Location: 35°44’34.15″ N 139°50’52.45″ E
Free WiFi: Yes.
Worth it? If you’re in the area.
Our Rating: ⭑⭑⭑
Last updated 5/15/2022
Also nearby around 35°45’31.21″ N 139°49’03.57″ E to the northwest, is the Tokyo Detention House prison, 1 of 7 large federal prisons in Japan – where a notable number of criminals have been executed by hanging – many in 2018, including notorious cult leader Shoko Asahara, and Kenichi Hirose, who lead a major Sarin gas attack on the Tokyo subway in the 1990’s. Other notables held at the prison at one time included Soviet spy Richard Sorge, and former Japanese Prime Minister Kakuei Tanaka, who was arrested and served time in the prison for a $1.8 million 1976 bribery scandal involving Lockheed, Marubeni, and All Nippon Airways (ANA). Globalist and then-US National Security Advisor Henry Kissinger tried to keep the scandal quiet.
Lest you believe the current Japan depopulation hype, Saitama prefecture has actually grown by 1/4 million people overall since 2000.
In medieval Japan the Naka River was an important trading route between the north of Honshu and the Edo (Tokyo) area. The short but small river links smaller tributaries from the north into one of Tokyo’s biggest central rivers, the Arakawa River .
To get to Katsushika, you can get to Yotsugi Station just to the south and then head north, but a better way is to get to Kameari Station 1 mile to the north on the JR Joban Line and then head south down Rt. 318, which is an interesting walk if you’re up for it. Rt. 318 leads directly into Katsushika. Either way, it’s about a mile walk from either station. Note the Joban Line is local and is the only line into Kameari Station so if you take that route you’ll need to change from another line. You can also get to Kanamachi Station further south, if you like. It’s also on the Joban Line only. Also near Kameari Station is Kameari Katori Shrine, built in 1276.
The population in Katsushika is a bit older than average in Tokyo at 45 years. Some of the areas can feel a bit gentrified, but some have an older historical charm. Much of the area is left over from when Japan was rebuilt following the end of World War 2, so it has that shitamachi feel.
Strolling Around + Mito Kaido
There are lots of areas to see in Katsushika. You can walk around the station areas, the covered shopping arcades (see below), head to the greenbelt areas near the rivers, or walk around the city hall area. About 1/4 mile west of the city hall is the town’s main street called Mito Kaido (kaido is the Japanese word for highway). While it’s mostly a commercial area, Mito Kaido makes for an interesting walk. You can spend a few hours here walking up and down the street to get a feel for the town. You may want to walk north instead of south, since at the south end the street turns into an elevated expressway. At the north end is the Naka River again. As a footnote around 35°45’12.58″ N 139°51’04.26″ E is a very nice bike shop – Daiwa Cycle. (Yes, it’s the same Daiwa that sells fishing reels in the US).
Mizumoto Park + Misato Park
One absolutely must-see area in Katsushika is Mizumoto Park – 2 miles northeast of Kameari Station. You’ll have to cross back over the Naka River and wind your way up side streets northeast. The park is along the banks of the Oba River. The views along the river in fall when the trees lining its banks turn red are spectacular. The park is vast, has lots of walkways and trees, and even has a campground on the north end, and an Aquatic Plant Garden. At the very south end of the park is Fountain Square. Just to the south of the park you can cross Mizumoto Bridge and take a walk in Iris Park and Iris Square, which has a spectacular Iris Festival in the spring. There is also another smaller park just to the west called Stone Garden Square. Mizumoto Park has a calm, lake-like feel to it and is spectacular year-round. Past Iris Park to the east is a small pond area called Edomae Goldfish Showroom. If you’re still up for even more walking, you can also visit Misato Park just across the river to the east. You could literally spend an entire day at these parks they are so huge. There is even a Japanese garden in Springfield, MI in the US named after the park.
Covered Shopping Arcades (Shotengai)
A few miles south across the Naka River is a small little covered shopping arcade with some interesting shops. In fact there are many such arcades in the town, and exploring them is worth the walk. The Japanese word for these older covered shopping arcades is Shotengai (gai in Japanese essentially means alley). You’ll have to map them out on the web or Google Earth.
The largest of these, Tateishi Nakamise Shopping Street, begins around 35°44’17.20″ N 139°50’54.48″ E, is by far the largest, and is just .4 miles south of the city hall. The other major shopping street is Taishakuten Sando and is better if you’re looking for souveniers. The covered arcade has lots of great upscale traditional Japanese shops. There is another small railway station right near the arcade called Keisei Tateishi Station. There is even a local association of these streets called Katsushika-ku Shopping Street Federation. There are actually 3 interconnected shopping streets in Tateishi Nakamise Shopping Street, with only 1 of them being a covered arcade. The other 2 are open-air. All are worth a look.
