A Look at the Everyday Life in Kanda

Tokyo is one of those rare cities which attracts people from all around the world. It is most definitely at the top of the list of places people want to visit. As the capital of Japan, Tokyo is a very populated place. With over 13 million people in the central business district alone, Tokyo is considered as the most densely populated city in the world.  The total population of the greater Tokyo metropolitan area is 13 million, which means that there is a whole lot of diversity in place here. With this diversity comes something familiar to most people, a city filled with visions of the future side by side with the nostalgia of ancient Japan. This unique aspect to Tokyo gives many who visit many things to do. Tokyo will most definitely have something for everyone. The area that best bridges the gap between old Edo and the modern day Tokyo would have to be Kanda.

For those looking to visit a quiet and beautiful place in Tokyo city would have to be the Kanda area. Kanda is well-known for having many bookstores, schools, and the Kanda festival. With most of the area being residential homes, Kanda gives visitors a glimpse of suburban Japan all the while being a few stations away from the hustle and bustle of the city.

Spotlight on Kanda, Japan

Kanda, located in the northeastern area of the Imperial Palace, is one of the city districts of Tokyo. As this area contains mostly residential areas and universities, it is not the typical tourist destinations. As this place is typically filled with families and students, the general populous of the people on the streets are the youth of Tokyo. The tradition of Kanda being a college town can be traced back to the time when a Confucian School,  headed by the Yushima Seido Temple, was present.

At first glance, this town may not be a place that a tourist would want to visit but behind all the rows of houses lies many points of interests. These include the Ochanomizu musical instrument areas, the Jimbocho book district, and the famous anime and electronics district of Akihabara. One should think of Kanda as a gathering of diverse neighborhoods. This diversity leads people to think of Kanda with different perspectives. Kanda could make one think of all the anime and gadgets of Akihabara. Kanda could also make one think of ancient Japan, such as the Kanda Myojin Shrine and the Yushima Seido Temple. Kanda is also a place filled with traditional food stores such as soba and hot pot restaurants. One can also see a glimpse of pre-war Japan in the area of Awajicho. However, the biggest claim to fame for the Kanda area would definitely have to be the Kanda festival.

This festival is held at the Kanda shrine and is one of the Three Great Festivals of Edo and of Japan as a whole. It attracts numerous visitors, both Japanese and foreign, and is one of the most important festivals in Japan. The Kanda Myojin Shrine, built around 1,300 years ago, was the main deity who guards the streets of Edo during the Edo period. It was in the 17th century that Tokugawa Ieyasu had made the direct order for people to pray to this deity daily. He wanted the guardian deity to grant victory to him and his troops in unifying the nation. His success resulted in the protection of the shrine, and to this day, a grand ceremony has been held.

Mapping Your Way Through Kanda, Japan

As mentioned earlier, Kanda has many places to visit and points of Interests.  The best way to visit all of these places would have to be by taking the JR Chuo line, JR Sobu Line, or the Marunouchi Subway Line all the way to Ochanomizu station. For those staying near the Tokyo station, it is only a five-minute ride, costing 140 yen. For those staying near the Shinjuku area, it is only a ten-minute and 170 yen ride from the Shinjuku station. The following are the major attractions of the Kanda area.

1. Kanda Myojin Shrine

The Kanda Myojin Shrine is a place devoted to the worship of three gods, namely Daikokuten, Ebisu, and the feudal lord, Taira Masakado. Daikokuten is worshiped as the deity of farmers and marriage. Ebisu is worshiped for the safety and prosperity of fishermen and businessmen. Taira Masakado, a feudal lord in the 10th century, was a normal person who was greatly revered by the townspeople and through time was deified. The common reason that people go to Kanda Myojin Shrine is to pray for prosperity, whether it be for food, business, or marriage. The Kanda Festival is devoted to the celebration of this shrine. The shrine is open 14 hours a day and is free from admission fees.

2. Yushima Seido

A shrine dedicated to Confucianism and the Chinese scholar Confucius, Yushima Seido was a center devoted to the teaching and preaching of the philosophy. This temple was most popular during the Edo period as Confucianism was designated as the state philosophy during those times. The appearance of the shrine is unique as it is completely covered by black lacquer which makes a striking contrast to the bronze statue of Confucius.  The grounds are open every day except on the days of August 13 to 17 and December 29 to 31. It costs 200 yen to visit the main hall on weekends.

3. Nikolai-do

Nikolai-do, also known as the Saint Nicolai Church, is the main church of the Japanese Orthodox Christians. It is a very popular structure as it features a distinct Russian design that highlights a large dome roof and bell tower. It was previously damaged in the Great Kanto Earthquake of 1923 and was reconstructed 6 years later. It is open only 4 hours a day, from 1 to 3:30 in the afternoon, and requires a 300 yen donation to enter.

