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Updated: April 2, 2018

See Tokyo's many faces—the hip, the cultural, and the natural—all through riverside walks

Taking a walk by some of the rivers that flow through the concrete jungle that is central Tokyo is a great, scenic way to explore the city by foot. And you will be surprised by what you can encounter. From the traditional along the Sumidagawa River to the trendy by the Meguro River, the affluence along the Tamagawa River and the cooling nature of the Todoroki Valley.

Tips

  • Wandering through Tokyo's old district of Asakusa on your way to Ryogoku—the sumo town
  • Seeing the mesmerizing sights of cherry blossoms hanging over the Meguro River in early spring
  • Taking in the atmosphere as you jostle with the crowds at the Setagaya-ku Tamagawa Fireworks Festival in summer
  • Trekking into the cooling and quiet depths of the Todoroki Valley

 

A slice of Japanese history through old districts

Explore Tokyo's old district of Asakusa, juxtaposed against the modern Tokyo Skytree, as you walk along the Sumidagawa River to the sumo town of Ryogoku. The stroll, by itself, would take about 30 minutes—though you should budget at least half a day for the numerous points of interest on either bank of the river. See the iconic Sensoji Temple, and shop and snack your way down the Nakamise souvenir street at Asakusa. Then, stop by the laidback artisan neighborhoods of Kuramae and Asakusabashi, where the hip new kids on the block coexist alongside respected traditional handicraft businesses. At Ryogoku, learn about Japanese history at the Edo-Tokyo Museum and Sumo Museum, and satiate your hunger by feasting on the 'chanko nabe' hot pot that is the staple diet of sumo wrestlers.

Art galleries and hip cafes along Tokyo's prime cherry blossoms spot

Start your journey along the Meguro River at the trendy, too-cool-for-school Nakameguro area with its range of fashion shops and art galleries, as well as hip riverfront cafes and eateries. Be surprised by what you may find while exploring the stores tucked away inside the side streets. Stop by for coffee along the way, and check out the Meguro Museum of Art, Tokyo. The walk, by itself, takes about 30 minutes—though it is also possible to walk all the way to Gotanda and Osaki, areas that are on the JR Yamanote Line. If you are visiting in spring, the cherry tree-lined Meguro River turns into a pretty shade of pink. Bask in the festival atmosphere as huge crowds descend on Nakameguro, where street food, beers and rosé are the order of the day.

A modern neighborhood on Tokyo's border with Kanagawa

Take a relaxing walk along a 5 kilometer segment of the Tamagawa River, which in total stretches 138 km long. Starting at the Tamagawa Station on the Tokyu Toyoko, Meguro and Tamagawa Lines, wander the wooded pathways and riverside paths towards the gentrified shopping area of Futakotamagawa. There are loads of cafes, restaurants and bars in the neighborhood to rest your feet after your hour-long walk. If you are visiting in summer, be sure to check out the Setagaya-ku Tamagawa Fireworks Festival that is one of Tokyo's most popular.

Head down into the green canopy of a Tokyo valley

Take a short but interesting wander into the quiet, cooling depths of the Todoroki Valley, which is located just 20 minutes from Shibuya. The trail runs 1.2 kilometers and is a great way to cool off in summer, with a distinct drop in temperature as you descend into the gorge. The calming flow of the Yazawa River and the sounds of the chirping birds are worlds' apart from the hustle and bustle of Shibuya. Picnic at a small grassy family park, and make your way to Todoroki Fudosan Temple, which has a wooden viewing platform overlooking the ravine.

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