When getting out of Kiyosumi-Shirakawa station for the first time, I couldn’t help myself but feel disappointed. I heard about this area, part of Fukagawa, as one of the places where the shitamachi spirit is still alive with a beautiful garden, many old shops, several great temples and more recently an influx of stylish coffee shops. But when I got out of the station I wondered where I could find this town. All I could see was a big wide street (kiyosumi-dōri) full of traffic and plain buildings.
If you come to Kiyosumi-Shirakawa for the Fukagawa Edo Museum or for the Kiyosumi Garden, you might miss out on the local atmosphere that this place has to offer. Therefor I made a short walk that could be helpful to dig a little bit deeper into this area. You can find the map with all the places visited at the bottom of this article. Get out of Kiyosumi-Shirakawa station from exit A3. The walk starts at the purple star and ends in one of the coffee shops of your choice (in red) at the bottom. This walk is only 500 meters long and you could do it in 5 minutes. However, by taking some time to look at the various temples, I would recommend you take one hour.
When I ventured south of the station area, I came across a very nice tree-lined street, home to several temples and restaurants famous for the local signature dish called fukagawa meshi (miso soup with clams and leek, poured over rice). This street is called the Fukagawa-shiryōkan-dōri (translates as Fukagawa museum street) and you can find around 100 shops over 800 meters according to the cooperative that brings the merchants of this street together. Among the shops are some traditional food stores such as Asari Tsukudani (small seafood simmered in soy sauce and mirin) and several fukagawa meshi restaurants such as Fukagawa Kamashō and Fukagawa Juku. It does not really feel as a very active shopping street, most of the shops are very local.
The seated Jizo statue at Reiganji temple.
Most of the streets in the area are largely residential, but one street, starting from Reiganji temple, is also tree-lined with a lot of temples and is very pleasant for a stroll. Be sure to first visit Reiganji temple, which hosts one of the six Jizo statues of Edo. These six Jizo were constructed at the six gateways of Edo in 1706. On its grounds you can also find several graves of feudal lords such as Sadanobu Matsudaira (1759-1829, link wiki). When you take the street opposite of the entrance of Reiganji temple, you will first pass by Chōsenin temple (on the left), then Seikakuin temple (on the right). Chōsenin temple of the Jōdo Shinshū school, or a school of Pure Land Buddhism which is the most popular type op buddhism in Japan, was established in 1658 and consists of rather 2 distinct buildings, on the left is the Fudō-dō and on the right the more plain Hondō (main temple building). The Fudō-dō (also referred to as Fudōji) is the more interesting one with 出世不動尊 written in red characters over a stone entrance gate (shusse fudōson which mean “Success Fudōson”, Fudōson is the god of justice, who fends of evil with his sword and menacing look). While it is a temple, it actually feels more like a Shinto shrine. Seikakuin temple is another Jōdo Shinshū temple and was established in 1629.
All over Tokyo you will see many of these very small temples here and there. They are open, but except for people related to the temple no one will go in. They were all deserted when I visited, I do not think they actually expect a lot of visitors. Still, all of these temples are rather old, established in the 17th century.
Entrance of Fudō-dō which says “shusse fudōson” in red characters
Keep following this road south, following the curve to the right until the end. You will pass a couple more temples, Hōshōji temple on the left (a very modern looking Jōdo Shinshū school temple, here since 1658), Entsūji temple on the right (also Jōdo Shinshū and also from 1658). At the end of the street take a left. You will pass 2 more interesting temples on either side of the road, Honryūin temple and Shōgyōin temple. Honryūin temple is a Nichiren school buddhist temple, established in 1687. It is famous for the grave of Mamiya Rinzō (1775-1844 link wiki), an Edo period explorer best known for his exploration and mapping of Sakhalin. Shōgyōin temple is also a Nichiren school buddhist temple, which was established in 1659 in nearby Kyōbashi. At the end of the 19th century it was moved to its current location here. On the left of Honryūin temple is another temple called Zennōin, also a Nichiren temple, established in 1685 and dedicated to Hariti (goddess of childbirth and children). In this short overview I have actually not listed all temples on this street, this part of town is literally littered with places of worship.
One of the entrances of the large cemetery.
If you continue the road you find on your left a large cemetery, it continues on the other side of the street and forms a quite large open space in this area. A short wall keeps it from sight and has nice green arches over every entrance. This cemetery is shared with several temples in the neighbourhood and on each arch the name of a temple is written (if you want to read it, it is written from right to left).
Within a radius of about 100 meters from this cemetery you can find 3 trendy coffee shops, each rather different in style:
- Fukadaso cafe is based in an old apartment building that was saved from demolition. It feels very industrial-like. In the same building there are also many shops on the 2nd floor. (Cafe is open Monday, Thursday, Saturday, Sunday from 13:00 until 18:00, on Friday from 13:00 until 21:30)
- ARiSE Coffee roasters is a very small cafe specialised in drip coffee (open 10:00-18:00, closed in Sunday)
- Blue Bottle Coffee Kiyosumi is a famous coffee chain from Oakland. This was their first store in Tokyo (open everyday 8:00-19:00)
Asari Tsukadani あさり佃煮魚保
Fukagawa Kamashō 深川釜匠
Fukagawa Juku 深川宿
Reiganji temple 霊巌寺
Chōsenin temple 長専院
Seikakuin temple 正覚院
Hōshōji temple 法性寺
Entsūji temple 円通寺
Honryūin temple 本立院
Shōgyōin temple 唱行院
Zennōin temple 善應院