Strolling the Old World of Tokyo: An One-Day Walking Tour through Shibamata.
While it can be fun to visit the city's most cutting-edge monuments, such as high-rise buildings or pop hotspots, walking down the old streets of “shitamachi” to savor history and traditional culture is one of the attractions of a Tokyo trip. Shibamata is one such vintage temple town that also served as the set for “The Otoko wa tsurai yo (It’s Tough Being a Man)”, an all-time film classic from Japan. It is necessary to mention the old Street in Tokyo, which is full of nostalgic atmosphere, as well as retro shops offering authentic Japanese food, wagashi confections, charm and the warmth of good people. Next time you’re in Tokyo, let Shibamata take you for a stroll down memory lane, served with a full-on taste of Japanese vibes from the good old days.
How to Get to Shibamata
Katsushika is located northeast of Tokyo. It is a few minutes' walk from Shibamata Station on the Keisei Kanamachi Line, a neighborhood centered on the 400-year-old historic Buddhist temple of Shibamata Taishakuten.
Shibamata Station sits on a Keisei line. It is about an hour and 30 minutes from Haneda or Narita Airport. It takes another hour or so to get there by train from central Tokyo; If you’re visiting from “Oshiage Station” near the iconic Tokyo Skytree, a popular tourist attraction, you can make it to Shibamata in about 30 minutes.
- From Haneda Airport: 1hr 20 mins by train.
- From Narita Airport: 1hr 30 mins by train.
- From Shinjuku Station: Take the JR Yamanote Line train to Nippori and switch to the Keisei Main Line. Take this train to Keisei Takasago Station and switch once more to the Keisei Kanamachi Line before arriving at Shibamata Station. (travel time approx. 60 mins)
- From Tokyo Station: Take the JR Yamanote Line to Nishi-Nippori Station and switch to the Tokyo Metro Chiyoda Line. Take this train to Kanamachi Station before switching to the Keisei Kanamachi Line train for Shibamata. (travel time approx. 50 mins)
- From Oshiage Station: 30 mins by train.
The Best of Tokyo’s Shitamachi: One-Day Walking Tour through the Culture and Historic Vibes of Shibamata
Savor the unique flavor of Tokyo's old streets! Each of the attractions described below can be reached on foot from Shibamata Station! Start with a visit to the temple, followed by a stroll through old-world streets, historic buildings and the grandeur of nature. This trip allows you to experience traditional Japanese culture such as temple visits, food tasting, nostalgic street scenes and visits to old buildings in one day.
1. Taishakuten Sando from Shibamata Station
Now you’ve arrived at Keisei Kanamachi Line Shibamata Station.
Your first stop is to head straight for Taishakuten Temple via the main temple promenade.
A Big Welcome from the Bronze Tora-san Statue
Right off the Shibamata Station awaits you a bronze statues of Tora-san and his younger sister Sakura, main characters from movie “The Otoko wa tsurai yo (It’s Tough Being a Man)”. The statues depict a memorable moment of Tora-san looking back before setting out on his next adventure. Captured in vivid expression and pose, it became a popular photo-taking spot for tourists.
Pick up a tourist guide at the Shibamata Tourist Information Center
Get off at Shibamata Station and head for Taishakuten Sando by foot, you'll find the Shibamata Tourist Information Center, located at the entrance of the main temple promenade. Get youself a map, as well as tourist pamphlets before setting off to Shibamata!
2. Pay a Visit to the temple at Shibamata Taishakuten
Your first stop is Taishakuten, the symbol of Shibamata.
The main temple promenade stretches from Shibamata Station up to Taishakuten with plenty of bustling, tasty shops along the way. While it’s tempting to stop for a bite or stroll around, it's Japanese etiquette to visit a temple shrine first. So make sure to head straight for Taishakuten first before everything else!
Paying a Visit to the temple at Shibamata Taishakuten
Taishakuten is a temple said to be very effective in praying for a cure to restore health and has been held by the local people for more than 400 years. The artistic Niten-mon Gate will lead you to the main Taishaku-do Hall inside.
Taishaku-do Hall is the main spot where visitors come to pray at Taishakuten. The black pine tree coiled in front of the hall is called “Zuiryu-no-matsu” (lit. “Dragon of Fortune Pines”). The lodgepole pine is more than 400 years old and has been designated as a natural monument in Tokyo. The trunk of the tree stretching straight into the sky and the beautiful extension of the luxuriant leaves formed the appearance like a dragon about to fly, hence the current title.
