Did you know that Shibamata district is also one of the well-preserved areas in Tokyo? It is totally an off beaten path! Maybe you’ve never heard of it. From a traditional Shinto shrine to shops straight out of the 60’s Japan period, expect to immerse yourself in good old Japan.
Shibamata is on the easternmost part of Tokyo. To be honest, you might have to change many trains to get there if you choose to stay in the center or the West - but the trip is still worth it. It is best known for the scenes that were shot in the “It’s Tough Being A Man” film series. Although the film has been classic and highly popular amongst locals, it’s not so famous for international audiences. Chances are that you never think of visiting here - but you will not regret spending a few hours in there!
The protagonist in the aforementioned series was also born in Shibamata, so viewers will get to see a lot of footages of the place in the storyline. The film chronicles the love life of a guy called Kuruma Torajiro, who has no job. The only thing he does is to go on many dates and have many crushes, but never being able to get married. If you are not interested in the film, don't worry. Just skip Tora-san Museum in the list below and spend more time on the other places. You will thank yourself!
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What to see
Tora San Museum features everything from the “It’s Tough Being A Man” film. The exhibits are small-sized architecture models and even ruins that looks like Torajiro - some people would say that it’s a destiny that Torajiro was set to be born in Shibamata. It’s a good guide to the film if you don't know anything about it. The entry to the museum is 550 yen and the opening hours is 9am-5pm daily.
Yamada Yoji Museum showcases Yamada’s work as a director and playwright from his early career up to present. You will find his manuscripts, photos taken from the films he directed etc. Yamada is unknown to an international audience just as Torajiro’s movie, but he is well known to the Japanese just like Ozu and Kurosawa. The entry fee is 500 yen which also allows entry to the Tora San Museum next door and the opening hours is the same as the Tora San's.
The House of Yamamoto was once the main residence of Einosuke Yamamoto, a businessman remembered for his massive industry establishments. Now it’s open to the public, the whole house features the Taisho-roman style (paring Japanese architecture styles with imported western ones) incorporating the spacious and peaceful garden. The admission is 100 yen. Visitors may rent the room for 700 yen/day or the whole premise for 7800 yen/day. Bookings can be done only in Japanese. Light refreshments (sweets or savory food with beverages) are available for 500 yen. The opening hours is daily from 9am-5pm, and closes every third Thursday of the month (if the third Thursday falls on Public Holidays, it closes on the third Friday). In December, it closes on the third Tuesday or Thursday.
Yagirino Watashi is a ferry station that dispatches a manned ferry in Tokyo This is the last surviving traditional style jetty that dated back to the Edo period. Get a round-trip or one-way (Tokyo-Chiba) for as low as 200 yen on each trip. Note that ferries operate on weekends from 10am-4pm.
Built in 1629 in the Edo shogunate period, Shibamata Taishakuten Temple pays homages to Indra (name in Japanese: taishakuten). In “It’s Tough Being A Man,” it is portrayed as a way to reflect directly on Torajiro’s state of mind whenever he feels down or good. The shopping arcades leading from the Shibamata station to the temple is a must-see (locals call it Monzen Gai, “a town in front of the shrine”). This is an example of a living and breathing traditional style neighborhood. Most of the shops are closing as early as 5 pm so plan accordingly.
Eats and Souvenirs
Food and souvenirs shops are available at the shops in Monzen Gai and Museum Shops at Yamada Yoji Museum and Tora San Museum - all within walking distance. Choose staples like sweet fried buns and mugwort dumplings with red bean paste. As mentioned earlier, come early as most of the “must-see” stores will open at 7 or 8 am and close at 5 pm, every day. Tourist attractions are open between 9 am and 5 pm daily. Just visit Shibamata earlier in the day and you will be fine.
Shibamata is isolated from most tourist areas in Tokyo, but you are to experience a life of local if you step into this place. See for yourself how peaceful and slow-paced the locale is and you will be grateful to yourself for traveling down there.
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