Ditch the usual guidebooks and get off the beaten tourist trail with an exploration of Tokyo’s discovered Ota Ward. The following sites represent the best and most unique aspects of this corner of the city. Even better – they’re all just a short distance from Tokyo’s rising air hub of Haneda Airport.
1. Ota City Tourist Information Center
The best place to begin any adventure is at a well-stocked tourist information center but Ota City’s TIC goes above and beyond. Come in for the pamphlets and the friendly English-language assistance, but stay for the free cultural classes (think origami and traditional games) or traditional experiences like ikebana, tea ceremony and kimono wearing (all bookable online).
2. Ikegami Honmonji Temple
Ikegami Honmonji is one of Tokyo’s oldest temples, with a few buildings dating back over four centuries. Admire the five-story pagoda, the oldest in the Kanto region, or savor a lunch of seasonal delicacies in the Garden Restaurant Sakura. In winter, the plum garden on the western side of the temple bursts into blooms of pink and white.
3. Heiwa no Mori Koen Field Athletic Course
Unleash your inner ninja warrior at this ropes course near Heiwa no Mori Park. Test your mettle on a variety of obstacles, from climbing walls to balance beams. A separate section of the park offers water-based challenges, including barrel boats that can be paddled around the small waterway. A small free section next door caters to the under-6 crowd.
4. Omori Nori Museum
Back when Tokyo was just a fledgling fishing village, the inhabitants of the Omori area made their livelihoods by harvesting seaweed from the region’s rivers. This heritage is preserved at the Omori Nori Museum, where interactive exhibits and dioramas bring the heyday of the harvest era to life. Occasional classes offer visitors the opportunity to make and sample their own seaweed sheets.
5. Ota Market
Central Tokyo’s Tsukiji Market may get all the press, but Ota Market promises visitors a more intimate and welcoming experience. Attend the early morning fish auction, browse the fruit and vegetable stands, or check out the blooms at the wholesale flower market. A suggested walking route is provided to all visitors and the rooftop observation deck, with its views of Mt Fuji on a clear day, should not be missed.
6. Showa no Kurashi Museum
The tiny Showa no Kurashi Museum packs a huge historical punch with a recreation of a residence in the time of the Showa Period (1926-1989). One of the former tenants of the house now curates this carefully-tended glimpse of daily life in Japan during the early years of the 20th century. Many items in the museum can be picked up and handled, giving visitors greater insight thanks to the hands-on experience.
7. Hogaku Academy
Limber up for a lesson in taiko (Japanese drumming) at the Hogaku Academy. Join a beginner class and learn the basics of this exuberant Japanese tradition or hone your skills with the Academy’s professional instructors in a more advanced or private course. Lesson fees include drumsticks and children over the age of three are welcome to participate.
8. Senzokuike Pond
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.
9. Tamagawa Cycling Path
Stretch your legs on the riverside cycling path that straddles the border between Ota Ward and Kanagawa Prefecture. The path leads cyclists straight from Haneda Airport and links up with a multitude of routes, making it escape the city. In the spring, the numerous cherry blossoms that flower along the banks make this a particularly attractive route.
10. Natural Onsen Heiwajima
Soak away any stress from your adventures on a visit to Natural Onsen Heiwajima. The bath house uses natural hot spring water, piped up from deep under Tokyo Bay. Bathers are separated by gender and multiple tubs cater to many physical ailments. For those simply seeking a bit of pampering, a soak and a spa treatment (such as a massage) are the perfect antidote for any weary traveler.