4. Ochanomizu Music Instrument Area

This is a very popular area to visit as it features many stores devoted to the selling of musical instruments. From a store solely selling brass instruments to a store devoted to pianos, Ochanomizu has everything a music enthusiast will want to explore. The opening and closing time varies per store in this half a km stretch.

5. Jimbocho Book Town

The Jimbocho neighborhood is most known for attracting the Japanese book enthusiast. A lot of stores selling books will tickle the fancy of any reader. The bookstores are a welcoming sight to the multitude of students in the area as it gives them facilities to spend their days reading.

A Guide to Hotels in Kanda, Japan

For those planning a visit to Tokyo, it might be best to look at finding an accommodation in the Kanda area. Kanda offers its visitors many things, but the most important aspect of the area would have to be the peace and quiet. A long day strolling around the city of Tokyo deserves a good night's sleep, which Kanda can offer. Here are some accommodations to consider when planning a trip to Tokyo.

1. Hotel Grand Palace

This hotel offers a classic hotel design that never goes out of style. At mere 2 minutes away from Kudanshita subway station, this hotel gives its guests a great view of the city and one of the best services in the city. Some of the rooms even let you peer into the Imperial Palace grounds. Some of the places to visit near this hotel would be the Imperial Palace grounds and Kitanomaru park, both of which are a mere ten-minute walk away. Both of the in-house French and Teppanyaki restaurants feature a beautiful view of the Tokyo City skyline. This hotel is friendly to non-Japanese speakers.

2. Hotel Mystays Kanda

At a mere five-minute walk from the JR Kanda train station, Hotel Mystays Kanda offers guests a modern and high quality stays in the quiet area of Kanda. It is highly rated for its cleanliness, affordability, and location. From being a 10-minute walk to Akihabara to being a 35-minute train ride to Tokyo Disneyland, guests of this hotel are given more value for their money.

3. APA Hotel Kanda-Eki-Higashi

This hotel, like Hotel Mystays Kanda, is only a five-minute walk from the JR Kanda train station. With an on-site restaurant, free WiFi, and in-house masseuse, this Hotel offers its guest relaxation and comfort above all else. The APA Hotel Kanda-Eki-Higashi also offers guests the chance to relax in true Japanese fashion as they offer guests Yukatas to wear.

A Guide to Restaurants in Kanda, Japan

The sheer amount of diversity of restaurants in Tokyo is astronomical. From the most revered and highly rated sushi bars to the streetside ramen joints, Tokyo city has much to offer to the adventurous foodie. Kanda, as quiet as it seems, is actually home to some of the best and most sought-after restaurants in all of Japan. Just going the districts of Sudacho and Awajicho, one can find many restaurants that are revered throughout the world. These are restaurants that have been survived the destruction of the wars and the clutches of redevelopers. A lot of the buildings in this area date all the way back to the 1920’s and will give you the feel of dining in old Edo.

The most popular and oldest of the restaurants here would have to be Isegen. It has been in operation since the 1830’s and has been using the same anko nabe, a hot-pot dish that uses monkfish, recipe since then. The restaurant is so old that it does not take reservations and credit cards. It is hard to grab a seat in this restaurant so visitors are always advised to head there as early as possible to avoid long lines.

Across Isegen is another famous restaurant called Takemura. Takemura is a quaint tea shop that serves tea and treats in a traditional and serene manner. It is the perfect place to sit back and relax right before having a heavy meal across the street. Another famous restaurant would be Kemuri. Kemuri is an izakaya restaurant that serves great drinks and good finger food. Its humble yet distinct wooden design sets the mood for a relaxing night after having a great meal.

The next two restaurants have been neck-to-neck at serving the best soba noodles in the area. Kanda Yabu has been featured many times in media as having one of the best soba noodles in the business and the restaurant proudly says so but Matsuya, a quieter and more affordable restaurant, is humble in its marketing yet still serves noodles comparable to the later. Though these two restaurants serve the same style of food, many visitors eat at both just to have a taste of two of the best soba dishes in the world.

Tokyo is a large and undoubtedly crazy place to be in. Thinking of it as a single entity will only confuse first-time visitors and it’s best to see it as a conglomeration of multiple cultures and towns that grow beside each other. From the colorful and wacky anime culture of Akihabara to the powerful ambiance of the Imperial Palace grounds in Chiyoda, the different areas in Tokyo are vastly different from one another. If you don’t like the fashion culture of the youths in Shibuya, then a simple train ride to another station will bring you the traditional pottery workshops and markets in the district of Asakusa. Out of all the areas in Tokyo, it is only Kanda that gives a slower-paced feeling to visitors. After all, Kanda is often referred to as the town of Edokko. Edokko is a term used to describe a person born and raised in the city (Edo or Tokyo in particular) who has a humble and hospitable personality. The residents and shops of Kanda certainly have kept this attitude throughout the years as most who visit always leave feeling relaxed and happy.