Summer is nearly here. As the days start to get hotter, I'm sure many of you out there will start feel like leaving the city to escape the oppressive heat. Well did you know that Minato Ward's many parks and waterfronts make it a cool oasis right in the heart of Tokyo? Keep reading to learn about a few of our favorite spots, divided into categories. Come with us and cool off without ever leaving the city.
ODAIBA - Let the views of Tokyo Bay refresh you as you ride the "TOKYO NO KABA" amphibious bus!
The bay area is dotted with beautiful spots along the waterfront, and the sea breeze really keeps the heat off. The various waterfront restaurants and cafes are cool enough as it is, but even cooler than those is the amphibious bus "TOKYO NO KABA."
Known locally as the "Kaba Bus," "Tokyo NO KABA" is a popular tourist attraction on Odaiba. It runs 4-8 times a day from AQUA CiTY ODAIBA (due to the coronavirus pandemic service is limited to 4 times a day on weekends and public holidays).
The 45-minute tour starts with a drive around Odaiba's most famous sights, then heads into Tokyo Bay itself using a dedicated slope in Odaiba Seaside Park, where it will circle around Rainbow Bridge before returning to land.
Once you've completed your "boarding procedures" at the reception on the first floor of AQUA CiTY ODAIBA, head to the boarding area outside. The main body of the vehicle is a plain white, and feels just like any other bus, but the front juts out like the bow of a ship. An unusual visual spectacle, indeed. Although the seating inside is just like any other bus the large windows create a sense of immersion as though you were on a cruise.
The tour guide will entertain you for the first 15 minutes of the tour as you drive around Odaiba, then it's time to take the plunge. As the bus heads down the slope you can't help but feel a little scared. Finally, with a call from the guide, the bus enters the water, cooling everyone aboard with an almighty splash!
The sight of the bus moving through the water as its drive chain switches from the wheels to the screw makes for an overwhelming experience for passing ships. The panoramic view of the bay area from the sea is an exhilarating experience quite unlike that found on land.
Same-day tickets are possible when there are seats available, but we recommend booking in advance either by telephone or online. Check the "TOKYO NO KABA" official website for more information (the bus may run from a different location while the Tokyo Olympics/Paralympics are running).
SHIROKANEDAI - Cool Yourself at the Natural Waterfront in the "Institute for Nature Study"
The "Institute for Nature Study" in Shirokanedai has become known as an "oasis in the city" due to the abundance of nature that can be found there, including an evergreen broad-leaved forest. The whole 20-hectare site has been designated a national natural monument and historic site. It is also where researchers from the National Museum of Nature and Science conduct their research, and so far over 3,500 species have been identified there.
After you purchase an admission ticket from the Education Administration Building next to the main gate, we recommend visiting the Exhibition Hall within that same building first. There you can find some basic information about conservation, as well as about the plants and animals that can be found in the park. It is a good place to learn about what you can see and do in the park at any given time of the year.
There are three botanical gardens within the park, each providing a habitat for a variety of creatures. The first garden you come across after leaving the Education Administration Building is the Walkway, where you will find seasonal plants along the sides of the path. At this time of year the lush green leaves will give you a refreshing feeling as they give out negative ions.
After the Walkway you will find yourself at a waterfront area where you will find the Hyotan pond and aquatic plant garden. Seeing the vibrant greens reflected in the surface of the water will instantly make you feel cooler. On the western end of the park there is also a waterfowl marsh and a pond called "Imori no Ike," where you will fin wild birds swimming and playing in the water.
It is also an important historical site that can teach you a lot about the history of the Shirokane area. In the Muromachi period (1336-1573) there was a great mansion where the park now stands which was known as the "Shirokane Chosha," from which the area gets its name. Later, during the Edo period (1603-1868), it was a secondary residence for the Takamatsu clan. During the Meiji period (1868-1912) it was used to store gunpowder by the newly-formed army and navy, and from the Taisho period (1912-1926) to the middle of the Showa period (1926-1989) it was used as the official residence of the Imperial Household Agency. You will find places dotted around the park that tell of this storied past, such as earthen mounds believed to be part of the medieval mansion, and the "monogatari pines" from the Edo period.
In July the golden-rayed lily, lythrum, and day lilies will be in bloom, while in August you will find the lycoris, dianthus, and plantain lilies looking resplendent. It is a place where you can lose track of time and just relax.
SHIBA - Cool Down with the Summer Special Course Menu from "Tokyo Shiba Tofuya UKAI"!
The crystal clear and beautiful tofu is one of the most cooling foods there is. At Tokyo Shiba Tofuya UKAI, located right next to Tokyo Tower, you can enjoy their signature tofu cuisine while looking out on their cool Japanese garden.
Tokyo Shiba Tofuya UKAI opened in 2005 as part of the UKAI group, which was established in 1964 in Takao. After you pass through the traditional gate house you find yourself in a quiet space kept separate from the hustle and bustle of the area.
The interior of the restaurant is designed to be a "space with a story," with an elegant blend of traditional Japanese elements in an Edo-style atmosphere, including a 200-year-old sake brewery building that has been moved from Yamagata. The sukiya-style private rooms and luxurious lacquered corridors invite the visitors to enjoy a special time.
The secret behind the "UKAI Tofu" is the crisp, clean water of Owada, Hachioji combined with the specially selected Japanese soy beans. In the summer they offer a special set menu including tofu served in a col kombu broth known as "Matsumae Tofu" (12,900 yen, not including service charge, available from August 10th). The sight of the tofu glistening in the bowl with the seasonal vegetables is very elegant.
They also have a selection of seasonal dishes, such as the "agedengaku," pieces of tofu carefully seared in a special spot in the garden and a range of seasonal appetizers. The combination of the calming Japanese atmosphere, the seasonal summer dishes, and the lush greenery of the garden will make you feel cool on the inside and out.
After dinner you can take a stroll in the vast Japanese garden that covers over 2 acres. So how about you take a visit for a meal that you won't soon forget?
MINAMIAOYAMA - Cool Down in an Artistic Japanese Garden at the Nezu Museum!
The Nezu Museum houses a collection of Japanese and Oriental art primarily collected by Kaichiro Nezu 1st, an entrepreneur who was active from the Meiji period to the beginning of the Showa period, and also houses many national treasures and important cultural properties, including Korin Ogata's "Irises." This museum, which has gained many fans for its various exhibitions, is a cool little hidden gem.
As you enter the museum through the bamboo hedge, the first thing you will see is a lush Japanese garden spreading out beyond the immersive plate glass windows. The garden, with its ponds and paths that follow the contours of the land, is another highlight of the museum, which along with its exhibitions make for a healing space that allows visitors to escape the summer heat.
You will find four teahouse in the park, as well as stone statues and lanterns dotted around throughout, making it a pleasant place to take a stroll. You can walk around looking at the famed "eight views of Nezu Museum," or take a coffee break at the NEZUCAFÉ as you take in the view.
From June 1 to July 11 the museum will be holding a special exhibition on two of the most important tools in the tea ceremony: the tea container and the tea bowl. The exhibition is being held in commemoration of the 100th anniversary of the publication of "Taisho Meisui Kan," a primer on appreciating tea containers and bowl, and will explore both the creation of the book and the relationship between its editor, Yoshio Takahashi and Kaichiro Nezu. In addition, from July 22 to August 22 there will be a special exhibition called "Loving Flowers, Viewing the Moon," which will feature paintings and crafts depicting flowers and other nature scenes depicting the four seasons, as well as engravings of waka poems.
Escape the heat as you enjoy the art and explore the garden. Between the two you should stay cool no matter what the summer throws at you.