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Gorgeous Shibamata, a Retro Japanese Townscape in Tokyo

STORY

 

Gorgeous Shibamata, a Retro Japanese Townscape in Tokyo

 

 
 
With its 400-year-old temple, retro shopping street and exquisite Japanese gardens, Shibamata is a true hidden gem nested in Katsushika Ward, Tokyo. A popular film series from the late 1900s titled Otoko wa Tsurai yo ("It's tough being a man") is set here, and the district is often featured in movies and dramas. 

Here's an in-depth guide to Shibamata and its wonders, hoping it will inspire your visit!
 
 

Easy Access From the Tokyo Skytree

From the closest train station to Tokyo Skytree, Oshiage, you can ride the Keisei Line to Shibamata in 30 minutes. As soon as you exit the station you'll be greeted by a statue of Tora-san, the protagonist of Otoko wa Tsurai yo.
 
Shibamata station
 

The Tourist Information Center

In front of the station is the tourist information center. Here you can find maps and pamphlets of Shibamata, the Katsushika Ward and Tokyo. Stop by to find out about the latest attractions, events and info.
 
Shibamata Tourist Information Center

Information

Shibamata Tourist Information Center | 柴又観光案内所
Address: 7-1-5 Shibamata, Katsushika-ku, Tokyo
Hours: 9:30am - 4:30pm
 
 

Start With a Visit to Shibamata Taishakuten Temple

From the station you'll enter a shopping street called Taishakuten Sando. A 'sando' is the road that leads visitors to a temple or shrine. And sure enough, if you follow this path you'll end up right at the gates of the Taishakuten Daikyoji Temple, Shibamata's popular spot. The temple is affectionately known as 'Shibamata Taishakuten'.
 
Taishakuten Sando

ShibamataTaishakuten was founded in 1629 and boasts some 400 years of history. It has been featured in Otoko wa Tsurai yo and other Japanese movies and dramas, and even in works by writer Natsume Soseki.
 
Taishakuten-Daikyoji (Shibamata Taishakuten)1

Here you can pray for your trip's safety and try your fortune by drawing an omikuji fortune telling sheet.
 

Taishakuten-Daikyoji (Shibamata Taishakuten)2

 

Taishakuten-Daikyoji (Shibamata Taishakuten)3

Shibamata Taishakuten is also known as 'the carving temple', because its outer walls are covered in beautiful wooden carvings. They depict a number of Buddhist tales with impressive detail three-dimensionality. The area where you can see the wooden carvings  has an entrance fee, but we thought it was more than worth it.
 
Taishakuten-Daikyoji (Shibamata Taishakuten)4

The entrance fee is 400 yen and it will give you access to the carving gallery and the Japanese-style garden Suikeien. After admiring the wooden carvings, continue on and enter the Japanese garden Suikeien.
 
Taishakuten-Daikyoji (Shibamata Taishakuten)5

The view of the garden changes depending on the place you view it from. You can take a break and sit on the benches or lazily stroll along the corridor while admiring the scenery.
 

Taishakuten-Daikyoji (Shibamata Taishakuten)6

 

Taishakuten-Daikyoji (Shibamata Taishakuten)7

Information

Taishakuten-Daikyoji (Shibamata Taishakuten) | 帝釈天題経寺(柴又帝釈天)
Address: 7-10-3 Shibamata, Katsushika-ku, Tokyo
Hours: 9:00am - 6:00pm (garden closes at 4:00pm)
Holidays: none (the garden is closed from December 28 to January 3. The carving gallery stays open.
Entrance fee: free for the temple grounds. Garden and carving gallery entrance fee: adults 400 yen, children 200 yen (during garden closure the entrance fee is half price)
 
 

Now You're Ready for Some Street Food Along Taishakuten Sando!

Taishakuten Sando has what you would call a Japanese retro atmosphere. The street is lined with restaurants and souvenir shops, and it's great to just stroll around trying a bit of every food and taking pictures.
 
Taishakuten Sando2
 

■ Try Shibamata's specialty, Yomogi Dango (Yoshinoya)

Shibamata's local specialty is yomogi dango, little mochi balls made with Japanese mugwort (hence the green color). While many shops offer this typical sweet, we decided to stop at a place called Yoshinoya.
 
