Sunday, March 8, 2009

Exploring Tokyo: Setagaya Dori


(Sculpture on top of a building.)

Back in December, I wrote about how the method you get around limits or enhances your ability to explore your neighborhood. Walking generally just gives you a 1-4 mile radius, and even if you ride the trains, you're limited to how much you can walk around any given station, and by the costs in terms of time and money to get to that station to begin with. I also mentioned about the same time the need for pruning; that is, in deciding what to visit and what to give up on. While smaller towns or cities are manageable, and you can pretty much see everything there is within a few weeks or months, with Tokyo, that's just not possible. Imagine having buildings shoulder to shoulder, 30 miles deep, and almost every building having some kind of store or business in it. That's Tokyo. You just can't see all of it in one life time.

However, since I now have my bike, I can get up to 25 miles in any direction in a couple of hours, and my apartment is just 15 miles away from central Tokyo. Since I like riding for the exercise, (although I usually stick around the Tama river and just ride up and down it for 1 hour a day) it's pretty easy to go exploring at the same time.

Such it is that I decided to see what I could find on my way east from Noborito (my normal starting point for most exploring). This put me on Setagaya Dori (Setagaya street) which runs over into Shibuya, and the Shibuya Station on the JR Yamanote train line). Normally, I take the Odakyu train line from Noborito, which goes to Shinjuku station, which is about 3 miles north of Shibuya. So, Setagaya Dori was all new terrain for me, although I'd previously gotten to bits and pieces of it when I was walking around the various stations on the Odakyu last fall.

And of course I found things that interested me. Naturally, none of this would have been surprising if I'd pre-planned my trip using Google maps, but there's no fun in that.

One thing to always remember about Tokyo is that the streets often run in "U" shapes, so that while you may think that riding in one direction and then straight back out again would be a simple matter, it's not. Reversing the route often takes you to "Y" intersections where it's really easy to take the wrong leg and get lost within seconds. Which is half the challenge. This time, I got lost on the way back, and found myself next to a big temple - Setagaya Hachimangu. Luckily, a woman visiting the shrine volunteered to guide me back to Setagaya Dori afterwards.

I didn't actually make it all the way down to Shibuya station. The traffic got too heavy and the streets too crowded about 1 mile or so away. But, I'd explored that area before, and didn't need to see it again this time. I estimate that I traveled between 25 to 30 miles in under 3 hours. Next time, I'll go try somewhere else.

My discoveries this time: Hachimangu Temple; the Japan Racing Association (JRA) Equestrian Park; a variety of restaurants and shops; a Porsche dealership; The Tokyo University of Agriculture campus and Museum of Food and Agriculture; and the NHK Labo. Also in the area, but discovered two days earlier on a different ride, is one of Nikkatsu's movie recording studios (Nikkatsu is Japan's oldest studio, and the producer of the recent Yattaman movie).


(Close-up of the smaller gorilla.)

The picture here (and the one at the top of the page) are from a building along Setagaya Dori. The sign says "Yahoo! Drive Safely, Ok?".

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