The Walk to Our Son’s House

Our son’s home is the next stop from our subway station but requires about a mile’s walk once we leave that station. I have yet to be bored with the walk even those Brett and I have made it more times than we can count. The walk always offers a slice of “real” Japan and “real” Tokyo, and we continue to discover new things along the way every time we make the journey.

(The pictures below were taken on two different days, which is why the sky is blue in some and not in others.)

We pass a 24-hour underground McDonald’s on the way out of Komazawa-Daigaku station. We’ve never gone in.

Once out of the subway station we begin a long walk alongside a busy major street (cars drive on the left in Japan); up above is an expressway. The stacking is common throughout the city as it saves room in crowded Tokyo. In fact, just a little farther down the road, closer to where we’re living, we just discovered there are actually TWO expressways stacked on top of the road, one on top of the other. Some of the bare trees on the side of the street are ginkos, but I’m not sure what these are. Yes, it’s much more attractive when they’re leafed out.

This is our view down the sidewalk as we get started. We walk on the left side going to our son’s, on the right coming back, often single file because of the number of people using the space. There are all sorts of shops and restaurants along the way, just about everything you could imagine, with offices and apartments above (an apartment building will have balconies; an office building won’t).

We pass one gas station not too long after we get started. If you’re a cardholder, regular gas costs ¥144/liter ($5/gallon). If you don’t have a card, it’s ¥146/liter.

There are many tempting restaurants on the road, like this traditional ramen shop with its glowing lantern.

Our favorite though is this little okonomiyaki (Japanese savory pancake) restaurant, run by a woman and her son. It’s very cozy and old-school, and the food is very good!

Eventually, we turn a corner and head for the Komazawa Olympic Park. Right after the turn is this traditional sweet shop, with a noren (shop curtain) over the door. Strawberry sweets are big now, but I want to stop in one of these days for some sakura mochi (mochi folded over a sweet bean filling and then wrapped with a pickled cherry leaf). It’s my favorite, and only available for a few months every year, around cherry blossom season.

Mitsubishi corporation employees can live in one of these subsidized apartments. They range in size from two rooms to some rather large apartments with terraces, assigned I assume, according to one’s position in the company. This complex contains three other equally large buildings.

A little further along, we walk past the entrance to Komazawa-Daigaku (Komazawa University). The apartment building in back is new since last year – and they built a separate little house on top!

We eventually reach Komazawa Olympic Park, where we turn left and pass by a pretty vegan restaurant called Mr. Farmer. We’ve checked out the menu but it’s expensive and nothing on the menu really appeals to us.

We turn right at the large skateboard park. 

Just past the skateboard park is the new baseball stadium, which was under construction all last year. Those big, bare trees will be loaded with cherry blossoms in April!

Some of the seating in the new stadium. We thought it might be have been built for the upcoming Olympics, but it’s used by local college and high teams, for games and tournaments. Our son said it’s incredibly noisy when a game’s going on. Although the sports venues at Komazawa Olympic Park were built for Olympic sports and crowds, there is a lack of transportation infrastructure in the area that makes holding such events there impossible.

Just across the road from the stadium is a small bird sanctuary that we walk past, although we’ve come to call it the “cat cafeteria” because there are usually three to four cats waiting inside the fence. We’ve even seen people leave out food for the cats. We have yet to see a bird there.

A couple of turns later and we’re at our son’s home! It’s a big house for Japan and sits among several other big houses along a narrow road. It has a large, bright open plan living/dining/kitchen upstairs, five bedrooms (including a traditional tatami room) on three levels (two are used for offices), two toilet rooms, a large bath, two balconies, one in the front and one in the back, and lots of storage. It doesn’t have any yard but there is a small garden area on the right.

We usually don’t walk back through the park when we walk back to the station at night, but instead walk up the street and turn right back onto the street we walked on to get to the park. It saves us a few steps doing it that way, but during the day we prefer the scenery and activity in the park.