Right around 35°42’56.84” N 139°51’35.45″ E in a covered shopping arcade is the cool little Shishabane Cafe & Bar. This hip little place which has a nice atmosphere + white, but subdued lighting and decor is worth a look.
One of the biggest attractions in the area is Shibamata Taishaku-ten, a huge shrine located around 35°45’45.02″ N 139°52’13.68″ E further to the south close to the banks of the Edo River. There is also a huge green open space along the western bank of the river lined with walking paths + baseball fields. The area around Shibamata Taishaku-ten is a narrow pedestrian-only street lined with traditional Japanese stores – a must-see.
The Katsushika Fireworks Festival is held on Oct. 5th every year along the banks of the Naka River, and is usually spectacular.
Yamamoto-tei Tea House
At the south end of the city, around 35°45’29.65″ N 139°52’48.86″ E, and into Shimbata, actually, is the very nice Yamamoto-tei Tea House. The house is a sprawling mansion with breathtaking rooms surrounded by vast traditional Japanese gardens. From the official website:
“The building is the former residence of Tokyo businessman Einosuke Yamamoto, founder of camera parts manufacturer, Yamamoto Plant. Yamamoto moved to the area after the Great Kanto Earthquake of 1923, and renovated the building from 1926-1930. The building was used for four generations before being acquired by Katsushika Ward in 1986, and opened to the public in 1991″.
But perhaps the most interesting aspect of Katsushika is the following:
From 1969-1995 Japanese film director Yoji Yamada made 18 films of various topics and in various locations, focusing around a fictional salesman character (Tora-san) called Otoko wa Tsurai yo (literally “It’s Tough Being A Man“). The series was massively popular in Japan in the 1970’s + 80’s and continued into the 1990’s. In fact, the series still holds the Guinesss World Record for the longest running film series starring one actor.
The series starred Kiyoshi Atsumi, who made hundreds of films over his career and played the main character in the Otoko films. The final original series film, Tora-san to the Rescue, was released on New Year’s 1995 – a year before Atsumi’s death from lung cancer. That film, and the previous one, Tora-san’s Tropical Fever, were made 15 years apart.
Yamada is still alive as of this writing and is 90 years old. He has continued to make films connected to the original series in one way or another, incredibly, even releasing a 50th film in the series Tora-san, Wish You Were Here (alternately released as Tora-san, Welcome Back) in 2019, which uses flashback footage from earlier films.
From Wikipedia: “Atsumi was so identified with the Tora-san character that his death was also considered by fans to be the death of Tora-san”. The series is so beloved in Japan that the original DVD boxed set releases of the series are hard to find and today can sell for up to $1,000 USD on the used market. Some of the original films such as Tora-san Goes North have been remastered to Blu-Ray.
So what does all this have to do with Katsushika? Good question.
The Tora-san character’s hometown was Katsushika, and it is featured all throughout the series. He longs to return to Katsushika, but as a travelling salesman, is on the road most of the time and rarely does. The town’s identity is now so tied up in Otoko film lore that the town has built a Yoji Yamada Museum, a Tora-san Museum – and even a Tora-san Café whose opening in 2019 coresponded with the release of the 50th film. There is even a Tora-san Summit.
The Japanese are nothing if not meticulous – to an extent that many in the west would call borderline OCD. But then again, that obsession with detail and quality is one of the things that makes Japan so fascinating – and reliable.
The Tora-san Museum is a must-see and is an astonishing recreation of many of the orginal series’ film sets at full-scale. Unbeliveably detailed dioramas of the original sets and scenes + countless artifacts from the films are also on display.
All of the above are located just south of the Yamamoto-tei grounds along the banks of the Edo River around 35°45’29.65″ N 139°52’48.86″ E in Shimbata Park .
The Tokyo University of Science is located in the area around 35°46’21.13″ N 139°51’49.13″ E further to the south.
Back southwest around 35°44’30.65″ N 139°50’57.29″ E is the HQ of the world-famous Japanese toy company Tomy (now called Tanaka Tomy after its merger with another toy company, Tanaka). Tomy has made toys for decades and is most famous around the world for Transformers. But in the 1980’s it also made a quirky little mechanical handheld LED game called simply, Blip.
If you’re in Saitama and have some free time, Katsushika is a nice little town worth a look. You won’t regret it.