Due to the COVID-19 outbreak, the Tokyo Metropolitan Government has asked citizens to refrain from going outside this weekend for nonessential reasons. If you do decide to go out, practice social distancing, minimize public transport use and take precautionary measures to avoid the spread of the coronavirus.
With the current upheaval caused by COVID-19, Tokyoites have been advised from going outside to prevent the spread of the coronavirus. But Tokyo apartments are cramped and constricting, and a solo sojourn in nature can do wonders to alleviate the anxiety the virus is causing. The capital has plenty up its sleeve that means you can bypass popular spots like Ueno Park for a moment of quiet all to yourself.
Ryokudō (greenways) are city parks that usually, but not always, trace the course of a culverted urban river. Tokyo is full of them; in fact, its old name, Edo, literally means “river entrance” or “estuary.” These pedestrian walkways are strewn with shrubs and sakura, providing a pleasant hybrid of city-meets-nature in all corners of Tokyo.
One such is Kitazawagawa Greenway. Running from Gotokuji Station, Setagaya Ward, it meanders its way past parks and residential areas until it meets Karasuyama Greenway — which skirts the 15th-century Gotokuji temple with its maneki–neko (beckoning-cat statue) shrine — and merges into the gorgeous Megurogawa Greenway. The Meguro River at Nakameguro is a busy hanami (blossom viewing) spot, but walk downriver toward Gotanda and the crowds thin, leaving you space to comfortably enjoy the trees in bloom.
Along the way, like a futuristic folly, Meguro Sky Garden is a free park and community garden ingeniously built atop an expressway junction. A wander up its spiral length reveals city (and sometimes Mount Fuji) views; arrive early evening for a secluded sunset.
The Tamagawa Canal dates back to the Edo Period (1603-1868) and was a vital jōsui (clean water supply) to the capital, running from Hamura, Tokyo, to central Yotsuya. Today much of its length inside Tokyo’s 23 wards has been covered over. However, head west from its first uncovered portion a 10-minute walk from Fujimigaoka Station, Suginami ward, and discover a world that is very un-Tokyo — a welcome breather for anyone feeling the strains of city life. In season, the waterway is painted pink with sakura (cherry blossoms).
The canal passes through the southern portion of Inokashira Park, which is a destination in itself. Set in Musashino, this 95-acre city park is centered around a large boating pond, laced with leafy trails and laden with cherry trees. Swing by 10th-century Inokashira Benzaiten shrine to pay respects to the sea goddess herself. You can wash money here to (allegedly) level-up its purchase power.
It then runs through Mitaka. Literary fans will be interested to note that Japanese novelist Osamu Dazai lived here, and famously ended his life at this stretch of the canal in 1948. A stone marks the spot.
In the east, Sumida River Ryokudo Park offers a tree-lined stroll along the former boundary of Edo: blossom on a backdrop of blocky buildings. Connecting the Sumida with the Nakagawa river is Sendaibori River Park, Koto Ward, Tokyo’s largest ryokudō by area. Bisecting big-hitter green spaces like Kiba Park and Kiyosumi Park, wandering this waterway makes for a good few hours’ stroll.
Wedged between Omotesando and Tokyo Midtown, Aoyama Cemetery opened in 1874 as Japan’s first public cemetery. The final resting place for a host of greats — from Meiji Era (1868-1912) oyatoi gaikokujin who lent their expertise to Japan’s modernization, to legendary pooch Hachiko — it is also a serene place during sakura season to enjoy the bloom away from picnicking partygoers.
Tokyo’s greenways are marked as such on online maps services, and are free and open to walk year-round. Meguro Sky Garden is open 7 a.m. to 9 p.m.; Inokashira Park, Aoyama Cemetery and other city parks mentioned are open 24 hours.
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