Off to the right of Taishaku-do Hall is the entrance to the sculpture gallery, leading to the Daikyakuden Hall(Great Visitor’s Reception Hall) that you can visit for 400yen (200yen for children). Along the path displayed a national treasure exquisite sculpture works of art, very valuable to visit. In addition, you can walk to the Suikei-en Garden from the Guest hall to enjoy a moment of outdoor nature. The quiet and beautiful scenery makes a perfect escape from the noisy city.
3. Food and Shopping to Explore along Taishakuten Sando
Once you’ve paid your respects at the temple, it’s time to head back for a stroll along the Sando and enjoy a world of tastes! Different shops from either side will surely keep you busy for quite a while. There's a veteran shop that's been in business for over 100 years selling rare, one-of-a-kind souvenirs!
Good Fortune in the Palm of your Hand?! Hajiki-zaru, a Folk Toy of the Ages
You’ll find the Sonoda Shinbutsugu-ten store right outside the main gate out of Taishakuten. Inside you’ll find some traditional folk toys native to Shibamata. The famous, Hajiki-zaru, is a toy where you can flick a tiny monkey as it grips onto a tiny pole. Monkeys are especially affiliated with Taishakuten as a lucky charm, treasured because the name “Hajiki-zaru” echoes a verb with the same name that means to “ward off evil” (while drumming up good luck). It also makes for a great souvenir. right
Shibamata Favorite, “Kusa-dango” (Japanese mugwort sticky rice dumplings)
Kusa-dango is the iconic snack to try from Shibamata. In the film series, “The Otoko wa tsurai yo (It’s Tough Being a Man)”, Tora-san even lives above a dango shop. It’s perfect treat to enjoy over a pitstop inside, but works perfectly as street food while checking out all the dango shops along the way.
The closest dango shop from Taishakuten is Kameya-Honpo, a longstanding shop since its opening in 1901. This shop is famous for serving as a set location and model for Tora-san’s house in “The Otoko wa tsurai yo (It’s Tough Being a Man)”. While the shop has changed a bit over time, it still keeps the original, vintage charm from the era.
In addition to Kameya-Honpo, there are many veteran dango shops to visit along the temple walk, including “The Otoko wa tsurai yo (It’s Tough Being a Man)” film crew favorite, Takagiya-rouho”, the Toraya shop from the movies, Yoshinoya where you can watch dango prepared before your eyes, Yamatoya and more. Its especially fun to try and compare a bite from each shop.
The Best in Edo-Style Eats: “Eel rice box” Grilled Eel Served in a Luxurious Lacquered box
Shibamata, just steps from the river, has been blessed throughout the years with fresh eel, carp, and other fresh water fish. That’s why so many travelers and temple-goers make a point to sample the freshwater cuisine during their visit. Shibamata’s river cuisine is so well known that it’s even a culinary trope often found in Japanese novels and literature. Today there are many shops serving up this tasty delight, but one veteran shop beloved for over 250 years is Kawachiya. It’s exterior gives it the look of a vintage, age-old ryokan, while the authentic “Ganso Kawasakana Kappo” (authentic freshwater fish cuisine) wooden signboard lends an especially prestigious character.
You can dine in the main hall, zashiki-style (course), with catering or take out options so anyone can enjoy whether dining alone or with many.
If you dine inside, there’s a center garden that boasts the rich colors of the season to delight your eyes and soul.
And let’s not forget about the “Eel rice box”. These boxes of eel over rice are deliciously made with the same flavor that has been passed down since the store first opened. Borne of expert skill and years of experience, each bite is made by a master chef to absolute grilled perfection.
Grilled eel, front and center, is sourced from different farms depending on the season.
In addition to Kawachiya, Yebisuya and Kawajin, a restaurant in business over 200 years, are top picks to taste the best in Shibamata famous, freshwater fish cuisine.
Kome-Kome Roll (Rice-Rice Roll), a New Twist on an Authentic Treat
Make it to the middle of the temple walk and your nose will be greeted by the enticing, sweet aroma wafting from confectionery shop “Ishii”.
It’s a hot spot for many popular treats, but one taste you cannot miss is the famous Kome-Kome Roll (Rice-Rice Roll). Many Japanese confections are made using rice, so this new invention takes a spin on western sweets, this time using rice. The springy dough is made with roasted rice flour, loads of fresh whipped cream, and a dusting of wasanbon, a high-end, refined Japanese sugar that’s finished with a tastefully charred crisp. Fine, delicious ingredients prepared simply for you to enjoy. It’s crunchy on the outside and fluffy on the inside, making for a new spin on how you know roll cakes.
