Even if you don't have much interest in sumo, the intensity of a live sumo match is a sight not to be missed. Note that in order to purchase an entrance ticket on the day itself, you will probably need to line up before 7 am.
2. Edo-Tokyo Museum
The Edo-Tokyo Museum was opened to pass down the history and culture of Edo period Tokyo (1603 - 1868). The unique facade inspired by warehouses raised on stilts is surely eye-catching. Many people visit this popular tourist spot every day, as there are attractive exhibits for people of all ages and nationalities.
The highlight is the diorama that reproduces the city of Edo. Try looking at it with the binoculars placed nearby. You will feel as if you were really in Edo. There are also real-life sized models of Nagaya (traditional Japanese longhouses) and theaters, allowing you to take a peek at the lives and culture of the common people during the Edo period.
3. Sumo Museum
The Sumo Museum is attached to the Kokugikan and displays materials related to sumo wrestling. You can enter the museum for free during weekdays when the Honbasho is not taking place, so it is recommended if you decide to tour the Kokugikan. It is a relatively small museum, but there are many attractive exhibits that appeal to sumo fans.
The exhibits worth seeing include the large nishiki-e (colored woodblock prints) portraying sumo wrestlers, banzuke (the guard of sumo wrestlers), and the keshomawashi (ornamental aprons worn by sumo wrestlers during ring entering ceremonies) of successive Yokozunas (sumo champions). There are 6 special exhibitions every year, and you can learn about the unique Japanese culture of sumo wrestling from various materials. During the Honbasho season, you may be able to enjoy the actual sumo match more if you visited this museum and gained knowledge on sumo beforehand.
4. Eko-in Temple
Eko-in Temple was built to mourn the 108,000 victims of the great fire that occurred during the Edo period, colloquially known as the Furisode Fire. Unrestricted by their religious school of thought, their wonderful philosophy of holding memorial services for all things with life contributed to the existence of many burial mounds for cats and other animals in the temple.
The Eko-in Temple is also well-known as the temple where the tomb of "Nezumi Kozo Jirokichi" (the Robin Hood of Edo) is located. It is said that scraping off the tombstone will increase financial and academic fortune, and this belief attracts many worshippers. Nowadays, you are only allowed to scrape off the tombstone which is specially prepared for that purpose.
5. Kyu-Yasuda Teien Gardens
Kyu-Yasuda Teien Gardens is a Japanese-style garden designed for strolling, located adjacent to the Kokugikan. It is a garden built by a feudal lord in the Edo period, but it was acquired by the Yasuda Zaibatsu (financial conglomerate) and became known as the Kyu-Yasuda Teien Gardens. With a walking path surrounding the koi pond and an arch bridge, it resembles an oasis among the urban sprawl.
It is also possible to get a lovely view of the Tokyo Skytree from the garden. It is a picturesque spot that portrays the perfect harmony between the beautifully maintained Japanese garden and the modern skyscraper. It is a quiet and cozy park far from the noise of the bustling traffic, so it is ideal for taking a break while walking around Ryogoku. Admission is free of charge.
6. Sumida Hokusai Museum
"Sumida Hokusai Museum" is an art museum dedicated to the work of Katsushika Hokusai, who is a world-famous ukiyo-e (woodblock prints and paintings) artist. This art museum was designed by the architect Kazuyo Sejima as part of a regional redevelopment project, based on the fact that Hokusai spent most of his life in Sumida Ward. It is a futuristic tourist attraction with a modern aluminium facade.
In the elegant exhibition rooms surrounded by black walls, the exhibits include the "Thirty-six Views of Mt. Fuji," an iconic Hokusai work. Both his original drawings and woodblock prints (which are the two elements of ukiyo-e art) are exhibited chronologically so that visitors can trace his art to his life experiences. After visiting the museum, you should also take a stroll around the area.
7. Honjo Matsuzaka-cho Park (Former Residence of Lord Kira)
Honjo Matsuzaka-cho Park, located just east of the Eko-in Temple, is a local park which is famously known as the Former Residence of Lord Kira (the antagonist in the story of the Forty-seven Ronin). It is a small park of about 100 sq.m., and the elaborate design of the walls and gates illustrate the high social status of the family. The park is estimated to be 1/86 of the original size of the former Kira residence, so we can imagine how vast it originally was.
The park retains many historical sites such as the memorial stone dedicated to Kira Kozuke-no-Suke and a seated statue of him, a stone monument inscribed with the names of the vassals of the Kira family, the neck-washing well, the Matsuzaka Inari Shrine which enshrines Kira Kozuke-no-Suke, and so on. Thus, it is a tourist attraction not to be missed by fans of "The Forty-seven Ronin".
