I have two recommendations for walking to the International House of Japan (IHJ):
- A 10 minute scenic tour.
- A 10 minute mole tour (if you want to minimize your time outdoors).
The scenic option offers a complete crash course in walkable urbanism, hidden in the most mundane details.
As I have written elsewhere, most of our knowledge about how to build a walkable city has yet to be codified in written form. Here are the key ingredients we’ve discovered so far:
- Shade & Sense of Enclosure.
- Safety (安心感). Primarily sensory experience / perception of safety. The biggest factor is width of roadway (narrower roads -> slower cars). For the elderly and super-aged, spacing of benches and public restrooms is also important.
- Substance (面白さ). This is what keeps people from being bored while walking. One example is narrow storefronts / short distance between entrances (i.e. fine-grained urbanism). Another example is the presence of other people. It does not include superficial attempts such as large landmark buildings (“starchitecture”).
10 minute scenic tour (3 minutes underground, 7 minutes above ground)
Take exit 4 (on the Tokyo Metro Namboku Line, N04) and stroll down Azabu-Juban’s beautiful cobblestone “high street”.
Note the presence of a dollar store amidst the understated elegance of this high-end shopping street in Tokyo’s richest neighborhood. Safety requires “eyes on the street”, and it requires them at all hours of the day. This means welcoming as broad and diverse a spectrum of the population as possible.
10 minute mole tour (3-7 minutes underground, 3 minutes above ground)
If it’s raining, and you don’t mind a flight of stairs, the driest route is from exit 7 of Azabu-Juban Station (Toei Oedo Line, E22).
(3D Map Copyright 2012, Bureau of Transportation, Tokyo Metropolitan Government)
IHJ is located directly adjacent to Zepp Blue Theater, which has provided a handy video guide (click here for video directions).