Tokyo Koto-ku Complete Travel Guide

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Written by Editorial department

Koto-ku is located in the center of Tokyo and has excellent access. In addition, Koto-ku has many attractive sightseeing spots. From the latest fashionable spots to temples, shrines, and shopping streets where you feel the history. It is a place where you can enjoy the charm of the city and good old Japan at the same time. In this article, I would like to introduce some of the highlights of Koto-ku that you should know and enjoy for sure.

Koto-ku is located in the heart of the city, but is surrounded by rivers and faces the ocean.
Koto-ku is located in the heart of the city, but is surrounded by rivers and faces the ocean.

Table of Contents

What is about Koto-ku ?

Koto-ku is located in the eastern part of Tokyo, between the Sumida River and the Arakawa River. It has a population of about 530,000. Although it is located in the heart of the city, it is surrounded by rivers and faces the sea, making it a place with a rich history, surrounded by water and greenery. In the Fukagawa and Joto areas, located in the inland part of Koto-ku, you can feel the tradition that has been passed down from generation to generation since the Edo period. On the other hand, in the Rinkai area, facilities with futuristic scenery are constructed one after another, and you can enjoy the most advanced sightseeing in Japan.

Koto-ku is located in the eastern part of Tokyo
Koto-ku is located in the eastern part of Tokyo

When is the best season to visit Koto-ku?

Koto-ku, Tokyo is located in the middle of Japan. Japanese four seasons are full of changes. Summer is so hot and humid that you should watch out for heat stroke and take good care of yourself before enjoying sightseeing. In winter, the temperature often turns surprisingly low, so it is a good idea to pack a heavy coat or down jacket.

Examples of seasonal clothing in Koto-ku

Spring (March - May): Jacket or light sweater
Summer (June - August): Short-sleeved T-shirts, etc.
Autumn (September - November): Light jacket or coat
Winter (December - February): Coats, down jackets, heavy sweater and jacket.

How to get to Koto-ku?

Koto-ku is well served by JR, subway and other train lines, as well as metropolitan buses, making it an attractive area with excellent accessibility. It is within 30 minutes to an hour from Tokyo Station, Asakusa, Shinjuku Gyoen, Tokyo Skytree and other famous tourist spots in Tokyo, as well as Tokyo Disney Resort. It is also a very convenient location to visit as part of other sightseeing in Tokyo.

12 Unmissable Spots in Koto-ku

1. Koto-ku Fukagawa Edo Museum

Museum with a full-scale reproduction of the townscape and lifestyle of Fukagawa Sagacho, including stores and rows of houses, at the time of the Edo period around 1840.
The townscape of Fukagawa Sagacho at the time of the Edo period around 1840 is reproduced in a full scale in the exhibition room extending from the 1st basement floor to the 2nd floor above ground. There are stores that sell fertilizers, boat inns that welcome and see off visitors by boat and storehouses with white walls on the main street. It also includes a modern-day coffee shop called "Mizuchaya" in the plaza under the fire watchtower, and a stall selling tempura and soba noodles, which could be called "fast food in the Edo period". As you enter the alleyway then, you will see a row of “tenement houses". The family structure, occupation and age of the people living there are set in detail in the houses to display daily necessities that suit each lifestyle.

Tenement alleyway
Tenement alleyway

2. Koto-ku Basho Museum

Haiku Poet, Matsuo Basho, was active in the 1600s. He resided in Fukagawa, Koto-ku, which was the departure point of his famous travel journal, “Oku-no-Hosomichi,” covering the Tohoku and Hokuriku regions. The view from “Basho-an Historic Viewing Garden” is also superb. The watershed of Sumida River and Onagi River is also recommended as Basho is said to have enjoyed the scenery.

Basho Small Shrine (or Basho-do)
Basho Small Shrine (or Basho-do)

3. Edogawa-ku Nakagawa Funabansho Museum

Nakagawa Funabansho, the key to the water transportation system that supported the city of Edo, is being realistically reproduced with dioramas, sound and lighting.
The main exhibit is the diorama of the Nakagawa Bansho, which was created based on information from the 1800s - the latter half of the Edo period. The Nakagawa Bansho was one of the 53 checkpoints that existed throughout Japan during the Edo period.