8. Metropolitan Yokoami-cho Park
Yokoami-cho Park is a memorial park that pays tribute to the spirits of those who lost their lives to natural disasters and air raids. There are 163,000 remains in the Tokyo Memorial Hall located inside the park. We can learn the history of many disasters and the sorrow it brings to the people, as well as mourn for the victims.
The Memorial Hall of Reconstruction inside the monolithic building has many relics and material on display which tell the history of natural disasters and wars. In addition to the memorial hall, vehicles which melted down in the war are also on display. The park, Tokyo Memorial Hall and Memorial Hall of Reconstruction are all free of charge, so why not take this opportunity to drop in for a visit?
9. Ryogoku Park
Ryogoku Park, which is located next to the Ryogoku Elementary School, is a park where unique playground equipment are set up to encourage children to be innovative and invent their own ways of playing with them. It also has plenty of space to run around, making it the perfect playground for children living nearby.
Ryogoku Park is also famous as the Birthplace of Katsu Kaishu. A magnificent monument of Katsu Kaishu, an indispensable figure in Japanese history at the end of the Edo period, stands in a corner of the park. The park is full of attractions, including a plaque that introduces the achievements of Katsu Kaishu.
10. Ryogoku Bridge
Ryogoku Bridge is a bridge which is symbolically known as the red line over the Sumida River. The bridge has been famous ever since the Edo period, and it is said that business flourished at the foot of the bridge during that time. Ryogoku Bridge also appears in the paintings of Katsushika Hokusai, and knowing this fact should make it feel more nostalgic when looking at the bridge.
It is a symbol of Ryogoku, and in recent years it has also become a scenic spot from where to gaze at Tokyo Skytree. During the fireworks festival at the Sumida River, it becomes crowded with people because it is the perfect spot to enjoy the fireworks. The bridge is lit up at night, so it is also a recommended spot for dates.
Selection of 5 Tourist Attractions around Ryogoku Station
1. Edo NOREN
Edo NOREN is a shopping complex inspired by the architecture of Edo period merchant houses, built into the old building of JR Ryogoku Station. It is an open air facility with the perfect nostalgic feel. Twelve specialty Japanese restaurants line the complex, allowing you to experience the refined food culture of the Edo period.
Sumo fans will not want to miss the authentic Dohyo (sumo wrestling ring) installed in the complex, which is of the same size as the one in the Kokugikan. Depending on the time of year, events such as the opening ceremony of sumo tournaments are sometimes held here. It is a shopping complex that has a unique Ryogoku flavor.
2. Ryogoku Fireworks Museum
The exhibits at the Ryogoku Fireworks Museum include a full-scale firework model and a cross-sectional model of a firework ball, allowing you to observe up close the size of a firework ball and the details of the gunpowder packed inside it. Everyone would be thrilled to get a chance to discover the profound science of fireworks.
There is also material about the history of the Sumida River fireworks festival. Since the latest fireworks technologies are used in the Sumida River fireworks festival, it's a museum uniquely appropriate for Ryogoku. The opening hours are short and there are many closed days, so please check the website if you want to visit.
3. Ami Ryogoku Main Branch
Ami Ryogoku Main Branch is a popular Chanko-nabe (stew-like dish traditionally served to sumo wrestlers) restaurant located just a minute's walk from the East Gate of Ryogoku Station. If you go to Ryogoku, you'll want to try the Chanko-nabe. At Ami, you will be able to taste authentic Chanko-nabe passed down directly from the Isegahama stable (one of the most prestigious sumo wrestler organizations). It is extravagantly made with fresh ingredients from the mountains and seas, so it is packed with umami (Japanese savory flavor) and nutrition.
We also recommend the reasonably-priced lunch sets at Ami. You can get real Chanko-nabe for 1,000 yen or less. They even have a seafood Chanko-nabe lunch set which is loaded with seafood-based umami and many other lunch sets which are a bargain. Enjoy Ryogoku's local cuisine in this stylish Japanese restaurant.
Ryogoku makes us think of Sumo, and Sumo makes us think of Chanko-nabe, but there is also a shop popular for their heavenly desserts in Ryogoku. That shop is Kokugi-do, which is about 2 minutes on foot from Kokugikan. Goro Inokashira visited this shop in a TV drama series called “Kodoku no Gourmet (Lonely Gourmet)”.
The specialty of this restaurant is called Osenbe-Ice-nose-Cream-Anmitsu. The name is long, but it's simply ice cream sprinkled with crushed rice crackers served with assorted fruits, jelly, red bean paste, and sweet black syrup. The sweet ice cream matches perfectly with the slightly salty rice crackers, and the contrasting textures also complement each other. Girls will want to visit this dessert shop during their trip in Tokyo.
