Zenpukuji

A long line waits at shrine to give an offering at festival

神社の献金を上げるのために、待っている人が多いです。大宮八幡というきれいな神社に、夫は子供のときに、よく行きました。杉並区の善福寺川の隣です

Omiya Hachiman shrine is near where my husband grew up in Suginami ward. It’s also next to a beautiful green corridor that follows the Zenpukuji river.  I love the elegant building, and all the decorations including the purple cloth with Edo crests, the red and white stripes, the rope and lightning bolts, and the big lanterns.

Green corridor zig zags through residential neighborhood, with river and shrine

杉並区の善福寺川は長くて楽しい緑の回廊です。川がジグザグと流れています。このあたりで、夜、本当のタヌキを見ました。

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.

Mount Fuji at end of road at sunset

よくこの道を自転車で行きます。突然に道の終わりに富士山が見えて、驚いた。もっと注意深く観察しなければなりません。

I bike down this road so often, and suddenly I am surprised to see Mount Fuji at the very end. How come I am seeing it here for the first time? Maybe it’s the red of the sky against the traffic and brake lights.

Itsukaichi Kaido is one of the main Edo roads connecting Tokyo with western Japan. Near the city, it connects Koenji with Kichijoji while veering across and away from the Chuo train line. It also crosses the Zenpukuji river, which is a lovely greenway far from the train stations and mostly enjoyed by the neighbors.

Zenpukuji ponds attract many birds

善福寺の池はたくさん鳥を引き寄せます。西荻窪の駅の北にあって、散歩にすばらしいところです。

In a quiet neighborhood north of Nishi Ogikubo, the Zenpukuji ponds are a great place for a stroll and for bird watching. These two ponds are at the source of the Zenpukuji river, and I like how one is very open, while the other is almost entirely filled with reeds and places for birds to nest and forage. These photos are from a walk last month with my urbanist inspiration Chris Berthelsen and his family.

Lights and sky reflected in river make a good spot to take a break on bike

東京では、湾や川をあまり見ません。最近、自転車で西東京の近所を渡っています。善福寺川で休むのが好きです。夜になると、電気と空が水面 に映っていて、鳥が鳴いています。

In vast Tokyo, it’s easy to spend weeks and months without ever seeing the bay or any trace of the many rivers that once supplied the capital. I’ve been exploring new bike routes in western Tokyo that cut across the many train lines that all originate in Shinjuku. I always try to cross the Zenpukuji River, a beautiful green corridor through Suginami ward with cherry trees, playing fields, running paths, and a large shrine. I love looking at the sky and streetlights reflected in the water, and listening for birds.

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.

Trolls in the park

Zenpukuji art in park with Matthew

Under the title “Trolls in the Park,” there is an outdoor public art display in Suginami’s Zenpukuji park: a quiet park with two ponds, many ducks and wonderful mature trees now turning colors. If you have a chance to attend before November 22, I recommend a visit.

It was late in the day, and my photos turned out blurry. Above is Matthew in front of a manga-inspired sign, one of a series that blends the natural world of the park with the narratives and scene-shaping of comic books. Below is one of a series of birdhouses with men’s ties.

Zenpukuji art in park: birdhouse with tie

Much better photos are available on the Art in the Park website. There’s also a funny blog (in Japanese) by the artist Toshiaki Tomita who calls himself a bad guide who doesn’t know anything about the park. Below is a photo of fall foliage, reason enough to visit the park.

Zenpukuji park fall foliage

The idea of temporary art in the park– enlivening nature with culture and vice versa– appears to be gaining international interest. This Tokyo event has many British artists, and I read about a similar event in Singapore (through December 27 in the Singapore Botanic Gardens).