Shibamata is a small district located to the east of Tokyo. Made famous by the tv series “Otoko wa tsurai yo”, the area attracts dedicated fans paying homage to the setting. Venturing out from the train station, our eyes were immediately drawn to the statue of Tora san, the main protagonist of the show. Behind a variety of street stalls, framed the statue on all sides.
As we walked along the Omotesando, other references in the forms of T-shirts, key chains, snacks and so forth attested to the popularity of the tv series as well. The street itself maintains the charm of the 1950s, with shops selling traditional goods like pickled vegetables and sweets of the yesteryear.
One popular snack along the street was the kusa mochi, which is basically mochi made from grass. The bitterness of the greens was alleviated by the sweet anko (red bean) making for a delicious snack.
The Shibamata Taishakuten was located at the end of the street, a formidable sight to behold. The gate was covered with intricate cravings of dragons and dieties, and the temple itself dates to 1629. In the courtyard, a pine tree, with its long snaking branch supported by beams provides for a curious sight. Said to possess mystical powers, the tree dates back to the founding of the temple.
Within the temple, one could pay a small fee to admire the detailed ancient carvings surrounding the prayer hall. We followed the wooden corridor, taking us to the Japanese garden, Suikeien. The beautifully manicured garden was one of the most beautiful ones we have seen yet. Benches along the corridor allowed us to enjoy the peace and tranquility while sampling complimentary teas. Recharged by the power spot, we set off for Matsudo.
About 20 minutes’ drive away, we arrived at the Tojo House, which was the second home of Ashitake Tokugawa, the younger brother of Yoshinobu Tokugawa. The house was a sprawling network of corridors and rooms, and the wealth of the family could be observed from not only the size of the estate but the beautiful carvings decorating the beams inside. Yet despite the relative excesses, one could also appreciate the simplicity of life in the past. Considering their noble status, there were only two toilets and one bath, which must have been a terrible inconvenience for a household of what must have been at least 20 people.
Despite this, Ashitake Tokugawa was an avid gardener and expended much effort into his landscaping masterpiece. From one of the main halls, we looked out into the garden across the cityscape of Tokyo, with Mount Fuji drawing our attention in the distance. The eternality of the view struck us. Many things may have changed but the grandeur of Mount Fuji continues to captivate audiences across the ages.