Sazae-san サザエさん is an incredibly well-known cartoon in Japan. Its author, Machiko Hasegawa 長谷川町子, lived in Sakura-shinmachi 桜新町, a suburb of Tokyo that serves as the comic’s setting; it’s a desirable area worthy of its name, which means ‘new cherry blossom town’. Several statues of the cartoon characters grace the sidewalks, including this one (below, left) near Sakura-shinmachi Station 桜新町駅. South of the station is the Hasegawa Machiko Art Museum 長谷川町子美術館, which covers Sazae-san as well as Hasegawa’s private art collection.
For a sense of how iconic Sazae-san is, the conservative Nippon Kaigi 日本会議 (Japan Conference) referenced Sazae-san in a promotional DVD that supports repealing Article 24 of the Constitution, which protects gender equality. See: Nippon Kaigi calls for Constitution to define family, cites ‘Sazae-san’ as Japan ideal.
The neighborhood immediately south of the station is attractive, perhaps reflecting the town’s origins as a “luxury villa” 高級別荘 development in 1912 (the first in the Kanto region).
In the old days, a drainage ditch ran from north of Sakurashinmachi (near Chitose-Funabashi 千歳船橋駅), and ran southeast, eventually joining the Nomikawa 呑川 near Midorigaoka 緑が丘駅. According to a 1948 map, this was the “Shinagawa ditch”:
Today, the river is absent from Sakurashinmachi, but traces of it emerge on the other side of a large road. Fittingly, the northern start of this beautiful stretch of river is punctuated by an natural hot spring onsen/sento named 栗の湯 Kuri-no-Yu, which is noticeable for its tiled roof and steam-stack.
Here is the old river as we walk south…
The stream is just a trickle, but it’s more than enough water for the lush trees. Eventually, the open stream-bed is replaced by a paved walking path:
The path is lined with miniature parks, some of which are populated by playful animal sculptures that are sure to delight your children (and me).
There’s a timeless quality about many of the things you see in this section of Tokyo, including a vending machine for batteries!
A sign informs me that I’m walking along the Nomigawa Pedestrian Parkway 呑川本流緑道 (Nomigawa honryu midori michi), aka Nomigawa Green Road. It’s at this map (map) that a branch of the drainage ditch runs north towards Komazawa Olympic Park (via the “Komazawa Pedestrian Parkways” 呑川駒沢支流緑道 呑川, aka Komazawa tributary green road).
And there’s Yakumo-dori Shopping Street 八雲通り共栄会…
…before finally reaching Toritsudaigaku Station 都立大学駅, where the traces of another river are present (below, left). From Sakurashinmachi station to this station is about 4.2 km (2.6 miles), a very pleasant distance for a Sunday afternoon sanpo.
The map below details the entire length of this path, including the route of the former river/drainage ditch; see path 3 “Sakurashinmachi path” and 3-B, “Shinagawa ditch”. The map includes many other hidden, former, and underground rivers of Tokyo:
- 呑川本流緑道 Nomikawa green road
- 蛇崩川緑道 Jakuzuregawa green road
- 立会川緑道 Tachiaigawa green road
- 九品仏川緑道 Kuhonbutsu River green road