Fukagawa day trip: Being a tourist in non-tourist Tokyo

A different Tokyo neighbourhood for the jaded tourist, recommended by a friend of mine who works in Tokyo.Since I was a bit bored of the usual tourist haunts in Tokyo, I decided to be intrepid and visit a more suburban area. Also, KFC recently judged me for not visiting museums and temples, so I felt that I had to level up on the culture aspect of my itineraries, which usually comprise only eating and/or hair-raising activities 😛 But fear not, foodies! For there is still nomming and cafe-hopping in this day trip itinerary.

Note: I visited Fukagawa on a Monday as I already had plans for other days, but do avoid Mondays if you have a choice, as many of the cafes in the area are closed.

Location:
Fukagawa is in the Koto ward of Tokyo, about 25 minutes eastwards by train from central Toyko. It is mainly a residential neighbourhood with lots of hipster cafes and shrines. This is as non-touristy as they come, so be prepared to whip out your Japanese phrasebook or Google Translate!

Details of the trip:
Highlights: Cafe-hopping | Shingon Goma fire ritual | Fukagawa Asari rice | Japanese garden | Edo museum
Start point: monzen-nakacho station 門前仲町駅
End point: kiyosumi-shirakawa station 清澄白河駅
Distance walked: 2.5km
Walking route: south to north (you can also do north to south)
Navigation: Google maps
Total time: 6-7h (including food and coffee stops)
Total cost: JPY3780
– Transport: JPY400 (return metro from Shibuya)
– Food: JPY2830
– Attractions: JPY550

[Stop #1: Breakfast at Fukagawa Coffee] 
My first stop was a coffee shop that struck my fancy when reading about it on a cafe blog. It is tucked away from general foot traffic in a nondescript apartment block, and during my research I could not even find it listed on Google maps.

Fukagawa Coffee 江戸深川珈琲本舗
English menu: No
Nearest train station: Monzen-Nakacho 門前仲町駅
Tel: 03-3641-3415
Hours: 0800h-1900h daily

Fukagawa- Nondescript location

Once you step inside you will feel like you have gone backwards in time. The decor is eclectic- a mix of samurai swords, porcelain crockery, vintage lamps and burlap sacks of coffee randomly strewn about. Very different from the exposed-cables-raw-concrete look that is ubiquitous to hipster cafes these days.

Fukagawa- Coffee beans everywhere

Fukagawa- Eclectic decor

However, do note that this cafe is smoker-friendly, so don’t come here with the kids, or if you’re one of those prudish New Age sorts. They have obviously not heard of workplace health and safety in their lives, or maybe they just don’t give a shit what you think. ‘Cos this is Japan where smokers rule, so just get with the programme, peeps!

Fukagawa- Chain smoking auntie enjoying her morning goss session

They also do not cater to tourists- no English menu. Luckily, my food-related Japanese is still passable, and I managed to order a scone (why is it in that shape though?) and an espresso. The scone was dense enough, but a little dry, and the coffee was not too bad (stronger than the usual Japanese stuff but slightly over-extracted). I also got a kick out of eating off dainty porcelain tableware.

Fukagawa- Japanese menu

Fukagawa- Scone with coffee set (JPY750)

[Stop #2: A dramatic fire ritual at Fukagawa Fudō-dō temple] 
This Shingon Buddhist temple does not look very impressive from the outside, but it holds a secret attraction. Goma fire rituals take place 5x daily in the main hall, lasting about 30min, with crackling flames, chanting, and drumming that reverberates in your core. It is quite a sight to behold even if you are not Buddhist, and you can see videos of this ceremony on YouTube. You can also bring your belongings to the altar to be blessed towards the end of the ceremony.

Fukagawa Fudō-dō 深川不動堂
Website
Entry fee: N/A
Nearest train station: Monzen-Nakacho 門前仲町駅
Tel: 03-3641-8288
Fire rituals: 0900h/1100h/1300h/1500h/1700h

Fukagawa Fudō-dō- Main Hall (no photos allowed inside)

No photography, shoes or caps allowed inside the hall (grab plastic bags at the entrance to store your shoes and bring them along with you inside the hall). Do try to be seated 5-10 minutes before the ritual commences so as not to disturb the real worshippers with your rustling plastic bags.

[Stop #3: Seafood ricebox lunch at Monzencyaya] 
Near the temple are plenty of eateries where you can try the local specialty, asari clam on rice. I tried the eatery recommended by my friend. Again, no English spoken here, but basically for the lunch set you have a choice of asari clams, sakura shrimp or eel. Just point.

