Spending a Day on the Toden Arakawa Line in Tokyo’s Shitamachi Area

Spending a day on the Toden Arakawa Line, the last remaining tram line in Tokyo, is a unique and immersive experience that takes you off the beaten path and into the heart of traditional Tokyo neighborhoods. From ancient temples and shrines to nostalgic shopping streets and local eateries, this historic tram line offers a rare glimpse into the city’s rich culture and history.

Introduction to the Toden Arakawa Line

The Toden Arakawa Line, also known as the Tokyo Sakura Tram, is one of the last remaining streetcar lines in Tokyo. Running through the Shitamachi area, it offers a charming and nostalgic journey through some of Tokyo’s most traditional and lesser-known neighborhoods.

  • Length: Approximately 12.2 kilometers
  • Stations: 30 stations from Waseda to Minowabashi
  • Operating Hours: 5:30 AM to around 10:00 PM
  • Cost: Around ¥170 per ride (adults)

The Toden Arakawa Line provides a continuous connection between the past and present, showcasing areas that retain much of the charm of old Tokyo. It’s a fantastic way to explore the city’s more laid-back and residential districts, giving you an authentic feel of daily life away from the skyscrapers and hustle of central Tokyo.

Starting Point: Waseda Station

Your journey begins at Waseda Station, home to the prestigious Waseda University.

Waseda University Campus

  • What to See: Waseda University, founded in 1882, is one of Japan’s top private universities. The campus boasts historic buildings, such as Okuma Auditorium, and beautiful green spaces. Take a leisurely stroll to admire the architecture and vibrant university life.
  • Cafes and Eateries: The area around the university is dotted with student-friendly cafes and eateries. Try a coffee at Café Cotton Club, known for its cozy atmosphere and delicious pastries. Alternatively, grab a quick bite at one of the many ramen shops or izakayas that cater to the student population.

Kishimojin Temple

A short ride from Waseda, Kishimojin Temple is a must-visit.

  • Significance: Kishimojin (also known as Kishibojin) is a Buddhist deity revered as the protector of children and expectant mothers. The temple is a sanctuary for parents praying for the health and safety of their families.
  • Highlights: The temple grounds feature an ancient gingko tree that is over 600 years old. The tree is not only a natural wonder but also a symbol of the temple’s long history. The annual Oeshiki Festival, held in October, is a vibrant event that attracts visitors with its processions and traditional performances.

Sugamo Shopping Street

Nicknamed “Grandma’s Harajuku,” Sugamo Shopping Street offers a unique shopping experience.

  • What to Buy: Sugamo is famous for its red underwear, believed to bring good luck and health. You can find these and other traditional items like Japanese sweets (wagashi), herbal medicines, and clothing tailored for the elderly.
  • Cultural Experience: The street is lined with shops and stalls, creating a nostalgic atmosphere reminiscent of post-war Japan. Take the opportunity to interact with the elderly locals, who are often eager to share stories and recommendations. Don’t miss Jizo-dori, a section of the street dedicated to shops selling items for longevity and health.

Oji Inari Shrine

Oji Inari Shrine is famous for its fox mythology and beautiful surroundings.

  • Significance: Dedicated to Inari, the Shinto god of rice, fertility, and foxes, Oji Inari Shrine is one of Tokyo’s major Inari shrines. It has a deep connection with the local community and Japanese folklore.
  • Highlights: The shrine is known for its picturesque torii gates and the annual Oji Fox Parade (Oji Kitsune no Gyoretsu) on New Year’s Eve. During the parade, participants dress as foxes and march to the shrine, recreating a local legend. The shrine’s grounds also feature a small but beautiful garden that provides a peaceful retreat from the urban environment.

Arakawa Amusement Park

A family-friendly destination with a retro charm, perfect for a fun afternoon.

