Shibamata (Ä─ľö) is a neighborhood on the eastern end of Tokyo, not far from the Edogawa River which is the natural border between Tokyo and Chiba Prefecture. The town retains its old-school charm from yesteryear and is a perfect break away from modern Tokyo. One of the main attractions to see is the Shibamata Taishakuten Temple not far from the station.
The town sees few foreign tourists but is widely recognized by older Japanese as the hometown of Tora-san, the protagonist of a highly popular movie series, Otoko wa Tsurai yo ("It is tough being a man") which was filmed from 1969 to 1995. There are several nods to the series like the bronze statues of Tora-san and his sister, Sakura, who greet visitors outside Shibamata Station.
The temple approach to Shibamata Taishakuten doubles as the town's main shopping street. The quaint, meandering street is lined by many shops and restaurants that sell local specialties such as dango (skewered rice flour balls) and river fish. Some of the shops boast long histories and still maintain their traditional exterior designs, adding to the ambience of the street.
At the end of the approach stands the entrance gate of Shibamata Taishakuten Temple. Beyond the gate, there is a 500 year old, large pine tree which resembles a dragon in front of the temple's Taishakudo Hall. Shibamata Taishakuten is famous for its wooden carvings which were made by the same artists who also contributed to the construction of Nikko's Toshogu. Unlike the brightly painted carvings at Toshogu, Taishakuten's carvings remain unpainted.
Most of Taishakuten's buildings are covered in wooden carvings, but the piece de resistance can be viewed in the paid area at the back of the Taishakudo Hall. Panels of intricate carvings cover the outer walls of the hall, each depicting a scene from Buddhist scripture and local folklore. The panels are only brushed once a year to remove cobwebs and otherwise remain untouched to preserve their longevity.
Also included in the temple's paid area is a tasteful garden in the back of the complex that can be viewed from an adjacent building with tatami rooms. A covered walkway surrounds the garden and allows visitors to enjoy the scenery regardless of weather.
A stone's throw from Taishakuten is the Yamamoto-tei, a former merchant's residence which is now open for general viewing. The building contains an interesting mix of both Japanese and Western styles of architecture and design, and many of the rooms look out to the Japanese-style garden at the back. Tea and sweets are also available at the residence for an additional charge.
Not far from Yamamoto-tei are two museums in separate buildings located beside one another. The Tora-san Museum is dedicated to the movie series "Otoko wa Tsurai yo" and showcases props and stage sets from the different movies. Visitors can get an idea of what Japan was like in the sixties. The Yamada Yoji Museum next door is dedicated to Yamada Yoji, the director of almost all of the Tora-san movies. A single room makes up the entire museum and displays his filmography.
A raised walkway from the museums leads to the banks of the Edogawa River. There is a wide path for both cyclists and pedestrians to stroll along the river banks, as well as large grass fields. The Yagiri no Watashi river crossing, Tokyo's only surviving traditional boat crossing, is not far from the museums. Many passengers these days opt for a return trip as there is not much across the river.
Shibamata Station serves as the main entrance to the town, and all of the sights are within walking distance from the station. Take the Keisei Main Line from Keisei-Ueno or Nippori Station to Keisei-Takasago Station (15 minutes) and transfer to the Keisei Kanamachi Line for Shibamata (2 minutes). The entire one way trip takes about 25 minutes and cost 270 yen.
Shibamata Taishakuten Temple
Wood carving gallery and garden: 9:00 to 16:00