Two guys in front me are wearing Hawaiian shirts, ahead of them are old couples in a complete outdoor hiking attire, all of us are waiting for the boat to take us across Edogawa River, if not for the Tokyo Sky Tree in the background or the Narita Express train zooming across the bridge, we could have easily mistaken for a group of tourist exploring an island somewhere.
The boatman arrived. I handed him the 100 yen coin fee and I opted to sit on the middle portion. We are total of 12 strangers but a warm “Konichawa” greeting was easily exchanged. Once the boatman has started the engine, everyone sat steadily for a while, after a few minutes, stories and laughters were easily shared. It was one of those moments how I wish badly that I could or at least understand or speak Nihonggo.
It was a beautiful day despite the earlier weather forecast of rain. The reflection of the surrounding greenery makes the appearance of Edo River obviously green. I’m always fascinated with rivers in the city, I believe they are the one who holds the greatest secrets of the land.
To reach the other side will only take less than 10 minutes, the boat service is called Yagiri no Watashi and has been in operation since 17th century. What makes their service remarkable is the purposely intention to keep things traditional. There is no machine to purchase your ticket, the boats are made of wood and a small engine, the boat man wears just his usual clothes and not some company jacket or so, even the boarding/waiting area is nothing but made of bamboo woods that sometimes will make you question its sturdiness.
I must say this has to be one of my most well-spent 100 yen coin, of course apart from the Daiso 100 shop.
To experience the century-old Edo River boat ride, first, you have to spend a few hours exploring the underrated Shitamachi town of Shibamata.
After combination of local train rides, I finally arrived at Shibamata Station. Outside the station is a bronze statue of a man in suit holding a briefcase, his name is Tora-san. He may not possess the good looks of a big screen leading man that can rival Richard Gere, but his portrayal of a hopelessly romantic in the 1969-1995 movie series “Otoko wa Tsurai yo” ( ‘It’s Tough Being a Man’) shot in Shibamata, makes the whole nation swoon and root for him. If you want to know more about Tora-san and his movies, head to Tora-san museum for a recreation of movie sets and a photo opportunity with a slimmer look alike.
After taking souvenir photos with Tora-san, you could just follow the crowd and make your way to Taishakuten Sando. Before I continue to stroll along the Showa ambiance street, resisting the urge to try every Japanese snack on display, the quirky designed building with robotic-clad Coke vendo machine is too cute not to notice.
Walking along Taishakuten Sando makes me feel so guilty for the hours spend at the very crowded, often expensive Asakusa’s Nakamise Dori. With every shops filled with mouth watering snacks and friendly shop owners and staff, from jars of biscuits to my favorite green, rice-flour dumplings (dango) on stick with red bean paste on top, I urge you to visit Shibamata with an empty stomach. To make my afternoon dango snacking complete, the free cold Oolong tea makes one perfect combination.
With more time to spare, I walked towards Mizumoto Park along the Edogawa River. Open, green field perfect for cycling, baseball and any outdoor activities. It seems like there was an on-going Family Sports Day, all I can hear was the screaming of the word “Ganbatte!”. Also, on this area is where you can take the ferry ride.
Apart from the food, the leading man and the river, if there is one thing that Shibamata rewards its visitor is the realization that sometimes taking things easy and simple is the most fulfilling way to go.
Definitely, another satisfying day on a rarely tourist visited suburb of Tokyo.