I’d never heard of this place until I saw it mentioned in one of my film travel books a couple of years back. Little did I know that it was just down the road from Kanamachi on the Tokyo/Chiba border where I worked on Saturdays when I first came to Japan many many years ago. After a trip down memory lane to our old neighbourhood, fellow blogger Gideon (of Gideon Davidson Photography fame) and I decided to finish the day in Shibamata which is less than 20 minutes walk from Kanamachi station. Of course it has its own station but I didn’t want to transfer to the Keisei-kanamachi line just to go one stop whilst paying another 130 yen to do so!
If you think the 007 series of films is impressive by number then thats nothing compared to the ‘Otoko Wa Tsurai Yo‘ (It’s tough being a man) series which consists of 48 films made between 1969 and 1995. Shibamata is the home to the main protagonist Tora-san and his family and friends which it is why its included in my book. Now I’m no expert on these movies but Tora-san is seemingly an optimistic guy who is unlucky in love as he travels back and forth between his beloved hometown and some remote place where he plans to peddle his wares to the locals. He generally meets a woman there who then by miraculous chance goes to Shibamata and bumps into the clumsily charming Tora-san. Of course its never a straight-forward romance though and chaos and hilarity often ensue with the main man invariably ending up heartbroken and walking off to his next destination.
There’s a statue of Tora-san outside the station and just round the corner and across a road is the main shopping street lined with traditional Japanese souvenir, sweet and snack shops which all seem to have some kind of Tora-san merchandise or displays. There aren’t too many places left in and around Tokyo where you can escape the hustle and bustle of modern city life but this place, along with Kawagoe, is one such place to sample the more traditional side of Edo period Japan.
It’s quite a short street and at the end you can see the Taishakuten temple quarters which looked quite nice covered in snow (but would have been even better a few days before) but because of that and the fact that it was late afternoon it was absolutely freezing walking around the buddhist temple gardens boardwalk which has to be done without shoes. Slippers are so often provided in Japan for so many different inside places and boy could we have done with them here!
Behind the temple is the Tora-san museum which sadly we didn’t have time for but hopefully, like Tora-san himself, I will return to Shibamata to pay the place a visit.