Senbei: the Perfect Souvenir and Street Food Snack
Senbei is next in line with famous Shibamata snacks to try, right after dango and eel. They’re great when hot, fresh and crispy, but they also make a great take home souvenir! Walk by and waves of their rich, savory aroma are sure to bring you in for a quick stop.
Asanoya is a senbei spot along the Taishakuten Sando, just 5 minutes out from Shibamata Station. Made with a house-made batter recipe, each senbei wafer is grilled individually to perfection. Prepare to get lost in the enticing smell of roasting soy sauce as it makes its way to your nose. Even if just as a souvenir, the flavor of a perfectly hand-made senbei is the perfect way to share a smile. Don’t forget to also check out Kanekoya and Tachibanaya for more delicious senbei to sample!
Shibamata Haikara Yokocho, Where Playing’s Not Just for Kids!
After eating your way back from Taishakuten, you’ll find an eclectic little building waiting again at the end of the temple walk. It’s called Shibamata Haikara Yokocho. The front entrance is marked by a robot-looking vending machine. Inside, you’ll find a world of children’s delights loved from classic, old-world Tokyo, and a sweets shop with traditional “Dagashi” candy-man style confections.
From retro classics to recent favorites, this shop is packed wall to wall with Dagashi sweets. You can expect a range of prices, but a lot of these sweet bites are sold for as little as a few 10 yen. Unleast your inner child and start exploring anything from a few tasty bites to a full shopping spree. There’s even a game corner filled with, yep you guessed it, nothing but vintage games and retro originals you love.
On the second floor you’ll find the Shibamata Toy Museum. You can buy an entry ticket by the register on the 1st floor candy shop to access an immersive world of toys that captivated children across Japan just half a century ago.
4. Set out on a Quick Adventure to the banks of Edo River
Once you’ve finishing your foodie foray and made it back to Shibamata Station, you can walk it all off with a quick stroll. If you walk for about 10 minutes you’ll make to the area surrounding Edo River, full of wide open air and beautiful sights along the river. From Yamamoto-tei and Shibamata Park to the Katsushika Shibamata Tora-san Museum, Yagiri-no-Watashi and more, there’s plenty to check out.
Escape the Day with a Time Away at Yamamoto-tei, the Japanese Garden Acclaimed Around the World for its Unmatched Beauty.
Yamamoto-tei was once the former residence of Mr. Yamamoto, a Shibamata business mogul who ran a camera parts factory. The mansion was built over 100 years ago in the traditional shoin architectural style, with a few, western accents that were typical of modern Japanese design at the time. Of all of its draws, Yamamoto-tei is best known for its exquisite Japanese garden, which ranks annually in the U.S. exclusive magazine for Japanese gardens, “The Journal of Japanese Gardening”. For just 100 yen you can come in for a view of the garden or enjoy a spot of matcha tea and wagashi confections (separate fee applies). There’s a waterfall located at the very back of the pond, giving the garden a depth you can’t help but gaze into.
The Tasteful Teahouse Menu at Yamamoto-tei
Choose from selection of matcha green tea, coffee and sweets, all served with a view of a Japanese garden, bathed in a canopy of trickled sunlight. It's a tangible cultural asset and luxurious space where you can still enjoy a drink or snack inside. Which each menu item around 500 yen each, this is an especially delightful stop.
Jump into a World of Cinema and Vintage Japanese Charm at Katsushika Shibamata Tora-san Museum
If you’re looking for a deep dive into Japan’s beloved film series, “The Otoko wa tsurai yo (It’s Tough Being a Man)”, make your way to Katsushika Shibamata Tora-san Museum. Inside you’ll find a recreation of Kurumaya, the dango shop in Shibamata, Katsushika that always served as Tora-san’s home after returning home from each adventure. The set here is from the original, now moved to this location so you can enjoy the full, immersive experience of the film world.
You can also find original props and items that were used in the film series throughout the museum. If you’ve never seen the series, don’t worry, because there’s plenty to explore. There’s a recreation of the Shibamata city streets from the 1950s～1960s era, which serves as a perfect photo spot. You’ll also find models and a hall dedicated to recreating the voices from the series, waiting to transport you back to over 50 years ago.
