Five Quirky Places to Visit in Tokyo



Hachiko statue (Shibuya)

It’s not often that you see teens taking selfies next to a canine statue, but Hachiko has a special place in the hearts of the Japanese. So much so that they become angry when you ask whether it really existed.

We’ve all heard it before: a dog that waited outside a station to accompany its master home, until he died and never came back. The dog then went on waiting for its master until it, too, died.

A tall story, but is it true? Well, yes. Hachiko was a golden brown Akita purebred and its master, Professor Ueno from Tokyo University, acquired it in 1924.

Yes, Hachiko waited for Professor Ueno outside Shibuya station; yes, he died in 1925 from a cerebral haemorrhage and never returned home; and yes, Hachiko went on waiting for its master for a further nine years.

Inevitably people noticed the dog and an article about it appeared in the Asahi Shimbun in 1932.

Hachiko died on March 8 1935 and is buried next to its owner at Tokyo’s Minato cemetery.

So join the queue for a selfie by its statue at Shibuya station and shed a tear, unless you’re a cat lover, ‘cos you’ll never understand.

Yodobashi Akiba (Akihabara)

Yodobashi is pure geek heaven: six floors of the latest electronic gadgets, games and toys to satisfy the most ardent fan of nerdy pop culture.

You want a cam to record your life from your own point of view that’s flexible enough to wrap around your head like a headband? We have the Boud, just $200 for you.

Do you want a robot canine to turn Dr Who green with envy? We have a Dalmatian or a Beagle model, and also a tiny pet T-Rex, because we can.

Do you want to dress like Deadpool, as in the latest film of the Marvel Comics anti-hero? We have the full body suit for you.

A store to lose yourself for hours in.

Kite museum (Nihombashi)

This small, private museum above the Taimeiken restaurant – reached from exit B10 at Nihombashi metro station – is a labour of love by an eccentric Japanese kite owner.

The 200¥/£1.50 entry doesn’t do justice to the collection, for the kites displayed inside are works of art.

There are Chinese, Thai, even French kites of all colours, designs and shapes to make you wonder how they can go airbound at all.

There are paper and string contraptions that look more like flying ships with masts, and a paper bicycle straight out of E.T.

There are flat and curved kites on bamboo frames or glued to strings painted like elaborate oriental woodcuts, Kabuki masks or nightmarish visions from Japanese horror films.

Your camera will love them all.

Intermediatheque (Tokyo Central)

This free museum on the second and third floors of the Japan Post Office Tower encapsulates what is weird and wonderful about Japan.

On paper, this is an exhibition of the “scientific and cultural heritage accumulated by the University of Tokyo’. In practice it’s an entertaining mishmash of disparate items with absolutely no connection at all.

When Japan joined the rest of the world with the Meiji restoration in 1867, it sent explorers around the world in the manner of Stanley and Livingstone who started collecting ‘stuff’ not really knowing what and why. So, however the University dons want to dress it, it’s still “what we found in our travels”.

As a result, you get to see strange 19C inventions like the Öpik anemometer, so rare even Google has just a few entries on it.

There is old camera equipment, stuffed animals, Papua New Guinea ceremonial sculptures, a large globe made in Belgium, models of the largest diamonds ever found, an X-ray skiagraph of a hand, a Japanese spider crab with a legspan of 3.5 metres claw-to-claw, ancient Buddhist statues, figurines from the Ada people in Togo, several fossils, a false killer whale skeleton and the obligatory Egyptian mummy.

Your jaw is guaranteed to drop.



Beer museum (Ebisu)

Hardly a museum, more of a showcase for the Yebisu beer, the first beer brewed in Japan.

Established in 1887 with the help of German know-how and following its “pure law”, it was launched in 1890 with great success. In 1906 it merged with Sapporo Breweries but kept its name and character.

The museum is housed in the original Yebisu brewery, which was such a prominent building that in 1927 gave its name to the surrounding neighbourhood.

There is some interesting history, posters and bottles on display but the main reason for going there is that it’s the cheapest place to get pissed in Tokyo, what with five different showcase beers costing only 400¥(£3) per half-litre.

In posh surroundings, too.

You can get Japan included as a stopover in the Discoverer round the world




10 reasons to visit Phnom Penh

Don’t miss one of Southeast Asia’s most underrated capitals – get Phnom Penh’s on your Cambodia itinerary.

Sisowath Quay
Phnom Penh’s riverfront always surprises – you might impromptu exercise classes, skateboarders, monks in orange robes. Maybe you’ll book a Mekong sunset cruise, stop for a beer or browse the weekend Phsar Reatrey night market. Souvenirs are limited but food isn’t - chicken kebabs, waffles, fresh juices and even fried bugs.

National Museum
Interesting relics and Khmer sculptures which escaped the clutches of the Khmer Rouge, this is an exemplary national museum, being both compact and comprehensive. Tip from a local: don’t assume the one in Siem Reap is just as good.

S-21/Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum
One of about 150 Khmer Rouge security prisons, this former high school has been left mainly intact. Rule six on an original billboard reads, ‘While getting lashes or electrification you must not cry at all.’ Additions include information boards, video room and photographs of former prisoners. It’s not easy, but it is essential.

Choeung Ek/Killing Fields
Outside Phnom Penh is one of 20,000 mass grave sites from the Khmer Rouge regime. An audio tour informatively and poignantly guides you through this otherwise gentle landscape. It’s difficult hearing how national anthems were played at deafening volumes to drown out screams, how the killing tree got its name and seeing piles of skills, but it’s an important visit.

The markets
Phnom Penh is Cambodia’s best place to shop. Under the yellow dome of Central Market (Phsar Thmey), stalls sell everything from silver and Khmer scarves to electronics and fruit while along the narrow aisles of the Russian Market (Psah Toul Tom Pong), you’ll find everything from clothes and handicrafts to meat innards and a hairdresssing salon.

Foreign Correspondents’ Club
There are several (perhaps better) riverfront rooftop bars, but there’s something so evocative about sipping a sunset G&T under the whirring fans of the FCO. Perhaps that’s down to reading one Indochina war novel too many.

Ethical eating
Training formerly disadvantaged people in all things culinary is big in Cambodia. PP favourites include Friends the Restaurant, Romdeng and Le Café Mith Samlanh, run by Friends International, Cafe Yejj near the Russian Market and Sugar 'n Spice Café at Daughters.

Royal Palace and Silver Pagoda
Inside the Royal Palace are Khmer murals, colourful wats and shady landscaped gardens. The Silver Pagoda houses a Baccarat crystal Buddha, which resembles the Emerald Buddha inside Bangkok’s Grand Palace.

The old French quarter
Said to be Phnom Penh’s only coherent historic neighbourhood, the colonial architecture along its boulevards includes the Manolis Hotel, the disused police commissariat and the former Banque de l’Indochine. End at the 27-metre-high Wat Phnom, the hill after which Phnom Penh was named.

Koh Dach
Hop on the ferry to Koh Dach, an island on the Mekong about 15 kilometres away. It has a white sand beach and is famous for its handicrafts so you can buy direct from the weavers and potters.

By Meera Dattani

You can get Cambodia included as a stopover on your RTW here

Published by Stuart Lodge


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