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Posts tagged grutt pass

Surrounded by Marilyn Monroe

andy warhol marilyn monroe tokyo museum

Inside the Tokyo Museum of Contemporary Art (東京都現代美術館) I found myself surrounded by about a dozen of Andy Warhol’s “Marilyn Monroe.” How many of these did he do anyway? I’ve also seen these at BYU and in Denmark.

The Museum of Contemporary Art, Tokyo can be entered for free with the Grutt Pass.

National Museum of Nature and Science

ueno tokyo japan national museum science nature plesiosaur futabasaurus

A really good day to do touristy things in Tokyo is a weekday when my kids aren’t in school but the Japanese schools are in session. Such was the case this past Tuesday so Ryan and I headed off to Ueno Park while Ellie had a sleepover at a friend’s house. Our destination was the National Museum of Nature and Science (国立科学博物館), another place that takes the Grutt Pass.

Other than a few school groups (who mostly stuck together), the place was empty. Avoid the school groups and you can enjoy the exhibits all to yourself. Run into a school group and, if you are a foreigner, you will turn into the exhibit.

ueno national museum nature science old building

The old building (above) houses the Japan collection. The building, itself, is almost as interesting as the collection. It is one of the few buildings in Tokyo older than WW2. A new building (below) was added in 2007, and it houses the bulk of the collection.

national museum science nature ueno park global gallery

There is little in English, but you can rent an English audio guide for 300 yen which can keep you busy for up to nine hours. We only had three hours in the place but could have easily spent all day exploring if I had not had an afternoon appointment elsewhere.

Tokyo Sea Life Park (Kasai Rinkai Suizokuen) – Part 1

Tokyo Sea Life Park (Kasai Rinkai Suizokuen)

Our most recent Grutt Pass adventure had us at the Tokyo Sea Life Park on a Saturday morning. The place was empty in the morning but looked to be getting very crowded on our way out the door in the early afternoon. Live and learn. If you want to visit a spot like this in Tokyo on a weekend, get there at 9:30 a.m., not 1:30 p.m., and your enjoyment factor will go up tremendously.

touch fish sharks rays at Tokyo Sea Life Park 葛西臨海水族園

Tokyo Sea Life Park (葛西臨海水族園) is very similar to the Monterey Bay Aquarium, which we were members of about 10 years ago. They say Japan is expensive, but Tokyo Sea Life Park is a huge bargain compared to the Monterey Bay Aquarium. The cost is only 700 yen (or free if you have a Grutt Pass). The Monterey Bay Aquarium costs four times as much.

Touching fish, sharks, and rays can be done at either location. Sometimes it is just as fun to watch the expressions on Japanese kids’ faces as they touch the sea life.

Here is a video of the large tank with Hammerhead sharks (シュモクザメ) and tuna (まぐろ). It seems the sharks were getting a bit frisky with their tank mates at this time of the morning.

Institute for Nature Study, National Museum of Nature and Science – Part 1

国立科学博物館附属自然教育園 Institute for Nature Study, National Museum of Nature and Science meguro tokyo japan

Next stop on our Grutt Pass tour of Tokyo was 国立科学博物館附属自然教育園. That’s a mouthful. It doesn’t get much better in English with “Institute for Nature Study, National Museum of Nature and Science.”

This place is walking distance from Meguro Station. If you are looking for an uncrowded piece of nature in Tokyo then this is it. We were even there on a Sunday afternoon (by far the worst time to visit such places), and it was still very peaceful. No more than 300 people are allowed into the 200,000 square meter area at a time which means you’ll have plenty of elbow room.

国立科学博物館附属自然教育園 Institute Study National Museum of Nature and Science meguro tokyo japan

Linda and Ryan enjoyed one of the ponds on the grounds while an old Japanese couple ate a bento nearby.

japanese tree meguro tokyo japan

The trees in this place are really beautiful. There are countless kinds. They were all still very green for us in early November, but the place must be even more gorgeous in late November when the colors change.

Mitsui Memorial Museum – Part 1

Our 8th usage of the Grutt Pass was going to be at the Bridgestone Museum of Art near Nihonbashi. For the second time we encountered a museum that was closed due to a rotation in exhibits. Ugh.