Monzencyaya 門前茶屋
Website
English menu: No
Nearest train station: Monzen-Nakacho 門前仲町駅
Tel: 03-3641-0660
Hours: 1130h-1400h, 1700h-2300h (Weekdays) / 1130h-1430h, 1700h-2230h (Weekends and holidays)

Monzencyaya- Corner of this red building

Monzencyaya- Entrance

Monzencyaya- Menu

Monzencyaya- Inside

The lunch set comes with a seafood ricebox, clear soup, and tea. Clams were very sweet, but overall too subtle for my MLXG-ravaged taste buds. Maybe go for the eel next time?

Monzencyaya- Asari clams lunch set (JPY980)

[Stop #4: Feeling the zen in Kiyosumi Gardens] 
I’m not one for gardens and flowers, but since this was on the way to the Edo museum I decided to pop by. This garden was completed in the Meiji Period and is centered around a large pond. You are supposed to ponder the reflections of the trees and plants on the surface of the pond. The gardens probably weren’t in their full splendour due to the gloomy skies, but I can imagine it being quite beautiful on a sunny day, especially during cherry blossom season. Free tours (in Japanese only) are available on weekends and holidays at 11am and 2pm.

Kiyosumi Gardens 清澄庭園
Website
Entry fee: JPY150/adult
Nearest train station: kiyosumi-shirakawa 清澄白河駅
Tel: 03-3641-5892
Hours: 0900h-1700h daily (closed: 29 Dec – 1 Jan)

Kiyosumi- Have a stroll and contemplate your existence

Kiyosumi- The centerpiece of the gardens

Kiyosumi- Reflections of trees

Kiyosumi- Early blooming sakura

Kiyosumi- Gloomy skies

[Stop #5: Level up on culture points at Fukagawa Edo Museum] 
Not to be confused with the larger Edo Museum in Sumida, this small museum is one of the main reasons to come to Fukagawa and features life-sized replicas of Edo-era buildings and an “outdoor” feel. They have even created background stories about the “occupants” of the buildings to give you some colour as to what life was like back then. Unlike other museums you can touch the exhibits and get up close and personal. You are even encouraged to remove your shoes and step inside the buildings.

Fukagawa Edo Museum 深川江戸資料館
Website
Entry fee: JPY400/adult
Nearest train station: kiyosumi-shirakawa 清澄白河駅
Tel: 03-3630-8625
Hours: 0900h-1700h daily (closed: 2nd and 4th Mondays, 29 Dec – 3 Jan)

Edo Museum- Culture +10

Edo Museum- Replica of a rice store

Edo Museum- Replica of a boatmen tavern

Edo Museum- Replica of a sawyer’s house

Volunteer guides walk around to lend assistance and some even speak English. However I was happy to wander around on my own using the English brochure. I learned from watching one of the videos that everything was constructed by hand, using olden day techniques. Lattices are held together by glue made from rice, and beams joined by handmade screws of iron and bamboo. An olden day formula of clay mix was used to make the walls instead of normal cement. Quite mind-boggling really. Great way to spend 1-2 hours on a rainy day.

Edo Museum- Toilets in the Edo period

Edo Museum- Touch and explore

[Stop #6: Hipster overload at Fukadaso Cafe] 
This cafe is one of those pretentious hipster places, housed in a converted warehouse (of course, where else?) A perfect counterpoint to this morning’s Fukagawa Coffee. Overall I found Fukadaso very average- would have gone to Arise instead if it wasn’t a Monday.

Fukadaso Cafe
Website
Enlish menu: Yes
Nearest train station: kiyosumi-shirakawa 清澄白河駅
Tel: []
Hours: 1300h-1800h (Fridays until 2130h) (closed: Tue-Wed)

Fukadaso- Converted warehouse

Fukadaso- The ubiquitous exposed cable look

Fukadaso- Pretentious hipster furniture

They have English menu here, but the picture menu is also pretty self explanatory. I ordered a long black (they do not have espresso here btw) and the plain pancake. But the pancake was just, err, plain. And I thought JPY600 was pretty expensive for two tiny blobs of flour. Not instagrammable either- I tried, really.

Fukadaso- Picture menu

Fukadaso- Pancakes (JPY600)

Conclusion / Additional tips:
A good mix of culture and cafe-hopping in an uncrowded area of Tokyo.

Date of activity: 6 Mar, 2017
Location: Tokyo, Japan
Operator: N/A
Booking: N/A

See also my Tokyo sample itinerary and day trip ideas:

 

 

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2 responses to “Fukagawa day trip: Being a tourist in non-tourist Tokyo

  1. Pingback: Moneychanger woes: 5 easy steps to change Japanese Yen | Beyond Banality·

  2. Pingback: Sample itinerary: Tokyo 3N & Hakone 1N | Beyond Banality·

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