When you visit Omote-Sando, you will be flanked by skyscrapers and high-end fashion shops. True, the tree-lined promenade is pleasant, but you do feel as though the further you get from Yoyogi Park and Meiji Shrine at the end of Omote-Sando, the deeper into the urban jungle you're traversing.
That is, of course, until you make your past the Prada, Issei Miyake, and other fashion boutiques. At the end of the road is museum obscured from view by walls of stone and bamboo. If you walk around to the entrance, you can see a neutral black building. You really have no context for how big the building is, what's in it, or what the museum has to offer save for one or two posters next to the entry. Don't let the humble exterior fool you, because the hidden gem of Omote Sando is its secret garden at the...
Left behind by the influential Nezu family, this museum embraces Japan's past in a way more than just displaying artwork or artifacts--it preserves the natural beauty and cultural history of Tokyo in a very tangible way.
You start off your Nezu Museum experience in the exhibition hall which has permanent features including artifacts from Japan and special exhibits that could include items from Japan or those brought over from other areas of Asia.
After checking out the exhibition, make your way to what I consider the best part of Nezu Museum...
The garden is sprawling. Just when you think you've walked it all, there is another corner left to explore. It is even home to Torii arches, stone lanterns, several small, traditionally styled tea houses, and a creek. It really is hard to believe that such a large, traditional garden exists in an area flanked by Omote Sando, Shibuya, Roppongi, and Hiroo--all areas known as symbols of modern, cosmopolitan Tokyo.
After you finish your stroll through the impressive garden, you would be remiss if you did not stop in for at least a coffee at the museum's cafe. The cafe offers set menus for lunch, as well as ala carte pastry and coffee options. More than that, it offers beautiful modern architecture with panoramic views of the impressive garden. In sum, this was one of the most aesthetically pleasing cafes I have been to in all of Tokyo. Prices range from 750 yen for coffee and cake to 2000 yen for the most expensive set menu options.
Nezu Museum is located at 6-5-1 Minami-Aoyama, Minato-ku, Tokyo 107-0062. It is open from 10:00 AM to 5:00 PM (last entry at 4:30 PM) every day except Mondays and national holidays. Price of admission is 1300 yen for adults and 800 yen for students.
So there you have it...
...Tokyo's Secret Garden and one of the most impressive museums in Japan's capital city. If you find yourself in the Omote Sando/Harajuku area (which I imagine most travelers to Tokyo will), I say zehi, set aside some time to visit the amazing and serene Nezu Museum!