Tokyo is a winding labyrinth of bright lights and busy streets. For newbies, the whole experience can be overwhelming – especially in those areas flooded with tourists – so it’s always a fun challenge to think of alternative ways to see a city without stepping foot into a tourist trap. Whilst some might experience the city’s hidden bits via an eye-opening culinary tour, or an exploration of Tokyo’s arty side, tracking down the city’s statues is an incredibly entertaining way to sightsee away from the masses, taking in some of Tokyo’s most iconic and historically significant offerings along the way.
Located outside Shibuya Station, this bronzed pooch sits proudly upon a plinth and is hailed to this day as Japan’s ‘most loyal dog’. A sad tale – the statue is a memorial for the dog who waited nine years for his owner to return home. Every day, Hachikō would make the journey to the station to meet his owner, a university professor, at the exact point that he was due to arrive. Sadly one day, he never returned to the station, but Hachikō continued this tradition long after his owner’s passing. His story became well-known across Japan and he has since become a national icon, symbolising Japanese commitment and loyalty. Each year, a ceremony is held outside the station where hundreds of dog lovers and their pets gather to honour his loyalty.
Image source: Flickr
These days, Ebisu is the recognisable face of Yebisu Beer, which was once brewed in the area. However, Ebisu actually has a much more cultural and significant history here in Tokyo. Not only is Ebisu the Japanese God of fisherman and the sole member of the Seven Gods of Fortune to have originated in Japan, but he is known as the Laughing God. He can be found outside of Ebisu Station and is a popular passing point for those heading to the nearby Yesbisu Garden Place where the museum dedicated to Yebisu Beer is located.
Image Source: Flickr
Perhaps the most recognisable of Tokyo’s statues is the giant, bronze spider sculpture by Louise Bourgeois. The Roppongi area is popular for its nightlife, designer boutiques, trendy bars and is home to some of best restaurants in Tokyo, and if you’ve been there’s no doubt you would have encountered this gigantic monster, which is actually an ode to the artist’s mother! Unlike in western culture, in Tokyo, spiders are seen as lucky, so it is fitting that to Louise’s positive inspiration was from the spider’s natural tendency to be intelligent and helpful. Although her artwork has been dubbed as controversial in the past, her intricately designed spider sculptures have found homes all over the world.
Image Source: Flickr
Akin to the fame that Star Wars found in the west, the Mobile Suit Gundam found fame on Japanese television back in the late 70s and are a big deal all over Japan. Located on a manmade island in Tokyo bay, one lone gundam stands boldly, keeping watch over Tokyo. However it recently emerged that the statue will no longer be Tokyo’s keeper, as in the fall it is being dismantled. Fear not, however, as much to the relief of fans it will be replaced by a 24-metre tall Unicorn Gundam. The iconic statue was given a spectacular send off, as hundreds of fans crammed into the area to see its ‘last shooting’. This is one for the wish list!
Ian Garstang Is A Travel Writer And Marketing Specialist Working In The Luxury Travel Market. Ian Is The Editor At Luxury-Travels.Net And Has Worked With Such Brands As GHM Hotels, Four Seasons And Aman. Ian Was Name Hotel Club’s ‘Bali Expert’ And Nominated In The Top 20 Luxury Travel Bloggers On USA Today. Ian Has Written For Various Websites Including A Luxury Travel Blog, Luxury Asia News And Travelo Café. Follow His Luxe Asia Travel News On Twitter.