Nakagawa Bansho diorama
Nakagawa Bansho diorama

4. Kameido Umeyashiki

In Kameido, there used to be a villa called "Seika-an" owned by Iseya Hikoemon, a kimono merchant. In the garden of the villa, there was a plum tree with a branch crawling like a dragon from the ground and covering an area of 150 meters, which was popularly known as "Kameido Ume Yashiki.
The ukiyoe (woodblock print) artist Utagawa Hiroshige drew "Meisho Edo Hyakkei Kameido Ume Yashiki" (One Hundred Famous Views of Edo - Kameido Plum Yashiki) based on this house in 1857, and Vincent van Gogh famously copied it. The Kameido Ume Yashiki is a building named after this symbol, which houses a guide to the sights of Kameido, a store selling local specialties, and a store selling Edo period faceted glass, a traditional Japanese craft and a local industry in Koto-ku.

Ukiyoe Salon
Ukiyoe Salon

5. Toyosu Market

To avoid further deterioration, the aging Tsukiji Market, known as the “kitchen” feeding Tokyo’s people, was moved to Toyosu in 2018.
Along with improving safety, observational tour routes were set up, making it easy for visitors to enter the market.
The market had been divided into 3 blocks. Courses have been set up for observing maguro tuna auctions in the Fisheries Wholesale Market Building, as well as in the Fruit and Vegetables Building, which has a visitor tour color-coded in seasonal produce.
The Fisheries Intermediate Wholesale Market Building features an observation gallery and shops selling items related to the market. From the rooftop, Tokyo tower may be seen.

From the deck, watch as wholesalers compete in auction, starting from about 5:30am
From the deck, watch as wholesalers compete in auction, starting from about 5:30am

6. Mori Building Digital Art Museum: Epson TeamLab Borderless

A "museum without a map" created by the art collective TeamLab's boundaryless artworks. This complex, three-dimensional world covering 10,000 square meters has no boundaries with other artworks and is a unique space where you can immerse yourself in the art. The museum consists of five concepts. In the worlds that change with the seasons, you can feel the four seasons of Japan like you do in the real world, like cherry blossoms in the spring and autumn leaves in the fall.

Exhibition view of MORI Building DIGITAL ART MUSEUM: teamLab Borderless,
2018, Odaiba, Tokyo
© teamLab
Exhibition view of MORI Building DIGITAL ART MUSEUM: teamLab Borderless,
2018, Odaiba, Tokyo
© teamLab

7. Tomioka Hachimangu Shrine

A shrine with a long history, founded in 1627 by a divine revelation. It is the largest Hachiman shrine in the Edo period and is still popularly known as the "Hachiman Shrine of Fukagawa”. There are 17 branch shrines in the precincts of the shrine, which are said to be beneficial for money luck, luck in winning games, and marriage.
The Fukagawa Hachiman Festival, held every year on August 15, is famous as one of the three major festivals in the Edo. There are many things to see, including stone monuments related to sumo and Japan's largest golden portable shrine.

Go through the torii gate and walk straight down the path to the shrine building
Go through the torii gate and walk straight down the path to the shrine building

8. Kameido Tenjinja(Kameido Shrine)

This shrine is one of the ten shrines in Tokyo dedicated to Sugawara Michizane, known as the god of learning. Three bridges span Shinji Pond: Otoko Bashi, Hira Bashi, and Onna Bashi. Each bridge represents the past lived, the present you can now see, and the hope of the future. It is said that each bridge you cross will purify your heart. More than 300 plum trees are planted in the temple's precincts, which are said to have been favored by Michizane. Every February and March, the shrine holds a plum blossom festival.
In late April, the wisteria blossom all at once, and the view from the arched bridge overlooking the wisteria trellises attracts many tourists.

After passing through the torii gate, you will see an arched bridge (Otoko Bashi), representing the past.
After passing through the torii gate, you will see an arched bridge (Otoko Bashi), representing the past.

9. Miraikan

At the National Museum of Emerging Science and Innovation (Miraikan), the humanoid robot "ASIMO" and the androids "ALTER" and "OTONAROID" are popular. Through demonstrations of "ASIMO," visitors can imagine a future society where humans and robots coexist. "ALTER", which expresses life-likeness with complex movements, and "OTONAROID," which looks like a human being, are cutting-edge researches, and are rare exhibitions in the world that ask questions such as "What is life?" and "What is a human being?" From the latest technology to simple questions, the earth's environment, the exploration of the universe, and the wonders of life, the ongoing science and technology are gathered!

