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Updated: October 5, 2021
A guide to the best waterfront areas of Setagaya-ku. From art and parks to station areas, water is never far from reach in this beautiful and gentile neighborhood.
In Setagaya-ku you can experience a lot of nature and culture such as fashion and art. Yoga, like its namesake, conjures images of relaxation and harmony and it's this reason that Yoga is the ideal starting point for this tour around some of Setegaya's most treasured waterfront spots and displays a multitude of things to do in Setagaya. With a spectacular amphitheatre-like entrance, Yoga Station and its surrounding areas are peaceful and calm but with enough coffee shops, stores and amenities to make it a lovely place to live or visit. About 20 minutes from the station you'll come across the stunning, and huge, Kinuta Park which also houses Setagaya Museum, the first stop on the itinerary.
Established in 1986 and designed by Japanese architect Shozo Uchii, Setagaya Museum is a spacious art space devoted to showcasing the best of domestic and international art only a few minutes from the lush streams and woods of Kinuta Park. With a cafe and French restaurant, Le Jardin, which has outdoor seating, Setagaya Museum isn't just a museum, it's a destination in its own right. With exhibitions highlighting local, Setagaya-based artists, a permanent collection, hosting a range of international shows including artists such as Basquiat and Rauschenberg, it's a calm and entrancing museum and a must-visit destination while visiting Setagaya-ku.
Famous for its hanami (cherry blossom viewing) opportunities and massive 390,000 m2 size, Kinuta Park is the ideal picnic spot and in addition to its wooded areas also hosts baseball fields, soccer pitches and cycling courses making it perfect for outdoors and sporting enthusiasts. Another point about Kinuta Park is that it also hosts a series of kamado (stove bench) which can be used to cook on during any disasters or emergencies. These can be seen scattered throughout the park itself and reassures locals that the authorities take these kinds of scenarios seriously. The park also has a series of four bridges which cross over the streams and water which crisscross the park area. Similar to a mini hike, wear some comfortable shoes and traverse the park grounds, peering into lush streams and ravines whilst simultaneously taking in the bountiful nature on offer.
A leisurely stroll on your way to the Futakotamagawa area is the beautiful and historical Seikado Bunko Art Museum which is located in a very picturesque and slightly hidden spot. Housed in a contemporary building, next to the circular and very pretty fountain, Seikado Bunko Art Museum plays host to the Iwasaki family (founders of the Japanese powerhouse Mitsubishi group) collection of 200,000 classic books and 6,500 works of art including seven National Treasures and 84 Important Cultural Properties. The stunning museum is actually recognized as a major treasure house of east Asian culture.
The vast collection holds artefacts and art from a spectrum of eras from swords and tea ceremony utensils to calligraphy and lacquerware. There are also a variety of temporary exhibitions held there and former shows include showcases of Japanese noh masks.
At the rear of the museum is a garden area which affords some stunning views of Setagaya. There is also a host of plants and trees and a steep incline which is good for those who like a touch of exercise with your art. It's a magnificent museum and spot and one which stays with you. At times, it's unthinkable that you're still in the largest and densest city in the world. A pocket of tranquility and culture, it's an essential stop on this tour.
Note: This museum will relocate to the Marunouchi area in 2022.
Leaving Seikado Bunko Art Museum and walking along the Tama River towards the Futakotamagawa Station area is such a calming experience. Enjoying the expanse of the riverside, with Kanagawa Prefecture to your right and the Tama River flowing between you, it's a really unforgettable adventure. As you near Futakotamagawa (aka Nikotama to Tokyoites) it becomes slightly more crowded near the station area. However, only a few minutes from the station itself is the serene and scenic Futakotamagawa Park which is ideal for resting after the walk from Yoga. It features Kishin-en, a beautifully designed Japanese garden and there are lookout points where you can see the Tanzawa mountains and even, on a clear day, Mount Fuji. There are also kids playgrounds, and grassy sections which lend themselves to ball sports and even family picnics.
With ravines, streams, art and riverside walks, Setagaya-ku is a lush and romantic ward and one which is full of interesting and peaceful attractions. It's no wonder many Tokyoites dream of living in this area and for visitors, should be part of any Tokyo experience or tour.