It’s tough being a man…
My knowledge of Japanese culture doesn’t really extend to Otoko wa Tsurai yo, the spectacularly popular series of 48 films starring Atsumi Kiyoshi as the luckless hero, Tora-san. I’d heard of them, but mostly because of my interest in visiting Shibamata, one of the enclaves of old Edo that still exist modern Tokyo. The series was directed by the legendary Yamada Youji (of the Samurai Trilogy, which includes one of my favorite films ever, Twilight Samurai) and depicts the adventures of a traveling salesman named Tora-san, kind of heart but forever unlucky in affairs of the heart.
In the Tora-san movies, Tora-san travels across Japan engaging in ill-fated romances, but always longs to return home to Shibamata and his family, who run a Dango shop there. A statue of Tora-san greets you as soon as you get off the Keisei Kanamachi Line – one of the shortest rail lines in Japan, spanning exactly two stops and 2.5 KM. And there are plenty of dango shops on the Sando, the shopping street leading up to the Taishakuten Temple, which has been the center of Shibamata existence since the early 17th-Century. The temple is quite lovely, but its most distinguishing feature are the stunning wooden panels depicting 10 scenes from the Lotus Sutra, all carved by different artists in the 1920s and 1930’s. Sadly photography is not allowed inside the temple gates, but I did sneak a few snaps of the beautiful temple garden behind the prayer hall.
The other notable destination in Shibamata is the Yamamoto-tei, a 100-year old mansion that contains both Japanese and Western architectural stylings, as well as its own garden. Behind it is the Yagiri no Watashi Ferry, which has been transporting passengers across the Edo River in oar-propelled wooden boats for 400 years. There’s not a whole lot going on across the river to be honest, but the idea itself is kind of cool.
One nice thing about Shibamata is that it’s just a short hop from the Tokyo Sky Tree, which I pass through on my way down there (I have to transfer three times to get to Shibamata, though it only takes 40 minutes. So I stopped by, and they happened to be having a Macross exhibit on the 8th Floor, which included a life-sized VF-25F Valkyrie. It was kind of lost on me as I’m not a huge Macross fan, but if you are and you’re in Tokyo, you should swing by (there also a Macross cafe in Tokyo, as it happens).