We flipped through our pass booklet to find the closest museum, and it turned out to be the Mitsui Memorial Museum. We had no idea what to expect as we hadn’t researched this fall-back museum at all. We got really lucky.

Nothing was available in English so we didn’t know what we would be seeing. In the second room of the exhibit I realized that we had stumbled upon some of the most famous works to ever be created in Japan. Thank you Bridgestone Museum for being closed! Otherwise we would have never seen these originals.

Photography was not allowed so the pics below were not taken by me.

hokusai under a wave

First up was Hokusai’s “Great Wave off Kanagawa” (Katsushika Hokusai 葛飾北斎 神奈川沖浪裏). The original is not as pretty as the prints you normally see which have been altered, but the feeling while seeing the real thing is far better than the cleaned-up prints. The above is a photo of the original. Click on the above to see the version you are probably more familiar with.

hokusai branches willow tree

The above was drawn from basically the same spot that I took this next picture on Enoshima.

enoshima sunset compared to hokusai woodblock ukiyoe

Another ukiyoe that brought back a recent memory was this next one by Hiroshige (歌川広重) from his series “The Fifty-Three Stations of the Tōkaidō.”


We were near that spot a few weeks back in Hakone at the Old Tokaido Hakone Checkpoint. Here is a photo I took then from the same general location. Unfortunately, the clouds obscured Mt. Fuji for my picture, unlike Hiroshige’s.

hakone checkpoint tokaido ashinoko lake ashi

By the way, the museum entrance fee would have been 1,200 yen. We got in free with the Grutt Pass.

Ueno Zoo and the Grutt Pass – Part 1

viewing the hippos at ueno zoo ヒポポタマス kaba カバ

We recently purchased a couple of Grutt Passes (ぐるっとパス or gurutto pasu in Japanese). Included with the pass is free admission to the Ueno Zoo. The Ueno Zoo is wonderfully peaceful on a Sunday morning. On a Sunday afternoon it turns into what you see below.

ueno zoo crowds sunday afternoon

The zoo opens at 9:30. We didn’t arrive until a bit after 11. Had we been there at 9:30 I think we could have seen everything before the crowds arrived. As it was, we spent more time watching Japanese people, after noon, than we did the animals. The Japanese people were on the same page; I think the Japanese people spent as much time looking at us as they did the animals.

See if you can spot my daughter in the above photo. She sticks out a bit more among Japanese people than Waldo does on the pages of “Where’s Waldo?” books.

 ぐるっとパス gurutto pasu grutt 2009 pass tokyo museums

The Grutt Pass is really a super deal if you live in Tokyo or if you plan on visiting for more than a few days and plan to visit more than about four museums, art galleries, or zoos. The Tokyo Sea Life Park is included too. Most museums, zoos, etc. in Tokyo cost between 500 and 1,300 yen each. The Grutt Pass makes most of them free. For some of the more expensive ones, like the Mori Art Museum in the Mori Tower, you get 300 yen off admission. Here is a full list of places.

Supposedly you can purchase the passes at convenience stores. The Sunkus near our apartment knew nothing about them. Nor did their machine, which I’ve purchased concert tickets from, list the Grutt Pass. You are probably best off just going to one of the places listed on the above link and purchasing the pass there when you use it for the first time.

The pass is good for 2 months. I’m guessing they will come out with a 2010 version in February.

Grutt means absolutely nothing. ぐるっと (which grutt is sort of an English abbreviation for) means something like going all around a circle. They should have called it something like the “Tokyo Circle Pass” in English.

free prize for visiting ten places in tokyo with  ぐるっとパス2009  grutt pass

Once you have gone to at least 10 places in at least 7 different areas you are eligible for a prize. I’ll let you know what that is if we win one.

As you can see from the above stamping of our 10 places, we have used our pass 7 times so far. Had we paid admission for those 7 places the total cost would have been 3,700 yen. The pass was only 2,000 yen and we have 59 more places to potentially visit for free or a reduced cost in the next month.

The pass comes with a handy map that shows all 66 locations. With the map in hand and an early start you can sometimes visit three places in a single day.