Saturday, July 10, 2010
Katsushika Yamamoto-tei Teahouse & Shibamata
Shibamata is another of the hidden joys of Tokyo, a place where history stands still - or at least the locals try their best to carefully cultivate this sensation.
It’s the hometown of the lovable tramp Kuruma Torajiro (actor Kiyoshi Atsumi), who featured in what was once the world’s longest running film series: Otoko wa Tsurai yo (男はつらいよ).
Otherwise known as the Tora-san movies, there're 48 of 'em from 1969-95, most written and directed by Yōji Yamada (Twilight Samurai).
Lead man Atsumi passed away in '96 but you'll find his statue in pride of place outside Shibamata Station.
There're also some wonderfully renovated and reconditioned buildings, in particular the shops along the main strip which leads to the madly beautiful Daikyo-ji Temple - and just around the corner from that you'll find one of the most serene traditional-style homes in Tokyo: Yamamoto-tei.
Construction commenced at the end of the Taisho period (1912-26) as a private residence, but it was opened to the public in 1991 and has been converted into a restaurant.
It's perhaps the principle remaining example in this city of sukiya zukuri, or “teahouse style”, with shoji paper panels and tatami mats - and some breath-taking views of a gorgeous garden, pond and waterfall. In the humid summer months (like now) it's a great place to hang out, hover over green tea, and contemplate... stuff.
Best of all, entry costs just ¥100, which equates to about US$1.
Also to be found in downtown Shibamata - aside from the famous local dango rice flour treats - is one of the funkiest-looking vending machines that this city has to offer.
It's fitted out as a robot, but an old school lumbering ironclad contraption rather than svelte futuristic mecha style.
It might only serve up Coke and a swag of Coca-Cola-owned local beverages, but who cares?
And this is one of the inspirations behind a little piece of vinyl we put out earlier this year.