24 thoughts on “The Walk to Our Son’s House

    1. Always! And, it’s different every time we walk while at the same time consistent, if that makes sense. We’re always finding or seeing something new. The big hazard of looking at or for things though is that we might get run over by a bicycle – the riders on the stretch down to the corner can be pretty wild (and scary).

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  1. I love this walk through the city and all the descriptions of what you see! Perfect way to take that journey with you. Thanks!

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    1. I think lots of Japanese people got a kick out of watching me take the pictures (What is that crazy American doing now? Why does she want a picture of THAT?). I’m happy to have the pictures to help me remember after we’re gone.

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  2. Very interesting! You get to see all sorts of interesting places on your walks. Bet you’re back in shape!

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    1. It is an interesting walk, while at the same time being perfectly normal and everyday for Japan.

      We’re getting in shape – I’m grateful we get to to do so much walking here.

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  3. Thank you for taking us on your stroll! It’s very compact but there is something for everyone: for kids, nature lovers, professionals…fascinating! I suppose the notion of personal space is a little different there than it is here, isn’t it?

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    1. There is something for everyone – seriously. If our grandson is walking with us he likes to stop into the convenience stores to get a snack. I am fascinated with all the little shops, and wonder how some of them stay in business.

      Personal space is different here. You can be smashed up against someone on a train and yet have the feeling of space between you, something that would not be tolerated in the U.S. or at least would make people very uncomfortable.

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  4. Love going on a walk with you! So much to comment on:

    Maybe it’s not a bird sanctuary but a farm for the cats! Lol

    I’m not sure I’d like the sweets but I’d like to try some. I think my sweet preferences have been bedded down to a fairly conservative Australian/German/British range. Couldn’t even take some American lollies – like wintergreen flavoured mints. We use wintergreen as a muscle rub.

    The pedestrian traffic floored me in Tokyo. The multilevel footpaths! I love the little house on top of the building. A cottage in the country, not! Your son’s house is lovely.

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    1. When I came to Japan for the first time back in 1971 I did not like fish, soy sauce, or rice, the three staples of the Japanese diet. Sweet beans were an abomination, and I once put an entire lump of wasabi in my mouth thinking it was guacamole! Mugicha, roasted barley tea, made me gag. I now love all of the above! Japanese sweets are much less sweet than what Americans eat, thank goodness. American mints are off-putting to many because the flavor/scent is medicinal to many. Same for black licorice (although Australian black licorice is amazing – I love it!). Anyway, my thing with Japanese flavors is “give it time,” although as I wrote last Sunday, there are a couple of things that even time has not been able to overcome.

      The little house on top was a lovely surprise! So cute! I’m glad I looked up.

      There are always a LOT of people out walking in Japan – looking at the pictures I was surprised by how few people there were at the time because an hour later that road would have been swamped.

      Our son’s home is great and was quite the find. The interior is amazing. They don’t own it though, and are only renting from the architect who designed and built it (with a 15-year lease!). Homes are outrageously expensive in Tokyo (that home would be around $7 or $8 million dollars, if not more. Our son works in investment banking and feels there are better ways to use their monty other than owning a home (and they know he could also be transferred out of Japan although that’s not too likely).

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    1. It is a very large house, and yet it would be considered large by U.S. standards, but especially so in Japan. The interior is gorgeous with lots of natural wood and light. It also has amazing features, like heated floors, skylights, climate control, and a huge kitchen.

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  5. I am friends with a young man who grew up half the time in the US and half the time in Seoul, South Korea. He is happiest living in densely populated areas, and feels safe and at home there. He lives in Chicago right now and doesn’t think it’s quite large enough. He and I, along with other friends, were on a mission to find a young woman’s family farm in Ohio, and he was totally freaking out. He had never been in the actual country before, and he said it seemed very scary to him, with all that open space everywhere. Cracked me up, having grown up in a fairly small town myself. I really enjoyed going along for this walk, and getting a glimpse into the area.

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    1. I sort of laughed at this but at the same time I get it. There is a density here, and I imagine in Seoul, that is not like any place in the U.S. When I used to teach English I had students from time to time that were upset and disoriented by the space in the U.S. Not that it was a waste, just that there was so much of it and how was it possible to have any sort of community if you lived and worked so far apart from everyone? I personally find the density here in Tokyo comforting to a degree and it wouldn’t bother me at all to live here. I prefer small spaces.

