Tokyo has its share of immaculately manicured gardens and even has some spacious parks, but it’s hard to find a place of untended nature where you can escape the presence of other people.
One of the few such places is the Todoroki Valley Park (等々力渓谷公園, Todoroki Keikoku Koen), a small wooded valley that winds for about a kilometer along the Yazawa River, a tributary of the larger Tama River, which you’ll find at the end of the valley.
Todoroki Station is just a 20-minute train ride from Shibuya, which makes it remarkably accessible. Walking down the valley to the Tama River only takes about 20 to 30 minutes, but it’s a delightful way to escape the city. There are bamboo groves and orange trees, verdant wild grass and sun-dappled pools of still water, all of which make the valley a lovely place for a picnic.
From the station, it’s less than a hundred metres to the start of the valley walk at the Gorufo-bashi, or Golf Bridge, so called because it once carried a small road that led to a large golf course on the other side of the river.
The original wooden bridge was built in the early Showa era, but the current red steel bridge was built to replace it in 1961. The golf course was one of the first in Japan. It was built by the Tokyu Corporation, the company that still owns the bulk of the railway lines that carry commuters from southwestern Tokyo to Shibuya.
The Todoroki Valley has several interesting characteristics to waylay visitors. The valley is on the southern edge of the Musashino Plateau, the flat land that lies between the Tama River in the south and the Arakawa River in the north.
Most of western Tokyo is built on this plateau, but because Todoroki is the only valley in Tokyo, it is a good place to see the distinct layers of clay, loam, pumice and gravel on which the city is built up-close.
The riverside walk has lots of informative signboards, one of which explains that the city’s rivers and brooks are the result of the springs that bubble up from fissures in these geological layers. The erosive action of these waterways is what gives the Musashino Plateau its distinctive, corrugated texture.
You’ll also find several large, keyhole-shaped ancient tombs in the valley. Although you can peer inside these tombs, there’s not much to see. However, when archaeologists first unearthed them, they were startled to find a lot of battle gear inside.
The biggest of the tombs is the Noge Otsuka tomb, which is over 100m long. It is believed to have been dug in the fifth century to house the remains of a great chieftain who once ruled over what is today Yokohama and Kawasaki.
Further downriver from the tombs is Todoroki Fudo, an atmospheric temple, and the Tama River. Thanks to the usual over-zealous flood prevention measures, the river is not exactly picturesque, but it makes a peaceful enough spot to take some sun before heading back to the station.
Todoroki station is on the Tokyu Oimachi Line, just 20 minutes from Shibuya Station.
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