Thursday 31 October 2013

Showa period Japan - Shibamata

I have recently been feeling better after my accident of three weeks ago and figured it was probably about time that I went exploring again so I got in touch with my occasional fellow explorer, Dan, and organised to meet him for another day of wandering.

I had heard a lot about an area in the northern reaches of Tokyo called Shibamata.  I had been told that there was a shopping street that maintained an Showa period feel to it (the Showa period ran from 1926 - 1989).  With my love of old Japanese architecture, I figured it would be a great place to go and have a look at.

Shibamata is the kind of place that everyone in Japan knows of and says that it is very famous, but very few people have actually visited.  Unfortunately due to an alarm that didn't go off (sorry Dan....) we didn't get to spend as much time there as I would have liked, but I am fully intending to go back there and look around some more.

Meeting up with Dan in Shimokitazawa we made our way out to Shibamata, which is only about an hour train ride from where I live.  Stepping outside of the station you are greeted with a relatively normal view of the semi-rural outskirts of Tokyo.

Ramen shop, sweets shop and people just going about their daily business.  If you just randomly stepped off the train at Shibamata for a wander around a new area, you would have no idea of what you would be about to stumble upon.

In the middle of the square outside the station is a statue of "Tora-san".

Tora-san was the main character on an series of movies called "Otoko wa Tsurai yo" (It's not easy being a man).  There were 48 instalments in total of the film which spanned 1969 - 1995.  It is the longest running movie series (in terms of the number of instalments) in the history of films!  Here Tora-san is publicising an upcoming mayoral election.

The usual archway signals the start of the shopping street.

Walking under the archway and entering the area beyond, it feels like you have been transported back a couple of hundred years.  It is like something from the Twilight Zone.

The buildings are amazing and the street is lined with shops selling all kinds of things from ages current and past.  This one is selling Osembei (rice crackers), and I can confirm that they taste great!!

 Some kind of cake, looks like they have sweet red beans in them.

More Osembei

Pickles, I wish I had gone in as I love pickled cucumber, but I thought I will drop in on the way back, but it was closed by then!

Old style Coca Cola bottle.

Pickled daikon (Japanese radish) covered in Miso (I think).

Not sure what this one was selling, I was mostly just taking photos because of how the buildings looked rather than what was in them!

I have been told that this guys is the mascot of a famous bread brand in Japan.

Mobile phone accessories.

At the far end of the street is Taishakuten temple.  I have since found out that there is actually far more to the temple than what I saw, so a trip back is definitely being planned.

Taishakuten temple was founded in 1629, but the current structures are closer to 120 years old as they had been rebuilt due to damage.  It is a vastly unappreciated temple to most people (especially tourists) due to the distance needed to travel there compared to the more famous Meiji Jingu shrine and Sensoji temple.  It was, however, in 2009 added to the "100 Landscapes of Japan list".  The intricate wood carving are impressive, but the feature that really amazed me was a pine tree, no ordinary pine tree though........

I was only able to fit in one side of the tree in the picture though, the branch on the left is almost as long!!  Fourteen metres one side and twelve metres on the other!  Apparently it's Japanese name “Zui-ryu-no-matsu” means "Lucky Dragon"  As you can see, the branches need to be supported with wood posts or they would fall off.

A wander around the temple grounds revealed some other interesting sights.
The traditional water cleanser,


The base of the Lucky Dragon tree,

the main gate,

and some more statues.

These guys were mechanical dancing dragons that danced around and retrieved your fortune for one hundred yen.  I got an extremely good fortune, so hopefully that means my bad luck is finished!

 We then made our way out of the temple and back to the main shopping street.  It was starting to get a little dark and the street lights were being turned on.

We stopped at a sweets shop where I got some Mitarashi dango.  These are rice flour balls covered in a syrup of soy sauce, sugar and starch.  Yum!

The shops were starting to close up by now.

I took one final look back down the street and it looked spectacular!

We stopped in at a couple of interesting stores on the way back to the station.  One we saw was an old style sweets shop.

Along with old sweets, they also had old style curry.....

and a super old style Super Mario game!!  (Matty, I know you will like this!!)

We left the sweets shop and continued on toward the station.  Here we stumbled about I just show you......

The lady working at the shop was fantastic!!  

She had unlimited energy and encouraged me to touch the "lucky poo"  She had all sorts of lucky poo souvenirs to buy, key chains, mobile phone accessories and so on.  The best thing, however was her ability to say lucky poo in about 10 different languages!  She had Dan and I in stitches!  If you head to Shibamata, you can't miss the shop.  It is on your right just before you go under the archway signalling the start of the shopping street 

Armed with my lucky poo key ring, we arrived back at the station and made our way back home.

Shibamata was everything I expected it to be, however I have since found out that there is so much more to Shibamata (not only the regarding the temple) so I will be heading back to pay another visit.

For those who saw my previous post, I mentioned that I had been involved in an bicycle accident.  Well I am happy to say that I am well on the road to recovery, so the posts should continue to come regularly again.

Thanks again for reading, I hope you enjoyed the look around Shibamata.  See you again soon.


  1. Hi Jason,nice to see you are back in discovery mode and have discovered a traditional streetscape lined with so many of those wonderful little shops that I too always found fascinating.The poo girl looks full of life and I remember seeing these poo things over there somewhere.To get away from the city and find these interesting places,where you can just amble along the streets at your own pace and meet people in the shop or along the street gave me a lot of pleasure too.I remember going into a country town in Mie ken and stopping for some tofu that I watched being grilled over charcoal and then drizzled with some sweet black kind of sticky sauce.The middle aged lady who did the grilling brought it to my table with some tea and there I sat in this traditional non-descript restaurant with a few others,with the sun streaming in through a small window.Yes. it is great to discover new places and when you are away from the city,they seem all that much better.

    1. Hi Noel,
      yes, I am happy to be back too. Shibamata was amazing, and I have another even older style place planned too!
      The non-descript restaurants are often the best! I love finding those places.
      The next few places (all things going well) that I visit will be a little more remote (if everything goes to plan).
      Thanks again for reading Noel.
      Take care.

  2. A little mud and you'd look like a zombie man! And all for a cat, that is the worst bit. A dog I could understand... Actually the worst bit is the affect it has had on my reading of your blog. Good to hear you are back on your feet Jase and thanks for the post. Find me a little traditional fishing village to write about :)

    1. Hey Scott,
      It's like someone said to me, "Next time, hit the cat. Cats have 9 lives, you have only one!"
      The search for a fishing village is on. If I find one, you have to join Matty on his next trip over and we'll go and have a look!