Japan Today
Image: SoraNews24

Right now’s the best time of year for a ride on Tokyo’s often-forgotten streetcar line

By Casey Baseel, SoraNews24

Tokyo’s excellent public transportation system isn’t a recent addition to the city. For generations, trains and subways have been the best way for Tokyoites to get around, but the city’s long-term relationship with rail is a continually evolving one, which means that sometimes once-bustling lines fade away into relative obscurity as different parts of town become more popular to live or work in.

For example, Tokyo used to have a much more extensive streetcar network, which has now been almost entirely removed. One place where you’ll still find them, though, is along the Toden Arakawa Line, also known as the Tokyo Sakura Tram. Connecting Arakawa and Shinjuku Wards, the Arakawa Line doesn’t get a whole lot of use these days, as it’s been largely superseded by newer train and subway lines. It’s still absolutely worth a ride, though, if you’re looking for a glimpse of a more relaxed, old-fashioned way of life in Tokyo, and it’s especially worth riding in May, when the roses are in bloom.


140 different types of roses are planted along a four-kilometer section of the Arakawa Line, stretching from Minowabashi to Arakawa-shakomae Stations. The flowers first appeared as part of a 1985 public beautification campaign with the goal of “Let’s make Arakawa a place with the scent of roses,” and the plants are cared for to this day by the Arakawa Rose Society, a volunteer organization made up of local residents.



There’s a charming, low-key simplicity to the landscaping, really making if feel like the community is welcoming you to its home garden.


The layout of the tracks means that cars travel right next to the flowers, making the rose-lined sections great not only for those hoping to view the blossoms up close, but also for rail fans who want to snap pictures of the trains and roses together.



Part of the reason why Tokyo’s trams have largely been replaced with trains and subways is that, by nature of often being on the street, streetcars have to travel more slowly for traffic safety. This is actually a plus, though, if you’re on the Arakawa Line to enjoy the ride and view. The leisurely pace makes it feel a little less like just a way to get from Point A to Point B and a little more like a theme park ride.



Not that the price of an Arakawa Line ticket is anywhere near the admission fee for Tokyo Disneyland or Fuji-Q Highland. The Arakawa Line charges a flat rate of 170 yen for adults and 90 yen for children, regardless of how many stops you’re riding for. So if you think of your ride as a train trip through a rose garden, and one that’s not nearly as crowded as many of Tokyo’s trendier green spaces, it’s a really great deal.



There isn’t any sort of advance ticket purchase or seat reservation system for the Arakawa Line, but with roses on both sides of the track, there’s really not a bad spot to sit or stand. If you can, though, we recommend at least taking a peek out the front of the train, so you can see the dual lines of flowers at the same time.


Because there are so many different types of roses along the line, they don’t all bloom at the same time, and in addition to May, October is also a great time to see several varieties. The May blooming is especially nice, though, because it coincides with the Japanese social phenomenon known as Gogatsubyo, or “May Sickness.”


In Japan, the school and business years begin in April. For students and workers, there’s often a sense of excitement as they start new jobs or classes, especially if they’ve just entered a new company or school. The first few weeks are a whirlwind of fresh experiences and steady skill acquisition, followed by a week’s vacation for Golden Week, the string of holidays straddling late April and early May. Coming back from Golden Week is, for a lot of people, a stressful, gloomy time. Serious responsibilities start to set in now that training and orientation are over, and it can be hard to grapple with day-to-day drudgery as the stuff that felt so interesting a month ago starts to feel repetitive, yet still challenging due to lack of familiarity.


In time, for most people that initial emotional high and subsequent low balance out as they get used to dealing with the recurring challenges of their position and settle into a more comfortable, familiar routine. When it’s still May, though, some people can be feeling down in the dumps, so it can be good for the soul to take a moment, and a deep breath, and look at some beautiful, soothing flowers while reminding yourself that, just like a ride on the Arakawa Line, sometimes life is all about figuring out how to enjoy the ride.

Photos ©SoraNews24

Read more stories from SoraNews24.

-- We travel across the city like royalty — Hiroshima streetcar turns into fancy, private dining area

-- A ranking of Tokyo’s 10 best train and subway lines for spotting handsome men

-- “Men-only train car” to run in Tokyo as part of “Weak Men’s” association awareness campaign

© SoraNews24

©2024 GPlusMedia Inc.

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What a lovely plan to enjoy Tokyo..

1 ( +4 / -3 )

Tokyo’s excellent public transportation system

Best of the world...

2 ( +5 / -3 )

Tokyo’s excellent public transportation system

Best of the world...

Overrated! Lol!

-6 ( +1 / -7 )

Overrated! Lol!

Yes, but way more advanced than that crumbling system China has.

-4 ( +0 / -4 )

bass4funkMay 28  12:14 pm JST

Yes, but way more advanced than that crumbling system China has.

What's China got to do with it? While I may disagree with Chuck, because I do think Japan has a great transportation system, even with its flaws, I still don't see the need to denegrate any other country's system. It just seems negative, spiteful and petty and for what?

2 ( +2 / -0 )

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