KINSHICHO / KAMEIDO
From the electronics and anime mecca of Akihabara, we head East on the JR Sobu Line. Our destination? Kinshicho, an industrial city that has prospered by making use of the network of canals that run throughout the area. Kameido, once a floating island called “Kame no Shima” (Turtle Island), is famous for the deity of academic achievement, Tenjin. Let’s take a stroll around this area a little bit where you will find a developed urban center around the station with all the flavor of the city life co-existing with the relaxing plentiful greenery and natural water.
When we get off the train at Kinshicho Station, we first head towards the shopping in the buildings lined up outside of the South Exit. There is a monument in memory of Ito Sachio inscribed with one of his poems. Believe it or not, back during the Meiji Period (1868-1912), this area mainly was used for ranches. Ito wrote various works during his time while running a cow-milking business here.
Termina, a department store directly connected to the station, offers everything from clothing, to household goods, to groceries. The adjacent amusement facility of Tokyo Rakutenchi offers saunas and natural hot spring baths as a way to relax after your shopping and enjoying things like the movie theaters and bowling alleys.
WINS Kinshicho, off-track horse racing and betting, is located on Keiyo Road across from the station rotary. Just behind the building sits Koto-ji temple. Kobayashi Ichizo, a businessman who developed the Tokyo Rakutenchi (noted before), built this temple wishing for the city’s development and enshrined Koto Kannon in the temple. The horse-headed deity Bato Kannon can also be found on the grounds and just may have some connection with the nearby WINS complex.
A five-minute walk to the south of Kinshicho Station takes us to Kinshibori Park. A statue of a kappa (a river monster) stands at this site that was previously the Kinshi-bori moat, or more popularly known as “Oiteke-bori.” According to one of the local ghost stories, “The Seven Mysteries of Honjo,” back during the Edo Period (1603-1867), some people were out fishing in the moat and caught an abnormally large amount of fish one day. Just as they were about to happily go home with their big catch, a scary voice was came from somewhere inside the moat saying, “Oiteke! (Leave your things and get out of here!)” Everyone was terrified but still took their fish baskets and hurried home. Upon arrival, they reluctantly opened their fish baskets only to find them completely empty.
You will know the North Exit by the huge monument of a musical theme. Here you will find the Sumida Edokirikokan, where you can buy traditional handicrafts and experience different hands-on activities for yourself. It is definitely worth the visit. Should you have some extra time to kill, check out the Brake Museum, a rare place where brakes from all sorts of vehicles are on display.
■Sumida Edokirikokan (Edo-Style Cut Glass Museum)
Three minute walk from the north exit of Kinshicho Station. This museum displays some 350 items, ranging from rare pieces to every-day utensils, of Edo-Style Cut Glass as its permanent exhibit. Edokiriko cut glass style began in Edo (present-day Tokyo) at the end of the Edo Period (about 170 years ago). These cut glass works crafted by the skilled artisan are all amazing and the intricate patterns are captivatingly beautiful. Purchases will be wrapped in reusable furoshiki wrapping cloth, which is a nice touch. Read the history of this glass cutting style and learn about the production process through informative panels on the walls. A basic course in glass cutting is also available but a reservation is necessary.
World-famous Seiko Watch was a symbol of Kinshicho as an “industrial city” and the former site of the Seiko factory was redeveloped into the shopping mall “olinas” in 2006. Kinshi Park spreads out on the south side of this mall and many people visit the park to enjoy sporting activities when they are not at work.
Various types of street musicians can often be seen around the station in the evenings and on holidays. Along with this, the “Kinshicho Kawachi Ondo Dai Bon-odori” dance festival is held every August and the “Sumida Matsuri” festival every October. The “Sumida Garasu-ichi” glassware fair takes place twice a year, in April and October. Glassware works made by artisans from local glass factories are exhibited and sold.
Taking Kuramae-dori Street to the east and crossing over the Tenjin Bridge brings us to the Kameido Tenjin-dori Shopping Street. At the entrance of the Tenjin shrine, you can find the long-standing Japanese confectionery, Funabashiya. If you get a little hungry, try the kuzu mochi (sweet cake), as it is their specialty.
■Kameido Tenjin Shrine
Sugawara no Michizane (845-903), who is akin to a deity of scholarship, is enshrined here. Both sides of the approach through the “torii” entrance gate to the shrine’s main sanctuary are canals of water. Wisteria trellises cover the area, offering a very mysterious atmosphere. Towards the end of April, amidst the pale scent of all the wisteria just starting to bloom in unison, the Fuji Matsuri (wisteria festival) opens to a bustling crowd of festival-goers.
Michizane is said to have loved plum blossoms, so over 200 plum trees are planted within the grounds. Many people come to the Ume Matsuri (plum festival) held in February to celebrate the coming of spring. A seedling from the sacred plum tree of Daizafu Tenmangu Shrine of Kyushu has even been enshrined in Kobaiden Hall, just next to the main sanctuary.
Continuing to walk East along Kuramae-dori Street, we make a right at Meiji-dori Street and soon come upon Kameido Station. Kameido Gyoza (gyoza eatery) at the North Exit of the station is very popular for its crispy gyoza (Chinese style dumplings). Neighboring Kameido Hormone (Korean barbecue restaurant) specializes in offal BBQ and is always crowded with people waiting in line to get in.
Walking underneath the railroad overpass takes us out to the south side of the station. Sun Street shopping mall is home to a variety of shops from fashion to household goods, along with various restaurants as well, and is just a one-minute walk from the East Exit of Kameido Station. Near the food court is the “Binbogami (deity of poverty) Shrine.” The unusual manner of praying is to cut all ties with the deity of poverty: 1) hit the sacred wood 3 times with a stick, 2) kick the sacred wood 3 times, 3) throw the bag with the deity of poverty to the ground! Hold on to those champagne wishes and caviar dreams…
A local railway, the Tobu Kameido Line, starts from Kameido Station and weaves through the downtown factories. This small two-car train may prove to be a good little trip should it strike your fancy. You could take it over to Kameido Suijin Station where Kameido Central Park, with its comfortable grass lawn, is just but a quick walk away.