Tokyo Stroll Supplement: Kita Ku
This page is for locations in the Kita Ku area of Tokyo. This area is not part of my book Tokyo Stroll.
For information on Tokyo Stroll and this web supplement see Tokyo Stroll Supplement home page
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Founded in 1947 when the Tokyo wards of Ōji and Takinogawa were merged. Kita simply means "north".
Akabane Green Road Park / Akabane Midori-dō Kōen (赤羽緑道公園)
This park runs from just north of the west exit of Akabane Station towards the Akabane Nature Observation Park. The land was originally the right of way for a Imperial Army rail line established in 1907 connecting a supply depot where the Akabane Nature Observation Park now is with the regular rail lines north of Akabane Station. This explains why the park is long and narrow. Parts of the trail have a design motif of railroad ties and tracks. The Akabane Green Road Park Bridge has a train wheel design on its railing. After WWII the depot was taken over by the US Army and the rail line remained in use.
Akabane Nature Observation Park / Akabane Shizen Kansatsu Kōen (赤羽自然観察公園)
This park opened in 1999 having been organized and built by a combination of volunteers and professional landscapers to create an environment as natural as possible. Included in the construction was a donguri no mori, an acorn wood, with many native trees and plants. Attention was also paid to the insects in the area as they are part of the experience. There is a small valley with a couple of spring fed streams that flow to the pond and are used as a water source for the rice field. Volunteers still assist in maintaining the park and participating in events. Prior to the creation of the park this was a portion of a Japan Self-Defense Forces facility which had become unsightly with old barracks and dirty water in what is now the pond. There is an area where groups can cook food, reservations are required two months in advance.
Asukayama Park / Asukayama-kōen (飛鳥山公園)
In the early 18th century Shōgun Tokugawa Yoshimune established this area as a large sakura, cherry blossom, viewing spot which he allowed the public to enjoy, it was later became one of Japan's first public parks in 1873. The park was also the location of the estate of Shibusawa Eiichi, a Meiji Period industrialist who felt that business should benefit society. He established the Tokyo Stock Exchange, Japan's first modern bank, and many more endeavors. Besides hundreds of cherry trees the park is known for the hydrangea flowers that bloom in June. There is an impressive large playground with a toddler area, and a splash pool in the summer. For rail fans the playground area has an old Japanese National Railway Class D51 steam locomotive, number D51 853, and an old Toei 6000 series tram car, number 6080. If you have mobility problems you can get to the top of the hill at the north end of the park by taking a short and free monorail ride from Ōji Station, exit towards the west at the central gate. There are also three museums in the park which I include on this page: the Paper Museum, the Kita City Asukayama Museum, the Shibusawa Memorial Museum.
Kita City Furusato Farm Experience Museum / Kita City Furusato Nōka Taikenkan (北区 ふるさと農家体験館)
The old farm house of the Matsuzawa family, said to have been built in 1844 in the Ukima area of Kita-ku. In 1997 it was disassembled and stored, in 2003 it was relocated to Akabane Nature Observation Park. In 2005 the building was opened to the public. Exhibited are old everyday objects and implements one would find in an old farming community. Education events are also carried out here throughout the year.
Kita Ku Asukayama Museum / Kita Ku Asukayama Hakubutsukan (北区飛鳥山博物館)
This city run museum in a building designed by AXS Satow opened in 1998 after a decade of planning. The focus of the museum is Kita ku, mainly the historical and artistic sides to the area. There are three stories with the entrance on the second floor, a permanent exhibition is on 1st floor, special exhibits which change twice a year on the 2nd, and the art gallery on 3rd floor. The permanent exhibits are on Kita ku history including on local Archaeology dating back some 30,000 years. They include fossils of Naumann elephant teeth, a cross-section specimen from the Nakazato Kaizuka shell mound, dugout canoe from the Jōmon period, full sized replica of a Yayoi Period pit dwelling house, a replica of a Nara Period tax rice storehouse which is also full sized, and more. In the Edo Period what is now Asukayama Park was a popular place for viewing cherry blossoms and there is an exhibit of meticulously research replicas of bentō boxes that would have been brought by those viewing the flowers. This part of Tokyo was an agricultural area known for root crops and there is an exhibit of the varieties that were grown at the time. Being along the flood prone Arakawa river exhibits also cover flood control measures as well as the present day flora and fauna. The art gallery, and special exhibits, highlight works by Kita ku artists and craftspeople. There is also a cafe on the 3rd floor and a museum shop. A detailed English-language brochure is available at the museum.
Ōji Inari Jinja (王子稲荷神社)
This shrine is quite old dating from the Heian Period. Some of the shrine buildings were donated the Tokugawa Ienari, the 11th Tokugawa Shōgun. The main building dates from 1822 except for it's core which was damaged in WWII and had to be replaced. Utagawa Hiroshige included this shrine in the One Hundred Famous Views of Edo print series. There are two entrances, the one on the east side is often closed as the shrine grounds include a kindergarten at this location. The entrance on the south side is best to use if that is the case. Today this shrine is also associated with people in fox costumes gathering at the nearby Shōzoku Inari Jinja on New Years Eve and at midnight parading to Ōji Inari. The enshrined kami are Ukanomitama-no-kami, Ukemochi-no-kami, Wakumusubi-no-kami.
