Monzen-nakacho has always been a mystery to me. At least twice a week, I pass by this place on my way to school and going home. I sometimes get off at this station to change from Tozail Line to Oedo Line. But for some reason, I not really seen Monzen-nakacho outside its station. So to address my curiosity, I asked my husband to explore Monzen-nakacho last Sunday afternoon. The weather was nice and the sky was bright that day. So instead of taking the train, we decided to use our bikes going there. From our home, we rode along the big road parallel to the tracks of Tozai Line. It took us around 45 minutes until we reached our destination.
Monzen-nakacho: What to See Just Outside the Station
Since we followed the Tozai Line tracks, we also ended up near Monzen-nakacho station. Along the main road were typical commercial buildings and residential mansions (medium and high-rise residential buildings). But as we tried to cross to the other side, a small bar located at the opposite corner caught my attention.
The facade of the building is very traditional with a signage of a tiger figure. Later have I known that it is one of the good places for gyoza and beer. This is a definite must-try and the reason for me to go back to this place again.
Just a few block away from the station is a big shrine called Tomioka Hachimangu. It is acknowledged as biggest shrine dedicated to Hachiman in Tokyo. Hachiman is the Shinto god of war. Unfortunately we arrived late for the flea market. The vendors were already cleaning up when we got there.
Near the entrance is a small building with huge glass window. Inside is the shrine's mikoshi or portable shrine. It is one of the shrine's prides not only because of its size. This 4-ton portable shrine is decorated with diamonds, rubies, and sapphires that cost a fortune.
After mesmerizing with the intricate and expensive design of the mikoshi, we continued walking towards the main hall. I first went to the administration office to get my stamp. Then we went to the main hall to see the altar. At that time, there was a ceremony inside so we did not stay long. According to my Japanese friend, this shrine is mostly visited for the sichi-go-sai (7-5-3) ceremony. This ceremony is to offer prayers and ask for guidance and blessings for children turning 7, 5, and 3 years old.
From the main hall, we walked to the inner parts of the shrine ground to see its small garden. A stone monument composed of big boulders welcomed us. The boulders have some writings and pictures of sumo wrestlers on it. I learned that this shrine also served as the site of sumo tournaments in 1684 which lasted for a century before they moved to Ryogoku in 1971. The shrine no longer hosts the said tournaments but they maintain close ties to sumo.
Beside the monument is small pathway which lead us to a beautiful garden. Walking around felt like we discovered a hidden haven. The bright red bridges and tori-i complement the pond and the plants in the area.
The Small Brick Roads of Monzen-nakacho
Instead of returning to the main entrance, we walked towards the side exit of Hachimangu Shrine going to Fukugawa Fudoson, a Buddhist Temple. It is fascinating to see and feel the serenity of the place despite its location. This shrine is built right beside the major highways. The temple is known as the traffic temple where people with new cars or off for long travels go to pray for road safety.
The main temple is a wooden structure which is considered as the oldest of its kind in Koto. Inside, there is a big Buddha statue that welcomes its visitors. People can explore the different altars inside but cannot take pictures. Outside, modern facilities blend well with the traditional environment of the temple.
In front of the temple is a short brick road leading to the main road. Along this brick road are sweet shops, cafes, restaurants, and izakayas for people to enjoy after visiting the temple.
On Our Way Back Home
It was nearly 5:00 pm and was almost dark when we finished. We wanted to go to a nearby garden however it was already closed when we checked. Hence, we decided to go back home. Instead of using the same big road, we agreed to bike along the inner smaller roads. We first crossed a beautiful river planted with sakura trees on both sides. Another reason to return and see it in spring. And not far from it is a waterpark. Curious of what we can see, we drove our bikes across the park to get to the parallel road.
We continued to bike along the smaller roads until we reached Kiba Park. It was already nearly 6:00 pm but the park is still alive and full of people. We biked around the park for a few minutes and then decided to head back to the main road for home.