Shibamata: Tokyo's Hidden Heaven
Boarding the train leading to Shibamata Station, I can smell and notice the sudden change in my surroundings and the crowd around me. The usual hundreds, populated Tokyo center is slowly turning into a 2-car train with fewer people in it, a few tourists and some old men and women.
The train from Takasago station waited for a few minutes before it finally left. The view of the Tokyo skyscrapers is now out of sight and replaced by a middle-class small town. Mansions are now houses built in usual Japanese style, high-rise buildings are now two-story simple establishments, and a road clear of congestion.
The Shibamata journey starts right after the train arrives in Shimabata Station. Around are small stalls of hot food and some hand-made accessories and souvenirs. A statue of an actor named Tora-san, who leads the film Otoko wa tsurai yo (Being a man is tough), stands in the middle with its bronze painted body and in sandals.
Following the way through a narrow road with some typical old Japanese establishments lining up is one of the highlights of the place. It is called Nakamise (仲見世) in Japanese and can also be found in some nostalgic villages in Ueno and even Atami. There are many kinds of products displayed in each establishment. One is the famous Japanese tsukemono or pickles. Japanese are not only expert in making delicious sushi and tasty noodles but also pickles. They can turn fresh vegetables like celery, scallot, ginger, cucumber etc. into sweet and sour pickles.
A Japanese favorite dagashi-ya 駄菓子屋 (Cheap Sweets Store) is also one that you can find lining up in the Nakamise. You can find candies, sweets, biscuits, cookies, toys, accessories, and sometimes classic game machines inside the store. Sweets are sold as cheap as 10 JPY. No wonder it is everyone's favorite too.
Also, many dango (Japanese dumpling) in a variety of sweet paste is everywhere. Unusual flavors that you can't find in some places are sakura (cherry blossom), lemon, kuro-goma (black sesame), matcha (green tea) and anko (red beans).
Lastly, on the final destination of the journey, at the end of the Nakamise lies the Taishakuten Temple's Gate. It is made of carved woods built about a hundred years ago. Taishakuten Temple is one the sacred temples around Tokyo and considered also a Power Spot. Many will come to the place for prayers.
There are also lots of things that you can do around Shibamata like the Yagiri-no-watashi ferry landing but it is usually closed in the cold season. Also, dress shops and some bakeries are available too. The next time that you want to escape from Tokyo's blinding lights and hassle, Shibamata might be one of your finest choices.
From Ueno station (about 33 minutes by train):
From Asakusa (about 27 minutes by train):