The Ota City Tourist Information Center opened its doors in mid-December of 2015, perfectly placed to welcome passengers arriving at the up-and-coming international hub of Tokyo's Haneda Airport.
At the sparkling new facility, travelers to Tokyo can pick up magazines and brochures on both the surrounding neighborhood and sights further afield, while a library of hardcover and coffee table books caters to those with a deeper interest in cultural topics such as food, traditional gardens and religion. Multilingual staff are available to give personal recommendations or assist with arranging any travel plans.
The TIC has a small corner devoted to products from around the area. Pick up a pack of Kamata manju, floury buns filled with sweet red beans and stamped with an onsen symbol to represent Ota Ward's many hot springs. Or opt for a Haneda dorayaki, a bean paste-filled pancake that capitalizes on the flavor of local chestnuts. There is even a unique carrot manju from the Magome neighborhood.
Ota City Tourism Information Center also doubles as a hub for various cultural activities. Visitors are free to stop in anytime to try their hand at origami creations or have a go at the various traditional toys on display. For more in-depth experiences, longer fee-based courses can be booked on the easy-to-use Ota City TIC website. Topics range from participating in a traditional tea ceremony and trying on a kimono to those with more modern appeal, such as learning how to program a simple robot or trying one's hand at creating manga. I personally signed up for an ikebana course to learn the art of traditional Japanese flower arranging. My teacher began the lesson with an interesting introduction to the principles of ikebana before continuing into the hands-on portion. After witnessing her demonstration, I was given the chance to create my own arrangement, while she provided helpful suggestions and guidance throughout the process. It was a unique opportunity to try my hand at a cultural practice that many visitors never get to experience.
The Ota City TIC is located just outside the gates of Keikyu Kamata Station on the Keikyu Line. The station can be reached in eleven minutes from Haneda Airport on a Keikyu express train or in eight minutes from Shinagawa Station on an express train (slightly longer on the local line).