神田川

I was stunned that a Tokyo taxi driver doesn’t know where the Kanda river crosses a major boulevard

kanda_river_nishishinjuku_contrasts

「神田川で止めてください」タクシーの運転手にお願いしました。すると「どこですか」と言いましたから、驚きました。本当に東京の人は神田川を忘れたのでしょうか。夜に、はるか下のコンクリートの水路に鴨の声がまだ聞けます。

I love this view of the Kanda River, the older low-rise Nishi Shinjuku neighborhood, with the new towers rising in the background. It’s sad that the river is so dis-used that many people probably do not recognize it. Still, at night, I hear ducks quacking far below the street in this concrete channel.

Sumida river sparkles at night. Is Tokyo best experienced by dark?

日中より、夜の東京のほうがきれいですね。国技館を出て、橋を渡るときに見える隅田川や神田川やスカイツリーはロマンチックな感じがあります。

Tokyo looks more magical at night. Walking across the Sumida River after seeing a sumo tournament, we admired the retro modern view of the bridges, elevated freeways, railway tracks, and inky black river. Even Sky Tree, the latest addition to this skyline, projects a futuristic image that is oddly familiar.

The green neon marks the Kanda river’s last bridge before joining the Sumida river. This river starts at Inokashira park in Kichijoji, west of where we live and winds for 26 kilometers before joining the Sumida and flowing into Tokyo Bay. A few years ago, I co-wrote an article about the Kanda river’s history and potential for new urbanism in Tokyo. You can download the 6 MB document in PDF form here.

At the bottom, you can see that there are still pleasure boats parked at the bottom of the Kanda for river dining and drinking. I’ve never been on these smaller boats.

Surprised to see so many yellow irises in Kanda river

吉祥寺に自転車で乗っているときに、神田川の中に、たくさん黄色のアヤメを見て、驚きました。

Biking up the Kanda river to Kichijoji, I was surprised to see hundreds of yellow irises blooming in the river bed. I wish there was more access to the water, but seeing these bright flowers draws my attention to what else might be living and growing in the river.

Rivers in western Tokyo

西東京の三川における、江戸時代にさかのぼる歴史や街と街をつなげる緑や洪水対策の仕組みが観察できます。

Along three western Tokyo rivers you can see Edo history, green corridors, and flood control.

On Linus Yng’s @ArchitourTokyo Western Tokyo bike exploration, we passed three contrasting rivers. The first is a view of the Kanda (神田川) from Yamate Dori (山手道り), with Nishi Shinjuku in the background. Many people have explained to me that the deep channeling is designed to prevent flooding. But it seems nonsensical to me that the entire river, include its bed, must be hard surface with no plant life. Closer to the skyscrapers, I regularly bike along the Kanda at night on the way to my favorite sento, and often hear ducks and other birds. It’s amazing how resilient urban wildlife is, despite our worst actions.

The second image is one of the few remaining, visible portions of the Tamagawa josui (玉川上水). Both the Kanda and the Tamagawa josui were human constructed canals built during the early Edo period to direct fresh water to the castle in the center of Tokyo. This was a massive project with 50 kilometers of canal dug through woodlands, at some points up to 18 meters below ground. This project supplied freshwater to the city, and turned the outer woodlands into productive farm land.

The last image is of the Zenpukuji River (善福寺川), which like the Kanda begins at a natural spring, and flows into the city center. This river has been turned into a very attractive park and green corridor running through much of Suginami. I was fascinated that many recreational facilities, including baseball fields and tennis courts, also serve as flood reservoirs. You can see how the water will flow directly into the sunken sports area in the photo at the bottom.