Shibamata (柴又) is a Tokyo neighborhood on the eastern end of the Japanese city. It sits snugly at the border and the Edogawa River is a convenient border between Tokyo and Chiba Prefecture. During the Edo period (1603-1868), it actually didn’t belong to Tokyo (Edo) at all. Nowadays, it gets quite a vivid fanbase that’s visiting but there are a few other things to do in Shibamata outside of that. If you are spending a few days in Tokyo, you can easily include Shibamata.
Most foreign tourists overlook this place as it is so far away and not very flashy. In fact, it has beautifully preserved the charm of the old Tokyo with its old fashioned shopping and restaurant street Taishakuten Sando and the legacy of Tora-San.
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1. Tora-san + Museum (寅さん博物館)
Thanks to the massive hit of “It’s Tough Being a Man” (Otoko wa tsurai yo), Tora-San has become an icon within the Japanese filmography. Essentially an anti-hero who calls Shibamata home whenever he isn’t out on sales trips, he won Japanese audiences over with his heart of gold and big mouth. In total, he was the protagonist of 48 movies over 26 years (from 1969 until 1995). Thanks to this, Japan holds the record for longest movie series.
So naturally, Shibamata Tora-San received its own statue as well as film museum right in the heart of his home. You can see movie artifacts and get behind the scenes glimpses of various “Otoko wa Tsurai yo” movies. But even if you have never seen any of these films before, you get a pretty good idea of life in Japan in the 60s.
2. Yamada Yoji Museum
To compliment your Tora-San museum visit, you can step into the one-room Yamada Yoji museum. There really isn’t much to see but at least it is next door. It’s entirely dedicated to Yamada Yoji, who directed a major percentage of the Tora-san movie series.
3. Taishakuten Sando (帝釈天参道)
Just a stone’s throw from Shibamata Station, you will easily spot the beautiful shopping and restaurant street. Do it like the locals do and grab a plastic cup of beer and freshly barbecued skewer. Or hop into one of the authentic Japanese restaurants with the authentic wooden sign boards outside. Don’t expect English menus. The food is totally worth it!
Taishakuten Sando is only 200 metres long and leads you right towards the entrance of the Shibamata Taishakuten Temple. It’s the best way to get to the temple in style.
4. Taishakuten Daikyo-ji Temple (柴又帝釈天)
After your stroll on Taishakuten Sando, Shibamata Taishakuten Temple will kindly greet you. It is THE number one thing on any list of things to do in Shibamata. The first thing you’ll see is its imposing entrance gate, Nitenmon Gate, and the bell tower at its side. Enter the gate and try and spot the 500 year old pine tree that is said to resemble a dragon. Behind it, you can admire the Taishakudo Hall with its famous wooden carvings from the 1920s and 30s.
Fun fact 1: The same artist who made these carvings also decorated Toshogu in Nikko; but here, he left out the paint. Fun fact 2: The carvings and paintings are cleaned with a soft brush only once per year, which is how they still retain their beauty.
5. Yamamoto-tei (山本亭)
From Daikyo-ji, you can walk over to Yamamoto-tei, a former merchant’s residence. Peep this place for a unique blend of Japanese and Western architecture and interior design. There’s a typical Japanese garden at the back and you could just relax and get yourself tea and sweets at Yamamoto-tei before you explore more.
6. Yagiri no Watashi
Like the Tokyo boat experience along Chidorigafuchi Park, crossing Edogawa River likewise is quite the local attraction. In fact, it is the only traditional boat crossing that is left in Tokyo. Getting here from Shibamata Station takes 15-20 minutes on foot and it isn’t far from Shibamata’s museums.
It was mentioned in the popular song “Yagiri no Watashi” by Takashi Hosokawa, which is why it might be among the most popular things to do in Shibamata. But let’s be honest. The crossing takes ten minutes and up to 30 people can be squeezed into the boat. The other side, which isn’t Tokyo anymore, is basically just empty land. So better take the return ticket if you do decide on a Tokyo boat trip.
7. Temples and Shrines
Besides Shibamata Taishakuten, all other temples and shrines pale in comparison. However, if you haven’t gotten your fix of them yet, why not visit the few that are around? They are reasonably close to one another. For one, there is Manpukuji Temple (Fukuroku-ju).
A little further, you can find Shinshoin Temple (Benza-ten) next to Shibamata North Park and Shibamata Taishakuten bus stop. Opposite the street and past the rails, you will already be able to spot Shibamatahachiman Shrine. In case you really want to stretch your legs, you could walk out to Kanzoji Temple (Juro Jin).
How to Get to Shibamata Station
You don’t need a JR Railpass to get to Shibamata Station as an entire stretch is not served by Japan Rail. Of course, you can use it to jump on the Yamanote line to get to Asakusa. From Asakusa, take the Asakusa Line towards Oshiage. Stay inside as the train line changes to the Keisei Main Line. At Keisei-Takasago Station you need to change, however, into the Keisei-Kanamachi Line and travel for one stop. Shibamata Station is the last stop anyway.
The Best Time to Visit Shibamata
Shibamata is a timeless place in many ways and it basically doesn’t matter much what time of the year you visit. All of the things to do in Shibamata are non-seasonal. Most beautiful it would be during sakura season when the cherry blossoms along and towards Edogawa River as well as near Taishakuten Daikyo-ji Temple are in full bloom.
Should You Visit Shibamata?
Frankly, there aren’t that many things to do in Shibamata Tokyo and it isn’t the most exciting or vibrant part of town but that is what makes it so excessively charming. In fact, I rented an airbnb apartment for a week here and absolutely loved soaking up a laid back Tokyo experience. You won’t find tourist crowds or flashy places and the pace is slow.
If you want to join a tour to mingle with others, there is one which also includes a visit to Adachi fish market. Otherwise, scheduling in 1-2 hours is absolutely enough. Don’t come here in the late afternoon though as the street stalls on Taishakuten Sando and the museums will already be closed. Also, there aren’t major cherry blossom spots around, so don’t get your hopes up. Regardless, I really love Shibamata and if you have time to spare and visit, I’d love to hear about your experience in Shibamata.
Which of these things to do in Shibamata are on your Tokyo travel list?
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