9 May 2018 – I’ve just come back from the House of Light – or hikari no yakata – in Niigata prefecture. It’s a secluded Japanese-style house, created by the American artist James Turrell, and is situated on a leafy hillside close to Tōkamachi. I haven’t been to such a peaceful and quiet place in a long time and, even though I have been writing about tranquil spaces that you can find in the midst of Tokyo, the overnight stay at this house reconfirmed to me that you have to retreat to nature from time to time to properly rejuvenate. I felt that at this space even the kids seemed a tick calmer; it makes sense to me that being surrounded by greenery, subtle lights and minimalistic architecture has a calming effect not just on adults but children, too.
7 March 2018 – Tokyo is now the third big city that I’ve been calling my temporary home after having lived in Sydney and London. I was in my twenties when I was living in Sydney and, partly, when I was living in London. It was a time when I fully embraced the big city life, going to parties, festivals and noisy bars. After all I grew up in a fairly small town so I had to make up for that. From my late twenties onwards, I started to go out less, craving for more quiet and peaceful moments within an otherwise busy life. I started to become more and more irritated by the never-ending noise a big city produces – the overly noisy ambulance sirens, the overused honking, the unintentionally triggered car alarms on our street and the frequent swearing of random people walking past.
I received the above pictured book – Quiet London – as a Christmas present from my then employer in 2010. Straight away I found it appealing. It came just at the right time as it was about finding quiet, hidden and tranquil places within a busy city. It makes sense to me that from time to time you need to escape from the noise (even the noise within your own home) to wind down and recuperate.
Quiet London is by the artist and writer Siobhan Wall and has been published by Frances Lincoln. I recently found out that she also wrote and compiled several other books as part of a series. There is Quiet Amsterdam, Quiet Paris, Quiet New York and Quiet Barcelona. There isn’t Quiet Tokyo (yet).
I find that Tokyo, even though much larger by population than London and Sydney, is the quietest city out of those three. There is unpleasant noise everywhere, too (except for the swearing in public which, thankfully, doesn’t exist), however, everything seems to be turned down a notch. For someone with a craving for quietness like me it should take a little longer until the need for calm spaces arises. Eventually though it will be there.
I would like to use Quiet London as an inspiration to start my own, little compilation of serene and peaceful spots that I’ve discovered and like re-visiting here in Tokyo. Please do get in touch if you’d like to contribute with your own quiet find in the city.
Institute for Nature Study
Once you enter this large nature reserve in the heart of Tokyo, the only sounds you should hear is the rustling of leaves and the chirping of birds.
Part of the 8/ creative space, located on the 8th floor of the Shibuya Hikarie building, this dining hall and café offers a calm and completely noise-free view onto busy Shibuya Crossing.
Wind down by walking through the dark and quiet exhibition space, stroll through the lush and ever-changing Japanese garden or admire the peaceful view from one of the counter seats at the museum’s beautifully modern teahouse.
I think one of the quietest and most relaxing experiences I’ve had in Tokyo so far was having lunch, followed by tea, at Yakumo Saryo. It is located in a quiet neighbourhood within the Meguro ward, so a bit off the beaten track. I’d like to add the restaurant’s calm tearoom to my list of peaceful spaces.
Yumenoshima Tropical Greenhouse Dome
This place is a bit far out (about a 10 minutes walk from Shin-Kiba, the final stop on the Yurakucho line), however, it is worth the travel. We went there on a Saturday afternoon and, even though it was a weekend, it was barely visited. I assume on a weekday, you could easily end up as one of only a handful visitors. Being surrounded by lush plantation made me realise again how much I need to be exposed to green surroundings from time to time.