Exterior of Miraikan
Exterior of Miraikan

10. Kiyosumi Gardens

The Kiyosumi Gardens are a circular garden with a fountain, an artificial hill, and a dry landscape garden. In 1878, industrialist Yataro Iwasaki purchased the site of a dilapidated mansion and planned to create a garden.
In March 1979, it was designated as a place of scenic beauty by the Tokyo Metropolitan Government. In 1977, an additional site adjacent to the west side of the garden opened as an open park, which is still the current configuration now.
The park on the west side of the garden has a lawn, a pergola, and about 20 cherry trees, making it a popular place for cherry blossom viewing in spring. There are three different types of "rock crossing" in the park, and you can enjoy the changing scenery as you walk along.

“Mt. Fuji”, the tallest and largest artificial mountain in Kiyosumi Gardens
“Mt. Fuji”, the tallest and largest artificial mountain in Kiyosumi Gardens

11. Museum of Contemporary Art Tokyo

The Museum of Contemporary Art Tokyo originally opened in 1995 after taking over a collection of 3,000 works from the Tokyo Prefectural Art Museum, which itself opened in 1926, and in 2019 had a renewal opening with a renewed collection of approximately 5,500 works. The museum holds six to eight special exhibitions of contemporary art per year, and the MOT Collection (It is currently closed.) of works from the museum's collection is divided into four periods per year, with each period showcasing a different aspect of the museum's collection and conveying the diverse appeal of contemporary art.

Exterior Photo: Kenta Hasegawa
Exterior Photo: Kenta Hasegawa

12. KidZania Tokyo

Nearly 60 existing businesses are in pavilions to offer children 3 - 15 years old almost 100 activities of work and services. Kids can experience jobs and social life in these facilities. Within the building, a city created in the 2/3 scale of life-size community spans on the 1st and 2nd floors. The 1st floor hosts a plaza and theaters with a tour bus and a fire truck running through. Kids who participated in work are given a currency, Kidzo, issued by KidZania that can be exchanged for classes, shopping in the facilities, or deposited in a bank and withdrawn at an ATM. After a job-participation, except for certain food, kids can take home what they created as a delightful memento.

The city
The city

3 must-visit shopping spots in Koto-ku

From shopping malls where you can find the latest trendy items in the heart of the city to shopping streets where you can enjoy the retro Showa era atmosphere. Koto-ku is full of attractive shopping malls! Here, we would like to introduce you to a few that you should definitely visit during your sightseeing.

1. Sunamachi Ginza Shopping Street

In 1932, it was named "Sunamachi Ginza" after the Ginza-Dori shopping street, which was said to be the best in Japan at that time. It is one of the three major “Ginza shopping streets” along with Togoshi Ginza and Jujo Ginza. The 670-meter-long street is lined with as many as 130 stores. The best experience for the visitors here is to enjoy eating while walking around the street, just like going around festival stalls. There is a wide variety of food such as yakitori (grilled chicken skewers), oden hot pot, Chinese dumplings, croquettes, fruits, etc., so you will surely find something that you want to eat.

The street is filled with many local shoppers and tourists.
The street is filled with many local shoppers and tourists.

2. Urban Dock LaLaport Toyosu

This is one of the largest commercial facilities in the Tokyo Bay area conveniently located and directly connected to Toyosu Station. Chic fashion brands are lined up, Numerous gourmet cafes and restaurants include the spacious food court, Marina Kitchen that serve sweets, lunch and dinner at a variety of shops. Enjoy the twinkling night scenes of Tokyo Sky Tree, Tokyo Tower, Rainbow Bridge and other popular spots.

A dog run and event space outside the complex
A dog run and event space outside the complex

3. Ariake Garden

Shopping mall, natural hot spring, and a theater assemble at Tokyo Bay Area in this large multi commercial complex. “Sumitomo Realty & Development Shopping City, Ariake Garden” is a large commercial facility that houses over 200 stores. Kanto Area’s largest ”Muji Tokyo Ariake.” “Aeon Style” equipped with Regi Go that lets you shop without standing in line. Shops that peak your curiosity abound. On the 5th floor, the food court, Dining Street, hosts nearly 30 gourmet restaurants.

