For a country that pride itself with a network of 270-320 km/h shinkansen(bullet train), it is kind of sentimental to think that slow-moving trams will soon be a thing of the past.
With only two remaining tram lines to date, I fear that these picturesque street cars will soon be considered as obsolete mode of transportation. So before all of the changes takes place, I took a day out to ride one of the city remaining tram and made several stop along the way to see Tokyo’s seldom visited, yet best neighborhood.
Toden Arakawa Line which operated since 1974 is the only survivor of the once dominant “Tokyo Toden” street car system. With a total distance of 12.2 Kilometer route between Minowabashi and Waseda, the street car passes by on small railway dissecting Tokyo quiet, residential neighbourhood.
As expected, to reach one platform to another you need to cross the tracks, or to even cross the street you need to wait for the traffic signal as it give way to crossing tram.
The best way to enjoy a day of unlimited ride is to purchase the 500 yen one day pass. In case you are wondering, the tram idea seems to be vintage but it accepts PASMO/Suica card (rechargeable train fare card) nonetheless.
The Toden Arakawa Line might be a tourist fascination for people like me, but it remains as an important means of transportation for residence of surrounding neighbourhood of Higashi Ikebukuro, Oji, Arakawa to name a few.
From Otsuka–eki mae, I made my way to Asakuyama for my first stop. Here is the best part to view the tram line as it mixes with cars, buses, and trucks on the main intersection.
Across the Asakuyama tram station is Asakuyama Park. A spacious park populated by families on a weekend break. What better way to enjoy summer than to play at the water fountain. A small cable car is operational for free to lift up parents plus baby on strollers, elderlies and disables from the main street up to the elevated portion of the park.
Across the park is Oji Inari Shinto shrine. Nothing spectacular about the shrine, but the small park and ponds where you can relax and dip your feet is so enticing particularly on a hot and humid afternoon.
From Asakuyama on board the Toden tram I made my way to my next stop – Arakawa Yuenchi mae station to visit another old and small, yet treasured amusement park.
Built on the ground on what used to be a brick factory and officially open as an amusement park in 1950, the Arakawa Amusement Park is one of the reasons apart from riding the tram on why you should consider this type of exploration as an activity for kids.
An entrance fee of 200 Yen only, rarely crowded and boasting the slowest rollercoaster ride in Japan, the park is a just perfect for small kids to enjoy.
Contrary to the happy, energetic place of Arakawa amusement park, I boarded the tram once again and went straight to the quiet neighbourhood around Toden-Zoshigaya station to visit Zoshigaya Cemetery.
Several of Japan’s most notable personalities in terms of arts, politics and academics are buried here, including Natsume Soseki, author of one of my favourite Japanese novel “Kokoro”.
For my last tram stop, I headed straight to the last station to visit one of the country’s most prestigious private institution of higher education- Waseda Station for Waseda University.
I must confess, my curiosity about the university alumni/author Haruki Murakami and how he modeledl the campus setting on his novel “Norwegian Wood” after Waseda University has made me put visiting the university on the places I need to see in Tokyo.
From Okuma auditorium to Okuma Shigenobu (Waseda University founder) statue in the middle, the high walls of the surrounding buildings with students inside and few roaming around, such a nostalgic feeling to walk around the campus. I kind of miss those long hours stuck in the library, studying for my Calculus exam- kind of miss my university days.
After spending a day hopping in/out the tram and visiting the residential area of Tokyo along the line, it is my prevalent hope that Tokyo Metropolitan Bureau of Transportation will continue to operate and keep the Toden Arakawa street car up and running.
Must be one of the cheapest travel I had in the city, one of the most satisfying as well- from the street car to the neighbourhood, it feels like I finally get a glimpse of the real Tokyo.
26 thoughts on “Aboard Toden Arakawa, One of Tokyo’s Remaining Street Car”
I get such a pang when I see your lovely pictures.. I miss Japan. I must return soon.
thank you! you should return!
i understand what you are feeling, a weekend I decided to stay at home is a weekend lost, too much happening and places to visit here 🙂
thank you! always kind comments 🙂
You finally got a glimpse of the real Tokyo? Of course! You travelled through the shitamachi! 🙂
I greet you with a smile –
The shitamachi’s ichiban fan
shitamchi is where i wanted to reside!
the atmosphere is so homey, as if somehow we (foreigners) belong 🙂
These photographs are incredible. Love your posts! Thanks so much for stopping by my blog, too. 🙂
thank you 🙂
Amazing photos!!! Tokyo looks like a busy place!!!!
thanks again! yeah, the whole nation is, so many places to see!
the new government tourism campaign is so appropriate- Japan. Endless Discovery 🙂
Hope you can discover more places and post along with photos. It will helpful for all the readers to visit Japan soon 🙂
thank you very much! i will try my best 🙂
You can make it 🙂
This is very interesting since I have never been to Japan, and never really studied too much about it. I hope to read many more articles you have written. Thanks for stopping by my site as well.
Gorgeous photos! I hope you don’t lose the wonderful tram cars. That would be a shame. It certainly makes me want to visit Tokyo. I had no idea it was so beautiful.
thank yo very much! i hope they will keep it too…
i really like your pictures, great feelings, would like to spent a week in japan one day
thank you very much Jinn 🙂
I so enjoyed seeing photos of ‘ordinary’ Tokyo – every time I see a documentary on TV about Tokyo its about the inner city crowded streets, the crowds, the neon signs – this made an interesting contrast.
thank you Alison!
you are right with your observation. most of what is being shown on TV is the “weird or high-tech Tokyo”, but the most rewarding travel is often found at the residential places or outskirts close to my favorite mountains 🙂