With the presence of 23 vast districts, Tokyo cannot escape its reputation as a sprawling metropolis. The interest of visiting the Japanese capital is that there is something for every style of traveller. Like a hymn to Japan, the city welcomes those who love to take in the sights, with busy streets, endless lights, giant billboards, places dedicated to games and high technology, and bars and restaurants where life never seems to stop. Then there are those who are looking for a more traditional, retro Japan, in neighborhoods where one takes the time to appreciate every detail of the streets, monuments and homes. Welcome to Katsushika for a walk in an authentic atmosphere in the Shibamata and Tateishi neighborhoods. Places that are still unknown and that offer the old-fashioned charm of provincial villages
Shibamata, a traditional district in the heart of Tokyo
Shibamata is not the most popular place for foreign tourists in Tokyo. It is best known to the Japanese for being the setting for the very popular "Torasan-Series" of 50 films, directed by Yoji Yamada and considered one of his masterpieces. It is therefore with pleasure that one settles there to experience a stay in a calmer atmosphere and with less population density, all this only 20 minutes by train from Tokyo Skytree and the popular Asakusa district. Shibamata is a great alternative for those who don't want to leave Tokyo, but still want to experience the charm of traditional Japan. From the station, it is very easy to reach the main roads of the district. Here, you don't have to worry about car traffic since they are not allowed to enter, and in the pedestrian streets, the architecture, the numerous shops and the smells coming out of the restaurants give the feeling of being a thousand miles away from the Tokyo of skyscrapers. The atmosphere is definitely that of a Japan of other times.
One of the must-see monuments during a walk in Shibamata is the large Buddhist temple in the area, which is called Taishakuten. Founded in 1629, the present structure dates back to 1929 and survived World War II. It has superb wood carvings inside and outside, some of which illustrate Buddhist stories. The attention to detail is fascinating. Then comes the moment to cross the footbridge that leads to the splendid green and soothing garden. The amazement continues as we reach the house located just a stone's throw from the temple, Yamamoto-tei. This beautiful Japanese house is the former residence of Tokyo businessman Einosuke Yamamoto. What a pleasure to take the time to observe the specificities of the building, of shoin-zukuri and western architecture, as well as to walk along the alleys of the elegant surrounding garden! Of course, you don't leave the place without taking the time to sit on a tatami to enjoy a matcha and a wagashi.
You can't fully appreciate the special atmosphere that reigns in Shibamata without taking the time to browse the shops and stop at the best addresses to enjoy the local gastronomy. The culinary journey begins in the Takagiya-rouho shop, which has been standing there since the beginning of the Meiji era. One of the main reasons people come here is to taste its unmissable dangos, a traditional Japanese dessert. At this address, which uses the best ingredients for the composition of its sweets, sagebrush-flavoured tangos are the house speciality, and can be enjoyed with green tea. For the best gastronomic addresses, it is advisable to first join Yamatoya, a real institution in the Shibamata district since the place has existed for 150 years! Located in the middle of traditional buildings in the street leading to the Shibamata Taishakuten temple, the tempuras are freshly prepared there under the eyes of gourmets, just after ordering. Based on shrimp, whiting or eel, they are served with a homemade sauce made from soy, sugar and sake, a recipe that the chefs have refined over the years, and a bowl of rice. Another place not to be missed, Ishii is a Japanese pastry address whose creation dates back to 1862. If its 150 years of existence have made it want to perpetuate traditional recipes, it is also keen to innovate. One must therefore be guided by the caramelized smell of yokans, sweet pastries made of red bean paste and jellied with agar-agar and reminiscent of fruit pastes. The daifukus, traditionally made with an outer paste of sticky rice and filled with sweet azuki red bean paste, see their recipe evolve with Ishii's desire to incorporate seasonal fruits.
Only 15 minutes by train from Asakusa, the Tateishi district is another facet of Katsushika to live 100%. Here you can enjoy the atmosphere of a neighborhood of merchants and craftsmen, not to admire great monuments, but more to photograph atmospheres, with many narrow streets where all the signs are in Japanese. Shops, restaurants, bars, it is a place to be privileged to enjoy a stay under the sign of relaxation. The shopping street of Tateishi Nakamise, but also Nonbe-Yokocho are perfect axes for shopping and relaxing in the evening over a drink.
It must be said that Tateishi is full of izakayas. The izakayas are Japanese bars where workers come to drink while snacking on tapas after work. They are very good value for money. You can also eat a wide choice of dishes (tempuras, skewers, sashimis, meat, fish ...). The izakayas are very popular in Japan, and are an integral part of the country's culture. Where most foreign travelers tend to go to the busy Ameyoko Street in Asakusa to experience the izakayas, the Tateishi district allows them to immerse themselves totally with the local population, in a more authentic atmosphere.
You can easily go from one bar to another and taste the different alcohols on offer. Beer, sweet potato spirits and sake are flowing from 5pm or 6pm. Because yes, we drink generously in the izakayas. Moreover, we can say that Tateishi is like a kind of temple of the "Sen-bero". Sen-bero is the combination of the words "Sen" (yen in Japanese) and "bero-bero", a term that describes a drunk and joyful person. For a few thousand yen, you can find drunkenness, an experience to be lived in moderation, but which allows you to dive into the heart of a Japanese tradition: that of the after-office groups. Another very popular drink to enjoy in the izakayas is Shochu. This alcohol met with great success after the Second World War, representing an alternative to the consumption of whisky, which was more expensive, for the poorer classes of workers. Distilled from ingredients such as rice, buckwheat, barley, sweet potato or brown sugar, its alcohol content varies between 20 and 40%. If the Shochu is enjoyed in the "rock" style, i.e. mixed with ice, it is also possible to mix it with sparkling water to obtain a "soda-wari". In Tateishi was born the "Shochu Highball", a drink that combines Shochu with a soda that can be fruity. Appreciated by young and old alike, it is impossible to sit in an izakaya without trying the recipe!
One name to remember when enjoying a traditional Japanese izakaya is Nimousaku. Close to Keisei Tateishi train station, this popular place in the district allows you to enjoy a tasty homemade oden made with fresh products, and to drink a few glasses of sake carefully selected to make you appreciate all the subtleties of this beverage infinitely famous in Japan and the world
Discover the authenticity of Katsushika and the hospitality of its inhabitants through a video made by the YouTuber JapaniaFr.