Lives in New York City, New York
Since Oct 2014
25-34 year old female
Hey, there! I'm Jessica, an eastern polyglot journeying West. With Korean, Japanese, and Chinese floating around in my mindspace, I've got my sights set on tackling French and the rest of the Romance languages next -- and their countries, food, and culture with them! I was bitten by the travel bug young and have moved every few years since I left my family home in sunny Southern California, leading me to experience life amongst the rice paddies of Hita-shi, in the quaint college town of Amherst, and from bustling Tokyo to sleepless New York, which I now proudly call "home." My favourite international cities include Kyoto, Osaka, London, and Paris, continuing to dot my travel map with trips to Marrakech, Malta, Tel Aviv, and Dhaka in the meanwhile. Learning where the best local eats are and exploring each city as a native is my game, so hang on tight, and be sure to keep your arms and legs inside the aircraft at all times. Cheers!
Jogging Paths & Tracks, Scenic Walking Areas
Water Parks, Spas, Onsen Resorts
Yoyogi Park, one of the largest and most popular parks in a city notorious for being tight-fisted with square footage, provides a relaxing change of scenery from Harajuku's diametrically opposed grungy backstreets and classy boulevards. Here, you're likely to see plenty of local clubs rehearsing for plays or having jam sessions out in the open air.
At one point or another, museum-goers will inevitably find themselves wandering into Ueno Park, as it houses four of Tokyo's best museums within its grounds. But even if you're not into museums, you can always feast your eyes on Japan's first zoological garden, Ueno Zoo. Bring a bentō lunchbox and have a picnic by Shinobazu Pond, rent a bike or wander by foot along the many paths, or take your sweetheart onto the water for a soothing row in the middle of one of the biggest metropolitan cities in the world.
When you need to get away from the hustle and bustle of the city and parks aren't cutting it, try a river bus or the more traditional-style yakatabune (a roofed boat furnished with tatami mats and low dining tables) for a cruise down Sumida River. The more popular river routes run between Asakusa and Odaiba — you'll sail from traditional to modern architecture, starting with austere Sensō-ji and the intricate statues guarding Kaminarimon, and then passing under Rainbow Bridge and alongside the space colony-esque Fuji TV building. Somewhere in between is Asahi Beer Hall and its infamous golden Asahi Flame sculpture, which you'll want to photograph even if simply for the fact that it is called 'the golden turd' by locals!
Winding around the perimeter of the Imperial Palace, protected from traffic danger, the five-kilometer Imperial Palace Running Course is a great place to get in a workout, offering fresh air and views of skyscrapers rising around you.
Rikugien is one of the most beautiful gardens to be found in Tokyo, emanating a tranquility befitting the six different elements of Japanese poetry after which it is named ('Rikugien' translates to 'six poems garden'). Each area is based off a scene described in ancient Japanese and Chinese literary texts, and it's easy to get carried off into that poignant, almost melancholy aesthetic as you wander through the weeping cherry trees and along the edge of the wooded pond. There's a small fee to enter this garden, but it's well worth the price for a peaceful retreat from the busy metropolis.
Another beautiful traditional Japanese garden, Koishikawa Kōrakuen reproduces in miniature famous landscapes described in iconic literature of ages past. You'll stroll through the flowering plum and cherry trees during the spring, or past dozens of fiery maple trees set ablaze during autumn. You won't be disappointed to part with the few yen's worth of entrance fee, even during the off season; this place is as lovely as gardens come.
Hamarikyū is not a traditional Japanese garden in the usual 'poetic sense' (with recreated models of literary fame). Rather, the ponds here consist of seawater and are directly linked to the whims of Tokyo Bay's tides. After you've admired the peonies, plum trees, and cosmos flowers, stop into Nakashima teahouse — which is located on an island in the middle of a pond — to enjoy tea and Japanese confectionaries.
If carefully manicured parks and gardens are too prim and proper for your outdoorsy nature, head a little farther out of town for a charcoal barbecue at Mizumoto Park. Built along the Koaidame flood control basin, Mizumoto Park offers up a few different multi-use fields, a dog run, and an outdoor stage. You can even go fishing in the 'wilder' sections of this park, and the multitudes of birdwatching stations are definitely worth checking out. Don't be afraid to visit year-round: In June the iris garden is in all its glory, but the metasequoias laden with winter snow are an equally lovely sight.
Toneri Park is a great location for a barbecue, camping, and birdwatching, and it's also very friendly to avid sportspeople, offering up athletic facilities like tennis courts, a baseball field, a track field, and a children's soccer ground. Bring the entire family, and splash about in the globe-shaped pond during the sticky summer heat!
One of Tokyo's largest and most popular parks, Shinjuku Gyoen blends traditional Japanese gardens with both formal French and English landscape gardens. Among the more than 20,000 trees here, about 1,500 are different species of cherry blossoms that burst into bloom during the spring, making Shinjuku Gyoen one of the best places to camp out at during the hanami (flower-viewing) seasons. And don't forget to check out the greenhouses — the tropical paradises will make you forget that you're in the middle of Tokyo!
If your pocketbook or schedule prevents you from making it all the way out to Nara or Kyōto, never fear! Kamakura, just an hour's train ride from Tokyo, offers up a Daibutsu (Great Buddha) statue of its own, and offers as much peaceful appeal as can be found more readily among the rich spiritual culture on the western coast of Honshū. At Kamakura, you have an array of options: You can visit a number historic temples and shrines, explore a variety of hiking trails, or take a leisurely stroll along the Yuiga-hama beach for a beautiful view of Japan's iconic Mount Fuji (if you're lucky).
This popular onsen (hot springs) resort is a little over an hour away from the urban center, but it's well worth the trek. The natural mineral waters bubble forth here from the volcanically active national park surrounding Lake Ashi. Treat yourself to a day trip, and spend the entire afternoon soaking your travel-weary bones before you head off to your next destination!