Heartlands: Dipping into the retro riverside of Tamagawa

When summer temperatures peak in Tokyo it will probably be difficult to seek out somewhere to chill off. Thankfully, the Tamagawa river, with its breezy riverside walks, sandy banks and pockets of parkland, provides a little bit of respite from the scorching city center. But it surely’s not all about lazing along the riverside (although that does sound appealing). There’s also loads of interesting history to find, Mt. Fuji viewpoints and an easy-going food scene to tuck into.

The very best location to start out an exploration of the world is at Tamagawa Station. The small, busy stop opened in 1923 and is connected by not one but three lines: the Meguro, Tamagawa and the Toyoko lines. The station serves the area people, visitors to the riverside and, once upon a time, the Tamagawaen Amusement Park

First opening its doors in 1925 as Onsen Amusement Park Tamagawaen, the park closed its doors in 1979 because of falling visitor numbers. But it surely was a giant attraction in its Showa-era (1926-89) heyday with classic amusements like a haunted house and a merry-go-round. Denenchofu Seseragi Park, a family-friendly green space, now takes up much of the previous grounds of the park. A noticeable echo of the resort atmosphere still hangs within the air.

Like much of modern-day Tokyo, the streets surrounding Tamagawa station were once a mere handful of rural villages which underwent significant development initially of the twentieth century. The development of nearby Den-en-chofu — a planned garden city which aimed to create a lovely European-inspired suburb for wealthy Tokyoites — left a long-lasting legacy. Lots of the tree-lined residential streets are still edged by large homes. 

However the history of the world goes back much further. A series of kofun (burial mounds) in Tamagawadai Park shapes the land along banks of the Tama, making up a portion of some 54 in the broader Ebaradai Tumulus Cluster. These kofun are particularly essential as many others have been lost through the years to urban development. The burial mounds provide a tantalizing glimpse into the lives of the individuals who used to call Tokyo home from the 4th century onwards.

But first, it’s time to see what modern life is like on this portion of the town. 

Leaving the station from the exit on the left, you’ll discover Caffe di Ruscello. This calm, airy space is a component of Seseragi-kan, the brand new community center that overlooks Denenchofu Seseragi Park, where retro rides have now been replaced by undulating paths, water features and huge lawns. The cafe sells a choice of fresh bakery goods and more well-rounded meals (lunch sets start around ¥850). Grab a high-quality coffee (¥450) to go, or sit with everyone else and absorb the serene surroundings for a moment or two.

From the park, the road that runs parallel to the railway line plays host to a line of faded shopfronts — a street generally known as Tamagawaen-mae Shoeikai — pointing to the world’s popularity of yesteryear. Before Tamagawaen closed this street thronged with tourists, quite a few souvenir shops and restaurants. Today, a scattering of eateries and stylish coffee shops intersect with the old, dilapidated buildings; on the far end, Nora Bakery is one other solid option for grabbing a coffee and a baked good to go. 

Near here, the doorway to Tamagawa Sengen-jinja Shrine slopes its way skywards. The approach is lined with black hunks of volcanic rock, making a fuji-zuka intended to mimic climbing to the highest of Mount Fuji.

Said to have been founded 800 years ago, and dedicated to the worship of Mount Fuji, the shrine’s predominant constructing is definitely set atop a keyhole-shaped, Sixth-century kofun — a part of the cluster that makes up Tamagawadai Park. On the summit of this false Fuji, shrine-goers can actually catch a glimpse of the true deal; a dedicated fujimi (Fuji-viewing) platform makes for an excellent spot to return to at sunset to look at the orange glow silhouette Japan’s famous volcano.

More religious structures might be found only a five-minute walk from the station — this time in the shape of Den-en-chofu Catholic Church, established in 1932. After foreign priests were arrested  following Japan’s entry into World War II, the church was forcibly repurposed in 1944 as a makeshift prison for workers of the Italian Embassy, and was later rebuilt in 1955. Even when you don’t get to see contained in the current structure, the sound of its bells chiming out lends the encompassing streets a strangely European soundtrack.

From the church, the hilltop Tamagawadai Park is just just a few moments on foot. The long slither of land is woven with pathways and sectioned off into distinct areas. Planted with greater than 3,000 ajisai (hydrangeas) in various varieties, the Hydrangea Garden overflows in June when the blue and purple-hued flowers are in full bloom. Alongside it’s the Aquatic Botanical Garden where water lilies float in delicate pinks and whites and kids catch pond life with their parents. 

Adjoining this watery space is the Kamenokoyama Kofun. This keyhole-shaped tumulus is the most important of its kind in the world and is believed to have been made in the course of the Kofun Period (around 300-538) in either late 4th century or early fifth century. Surprisingly, no archaeological excavations have been carried out to this point.

The burial sites — which received protection as a National Historic Site in 1928 — run throughout the length of the park, totalling eight in all. The furthest two lie across the Nijibashi bridge on the north end of the park. On the park’s predominant entrance the Tamagawadai Park Kofun Exhibition Hall (free to enter; 9 am to 4:30 pm, closed Mondays) provides a helpful insight into the burial sites. There’s no English signage however the excites are fairly self-explanatory.

In any case that wandering, the park’s Sunset Remark Deck is a sought-after spot to take in the views. The river meanders in an S-shape below where, in the peak of summer, families splash within the shallows. When the sun is out, locals gather along this a part of the park for picnics or catch a sunset view of the ever-elusive Mt. Fuji on clear days. Here’s an excellent spot to stop for a bite to eat when you picked any baked treats up from a restaurant or got something for lunch on the konbini at Tamagawa station.

Then it’s all the way down to the river itself. During cherry blossom season the river banks pulsate with passersby while tipsy hanami-goers sprawl out on long grass in spring. Throughout the remaining of the yr the stretch of the river is populated by walkers, solo coffee-drinkers sipping within the view, children’s sports teams (there are countless baseball fields) and fishing enthusiasts. For individuals who are feeling the summer heat, one of the best thing to do at this point is to move all the way down to the river’s edge, slip off your shoes and dip your feet within the cooling waters of the Tama. Shinkansen and commuter trains cruise over the bridges straddling the banks, fish jump high out of the glistening water.

As evening draws near, tear yourself from the glow of the Fuji sunset to one in every of the world’s eateries. Near the shrine’s entrance, diners tuck into al fresco fish and chips at Cafe & Bar Delight, while the polished Denenchofu Club serves up a choice of teppanyaki and Italian fare. Or you possibly can just sit for some time longer by the water.

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