Take the JR Chuo Line or the Metro Namboku, or Yurakucho Line to Ichigaya Station. Interestingly, the JR platform sits right on the bank of the river.
Ichigaya is a small, non-descript town on the east side of Tokyo. Its name means Market Valley. It’s a less-well maintained area and is seen by some in Tokyo as a lower-class area. But it’s worth a look around on a nice day – and it’s close to central Tokyo.
Ichigaya is at the very west end of Yasukuni-Dori. Just to the northeast is the controversial, but very interesting Yasukuni Shrine.
Perhaps the most well-known attraction in Ichigaya is the Ichigaya Fish Center – where many Tokyoites spend weekends or holidays fishing in the center’s small ponds. It’s a popular spot for families with small children.
There is also a popular bridge in Ichigaya which has some nice cherry blossom-viewing areas in the spring.
Just at the south end of Ichigaya jammed in next to the river is Sotobori Park – a small park with a sitting area, tennis courts, a baseball diamond, and a commercial fitness gym at the south end.
Ichigaya is also home to Chuo University + Hosei University, the later of which was recently remodeled – and which is more popular with international students.
While in the area you can also drop in at Iidabashi just to the north and check it out – which is also worth a look. Also just to the south down the main street is Yotsuya – which is well worth a quick walk. Yotsuya is home to Sophia University, and is just north of the interesting Akasaka. You can also jump off from Yotsuya to the west to Shinjuku fairly easily, although it is approx. 8 miles away. You can take the subway from Yotsuya Station on the corner to Shinjuku easily.
Just to the north is another small town called Iidabashi within walking distance with its own station.
History + Controversy
The shrine is controversial and is resented by China + Korea because it commemorates war dead considered to be war criminals by those countries (don’t forget Japan invaded both China and Korea in the late 19th + early 20th centuries). Every year around the anniversary of the end of World War 2, both countries decry politicians’ visits to the shrine. In recent years the Japanese Prime Minister has avoided visiting the shrine on the WW2 anniversary.
Things to Do
The shrine grounds are not huge, but there’s a lot to do. There are historical museums, and perhaps, most interestingly, some World War 2 exhibits. Just to the north is Iidabashi, and just to the west is Ichigaya (perhaps most famous for its popular Ichigaya Fish Center). The Imperial Palace and Kitanomaru Park are just to the southeast, and Tokyo Dome City is just to the northeast.
Every July the Matama Matsuri (festival) is held in the stone park area (Marshal Admiral Tōgō Memorial Park) just to the east. With over 30,000 lighted paper lanterns, it’s impressive to say the least. A must-see.
Just to the northeast a bit further is the Otemachi area and to the southeast of that is the main financial district, Marunouchi – all within walking distance.
If you’re there in the fall, the Ginko trees lining the park light up a brilliant yellow with fall colors.
Map of World War 2 carpet bombing in the Edo-Tokyo Museum. Yasukuni + the Ōmura Masujirō Statue monument narrowly escaped the bombing and are located roughly in the small dark patch between red areas on the left side of the map. Tokyo Bay is shown to the lower right.
Also just to the southwest a few more blocks is the Marshal Admiral Tōgō Memorial Park (officially Togo Gensui Memorial Park).
Yasukuni Shrine is a beautiful + impressive complex – even if it is entangled in a somewhat less than favorable history of World War 2. It’s a must-see in Tokyo, even if only for the buildings, grounds, and museums. Be sure to stop by.