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Kiyosumi-Shirakawa: A stroll in the old Tokyo

Kiyosumi-Shirakawa: A stroll in the old Tokyo

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Located near the Sumida River, in the Western side of the Koto ward, Fukagawa is part of the Shitamachi area of Tokyo, Recently, this district around the Kiyosumi-Shirakawa station, has gained in popularity with the opening of several coffee shops, including the first Japan’s branch of Blue Bottle in February 2016. It was the first time I was setting foot in this neighbourhood, known for being a quiet residential district. And indeed it is. It has an “old Tokyo” touch that is very pleasant for those who doesn’t mind going off the beaten path.

Beautiful but unknown garden

Beautiful but unknown garden

From the Kiyosumi-Shirakawa station, one of the closest sightseeing spots is the Kiyosumi Teien, a garden only three minutes away, whose history dates back to the Meiji era. The place has a long and interesting history, which dates back to 1878. It is the founder of the Mitsubishi Corporation, Yataro Iwasaki, who acquired the land from a rich merchant and built the garden as part of his personal property as a place to rest for his employees, and later to entertain foreign guests.

I have already visited several gardens in Tokyo, and even if some are clearly breathtaking, they usually have the crowds that go with it. However, the Kiyosumi Teien offer a good alternative: great sceneries, animals, and fewer people than the usual. The garden also features beautiful flowers all year-round, including purple azalea, hydrangea and iris. Its collections of Japanese stones and rocks come from all over Japan and is very famous.

Built for official guests

Built for official guests

One of the highlights of the garden is clearly the Ryotei. Overlooking an artificial pond, it was spared by the great Kanto earthquake and the bombing during the Second World War, and was renovated in 1986. Nowadays usable as a room for an official meeting, this building was built in 1909 to accommodate the Marshal Kichener, then a host of the Japanese state. This type of garden is known as a Sukiyadukuri teien, or pond-forest strolling garden.

Entry: 150yen
Hours: 9:00 a.m. - 5:00 p.m.
Holidays:New Year's Holidays

Walking the alleys of Edo

Walking the alleys of Edo

Far from Tokyo's most touristy streets, The Fukagawa Edo Museum helps you imagine and easily understand what the area was like during the Edo era. It features a real-size reconstitution of a part of the Fukagawa district, as it was during the Edo period. More than a dozen of buildings were reproduced: merchant houses, a rice warehouse, a watchtower, a tavern for fishermen,and homes of shamisen teachesr and craftsmen.

A museum full of details

A museum full of details

It is possible to freely enter most of the buildings. Every 15 minutes light and sound changes to represent the different times the day: morning awakening when the rooster crows, a festival day, or heavy rain and storm... But overall, it's the myriad of details that make it a unique experience: all the items and buildings were reproduced from historical documents.

It is strongly advised to take the guide written in English before starting the tour. The museum is open from 9:30 a.m. to 5:00 p.m., and is closed every month the 2nd & 4th Monday. The entrance fee is 400 yen per adult.

Entry: 400yen
Hours: 9:30 a.m. - 5:00 p.m (last admission 4.30 p.m).
Holidays: the second and fourth Monday of each month (except in the case of a Monday public holiday, in which case, it will be open.)

A coffee shop in a renovated warehouse

A coffee shop in a renovated warehouse

Only a few minutes away from the Edo Fukagawa Museum, the Fukadaso coffee shop has a rather unique concept in Tokyo. Located in a renovated warehouse, the place has a ground floor with a large area where visitors can relax in armchairs and sofas that are - I have to say - quite inviting, while, for example, reading a book. In the winter, staff even provide blankets to keep yourself warm.

On the second floor, old apartments without bathing areas were dismantled to be rebuilt. From that time, only the original corridor, ceiling and walls remains. New apartments are now rented and converted into small shops by the tenants: Massage, crafts souvenirs... Most of the people living here go eat outside, and visit the local public bath as no shower is available in the building, which definitely have an old but lovely “touch” to it. The antique interior makes for a wonderfully nostalgic atmosphere, while sitting at the open terrace also has its charms. Coffee can be enjoyed for 350 yen, while a variety of scones are available for 300 yen each.

Coffee 450 yen, Scone 300 yen.

Fukadaso cafe
Hours: 1:00 p.m. - 6:00 p.m. (until 9:30 p.m. on Fridays, last order 9:00 p.m.)
Holidays: Tuesdays, Wednesdays

  • fukadaso cafe
    フカダソウ カフェ
    • Address 101,1-9-7 Hirano, Koto-ku, Tokyo, 135-0023

Babaghuri: simplicity in design

Babaghuri: simplicity in design

Last stop in my journey around Kiyosumi-Shirakawa: Babaghuri. This shop and brand were created by Jurgen Lehl, a German designer that came in Japan more than forty years ago, and lived for a long time in Okinawa, where he started a small organic farm. He was one of the first to really combine Western and Eastern fashion with clothes that uses ecologically methods, all of that while promoting an extreme simplicity. Natural materials are used in all the garments, but also traditional dyeing techniques. Sadly, Jurgen Lehl died in 2014 in a car accident, but his concept and brand are still well alive.

While it is often mentioned how different Japan is from the West, Jurgen Lehl's designs and creations really made me ponder how well these different aesthetics can harmonize. I highly recommend that you set out to discover this inspiring balance yourself and pay a visit to his shop. 
Hours: 11:00 a.m. - 7:00 p.m.
Holidays: 12/29 - 1/1

  • Babaghuri
    ババグーリ本店
    • Address 3-1-7, Kiyosumi, Koto-ku, 135-0024

Written by:

Quentin Weinsanto

Hello, my name is Quentin Weinsanto and I’m a journalist living in the area of Adachi-ku in Tokyo. Being in Japan since 2011, I always love to write about interesting stories or places to visit.

*This information is from the time of this article's publication.

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