KOMAGOME / SUGAMO
KOMAGOME / SUGAMO
Japanese style garden and traditional shopping streets
Komagome and Sugamo are located on the northern end of the JR Yamanote Line. Unlike the more trendy areas of Tokyo, these two towns manage to retain a certain nostalgic atmosphere.
Somehow still nostalgic old town
Sugamo faces Nakasendo Avenue, one of the old Edo Five Main Routes, so the town used to bustle with travelers and carriers who delivered their local specialties. The first resting places on the Nakasendo route were dotted around Sugamo, some distance from Nihonbashi, the starting point. Traces of the prosperity of those days can be seen in the Roku-Jizosonshin statue at Shinsho-ji Temple, or in the Sugamo Koshinzuka stone statue, both of which were built to offer prayers for travelers’ safe journeys. Also, the quiet gardens in Komagome allow you get away from the din and bustle of the surrounding large city. It is pleasant to go for a stroll around here when you feel a need for a bit of relaxation.
Gardens in Komagome
Komagome Station is on the JR Yamanote Line. It takes 15 minutes from both Shinjuku and Tokyo to Komagome. Getting off at the station, you will feel the casual “old downtown” atmosphere. Two historical gardens are accessible on foot from Komagome Station.
A seven-minute walk to the south takes you to Rikugien Gardens. The head of the Kawagoe Clan, in the present-day Saitama Prefecture, Yanagisawa Yoshiyasu (1658-1714), was given this territory by the fifth Tokugawa Shogun, Tsunayoshi, and created this garden which took seven and a half years to comlete. The garden that was completed in 1702 is a typical example of the famous gardens of the Edo period (1603-1867). In the Meiji period (1868-1912), the garden became a second residence of Iawasaki Yataro, the founder of Mitsubishi, which was one of the three major zaibatsu (conglomerates) of early-modern Japan. Later, in 1938, the Iwasaki family donated the garden to the City of Tokyo. Rikugien is also known as “The garden of Japanese waka poetry” where you can find a typical strolling garden with a collection of 88 miniature Japanese scenic beauty spots as described in the ancient poetry anthologies, “A Collection of a Myriad Leaves” (Manyoshu) and “The Anthology of Now and Then” (Kokinwakashu). You can enjoy strolling around the pond and viewing the beautiful scenery.
Walking on from the opposite north exit of Komagome Station for about 12 minutes, you can find Kyu Furukawa Gardens, historically famous as a beautiful garden park where Western and Japanese cultures are well harmonized. This property was originally the location of the second house of a notable Meiji period politician, Mutsu Munemitsu. However, when his second son was adopted into the Furukawa family, it became the property of the Furukawa family. By using the slopes and the contiguous lower area, the Western-style residence made of brick was built on a small hill on the north side. The Western-style garden was located on the slope, and the Japanese garden was created on the lower level of the grounds. Although the buildings from the previous era no longer exist, the currently existing Western-style residence and garden was designed by the English architect, Josiah Condor (1852-1920), who also designed the Rokumeikan (the first dance hall in Japan) and the Holy Resurrection Cathedral in Tokyo, known as Nicholai-do. The Japanese garden was designed by Ogawa Jihe from Kyoto (1860-1933), also known as a pioneer of modern Japanese gardens.
Both parks are open 9:00am to 5:00pm. It would be nice to stroll around the park as you enjoy viewing seasonal flowers such as cherry blossoms, hydrangeas and camellias.
The shopping streets in Komagome
Although there are no “latest fashion” shops, famous designer brand shops, or electronics shops, the shops here have a certain traditional ambience.
On the way to Kyu Furukawa Gardens from the Komagome Station, you will find a busy shopping street called “Shimofuri Ginza Shopping Street.” Although it is narrow and short alley, you can find a variety of shops selling many things including perishables, hardware, stationery, and bags. These shops are not sophisticated, but there is a lively energy of everyday living here. On the stalls in front of the shops, appetizing fried croquettes and Chinese pork buns are sold. The recent hit is “melon pan,” bread whose appearance resembles a melon.
The Somei Ginza Shopping Street connecting with Shimofuri Ginza is a bit broader and gives a somewhat quieter impression. The name of the shopping center comes from the former Somei Village, where the most popular kind of cherry blossom, someiyoshino, originated.
Gogan-ji Temple in Sugamo–Togenuki Jizoson
Gogan-ji Temple is known as Togenuki Jizoson. This temple first opened in 1596 in the Yushima, neighborhood of Ueno, Tokyo. It finally settled in its present location in Sugamo in 1891. The principle Buddhist image of the temple is “Enmei Ksitigarbha,” who is said to miraculously cure diseases and lengthen life. The original story of “Togenuki” or “thorn removal” comes from the story that a long time ago, a housemaid from the Mori family mistakenly swallowed a needle, but when she ate a piece of paper with the image of the deity Jizo on it, she was successfully able to spit out the needle. Now, people still come to visit the temple for such a piece paper which they can put on any painful part of their body, or even eat. The statue standing in front of the main building is “Arai Kannon” or “washing deity.” It is said that if you pour water on and polish with a cloth the same part of the Arai Kannon statue as the part of your body which ails you, your illness will go away.
Jizo Dori Shopping Street in Sugamo
The front approach to the Togenuki Jizo Temple from Sugamo Station (about 800 meters) is Jizo Dori Street. The street is always bustling with a lively crowd even on weekdays. Compared to Shinjuku and Shibuya, the average age of the people who come here is a little higher and the area is also known as “The Harajuku of Elderly Ladies.” Fairs are conducted on the 4th, 14th, and the 24th of every month, and about 200 stalls are opened. In Sugamo, shiodaifuku, or salty bean paste rice cakes that exhibit an exquisite balance between sweet bean paste and salt, are very popular. You should not miss rice crackers and monaka (bean-jam-filled wafers), either. When you buy something, you will be able to enjoy some pleasant interchange with the staff at the shops. You can find a more easygoing Tokyo here, which is “laid back” and relaxed compared to many other districts of the metropolis.