Try Shibamata's specialty, Yomogi Dango (Yoshinoya)

Yoshinoya makes fresh yomogi dango every day. It comes in a huge lump from which the staff forms it into little balls. It has a strong mugwort aroma and a chewy texture. It's topped with anko bean paste, that adds just the right amount of sweetness. You can get the number of dango you want delivered in a plastic pack, so you can either eat them on the spot or bring them home. One dango is 54 yen (tax included).

Yoshinoya | 吉野家
Address: 7-6-18 Shibamata, Katsushika-ku, Tokyo | Hours: 10:00am until sold out | Holidays: irregular
 

Yoshinoya1

 

Yoshinoya2

Other shops selling yomogi dango are Kameya Honpo, Takagiya and Toraya.
 
Yomogi Dango Shop
 
 

■ Pick your favorite senbei (Kanekoya)

When talking about traditional Japanese snacks, we can't leave out those delicious rice crackers called senbei! Kanekoya is a store with a nostalgic feel that sells senbei in all kinds of flavors: soy sauce, sesame, shrimp… there are so many it can be hard to choose!
 
Pick your favorite senbei (Kanekoya)

The senbei are sold by the bag but you can also purchase them singularly. Perfect for people who want to try a bit of everything.

Kanekoya | 金子屋
Address: 7-7-5 Shibamata, Katsushika-ku, Tokyo | Hours: 10:00am - 6:00pm | Holidays: Irregular
 

Kanekoya1

 

Kanekoya2

Want to try even more senbei? Also check out Asanoya and Tachibanaya.
 
Senbei
 

■ Treat yourself to a juicy piece of unagi (Yebisuya)

Yebisuya is a long-established restaurant that server freshwater fish. The specialty here is unagi (freshwater eel) and the popular dish is unaju, unagi-topped rice served in a square bowl. Every soft bite will overwhelm you with umami and you won't be able to put your chopsticks down!
 
Treat yourself to a juicy piece of unagi (Yebisuya)

You can choose between unaju (3,780 yen, tax included) and the deluxe jo-unaju (4,500 yen, tax included). Prices are tax-exclusive. The dish in the picture is jo-unaju.

Another great option is the freshwater fish meal, where you can taste unagi and other kinds of fish. The price is 2,700 yen (tax included) and it comes with a small unagi rice bowl, carp sashimi - a dish you rarely see elsewhere - and miso soup.
 
Yebisuya1

Yebisuya was established more than 230 years ago in the Tenmei era (1782-1788). Their delicious unadon is loved by both locals and visitors.

Yebisuya Sando Shop | ゑびす家参道店
Address: 7-3-7 Shibamata, Katsushika-ku, Tokyo|Hours: 11:00am - 7:00pm|Holidays: irregular (four times a month)
 
Yebisuya2
Yebisuya3
Yebisuya4


There are many freshwater fish cuisine restaurants in the Shibamata area. Other ones are Tanakaya, Kawachiya and Kawajin.
 
Unagi restrant


■ Go back in time AND eat candy (Shibamata Hi-kara Yokocho)

Japanese people get all nostalgic when they see a dagashi-ya, a store selling old-style Japanese candy. Enter Shibamata Hi-kara Yokocho and you'll get an idea of what the atmosphere was back in the Showa era (1926-1989). The shelves are packed with all kinds of colorful treats. So cheap that you can easily fill a whole basket without spending more than a few hundred yen.
 
Go back in time AND eat candy (Shibamata Hi-kara Yokocho)

But it's not only candy! There are also several retro games inside, including a shooting game.

Shibamata Hi-kara Yokocho | 柴又ハイカラ横丁
Address: 7-3-12 Shibamata, Katsushika-ku, Tokyo|Holidays: Closed on Tuesdays
 

Shibamata Hi-kara Yokocho1

 

Shibamata Hi-kara Yokocho2

 

Bonus: Yoi Koshin, an Event Held Every 60 Days

Shibamata Taishakuten Temple holds a ceremony called Yoi Koshin, meaning Eve of Koshin Day. In the evening before Koshin day there is a parade where a 12kg matoi (a decorated pole) is carried and waved around along the Taishakuten Sando street. The next Koshin days in 2019 will be on May 23 and July 22, September 20,  November 19th.
 
Yoi Koshin, an Event Held Every 60 Days
 
 
 

Admire an Idyllic Japanese Garden While Sipping on Matcha at Yamamoto-Tei

If you've been exploring for a while it might be time to slow down a little. A 5-minute walk from Shibamata Taishakuten temple is Yamamoto-Tei. Their Japanese garden has been in the top rankings of the American magazine 'Journal of Japanese Gardening'. 
 
