June 4, 2020

Backyard Tourism Vol. 6

The Todoroki Ravine is a natural sanctuary in the middle of Tokyo. Found near Futako Tamagawa, this hidden allure is a welcome reprieve.

Welcome back to another installment on my ongoing Backyard Tourism series. Presently, as I write this, the world is still in the middle of the 2020 coronavirus pandemic. While Japan ceased its state of emergency in the latter half of May, our battle with the virus is still far from over. For the time being, the government is asking residents to refrain from traveling outside of the confines of their prefectures. Since we are no longer being requested to remain inside as we had been during the state of emergency, many residents are venturing outside and engaging in what is being called “micro tourism” (close-to-home trips that can be reached either by bike or on foot).

Keeping the government’s precautionary guidelines in mind to avoid crossing Tokyo’s borders, I recently took it upon myself to walk halfway across the city. My destination was the Todoroki Ravine in Setagaya Ward. This scenic landscape is quite the contrast to the regular hustle and bustle of the world’s most populated megalopolis. The location’s alluring walking trails unsurprisingly make it a perennially beloved weekend reprieve for families living in Setagaya Ward. With few other alternatives for escaping the stress of the concrete jungle, is it any surprise that so many Tokyoites flock to the Todoroki Ravine for an all too short siesta?

Before we go any further talking about the Todoroki Ravine, I want to take a momentary pause for anyone who hasn’t read a Backyard Tourism article before. Simply put, as with all entries in this collection, I am not going to try to assert that the topic of this feature should rank at the top of your “must visit” lists. Instead, my goal is to show that given sufficient storytelling, just about anywhere in Japan can become seemingly appealing. That said, there are simply better alternatives for overseas visitors that scratch a similar itch. While this is especially true if you’re on a tight schedule, those planning on an elongated stay could do a lot worse than visiting the Todoroki Ravine.

Getting to Todoroki

A map of the Todoroki Ravine area of Tokyo

Still interested in giving the Todoroki Ravine a go? Great! Assuming that you’re not here on a short stint, this well-kept urban secret is most certainly worth your time as a Tokyoite. To get to this metropolitan oasis, you’ll need to navigate your way to Todoroki Station. Served by the Tokyu Oimachi Line, this sleepy neighborhood can be reached via a number of ways. For simplicity’s sake though, I’ll just direct you to the helpful Hyperdia (or a similar service of your choosing). All you need to do is plug in your nearest station and let the app do the rest of the work. Do note though that Todoroki Station is only served by local trains so don’t mistakenly board an express.

Once you’re at Todoroki Station, the nature-filled valley can be reached in just a matter of minutes on foot. All you need to do is depart the station via the South Exit and then hoof it a bit to this point. From there, head down the stairs and you’ll be at the start of the path that winds through Todoroki Ravine. If you see a vermillion bridge spanning a river below, know that you’re in the right place. This archway is known as Golf Bridge and is an iconic symbol of the Todoroki Ravine. The overpass derives its moniker from an expansive golf course that used to reside in the region during the 1920’s.

What to See in Todoroki

A quiet stream runs through the center of lush greenery at Tokyo’s Todoroki Ravine

Like an exquisite pour-over coffee (or fresh steep for you tea enthusiasts), the Todoroki Ravine is not something that one should rush through. Instead, the valley is best experienced at a lazy pace, ideally with family and/or friends. All in all, this southwestern strip spans an approximately 700 meter-long stretch through which the Yazawa River flows. On either side of the charming crevasse, towering trees cast cooling shadows on the pathway below. This creates an environment where temperatures are much cooler in the Todoroki Ravine than they are even back at the station. Especially during the beastly summer months, this is a welcomed reprieve from the hellish heat.

Given the prevalence of foliage, it should also come as no surprise that the Todoroki Ravine is alluring all year round. No matter when you visit, there will be something waiting for you. For example, all throughout the valley, you’ll find a number of cherry trees that bloom with Japan’s iconic blossoms every spring. Alternatively, the Todoroki Ravine is also one of the cooler spots in the cities during July and August as previously noted above. Of these timings stated, I am most definitely partial to autumn when the leaves come alive with vibrant hues.

In addition to its natural beauty, the Todoroki Ravine also features some unique cultural offerings. Of these, the lovely Todoroki Fudoson temple grounds are the most #DonnyThings-esques draw around. Located on one of the valley’s ridges, this site allegedly has roots that date back over 1,300 years. The current complex was erected during the middle of the 19th century and is therefore considerably vintage. Down in the ravine, below where Todoroki Fudoson sits, you’ll also find a small waterfall that was actually used as a place for ascetics to practice waterfall meditation in bygone days.

As if the above facets weren’t enough to justify a trip to the Todoroki Ravine, know also that this area is home to several ancient tumuli from the Kofun period (300–538). These can be found both in the valley itself as well as at its mouth. For more exact information, refer to the map I conveniently included at the top of the “Getting to Todoroki” section of this article. Oh yeah, and before I forget, further rounding out this impressive set of allures, there’s also a delightful Japanese garden with a charming collection of bamboo to see. You’ll find this towards the far end of the Todoroki Ravine.

Attractions Near the Todoroki Ravine

A shopping mall in Tokyo’s riverside Futago-Tamagawa area

If you’re going to set aside a day to come down to the Todoroki Ravine, it would behoove you to also make a pitstop at Futako Tamagawa. This rather posh, upscale neighborhood is located on the southern edge of Tokyo, right along the Tama River that separates the city from Kawasaki. Though still residing within the confines of Setagaya Ward, Futako-Tamagawa is a stark contrast to the Todoroki Ravine. Here, you’ll find a number of stylish cafes, eateries, and shopping centers to peruse.

What’s more, Futako-Tamagawa’s riverside locale makes it the perfect location for families looking to spend time outdoors. Should you venture down to the banks of the Tama River, expect to encounter numerous day campers, joggers, etc. going about their lives. Additionally, Futako-Tamagawa also makes for a great date spot if you happen to be a younger reader who has yet to start a family of their own. All in all, you really can’t go wrong with a trip here!