A Japanese engineer who had worked on the Panama Canal created this important floodgate and canal alongside the Arakawa River in the 1920s. The red paint and the cherry blossoms make it scenic as well as functional.
UPDATE: Above is the film version, which took awhile to be developed. The colors seem much richer than the digital iPhone image below.
Just a few hundred meters down river from an ugly stretch of buried Shiba river, I found these beautiful boats shining beneath the freeway. It’s lovely to see these boats and to know that the river is still being used by some people.
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.
With A Small Lab‘s Chris Berthelsen, I’ll be leading an afternoon tour tomorrow of Tokyo Bay and the Sumida river for Still City, an exciting workshop hosted at Shibaura House with international participants interested in urban design.
Anyone is free to join us tomorrow, or to use the itinerary on your own at any time. I like the layers of history visible when viewing Tokyo as a once great waterway, and the current reverberations of last century’s apocalyptic earthquakes, war bombing, surrender, and reinvention. The centuries old Japanese garden uses salt water from the bay for its ponds, there will be early fall folliage, and we will ride Himiko, the crazy boat in the photo above.
Still City is a Dutch-Japanese workshop looking at opportunities suggested by viewing Tokyo as emblematic of post-growth urban life. It’s supported by the Japan Foundation and the Kingdom of the Netherlands, along with its local embassy.
Overview: We’ll visit a traditional Japanese garden near Shibaura House, recall Tokyo’s river heritage on a water bus up the Sumida River, and explore Asakusa, one of Tokyo’s oldest neighborhoods. A frugal afternoon exploring a few still spaces in this churning megalopolis. Spontaneous picnicking, beers from final-generation liquor stores, and foraged city food are all possible.
1. Enjoy a traditional Japanese garden: Meet at Hamarikyu Garden at 1.00 pm (Nakanogomon Gate entrance)
Hamarikyu Garden is an Edo-style garden situated between the glass high-rises of Shiodome and Tokyo Bay. A traditional Japanese garden dating back hundreds of years, this spot by the bay played a critical role in the negotiations between US General McArthur and Emperor Hirohito in settling the war and the fate of the imperial family. Perhaps they partook in duck hunting together, a ruling class pastime marked with a religious shrine.
Where: Hamarikyu Garden is a short walk from Hamamatsuchou, Shimbashi, and Shiodome stations, about 2 km from Shibaura House. You can easily walk from Shibaura House, or take the Yamanote line or the Yurikamome monorail.
Cost: 300 yen admission
2. Boat up the Sumida River to Asakusa: Meet at Hinode Pier’s Waterbus Station at 2.45 pm
The water bus from Hinode Pier to Asakusa takes about 40 minutes. Going upstream on the wide Sumida River, you can experience Tokyo’s river heritage, and see a good part of eastern Tokyo, including the new Sky Tree. For those new to Tokyo and even for those who live here, viewing Tokyo by boat is a rare and fun event.
Where: Hinode Pier is half way between Hamarikyu Garden and Shibaura House. There’s also a Yurikamome monorail station there.
Cost: 720 yen. Boat leaves at 2.55 pm.
3. Explore old Tokyo at Asakusa: Arrive by water bus at 3.30 pm
Asakusa is one of Tokyo’s oldest neighborhoods. It has been less gentrified in the post-war years, and retains an old Tokyo feeling. We’ll check out a shrine, a market, and some back street gardening. Time permitting, we’ll stop at a neighborhood bathhouse to relax after the tour. Feel free to return at any time.
Return to Shibaura House: Take the Toei Subway Asakusa Line to Mita station, then walk. 18 min on express train, 210 yen.
Zenpukuji river is a lovely green corridor in Suginami: walking and biking paths, playing fields, and the large Omiya Hachiman shrine. I love biking by this windy river. Not far from here, I spotted a tanuki crossing the road that leads to a city onsen.
Is there anything alive in this river? Cutting through Shiba in Minato-ku, it’s covered by the Shuto freeway and cut off from the street with a chain link fence. What a color!
It’s always fun to walk along this public path on the Shinjuku side of Shinjuku Gyoen. Shaded by tall trees, it’s a pleasant escape from the hard urban surfaces. There’s even a reconstructed creek to evoke the springs and rivers that used to flow naturally here.
蒸し暑い天気のときに一番涼しいところは、冷たい川の中です。@a_small_lab と @jessmantell と御嶽に行きました。東京にあんな自然がまだあります。実がついたバナナを見て、驚きました。
In summer’s heat and humidity, the best place to be is in a cold river. Recently I met up with @a_small_lab and @jessmantell at the Tama river up in the foothills of western Tokyo. At Mitake, you can feel that you are in the mountains while being still in the city. It’s about an hour and a half by train from central Tokyo, and the water is cold!
I was very surprised to see bananas growing by the river. The fruit is now forming.
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.
Honeysuckle is such a sweet, if sometimes rampant vine. It’s not so common in Tokyo. When I smelled this one, I stopped my bike for a few minutes along the Kanda river.
Just before summer starts is one of my favorite seasons in Tokyo. This is the river in Nakameguro famous for its cherry trees. I already want to put my feet in the water.
Below the overpasses, bicycle parking, the rear end of office buildings, signs for Slot Club and other shops, runs what remains of the Shibuya river. Rivers and ports traditionally animate cities, allowing for trade, transportation, and food. In Shibuya, it’s easy to think there is no river at all. What a wasted opportunity.
Nakameguro river is one of the best spots for viewing hanami. Last Friday was approximately 80%. Much family, student, friends, and co-worker public drinking and nature appreciation!
Today it’s windy and raining, so perhaps the season is already over as the petals fall fast.