Imperial Shrine of Yasukuni

Five days in Tokyo | War, art, tech and anime

This day in Tokyo brings us to Yasukuni shrine, Yūshūkan war museum, the National Museum of Modern Art Tokyo, Mitsui Memorial Museum and Akihabara neighbourhood. As many of the sites for this day are indoors, this itinerary is ideal for rainy or particular hot days. The second world war and its aftermath in Japan is main theme of the day. From the controversial Yasukuni shrine and its adjecent war museum to Akihabara which started out as an illegal market in post-war Japan.

Imperial Shrine of Yasukuni

We start the day at the most controversial shrine of Japan, the Imperial Shrine of Yasukuni. This shrine commemorates those who died in the service of the Empire of Japan during wars from 1867–1951. Among the enshrined are various convicted war criminals. It gives an interesting insight into the way Japan copes with its history as an aggressor during the 20th century.


Kamikaze plane

The war museum Yūshūkan is located next to the Imperial Shrine of Yasukuni. This museum adds to the controversy of the place because it is seen by many to give an apologetic and revisionist vision of the events leading up to the second world war and the war itself. It’s good to get your own preconceptions challenged and travelling is an ideal way to do this. As an historian with a particular interest in the time period it provided me with views I had not encountered before.



From the war museum, it’s a short and pleasant walk through the Kitanomaru park to our next stop. In the park are several museums and the impressive Budokan, home of the Japanese martial arts. When there are no concerts or events you can freely watch some trainings or tournaments there. At the end of the park lies the National Museum of Modern Art, Tokyo (MOMAT). This is a great museum for discovering Japanese modern art. Especially interesting are the artistic responses to the second world war from several Japanese artists.

Imperial Palace

From the museum, you can partly overlook the Imperial Gardens and the Imperial Palace. The Palace is off limits but the East Gardens can be visited, there are limited places available, you can book ahead online or call the imperial household to see if they have places available that day.



Akihabara is the main area to go to for shopping electronics and experience ‘otaku’ culture. Whether it’s maid cafes, anime shops or video game parlours. Lights are flashing, billboards are shining bright and trucks with huge displays are driving around promoting shows or new music albums. If you’re hypersensitive to noise or light, then this isn’t a place for you.

If you are looking for any manga, anime, sci-fi or fantasy related materials, head over to Radio Kaikan for seven floors of separate shops. Here you can buy figurines, cards, dvd’s, posters and everything else.

For one of the biggest electronics shop in the world go to Yodobashi Akiba. Here you’ll find the widest selection of electronica available spread out over nine floors. Head over to the massage chair section to get a free full body massage and be reenergized for some more shopping.

If you’re looking for cheap souvenirs or something random go to Don Quijote. Here you can buy almost everything from food to X-rated costumes.

Mitsui Memorial Museum


When you’re done shopping head over to the Mitsui Memorial Museum. This private museum of the Mitsui group houses great Japanese and Asian art. One of the highlights of the museum is a detailed reconstruction of the interior of the Joan tea ceremony room. The museum has continuously changing exhibitions on national treasures from different shrines, temples and other Japanese cultural heritage sites, highlighting different Japanese cultural and historical periods.

Next to the museum is Tokyo’s oldest and most prestigious department store, Mitsukoshi. Go there for some high fashion shopping and the excellent food delicacies available in the basement.

Heading down the road towards the water you reach Nihombashi, this is the centre of Tokyo and the place from where all distances in Japan are calculated. Sadly the iconic red-lacquered bridge was already replaced by a stone one at the beginning of the 20th Century. Nowadays this bridge is overlapped by several sections of highways making it far less photogenic than in the past.

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5 days in Tokyo

What to do in Dublin? | A two-day itinerary

Dublin is by far the largest city on the island of Ireland and the main place where all the tourist go. Although many come for the drinks, there is a lot to do besides that. First of all, the people in Dublin are incredibly kind. But, please also note that Dublin is not the prettiest of cities, a lot of the buildings are run down and the grey concrete and stone buildings don’t help to enhance the atmosphere on a cloudy day. And yes, we were blessed with a lot of those clouds and rain. But the advantage of a seaside city is that winds continuously blows so the weather will be clear before not too long.


Day 1 Irish History

As most history, the Irish history is a troubled one. But more than usual, it’s also a history which is still relevant to understand today’s politics, attitude and culture.

National Museum

To get a broad overview of Irish history, the National Museum is the best place to start. It tells the Irish history from the prehistory to the present. Especially interesting are the Viking collection and the Iron age gold crafted treasures. They also provide information on the whole centuries long struggle for independence. This puts our later visits of the General Post Office and Kilmainham Gaol into perspective.

Trinity College

Trinity library
Trinity College Library

But before we go there, we pass Trinity College, Ireland’s most famous university. Founded by the English in 1592 as a protestant alternative for the mainly catholic universities of mainland Europe. Most of the present-day buildings date back to the 18th and 19th century, providing a nice background for a leisurely walk through the grounds. The main attraction is the university library and its most precious possession, the Book of Kells. This early 9th century book contains the gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. It survived despite the Viking raids and is a prime example of early medieval Western calligraphy. For a good healthy lunch, we head over to the science gallery café.

General Post office

After this brief introduction into Ireland’s older history, it’s time to explore the more recent past. We start with the Easter rising of 1916. For this we go to the General Post Office on O’Connell street. It was here that the rising began with the Declaration of Independence by Patrick Pearse. The building served as a headquarter for the rebels until their surrender 5 days later. During that time, much of the surrounding area was shelled by the British, leaving much of the inner city of Dublin in ruins. The basement houses the ‘GPO Witness History’ an interactive exhibition about the rising which takes you through all the events.

Kilmainham Gaol

Kilmainham gaol
Kilmainham gaol

For more on the aftermath and the continued struggle for independence we go to the Kilmainham Gaol. It was here that fifteen of the rebel leaders were executed by firing squad. The jail was closed when Ireland gained independence in the 1920s but is now reopened as a museum. The exhibitions paint a grim picture about 19th century prison life. It also tells the individual stories of a couple of prisoners so you get an idea of the wide variety of people who were held here. The east wing is a good example of the ‘Panopticon’ prison design put forward by the English philosopher Jeremy Bentham. The idea is that the architecture allows for a lot of light which is beneficial for the prisoners, but at the same time minimizes the number of guards needed to observe the prisoners.

Be sure to reserve tickets in advance because the entry to the prison itself is limited. Tickets for all the time slots of the day are usually sold out early in the morning.