Sumitomo Realty & Development Shopping City Ariake Garden
Sumitomo Realty & Development Shopping City Ariake Garden

4 Kiyosumi Shirakawa Cafe Spots Recommended in Koto-ku

Kiyosumi Shirakawa is a town of café spots that retain their old-fashioned atmosphere, and is attracting attention as a "coffee Mecca". In this article, we introduce a selection of the best cafes in the area. Let's take a tour of the cafes in Kiyosumi Shirakawa!

1. iki ESPRESSO

A café run by Mr. Harase, who is coffee specialist with over 25 years of experience and has worked as a barista and manager at local cafes in New Zealand. The sophisticated shop in white is a renovated storage. The simple interior and the seats laid out with ample space create a comfortable lounge. Their proud coffee is selected and shipped from all over the world and house-roasted.

Harase, the owner, is a barista
Harase, the owner, is a barista

2. Blue Bottle Coffee Kiyosumi Shirakawa Flagship Cafe

The popular coffee shop born in California, USA opened the first shop in Japan, as Kiyosumi Shirakawa Flagship Cafe. They purchase the best coffee beans in season from all over the world and provide mainly single origin without blending them to let you enjoy the flavor of each bean. You can order your favorite brewing method: hand-drip, espresso, syphon, pour-over brewer, etc.

Look for the Blue Bottle painted on the white wall
Look for the Blue Bottle painted on the white wall

3. Allpress Espresso Tokyo Roastery & Cafe 

Allpress Espresso Tokyo Roastery & Cafe is a roastery oceanian style cafe located in a quiet residential area of Kiyosumi Shirakawa. The roastery-cafe is located in a quiet residential area of Kiyosumi Shirakawa. "Allpress Espresso" is a coffee bean roasting company from New Zealand. The Tokyo Roastery & Cafe houses the headquarters office in Japan, roastery and cafe. In this unique space, you can taste coffee while watching the roaster in action.

A stylish exterior in the residential area
A stylish exterior in the residential area

4. fukadaso CAFÉ

50-year-old “Hukadaso”, the apartment/storage was facing a demolition, then, it was renovated into a multi facility “fukadaso.” The sentimental exterior with the rusty corrugated wall houses the nostalgic “fukadaso CAFE” on the 1st floor. The interior, adorned with antiques and hand-made furniture by the owner, is warm and cozy. With the seats widely distanced, you can relax without the noise from neighboring customers.

The eye-catching exterior with rusty corrugated boards
The eye-catching exterior with rusty corrugated boards

Recommended "Fukagawa-meshi" spots in Koto-ku

Fukagawa-meshi is one of Tokyo's representative local dishes and one of Japan's five most famous rice dishes. There are two types of Fukagawa-meshi: Bukkake meshi, in which fresh clams are boiled in a miso broth and served over rice, and Takikomi gohan, in which clams are cooked. In this article, I would like to introduce you to a recommended restaurant where you can enjoy both types of rice.

Fukagawajuku Tomioka Hachiman Restaurant

Fukagawajuku serves clams that are freshly caught and carefully selected, primarily from Tokyo Bay. The restaurant’s bukkake bowl is served with a special blend of Kanto miso and Shinshu miso. The harmonious fusion of flavors between the clam juice and miso makes the dish irresistible. The “Hamamatsu-fu” style of takikomi-gohan adds soy sauce to the rice, and it is known for its delicate flavors that enhance the flavors of the clams. If you would like to try both dishes, try ordering the “tatsumigonomi.”

Bukkake and takikomi both served together with the “tatsumigonomi” set (lunch)
Bukkake and takikomi both served together with the “tatsumigonomi” set (lunch)

Summary

Koto-ku is attractive because of its easy accessibility, and the fact that it combines the cutting-edge feeling of the city center with the unique regional characteristics of its history. It is fun to go directly to Koto-ku for sightseeing or to visit the place with other attractions in Tokyo. We hope that you include the above recommended sightseeing spots in your travel plans on Koto-ku.