Whether you’re into history and culture, sports and theme park rides, or flower spotting, Korakuen makes for an entertaining date spot.
Perfect for Valentine’s Day is a stroll around one of Tokyo’s finest parks, Koishikawa Korakuen, just as the mid-February plum blossom season kicks in. Created during the Edo period, the sprawling park is a beautiful blend of Japanese and Chinese landscape gardening.
More tranquility can be found over in the European stylings of Rekisen Park and the grounds of Genkakuji, a small Buddhist temple popular for those praying for good eye health. Offerings of konnyaku can be found in front of a statue of the enshrined deity Enma because, as one 18th-century tale goes, a woman suffering from an eye disease received Enma’s right eye in return for giving up her favorite food, konnyaku (the temple is nicknamed Konnyaku Enma as a result).
The large bell within the temple grounds also has quite a history, having been taken to Saipan during World War II and then ending up in Texas before being returned to its original location. More historical tidbits can be found over at the Bunkyo Furusato Historical Museum with information and artifacts spanning the Jomon and post-war periods of the area.
Theme Park Thrills
Constructed in 1988 on the site of what was once the Koishikawa Arsenal (remnants of which can still be found in the area) stands the big white bulbous structure of Tokyo Dome. Home to the Yomiuri Giants baseball team and a popular concert venue, it also serves as the centerpiece of Tokyo Dome City.
The complex is packed with attractions to keep you entertained. Have space-related fun at the TenQ Space Museum. Keep it simple with bowling or get your thrills on the iconic Thunder Dolphin roller coaster that swoops around and through LaQua, a shopping center and luxury spa. For themed eating options try Moomin Bakery & Cafe and Bubba Gump Shrimp Co. There are also food trucks dotted around. Away from all the hubbub, we recommend the Korakuen branch of Teppanyaki Grow where you can splash out on A5 quality wagyu steaks.
Up, Up and Away
Want a bird’s-eye view of the city? Get swooped up 60 meters into the air before being swiftly dropped back down again on the Sky Flower in Tokyo Dome City Attractions, or take a more leisurely ride on the 60-meter-high, centerless Big O Ferris wheel. If you want to enjoy the scenery for longer, and without being strapped into something, then the observation deck at the Bunkyo Civic Center is hard to beat, particularly as it’s free.
The view toward the skyscrapers of Shinjuku and Mount Fuji has been somewhat spoiled by an obtrusive building, but the slanted windows make it easier to get scenic snaps without pesky reflections from indoor lighting. Grab a bite to eat at The Artist’s Cafe on the 43rd floor of the Tokyo Dome Hotel – there’s a couples’ seating area that has semi-private tables facing the windows; a cozy way to enjoy the view with that special someone.
If you happen to be visiting the neighborhood during the baseball offseason but are still looking for a sporting fix then head to The Kodokan Judo Institute – the home of judo since its inception in 1882. Training sessions and tournaments take place weekly throughout the year and can be viewed from a free-to-enter spectator gallery.
Fans of combat sports should also check out Korakuen Hall as the intimate venue features a weekly roster of events such as boxing, MMA and wrestling. Other sporting highlights include The Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum, which reflects on the greats of Japanese baseball, and the Japan Football Museum, which is just a short walk away in Hongo Sanchome.