Visiting Yamada Yoji Museum for a Full Look at the Films
With the same museum ticket, you can also visit the Yamada Yoji Museum. Inside you’ll find an homage to Director Yamada, films used in the movies, and previews of Director Yamada’s works.
5. Enjoy Slow Travel and a View beside a Grand River
Your Shibamata stroll will finally lead you to the river bed of Edo River. Here you can enjoy a chance to soak in the vintage feel and relaxed atmosphere by the river.
Wide Open Air and Easy Vibes at Shibamata Park
Shibamata Park stretches across the riverbed of Edo River, with a splendid view of lush green trees and rich blue from the river. Its also a great spot for recreation, sports, and those visiting the baseball field.
The Mysterious Floating Tower: The Intake Tower of Kanamachi Purification Plant
Look out to the middle of the river and you’ll find a cute little building, topped with a roof that looks like a wizard’s hat. This is the Intake Tower of Kanamachi Purification Plant completed in 1941, that has been featured in film for “The Otoko wa tsurai yo (It’s Tough Being a Man)”, and in the manga “Kochira Katsushika-ku Kameari Koen-mae Hashutujo”. While cute, you’ll be surprised by its grandeur as you approach.
A Serene River Cruise via Yagiri-no-Watashi
When in Shibamata, one trip you must try is a Yagiri-no-Watashi boat voyage. Step into a vessel of reclaimed wood before boating across from Shibamata to Matsudo City on the other side in Chiba Prefecture. This is one of the few remaining river passages still available in Tokyo. On a clear day with gentle breeze you can even enjoy your cruise against a backdrop of Skytree. As the bustling city noise fades into the distance, enjoy a moment engulfed in nothing but the echoes of water, birds, and distant trains as they pass you by.
6. How About a Restful Stay in Shibamata?
At this point you may be a bit worn for the weary and ready to call it a day. If this is you, why not try a night at SHIBAMATA FU-TEN BED & LOCAL. This trendy new hostel sits in a renovated hall that once served as office staff dorms for Katsushika Ward.
A single night rings in just under 4000 yen, making for a stay that’s easy on the wallet and convenient for your travels. There are minimal but clean Japanese rooms and modern Japanese rooms, but venture to the 4th floor and you’ll find the “artist rooms”, designed individually by 14 artists both in and out of Japan. Each artist has reimagined “Shibamata” in their individual style, creating a photo-worthy room that’s filled wall to wall with style.
Vintage Shitamachi Vibes Await Both in and Out of Shibamata!
For an extended adventure, you can always venture outside of Shibamata for more retro vibes. With just a quick train ride you can taste a whole new world that Tokyo has to offer.
From Shibamata to Kameari
Take the Keisei Kanamachi Line to Kanamachi Station before switching to the JR Joban Line for Kameari Station. In just 15~20 minutes, you’ll reach the location of the famous manga “Kochira Katsushika-ku Kameari Koen-mae Hashutujo”.
For more details on Kameari
From Shibamata to Tateishi
Take the Keisei Kanamachi Line to Keisei Takasago Station before switching to the Keisei Main Line for Keisei Tateishi Station. In just 15~20 minutes you’ll reach Tateishi, the famous land of sake, bar hopping and tasteful, vintage vibes. You can start your visit and sake tour as early as mid-day or visit for a night cap to end your adventure.
For more details on Tateishi
[SUMMARY] Lifelong Memories from a Timeless Stroll through Shibamata
At the end of it all, you can walk away knowing why savvy travelers love a stroll through the shitamachi streets of Shibamata. From vintage streetscapes and warm people all the way to magnificent views by the river, you can delight the senses with the vibes of old-world Tokyo, the echo of bells from Taishakuten, and the gentle sound of waters from Edo River. For foodies, prepare for a licksmacking journey across the Taishakuten Sando full of wafting aromas, dango and wagashi sweets, savory senbei and the freshest of river cuisine all waiting for you to try. To top it off, take a walk down memory lane with retro games and candy-store vibes, or take a deep dive into the world of film with “The Otoko wa tsurai yo (It’s Tough Being a Man)” for a day away away from the ordinary hustle of the city.
Delight your senses and soothe your soul in Shibamata. You can always come to Taishakuten, the temple with over 400 years of history for a recharge. Whether you’re a first time tourist or veteran traveler to Japan, a trip to Tokyo’s Shibamata area will give you a deep taste of Japanese old-world culture and the chance to experience a world you thought was gone.