Whether you’re looking for a Tokyo sightseeing area that offers a local cultural experience or a way to pass the time on a long layover at Haneda Airport, Ota City in southeastern Tokyo is the place to visit.
Ota City is the largest of Tokyo’s 23 wards. Most tourists have probably only set foot there travelling in and out of Haneda Airport. Here is an introduction to the many sights in this less traveled section of Japan’s capital city.
ANAMORI INARI SHRINE
Anamori Inari Shrine was originally built in 1818, just a short distance from its current location. Worshippers come to this shrine to make offerings of sake and fried tofu while saying a prayer for good crops and prosperous business. In its heyday, it was so popular with people coming from all over Japan to visit that the train company built a railway exclusively for transporting the worshippers. Another interesting fact is that the location of the shrine was originally where Haneda Airport sits today, but since the construction of the airport, it was moved to its current setting.
OTA CITY TOURIST INFORMATION CENTER
The Ota City Tourist Information Center has a wide variety of cultural experiences for visitors to enjoy. They range in price from around 2,500 JPY up to 6,000 JPY, but there are also a handful of activities that you can enjoy for free. Workshops include flower arrangement, tea ceremony, and even manga illustration, to name a few. The kimono wearing experience is quite popular and overall wonderful. It can be arranged for you with a private kimono teacher in a traditional Japanese tatami room. You can choose from a selection of kimonos with your favorite color and pattern. If you are going to do the kimono experience, be sure that you make an appointment in advance, which you can do by email or phone.
The staff in the tourist center are very helpful and can also recommend sightseeing itineraries and provide maps for day trips or longer. The Ota City Tourist Information Center is a great place to visit before setting out on your journey.
The area around Kamata is well known for their ‘winged gyoza’. They are called ‘winged’ because of the shape of the gyoza when fried – the individual dumplings become connected, giving each piece the shape of expanded wings.
Nihao, a Chinese restaurant which is just around the corner from the Ota City Tourist Information Center, has winged gyoza at 6 pieces for 300 JPY which is a pretty good deal for lunch. The gyoza is also really delicious, crispy on the outside and juicy on the inside. In addition to the winged gyoza, there are many other Chinese dishes to choose from, such as the highly recommended dish Xiaolongbao (steamed bun dumplings).
Senzokuike Pond is the perfect place for a stroll in nature. The pond itself is quite beautiful and can easily be enjoyed in all seasons, though the best time to go is in April to see the area park’s cherry blossom trees in full bloom. Year-round, the park attracts migrant birds from all over. A nice leisurely stroll around the pond will bring you across a traditional-style wooden bridge where you can admire the large koi fish, past a shrine, and through a lovely tree-filled park.
There are even a variety of boat rides that you can enjoy. For the swan boats, 800 JPY will get you a 30 minute ride. In the right kind of weather, you could easily spend half the day relaxing in the park, making it a great place for families with kids.
IKEGAMI HONMONJI TEMPLE
Ikegami Honmonji Temple is not as well-known as Asakusa’s Sensoji, but it is just as impressive and a lot more peaceful without the huge crowds. The main road leading up to the temple is lined with many traditional snack shops selling delicacies of the area, including mochi (rice cake) and senbei (rice crackers).
At the entrance of the temple, you are met by a set of stairs. At the top of the stairs, you will find Ikegami Honmonji Temple and its collection of impressive buildings. Off in the distance, you can also find the temple’s five-story pagoda, standing tall at 29.4 meters. The pagoda, built in 1608, was constructed to be able to withstand a magnitude 7 earthquake and is actually the oldest five-story pagoda in Tokyo, having survived the fires and bombings of Tokyo during World War II.
Just down the road from Ikegami Honmonji you can find a traditional old japanese house which is now a cafe. The name of the cafe is called Rengetsu, which stands for ‘Lotus Moon’. Upon arrival, you will likely spend several minutes outside just admiring the structure of the building. And talk about a hidden gem – they even have a lovely garden in the back.
Once inside, you’ll immediately feel at home. The building was built in the early Showa period and used to be an old soba shop until 2015, when it was renovated and made into the cafe. They have a great selection of drinks and food. Their house tea is lotus flower tea, which goes great with any of their daily homemade cakes. Rengetsu is a great place to have a lunch or a cafe break in such a cozy and nostalgic environment.
Ota City is said to have the greatest number of sento (public baths) in all of Tokyo. Many of them even boast natural onsen (hot spring) water. Hasunuma Onsen is one sento that offers a kuroyu bath (black water bath). The kuroyu bath contains sodium bicarbonate, which is said to have healing benefits and beautification properties for the skin. Entry fee to the sento is 460 JPY for adults. When visiting a sento, you are expected to bring your own towel, body soap and shampoo/conditioner. However, they also have bathing sets for sale from 100 to 300 JPY, if you happen to forget. Another wonderful thing about this sento and many others in the area is the lovely art mural decorating the wall inside the bathing area. It gives the impression of bathing inside an art museum.
A trip down Bourbon Road will take you back in time to re-live Showa period nightlife. Here you can find many izakaya (Japanese pubs), standing bars, and even some jazz bars. It is a great place to grab dinner or bar hop. The food options on Bourbon Road are – not surprisingly – meals that go well with alcohol, such as yakitori, yakiniku, oden. However, you can also find things like pizza and even Thai food if you fancy.
Parallel to Bourbon Road, you can also find several shopping streets. The main street is called Sunrise Mall, where you can find a few shops to pick up any last minute souvenirs.
If you are looking for a unique and authentic Tokyo experience, then spend a day out and about in Ota City. You can visit the city’s official website for more information on places to see, eat, and even sleep.