Admire an Idyllic Japanese Garden While Sipping on Matcha at Yamamoto-Tei

Appreciated both in Japan and overseas, the property has undergone many extensions and alterations between 1923 and 1933, which brought it to its current state. The traditional Japanese residential architecture meets some elements of western architecture in an exquisite modern Japanese style.
 

Yamamoto-Tei1

 

Yamamoto-Tei2

Here you can enjoy gazing at the beautiful garden while sipping on a cup of matcha tea. The tea set includes a traditional sweet and is 600 yen.
 
Yamamoto-Tei3

Information

Katsushika-ku Yamamoto-Tei | 葛飾区山本亭
Address: 7-19-32, Shibamata, Katsushika-ku, Tokyo
Hours: 9:00am - 5:00pm
Holidays: every third Tuesday of the month (if it's already a holiday closes on the following weekday) / in December closes on the third Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday *stays open on New Year
Fee: adults 100 yen. 500 yen if purchased with the entrance for the Tora-san Museum

 

Enter the World of Japanese Films! Katsushika Shibamata Tora-San Museum

After enjoying the main attractions of Shibamata Taishakuten and the Taishakuten Sando, there are plenty of spots to explore in the surroundings. At the Tora-san Museum you can immerse yourself in the world of Japanese movies.
 
Katsushika Shibamata Tora-San Museum1
葛飾柴又寅さん記念館ⓒ松竹(株)

Tora-san is the protagonist of the film series  Otoko wa Tsurai yo ("It's tough being a man"). This museum showcases sets and props that have been used in the films.
 
Katsushika Shibamata Tora-San Museum2
葛飾柴又寅さん記念館ⓒ松竹(株)

Even if you haven't seen the movies you can enjoy the recreation of a street of Shibamata from 1955. The carefully created models and sounds are also very interesting.
 
Katsushika Shibamata Tora-San Museum3
葛飾柴又寅さん記念館ⓒ松竹(株)
 

Information

Katsushika Shibamata Tora-san Museum | 葛飾柴又寅さん記念館
Address: 6-22-19 Shibamata, Katsushika-ku, Tokyo
Hours: 9:00am - 5:00pm
Holidays: every third Tuesday of the month (if it's already a holiday closes on the following weekday) / in December closes on the third Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday *stays open on New Year
*Will close for renewal from January 15 to February 28, 2019
Fee: adults 500 yen, elementary and middle school students 300 yen (collective ticket for the Tora-san Museum and the Yamada Yoji Museum)

 

Yamada Yoji Museum

With the ticket from the Tora-san Museum you can also access the neighboring Yamada Yoji Museum. Aside from Otoko wa Tsurai Yo, director Yoji Yamada is also famous for the movie The Yellow Handkerchief and Tokyo Family. Here you'll find information about Yoji Yamada, the film he used for filming and previews of future works.
 
Yamada Yoji Museum1
山田洋次ミュージアムⓒ松竹(株)

Information

Yamada Yoji Museum | 山田洋次ミュージアム
Address: 6-22-19 Shibamata, Katsushika-ku, Tokyo
Hours: every third Tuesday of the month (if it's already a holiday closes on the following weekday) / in December closes on the third Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday *stays open on New Year
*Will close for renewal from November 19, 2018 to March 31, 2019
Fee: adults 500 yen, elementary and middle school students 300 yen (collective ticket for the Tora-san Museum and the Yamada Yoji Museum)

 

Explore Shibamata on a Bike

At the space under the Yamada Yoji Museum is a bike rental service operating on weekends and holidays.
 
Explore Shibamata on a Bike

Information

Bike Rental Center
Address: 2F Culture Tourist Information Center Building B, 6-22-19 Shibamata, Katsushika-ku, Tokyo
Hours: 9:00am - 5:00pm (closes at 4:00pm from November to February)
Holidays: Closed Monday to Friday (open if a holiday), New Year
Fee: high-school students and above 400 yen, middle school and below 200 yen

 

Look for the Red Brick Tower in the Edo River

Near the Tora-san Museum is also the Edo river. Walking toward Kanamachi you'll come across a cute structure that looks like a pointy hat. This intake tower was completed in 1941 and appeared in the movie Otoko wa Tsurai Yo and in the manga Kochira Katsushika-ku Kameari Kōen-mae Hashutsujo ("This is the Police Station in Front of Kameari Park in Katsushika Ward"). Getting up close you'll actually be surprised by its size.
 
