Tuesday, September 23, 2008

The March of Mankind

In honour of Respect for the Aged day, we did a little retro tour of Tokyo on the Toden Arakawa Line, which runs from Minowabashi (oft mentioned in Nagai Kafu's stories) to Waseda. For 400 yen you can get a one day pass that allows you to get on and off an unlimited number of times along the 50 minute route. I think a lot of our Japanese elders were also celebrating their day, as the passengers on Tokyo's only streetcar line all seemed to date from the Showa period, which is when the line was first constructed. Tokyo used to have streetcars running all over the place, but all that remains is the Arakawa Line. If you want to see old school, down and dirty Tokyo, I suggest an afternoon spent on these delightful trams.

Arakawa-shakomae station is right in front of the yard where all the trams sleep at night and there is an area open to the public where you can get up close and personal with some retired ones like the one above that was once bound for the Ginza. At the other stations there are local shopping streets, a sketchy amusement park, temples and down-home restaurants. We also got off at Asukayama station, right in front of Asukayama Park, and home to the Paper Museum. Unfortunately it was closed when we arrived or I would have paid 300 yen to see just what a paper museum entails. According to a plaque outside, paper has contributed to the march of mankind, so I guess they know what they're talking about.

We turned around at Otsuka station and headed in but once the fall truly arrives I plan to go back for more exploring. I'm not a train otaku by any means but I'm a sucker for anything old Tokyo and an afternoon rumbling down the tracks in Northern Tokyo and wandering around quiet neigbourhoods with no high rises was exactly what I needed.

1 comment:

Sarah said...

The Toden is ALWAYS full of old-timers. One time, a guy who must have been about 70 tried to get up and give his seat to an older woman. She protested loudly saying that she was 101 but terribly healthy and the only thing wrong was her was her eyesight was beginning to go.

If you're going to go back to Asukayama definitely go back in fall when the leaves change colour or in the Spring when the cherry blossoms are out. Or, go the first weekend in October when there is a local festival and all three museums are doing special hands-on activities!