  • Attractions: Arakawa Amusement Park offers a variety of rides and attractions, including a charming Ferris wheel, a nostalgic carousel, and a small zoo featuring animals like capybaras and kangaroos. The park exudes a retro atmosphere, reminiscent of Showa-era Japan.
  • Admission: Around ¥200 for adults and ¥100 for children, making it an affordable option for families. The park also hosts seasonal events and festivals, adding to its charm and appeal.

Exploring the Neighborhoods

The Toden Arakawa Line takes you through several charming neighborhoods, each with its own unique character.


  • Notable Spot: Zoshigaya Cemetery is a historical cemetery where you can find the graves of many notable figures in Japanese history, including writers, politicians, and artists. The cemetery is beautifully maintained and offers a serene environment for a quiet stroll. The nearby Zoshigaya Kishimojindo Temple is also worth a visit, known for its connection to the deity Kishimojin.
  • Atmosphere: The neighborhood of Zoshigaya retains a quaint, old-world charm with narrow streets and traditional houses. It’s a peaceful area perfect for leisurely exploration.

Asukayama Park

  • Activities: Asukayama Park is one of Tokyo’s oldest parks, established in the Edo period. It offers a variety of attractions, including three museums: the Asukayama Museum, Paper Museum, and Shibusawa Memorial Museum. The park is a great place for a picnic, especially during cherry blossom season when the park is adorned with beautiful sakura trees.
  • Family-Friendly: The park also features playgrounds and a small train ride for children, making it a perfect spot for families.

Arakawa Shizen Park

  • Nature: Arakawa Shizen Park, or Arakawa Nature Park, is a spacious park that features beautiful seasonal flowers, a pond, and numerous walking paths. It’s an ideal place for a relaxing stroll or a bike ride. The park also has sport facilities and areas for picnics.
  • Events: The park often hosts local events and festivals, providing a great opportunity to experience Japanese culture and community activities.

Local Eateries and Cafes

Throughout your journey on the Toden Arakawa Line, you’ll find numerous local eateries and cafes offering delicious Japanese cuisine. Here are a few recommendations:

  • Traditional Japanese Lunch Set (Teishoku): Look for small family-run restaurants offering teishoku, which typically includes rice, miso soup, pickles, and a main dish such as grilled fish or tempura.
  • Ramen Shops: Try a hearty bowl of ramen at local favorites like “Ramen Itto” near Oji Station, known for its rich broth and homemade noodles.
  • Sweets and Desserts: Stop by traditional sweet shops like “Sugamo Jizodori Shio Daifuku” for delicious mochi and other Japanese sweets.
  • Cafes: Enjoy a relaxing coffee at a local café like “Café de L’Ambre,” which offers a nostalgic Showa-era atmosphere and carefully brewed coffee.

Practical Tips for Your Trip

  • Tickets: Purchase a day pass for unlimited rides on the Toden Arakawa Line. This pass is not only economical but also convenient, allowing you to hop on and off the tram as you explore different neighborhoods.
  • Best Time to Visit: The spring season (March to April) is ideal for cherry blossom viewing, while the autumn season (October to November) offers beautiful fall foliage. Both seasons provide picturesque scenery and pleasant weather.
  • Language: While basic Japanese phrases can be helpful, many locals are friendly and willing to assist tourists. Carrying a phrasebook or using a translation app can also enhance your experience.

Toden Arakawa Line

The Toden Arakawa Line is a hidden gem that allows visitors to immerse themselves in the authentic atmosphere of Tokyo’s neighborhoods, where locals go about their daily lives. It’s a refreshing escape from the bustling city center and a chance to experience a different side of Tokyo that many tourists never get to see.

By exploring the Toden Arakawa Line, you’ll discover the rich culture, history, and charm of Tokyo’s Shitamachi area, making it a trip of a lifetime.

Whether you’re strolling through serene parks, visiting ancient temples, shopping on nostalgic streets, or enjoying local delicacies, the Toden Arakawa Line offers a truly unique and memorable experience. So hop on board and let the tram take you on a journey through the heart of traditional Tokyo.

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