Look for the Red Brick Tower in the Edo River

Information

Kanamachi water purification plant intake tower
Access: Near Edo River bank Kanamachi Water Purification Plant (1-1 Kanamachijosujo, Katsushika-ku, Tokyo)

 

An Experience You Can Only Have in Shibamata, Yagiri No Watashi

Yagiri no Watashi was a river crossing service operating during the Edo Period (1603-1868). The only place where this is still in use is Shibamata. Here you can get on a wooden boat and be taken to the other side of the river in Matsudo city, Chiba. The weather was good on the day of our visit so we were able to see the Tokyo Skytree.
 
An Experience You Can Only Have in Shibamata, Yagiri No Watashi

Here's a video of Yagiri no Watashi and Shibamata's sightseeing spots!
  

Information

Yagiri no Watashi | 矢切の渡し
Address: 7-18 Shibamata, Katsushika-ku, Tokyo
Hours: summer: every day 10:00am - 4:00pm / winter: weekends, holidays and Koshin day only 10:00am - 4:00pm
Fee: adults one-way 200 yen, children one-way 100 yen
 
 

Before Leaving, Stop for Some Fruit and Shaved Ice at Kanta

After a whole day in Shibamata, this is the last place we stopped at: a little place by the station called Kanta.
 
Before Leaving, Stop for Some Fruit and Shaved Ice at Kanta

Their shaved ice is made with natural ice from Nikko, and the fruit syrups are homemade with passion by the owner. The topping is completed with big pieces of fruit making it a masterpiece that will heal all your fatigue. In the picture is the strawberry shaved ice (1,000 yen) with condensed milk (+100 yen).
 
Kanta1

There are more than 20 flavors of shaved ice available and the menu changes with the season. Other popular choices are the peach and mango shaved ice. And don't forget to try other classic desserts like anmitsu.
 
Kanta2
Kanta3
Kanta4

Information

Kanta | かんた
Address: 4-9-5 Shibamata, Katsushika-ku, Tokyo
Hours: 11:00am - 6:00pm
Holidays: closed on Mondays
 
 

Shibamata's Recommended Lodging! SHIBAMATA FU-TEN BED & LOCAL

If you feel like spending the night here and exploring Shibamata at a slower pace, this unique hostel is the place for you. Opened in March 2017, FU-TEN is a stylish hostel inside a renovated worker's dormitory.
 
SHIBAMATA FU-TEN BED & LOCAL1

Aside from the regular rooms, there are 14 special rooms on the 4th floor. These rooms have been decorated by Japanese and foreign artists, and each room has a unique and feel. Every artist has depicted their interpretation of Shibamata in in their own style after actually visiting the town.
 
SHIBAMATA FU-TEN BED & LOCAL2
SHIBAMATA FU-TEN BED & LOCAL3
SHIBAMATA FU-TEN BED & LOCAL4
SHIBAMATA FU-TEN BED & LOCAL5
SHIBAMATA FU-TEN BED & LOCAL6
SHIBAMATA FU-TEN BED & LOCAL7

Information

SHIBAMATA FU-TEN BED & LOCAL 
Address: 7-12-19 Shibamata, Katsushika-ku, Tokyo
Website: https://global.shibamatafuten.com/en-gb

 

Discover the yet Undiscovered in Shibamata

Despite all it has to offer Shibamata is still relatively unknown. We explored the wooden carvings of Taishakuten, the picturesque Taishakuten Sando, the delicious food, the beautiful nature, the lively festival and the Tora-san Museum; there are just so many ways to enjoy this town. It's only a 30 minute train ride away from Ueno and the Skytree, so we can't but recommend you include it in your itinerary!

*This article is based on a coverage made on August 10th, 2018.
*Availability and prices are subject to change. Menus differ for each restaurant.

 

For the latest information on Katsushika tourism 
Katsumaru Guide 

(machine-translated English only) http://www.katsushika-kanko.com/
 

Access information from Tokyo Skytree, Ueno, Narita Airport

(machine-translated English only) http://www.katsushika-kanko.com/access/  
 

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THIS ARTICLE IS BASED ON INFORMATION FROM 08 31,2018 Author:DiGJAPAN! Editorial Team

 

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