Ōji Jinja (王子神社)
A Shintō shrine that dates back to the early 14th century in the Kamakura Period. Ōji Jinja is said to have been built where a ritual was performed during Minamoto no Yoshiie's Ōshū campaign making it a sacred place. During the Sengoku Jidai the shrine had the support of the Odawara Hōjō, in the Tokugawa Period land was donated to the shrine by Tokugawa Ieyasu who also designated the shrine as a place of prayer in support of the shōgunate. Other Tokugawa shōguns had the shrine rebuilt more than once and presented gifts to it. During the Tokugawa Period the shrine was often referred to as "Ōji Gongen." At the beginning of the Meiji Period ten shrines were chosen to be the ten Tokyo jissha as protectors of Tokyo with Ōji Jinja being the "northern protector shrine." Reconstruction of the shrine after the war was in two phases, the first began in the 1950s and ended in 1960. In 1982 the grounds were reorganized and the shrine was rebuilt in the Gongen-zukuri style.
Old Kyū-Iwabuchi Water Gate / Kyū Iwabuchi Suimon (旧岩淵水門)
In 1910 Tokyo was hit with two typhoons in quick succession resulting in the Great Kantō Flood as water raged down the Arakawa, the name means "wild river". Over 170,000 buildings were flooded, economic damage was massive, over 1,300 people died or went missing in the Kantō area. To deal with possible floods in the future construction on the massive 22 kilometer (13 mile) long Arakawa Estuary began in 1911. The project was finished 17 years later to reduce the risk of flooding by dividing the flow of the river. These large gates were constructed to divert the flow of the Arakawa away from the Sumidagawa into the estuary. The gates were completed in 1924 at the junction of the river and the estuary, the construction was so solid that they were undamaged by the Great Kantō Earthquake. The gates are of reinforced concrete, Akira Aoyama who also worked on the Panama Canal directed the construction. There are 5 gates, all were painted red when the gates were renovated in 1960, which quickly became a local landmark. In 1982 the newer, and significantly taller, blue Iwabuchi Water Gate was built downstream to replace the old gates which were now not considered tall enough to properly do their job. Local opposition to the demolition of the old gates led to their being preserved. This place is popular with joggers and strollers along the river. The location is also considered a haunted place by some as bodies of those who drowned in the river would naturally drift here.
Otonashi Water Park / Otonashi Shinsui Kōen (音無親水公園)
This narrow park located between Ōji Jinja and Asukayama Park in a small valley was established in 1988. The name translates as "Quiet Water Park" and is part of the former course of the Otonashigawa, now called the Shakujiigawa and which now flows under Asukayama Park and the train tracks near Ōji Station. There are strolling paths along and inside the valley with numerous stairs going down to the lower level. Both levels have plenty of places to sit and rest. The upper level is lined with sakura (cherry) trees making it a lovely spot when they blossom in the spring. The attractive double spanned otonashi bridge for Tokyo Metropolitan Road Route 455 near the west end of the park has sakura motifs on the railings. Roughly midway in the widest part of the park is the traditional wooden Funekushi Bridge pedestrian bridge. If you go further east in the riverbed you will reach a barrier where the pathways end.
Paper Museum / Kami no Hakubutsukan (紙の博物館)
This museum devoted to history of paper and papermaking was founded in 1950 by Narita Kiyofusa, who also wrote several books on paper making, a few of which were translated into English. There are four stories with the entrance located on the 2nd floor. The first floor has the Event Hall, the "Monument Corner", and a publicly accessible library. The second floor has the Paper and Industry display on Japan's modern paper industry including machinery used in modern papermaking and the Museum Shop. The third floor has the Paper Classroom which is intended primarily for programs for elementary school students, here there are various types of paper you can touch, and the Video Corner. The fourth floor is devoted to Washi, Japan's traditional paper, covering its history and those parts of Japan which still produce it today. The museum hosts various special events and workshops on paper making are held on weekends. The garden area next to the museum includes various plants that are grown to make paper.
Second Nakazato railroad crossing / Daini Nakazato Crossing (第二中里踏切)
This entry is mainly for railfans. Tokyo's famous Yamanote Line with it's 30 stations circles the parts of the 23 ku area of Tokyo that were the high city of the Edo Period. Today where the line intersects roadways it is elevated or has roads on overpasses. In the past there were several street level grade crossings, today there is one remaining such crossing located between Komagome and Tabata stations where flashing lights and barriers lower down to stop road traffic. However there are plans in the works to eliminate this crossing in the future. This is a good place to get photos as the trains go by, but be fast in clicking the shutter. Don't worry if you miss your shot another train will come by in a few minutes.
Shibusawa Memorial Museum / Shibusawa Shiryōkan (渋沢史料館)
This museum is devoted to Shibusawa Eiichi (1840-1931), a major participant in the Meiji Period transformation of Japan. Born the son of a well to do farmer when he was 23 he worked for the Hitotsubashi family, then headed by soon to be shōgun Hitotsubashi Yoshinobu, where he showed his skills in finance. He was part of Tokugawa Akitake's delegation to Europe in 1867. He joined the Ministry of Finance of the new Meiji Government until 1873 when he founded the Dai-ichi Bank (First National Bank). As president of the bank he encouraged the founding of many enterprises including the Ōji Paper Company, the Imperial Hotel, and the Tokyo Stock Exchange. His role was not only as a government official and businessman, he also founded hospitals and several educational institutions one of which was the first women's university. The 10000 yen notes which began issuance in 2024 includes his portrait.
Shōzoku Inari Jinja (装束稲荷神社)
A small inari shrine on a corner lot located north of Ōji Station. Almost every Inari shrine has fox statues, the ones here are very unique with elongated bodies. An old legend has it that on New Years Eve foxes from all over the Kantō region would gather at the old enoki (hackberry) tree at this location at night, they would then transform into the shape of humans before heading to Ōji Inari Shrine for their first shrine visit of the year. This story has been immortalized in a ukiyo-e print designed by Hiroshige. The enoki tree is long gone and the location is now marked by this shrine. However every year people in fox costumes gather here on New Years Eve and at midnight parade to Ōji Inari.
Created December 30, 2023 | Content last updated January 29, 2024