Do you know that there are trams in Tokyo? How about hopping on one for a tram date? Setagaya
line is one of the two remaining trams in Tokyo (the other is the Toden Arakawa line), and while it
may be a relatively short line at only 5 km long, there are several interesting stops along the way.
And there is one particularly adorable tram for cat-lovers, the Maneki-neko tram, complete with
pointy feline ears and a waving paw as hanging straps! Setagaya line begins at Sangenjaya, which is
only two stations away from Shibuya on the Tokyu Den-en Toshi Line. Every stop costs 150 yen
regardless of the distance, so if you intend to check out the various attractions along the line, a
better option would be to purchase one-day pass for unlimited rides on the line, which only costs
330 yen per person, and can be bought directly from the tram station staff.
Seven minutes away from Miyanosaka station, Gotokuji Temple is the star-attraction of Setagaya
ward as it is the birthplace of Japan’s most famous cat, Maneki-neko, or “Beckoning Cat”. Legend
has it that a monk’s cat had saved several samurais from a devastating storm by waving its paw to
beckon them to the temple, and later when the cat passed away it was enshrined as a god.
There are over hundreds of these waving cat figurines of various sizes in the temple, which are
actually tokens of gratitude left by visitors who wishes have been granted, accentuating the power
of this temple’s blessings to many. With this in mind, how about purchasing a Maneki-neko
together with your loved one for a good luck souvenir?
Gotokuji Temple may be the highlight in Miyanosaka, but it is not the only place of interest.
Setagaya Hachiman Shrine has beautiful, serene grounds, lush greenery and even flapping
ducks and swimming turtles in its pond. This shrine is known for its dohyo (sumo ring) whereby
sumo wrestling events actually take place during the autumn festival every September. While
visitors are usually not permitted to enter most dohyo, you can actually enter the wrestling ring in
this shrine, so why not take the chance to have a playful wrestle with your partner? One particular
part of the shrine is especially beautiful, a little red bridge leading to a tiny shrine right over a
lovely pond and bubbling waterfall worshipping the Bentaizen, the goddess of everything which
flows, from water to music.
Kamimachi is one stop away from Miyanosaka, and here when you see the Setagaya Magistrate
Mansion you will find it hard to believe that you are still in modern Tokyo, for the mansion is a
well-preserved thatch-roofed house of the Edo period. This station is also known for its Boro-ichi
event, a flea market sale with over 700 stalls selling everything from antiques to street food, held on
the 15th & 16th of December and the 15th &16th of January every year.
Two stops away from Kamimachi and you will reach Shoin-Jinja Mae. Right in front of the station
you will find Shoinjinha Dori Shotengai, a small, intimate shopping street filled with quirky shops
and cafes, leading towards the Shoin Shrine. The sleek black Torii of Shoin Shrine is a stark
contrast from the usual bright vermillion Torii gates you usually see in other shrines, and a tinkle of
glass and bronze wind chimes follow you wherever you go in summer, amplifying the divine aura in
the shrine. The shrine worships Shōin Yoshida, an activist whose revolutionary ideas heavily
influenced Meiji restoration. He was executed when he was just 30 years old, and his gravestone
can be found in the shrine’s cemetery.
Finally, when you return to Sangenjaya as the sun begins to fall, and the lanterns in the
backstreets of Sankaku-chitai (Triangle area) begin to shine. This is when Sangenjaya starts to
come alive. Located just across the street from Carrot Tower, the maze-like cramped alleyways are
full of Japan’s historic flavor without the stifling crowds of Shinjuku’s Omoide Yokocho. At the same
side of the street as Carrot Tower is another alleyway called Suzuran street. Though short, is also
a must-visit with its brightly lit lanterns and narrow alleyway creating a nostalgic ambience. For a
truly authentic local dining, grab some food and drinks in the restaurants and bars in these areas
and mingle with the local salarymen.
Setagaya Hachiman ShrineAfter exploring all the retro backstreets, how about taking a panoramic view of Tokyo? Carrot
Tower is the tallest building in Setagaya Ward at 26-storey high, and offers panoramic viewing for
free. On a clear day, you can even enjoy a view of the majestic Mount Fuji peeking over the horizon
from the observation deck! Sit back, relax your tired feet and admire the whole of Tokyo together
with your love as the sun sets.