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EDS is located in the Fukagawa district of Koto-ku, on the northern shore of Tokyo Bay. Koto is one of the ku, or wards, in the downtown district of old Tokyo--Shitamachi--which was home to the bustling merchant and artisan quarters that were the heart of Tokyo from the beginning of the seventeenth century to the late nineteenth century.
There is a lot to see and do in this part of Tokyo. We have exciting museums, a wide variety of parks, interesting and unusual landmarks, sumo stables, Shinto shrines, Buddhist temples, twenty-three rivers, and countless bridges. Tokyo's Shitamachi is especially lively at New Year's, when throngs of people make a meguri, or pilgrimage, to the shrines and temples of the Shichifukujin (Seven Deities of Good Fortune). Two of Tokyo's most famous Shichifukujin Meguri are the Fukagawa Shichifukujin Meguri and the Kameido Shichifukujin Meguri in the Fukagawa and Kameido districts of Koto-ku.
Fukagawa Edo Museum (Fukagawa Edo Shiryokan, 1-3-28 Shirakawa; tel: 03-3630-8625); open 10:00-17:00, closed December 28 through January 5; admission 300 yen; about 15 minutes on foot from Morishita Station on the Shinjuku Line; 3-5 minutes on foot from Kiyosumi-Shirakawa Station on the O-Edo Line.
This museum has just one exhibit, and it's spectacular: a recreation of an eighteenth-century Shitamachi neighborhood, which lacks only a public bath. Visitors are free to remove their shoes and wander through the old row houses and the ground floors of shops and inns, open drawers, and pick up and examine all the artifacts of a way of life that didn't completely disappear until early in the twentieth century. Since there are no labels, it's a good idea to pick up a copy of the English-language catalogue (500 yen). A sidewalk tile in front of the museum depicts the exhibit's fire watchtower.
Museum of Contemporary Art, Tokyo (Tokyo-to Gendai Bijutsukan, 4-1-1 Miyoshi, in Kiba Park; tel: 03-5245-4111); completely wheelchair accessible; open 10:00-18:00, Fridays 10:00-21:00, closed Mondays (except national holidays); closed December 21 through January 4; admission to the permanent collection is 500 yen, to temporary exhibitions varies; 15-20 minutes on foot from Kiba Station on the Tozai Line; 10-15 minutes on foot from Kiyosumi-Shirakawa Station on the O-Edo Line; 10-15 minutes on foot from Kikukawa Station on the Shinjuku Line.
The MOT, Tokyo's first contemporary art museum, opened in March 1995. The display of about 100 to 150 of the 3,600 works in its permanent collection is changed every three months. The permanent collection includes works by both Japanese and non-Japanese artists. Mini catalogues of the permanent collection (in Japanese and English) are free, as are individual cards with photos and commentary (in Japanese and English) for most works in each gallery. The spacious galleries are beautifully lit, and there are plenty of places to sit a while. Museum facilities include a cafeteria, restaurant, art-information center and database, and library of about 65,000 volumes. The museum shop offers a wide variety of attractive, well-chosen articles, from books and postcards to watches and digital fonts.
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Kiba Park (Kiba Koen, Kiba 4-chome and Hirano 4-chome; tel: 03-5245-1770); wheelchair accessible; 5-10 minutes on foot from Kiba Station on the Tozai Line; 15-20 minutes on foot from Kiyosumi-Shirakawa Station on the O-Edo Line; 15-20 minutes on foot from Kikukawa Station on the Shinjuku Line. One of Tokyo's newest large parks, Kiba Park offers a wide range of facilities, from tennis courts to picnic areas, a jogging course, and an adventure playground.
Kiba Park is also the home of some local festivals. On the first Sunday in October, visitors are treated to an exhibition of Kiba no Kakunori in the pool at the Entrance Plaza (Iriguchi Hiroba), at the Kiba 4-chome crossing. Kakunori ("riding square timber") is a breathtaking display of traditional skills of the lumber workers who once rode "rafts" of loose logs, steering them down the area's rivers to lumberyards (kiba) with nothing more than a bamboo pike pole.
On the third Saturday and Sunday in October, the park bustles with the Koto Ward Residents' Festival (Koto Kumin Matsuri). The Saturday highlights include a bazaar, family sports contests, and parent-child craft projects, all in the north half of the park. Among the Sunday morning events are a parade in the heart of the park and, at the Entrance Plaza, a repeat of the Kiba no Kakunori exhibition plus a special Fukagawa no Chikaramochi performance--the descendant of contests among the incredibly strong Fukagawa-district dockworkers of centuries past who juggled huge bales of rice and full barrels of sake, vying for the chikaramochi ("strongman") title.
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The public toilet at 1-3-34 Shirakawa, just a few doors from the Fukagawa Edo Museum, may be the only one of its kind in Tokyo. Though the facade is Edo period (1603-1868), the plumbing is strictly modern. As in the case of most public toilets, though, it is wise to carry your own paper.
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Founded in 1663, Kameido Tenmangu (3-6-1 Kameido), commonly known as Kameido Tenjin, is one of the principal shrines in Tokyo dedicated to the ninth-century poet and statesman Sugawara Michizane, who was deified as Tenjin. It is famed for its stunning wisteria arbors, which are at their best in late April and early May.
Kameido Tenjin is also famous for the two drum bridges on the path from its main entrance. When viewed from the bridges in late April and early May, the shrine seems to float on a cloud of wisteria. The shrine's Wisteria Festival (Fuji Matsuri), from the third Sunday in April to the second Sunday in May, rewards visitors with an extraordinary number of wisteria varieties.
Founded in 1624, Tomioka Hachimangu (1-20-3 Tomioka) is one of Tokyo's most important Shinto shrines. From 1684 until 1833 this shrine, which is also called Fukagawa Hachiman, was the scene of all Tokyo sumo tournaments. To the right of and behind the main shrine is a monument built in 1895 to honor sumo's yokozuna, or grand champions. The names of all yokozuna down to the present are engraved on a massive stone on the monument's elevated platform.
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Built in 1878, Hachimanbashi (1-19 Tomioka, near Tomioka Hachimangu) is Tokyo's oldest iron bridge designed by Japanese engineers and fabricated in Japan. Originally called Danjobashi, this 15.2-meter-long bridge was renamed in 1929, when it was moved from Takara-cho, Chuo-ku, to its present site. In 1977 the Japanese government designated Hachimanbashi an Important Cultural Property. Until fairly recently the park beneath the bridge was a busy canal, filled with logs and barges. Pedestrians still use Hachimanbashi.