5. Popeye Beer Club
Popeye Beer Club offers more than 70 kinds of craft beer. The beer taps lined up on the bar is truly a sight to behold! They also run their own brewery, so you should try one of their original beers. The store is fully seated and bustling with energy by around 6 pm.
You can't drink beer without having sausages, and Popeye's special original sausages are quite popular. There are many types of sausages, including sausages with hops in them. Their slow-cooked stew also goes perfectly with beer. This shop is great for people who want to drink, have fun and chat, as well as for people who want to drink alone at the bar counter.
Selection of 5 Relatively Unknown Tourist Attractions in Ryogoku
1. Oedo Ryogoku-tei
Sumo is not all there is to Ryogoku. You can also enjoy Rakugo (a sitcom with one person playing all the parts)! Here at Oedo Ryogoku-tei, the Enraku Ichimonkai (a Rakugo troupe) hold Rakugo shows from the 1st to 15th of every month. Since it is held at night, it is an out-of-the-way attraction where visitors of Ryogoku can kill time during the night.
The Yose (Rakugo Theater) typically has no strict rules concerning entering on time or staying until the end of the show. As long as the Yose is open, you may come and leave as you please. Stepping in to enjoy a Rakugo in the middle of an evening stroll should make for quite a stylish trip.
2. Ryogoku Bathhouse "Edo-yu"
Large public bath and spas are common tourist attractions, and then there is Edo-yu, located on Hokusai Street just a stone's throw away from Ryogoku Station. Edo-yu, which was renovated recently, has an impressive Japanese-style modern design. In the bathroom, there is a huge tile art painting resembling Hokusai Katsushiki's ukiyo-e.
They also have Ganban'yoku (hot stone spa), sauna, and four different waiting rooms, namely one with tatami mats, another with wooden flooring, and even a detached room! At their dining room Hokusai, you can savor unique Edo-era food such as Nihachi-Soba (noodles made with 20% buckwheat and 80% wheat flour) and authentic Chanko-nabe. When you feel tired while sightseeing in Tokyo, why not drop in for a visit and rest?
3. Ryogoku Terrace Cafe
Ryogoku Terrace Cafe is an uber fancy cafe next to the nature-rich Former Yasuda Garden. The al fresco terrace seats are surrounded by lush garden views and gets plenty of sunshine. Located just 3 minutes on foot from the Sumida River, it's very convenient. You could go for a walk along the river after a meal or tea.
Ryogoku Terrace Cafe offers a wide variety of choices, including bistro-style dishes which make use of the best ingredients in season, a la carte dishes and homemade desserts. It also looks beautiful at night and you can snap a nice photo to post on social media. It is open until 11:00 pm at night, so you can pass your time slowly here.
Eisui-an is located about 7 minutes on foot from Ryogoku Station. It is an out-of-the-way cafe where you can leisurely enjoy tea while gazing at the Sumida River. The modern design which combines concrete and wooden elements is lovely! In fact, this shop is famous among those in the know.
The hidden cafe Eisui-an's recommended dish is their home-made cheesecake. It's rich in taste, and yet has a refreshing aftertaste! Many of their customers order this exquisite cheesecake. It is also recommended for those who want to spend quality time alone in a cafe.
5. Yokozuna Yokocho
Yokozuna Yokocho is a street lined with restaurants located just outside the West Gate of Ryogoku Station. It's the place to go for a drink. At night, the whole street is busy with office workers coming home from work. It's recommended for those who would like to get a drink at an izakaya (Japanese-style bar) during their trip to Ryogoku in Tokyo.
Yokozuna Yokocho is not only home to izakayas, but also famous restaurants such as the Yokozuna Yokocho Branch Store of Ami which is famous for Chanko Nabe, the long-established gyoza (dumplings) restaurant Gyoza Kaikan Bandaisan, and the tonkatsu (deep-fried pork cutlet) restaurant Hasegawa which always has customers lining up for it. You can also enjoy the local food here.
Discover the History and Culture of Ryogoku, Rich with Nostalgic Edo Atmosphere!
Ryogoku, which is famous for sumo, has many tourist attractions to visit such as the Kokugikan and the areas surrounding Ryogoku station, as well as various attractions filled with the nostalgic atmosphere of the Edo period. It is a wonderful town where you may even get to see sumo wrestlers strolling down the streets in yukata (traditional Japanese casual clothes worn in summer). It's enjoyable for spending a whole day sightseeing, or even just to drop in for a quick walk in the town area. There are many restaurants around the station that open till dark, so you may stay and have fun until late at night. Why not come on a holiday to discover the history and culture of Edo and uncover the nostalgic charms of Tokyo?
Translated and republished with permission from: SPIRA (formerly known as Relux Magazine)
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The information in this article is accurate at the time of publication.