Off the Beaten Dori: An Afternoon at Edogawa River & Shibamata

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.

Apart from the food, you can find several shops selling the usual omiyage, except one particular shop which sells everything decorated with frogs. Not really sure what’s the fascination with frogs.

At the end of the shopping street is Taishakuten Temple, a Buddhist temple founded in 1629. The temple ground is quite spacious and another good venue of admiring wooden carved doors and gates.

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.

15 thoughts on “Off the Beaten Dori: An Afternoon at Edogawa River & Shibamata

  1. Oh! You were near Mizumoto Park! Remember the Shibarare Jizō? ^^ You were fairly close to him, and also fairly close (in the opposite direction) to that lovely iris park! If I say “fairly”, I mean within walking distance, provided you don’t mind marching a bit. You wouldn’t have needed a camel, though. 😀

    Shibamata is great, isn’t it? I’ve never taken the ferry, but your photos have persuaded me that’s exactly what I need to do. Soon. This summer.

    1. really? i guess i missed out a lot on that area.
      Shibamata is really great. i hope it will stay the same forever 🙂
      not too much tourist and with plenty of dango and free oolong tea ! 🙂

  2. hello… i love how your pictures narrate the feel of the place, how little nooks and corners speak for the locality and how people sail through their days… thank you and please do share more. warm regards! 🙂

  3. Definitely one of Tokyo’s hidden gems! Thanks so much for the info about the boat. I didn’t know you could take a boat there. I discovered Shibamata in May (if you are interested, here is my blog post about it ) and I had a similar feeling – why does everyone go to touristy Asakusa when you could come here?! Thanks for shedding light on a place off the usual tourist trail. Really enjoyed this post! 🙂

  4. Oh, I’m so glad you write about this Shitamachi..
    Shibamata is already listed in my itinerary.. But I don’t know about the boat..
    Thanks for your nice sharing, again.. 😉

    1. how was your time in Shibamata? quite different from the usual streets of Tokyo, isn’t it?
      i highly recomment the boat ride along Edogawa River 🙂

      1. Shibamata? Not yet visited..
        But it’s already on my itinerary. I plan to visit Japan next year, in spring time..
        Thanks for your recommendation.. 🙂

  5. LOVE all your travel tips/tricks and details–a great balance of photos and information! I did China for two weeks this past summer–definitely makes me want to add Japan to my list for the near future.

    1. thank you very much! you are quite a photographer yourself..
      China wow! must be interesting country to explore, hopefully i will have a chance to visit too.
      Japan, I will highly recommend 🙂

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