My Tokyo Guide
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Updated: October 5, 2021
The Shakujiigawa River runs across the northwest part of central Tokyo. Much of its length lies in Kita City, and near its banks are several parks and green spaces that are lovely in all seasons, in particular cherry blossom season. Located in a neighborhood with a low-key vibe, these parks are perfect for those looking for a quieter alternative to Tokyo's popular parks. Do as the locals do, and visit these parks for some peace and quiet.
One of the most popular cherry blossom spots in Tokyo, this park was built for the common people in the 18th century by the shogun (military commander) Tokugawa Yoshimune. You can simply walk into the park, or enter via the Asukayama Park Monorail, which offers great views of the park's foliage—it departs near Oji Station's Central Exit. Asukayama Park's grounds are also home to three museums— Kita City Asukayama Museum, Paper Museum, and Shibusawa Memorial Museum—as well as an old tram car and a steam locomotive, both of which are well-preserved.
Otonashi Shinsui Park literally means "quiet water park"—a very befitting name, as this is a peaceful park with a stone-paved pathways and an old-fashioned bridge across a small canal, which was once the course of the Shakujiigawa River. The view, immortalized by famous ukiyo-e (woodblock printing) master Utagawa Hiroshige in one of his works, conjures up the atmosphere of old Edo (the former name of Tokyo). Otonashi Shinsui Park may be quiet, but it's absolutely stunning during cherry blossom season. If you’ve worked up an appetite, try the tamagoyaki (Japanese-style omelettes) at nearby Ougiya. In business since 1648, this historical shop has even appeared in ukiyo-e paintings and been mentioned in rakugo (traditional Japanese comedy)!
With a name that translates to "quiet green park with maple leaves," this peaceful spot is the perfect place to find a bench, enjoy a quiet moment, and gaze out at a pond full of fish and water birds. It's also connected to the Otonashi Sakura Green Park, another nice green space with tranquil tree-lined paths.
A local farming chief led the construction of these gardens, and a beautiful waterfall sits within the grounds, hence the name, which means "the chief's waterfalls." On your walk here, you'll also pass Oji-jinja Shrine, a local institution with 700 years of history.
Not to be confused with Oji-jinja Shrine, Oji Inari-jinja Shrine is dedicated to Inari, a deity that is associated with foxes. Legend has it that, on New Year's Eve, foxes from all over Kanto dressed as humans and made their way to Oji Inari-jinja to pray. Paying homage to this legend, the shrine is known for a unique New Year's Eve tradition: a procession featuring participants in fox-themed costumes.
Have dinner or a light snack on your way back to the station. You've got plenty of options to choose from, but for a local favorite, check out Hirasawa Kamaboko, a popular standing bar that specializes in oden, a hearty stew that consists mainly of fish cakes.