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    1. Japan is very different from any place in the U.S. (or most of the world). I was always glad that when Brett had sea duty that we could live here – every day was an adventure, every turn down a new street. You never knew what you’d discover (it also helps that it’s extremely safe here).

      I love tatami, although it requires special care. We lived in a Japanese house for over a year when we came for our second tour here in 1989, and there were new tatami mats installed right before we moved in both upstairs and down. The wonderful aroma lasted the entire time we lived there and is something I’ll never forget. These days many homes no longer have a tatami room – they’re a luxury for many.

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  6. Wow you have sidewalks. 😉. Nice walk. We stay about 15-20 min walk from our son and family in Fushimi (Kyoto) and about half the walk is without sidewalks. We just walk along the curb on busy streets. Drivers are pretty courteous for the most part. We get there for a month 2 times a year. Did this past Christmas and going back for Cherry Blossoms. Watching the granddaughter (4) over her school break.

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    1. There’s only a sidewalk there because it’s a major road, otherwise everywhere else we walk is like you describe – we walk along the curb and hope we’re out of the way (I’m more afraid of bike riders than cars though).

      I think once we get done with all this other traveling a month or two’s visit twice a year is what we are going to aim for. Our granddaughter is slightly younger that yours – she can understand us but only replies in Japanese. I can understand most of what she says, but not all, which tells you the level of my Japanese!

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      1. Oh I forgot to mention that in the area where my son lives (I understand that this is a local thing) scooters and motorcycles can go both ways on a one-way Street. So you have to look both directions on every street. Teaching my granddaughter to always look both ways. What I find really scary is how people and bicycles sort of just meander out into the traffic flow without looking – gives a whole new slant on defensive driving. Nights are the worst as it seems like everyone wears dark clothing making them very hard to see. We actually both reflective arm bands at the 100 yen store. I love the 100 yen stores – good quality stuff ( much better than here)

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      2. The bicycles scare the living daylights out of me, especially the bigger one with kids on the back and the mom driving like a bat out of hell down the sidewalk, and yes, usually wear black with no light on the bike. When it’s raining they wear these big ponchos and look like bats coming down the street! The reflective arm bands sound like a very good idea!

        I love the 100 yen stores too, especially Daiso. I’m staying out of them this visit though – way too easy to overspend. When our daughters were in school I used to buy fun snacks there though to bring back for their lunches (also brought them from Muji).

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  7. What I love most about Tokyo is how safe it feels. It was refreshing to walk around and not have to be concerned that I might get robbed (or worse) which is how I feel in most every other large city. I was amazed that people leave their bikes unlocked. I hope I can get back there someday.

    Thank you for the virtual walking tour. Very interesting. Your son’s home is beautiful! I saw your reply above that he is renting. It’s nice he has a 15 year lease!

    I also think it’s interesting how the McDonald’s is ‘open’ (no doors). I wonder why that is? I remember going to one like that when I was there, but it was during the summer so you felt like you were eating al fresco, but not sure I’d like that in the winter.

    Funny how the bird sanctuary has cats. They should change the name!

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    1. Tokyo is a VERY safe place; you don’t have to worry here about personal safety like you do in other places. I’e had people run after me when a lipstick has fallen out of my purse! If you accidently leave your purse or something else on a train or in a taxi, chances are near 100% you will get it back.

      That station McDonalds always has people eating there so it must be warmer than it looks.

      We really thought our son and DIL would buy a home here, and they said they thought about it but decided there were much better ways to invest their money than on a tiny piece of Tokyo real estate (which is outrageously expensive). He has often said he knows too that he could be transferred overseas (although it less likely for him because of his Japanese language ability), and they would hate to be stuck owning a house back here.

      Since the Bird Sanctuary only has a chain link fence surrounding it, it was a given that cats would be able to get in. I was surprised though that people actually feed the cats!

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