Meguro River Walk
An inner city hike
River winds its way to the Bay through three of Tokyo' "cities" Setagaya,
Meguro and Shinagawa. During the 1980s, these cities banded together to improve the river
area and today it's an attractive place for an afternoon's urban hike. Kristen McQuillin leads the way.
through Meguro City is approximately four kilometers long and goes past (or over or into)
25 bridges, two parks, a love hotel, two temples and three museums.
Begin at Ikejiri-Ohashi station on the Tokyu Shin-Tamagawa line, one stop
from Shibuya. Leave the station via the east exit and turn right. The south bank of the
river is one block away. The attractive, brick roads are lined with cherry trees which
make a spectacular show in spring and cover the street with comfortable shade during the
Your first stop is two blocks away from the head of the Meguro River. At the first cross
street (between blocks 3-1 and 3-5) turn right and walk to the end of the street. You'll
see a children's playground on your left - typically Japanese, there are huge, concrete
climbing structures and metal jungle gyms teeming with children.
Your target, Higashiyama
Kaizuka Koen, is just beyond the playground. A quiet, wooded parklet reconstructs
an ancient, Jomon-period house and its environs at the site of an archeological digging of
kaizuka, or shell mounds. The house is constructed of mud and wood and looks like a giant
beehive. The park itself is shady and damp. A small stream falls over stones and leads to
a pond filled with black koi. Sun creates a mottled effect on the water as it filters
through the leaves of the young trees planted on the periphery.
When you've had your fill of this quiet place, or of the children's playground, head back
to the river and continue on your way.
Your walk continues along the south bank of the river. You'll pass by a number of bridges
built and named according to their locations. Ohashi is the "Big Bridge" that
carries the street at Ikejiri-Ohashi across the river. Tokiwabashi, the "Time
Bridge," is where you turned for the park. Now you pass by Bandaibashi, Hikawabashi
and Higashiyamabashi. Megurobashi, the sixth bridge on your route, allows the river to
pass underneath it but pedestrians are prohibited. You'll have to detour around this
highway overpass. Turn north (left) to reach the closest traffic light.
The seventh bridge, Nakanobashi, is the perfect place for a photo
opportunity. The cheery red arches of the bridge contrast with the green of the spring
foliage and the darkness of the river. The flora and fauna, while re-emerging after years
of encouragement, are still rather subtle. You are not likely to see any fish in this part
of the Meguro River, though they do live further downstream.
If your creative muse is urging you to take advantage of the scenery, stop in at the
family-owned art supply and framing shop on the north side of the river, near
Chitosahashi. You'll find plenty of sketchpads, pens, colored pencils, paints, brushes and
other art paraphernalia crammed into this tiny store.
River in the afternoon
For the next few
blocks, you'll see boutiques and restaurants interspersed with residential buildings. Stop
in to browse clothing or buttons, have a glass of wine or view some art.
Two places along this stretch of the waterway stand out. On the north bank is a lot that
stockpiles broken and used slabs of granite and marble - another art supply store of
sorts. It's interesting to note the varied styles of stone and, judging from the stacks,
this place has been here for a long time!
Across the river is Johann, a cheesecake shop of local renown. You may
want to buy a slice to take away as a snack later on. There are usually several varieties
available: plain, sour-cream topped, melon and a special of the day. If you're feeling
hungry enough for a meal, the north side of the river and the side streets near
Naka-Meguro station are dotted with tiny eateries. Or supplement your cheesecake with more
substantial picnic trimmings from the basement of the Tokyu nearby.
Just beyond Naka-Meguro station, the Jyakuzure River joins the Meguro
River. At the intersection is a small community garden. Children play ball here and during
hanami, picnickers come with baskets laden with treats from Johann.
Continuing the walk along the river, you come to Komazawa Dori. If you're ready for a
brief detour away from the river, turn right and walk south on Komozawa Dori, crossing
over to the Shokaku Temple at the corner of Yamate Dori. In the far corner of the temple
compound is a low, arched gateway leading into a picturesque cemetery.
figures at Daienji Temple
Your next stop is on
Yamate Dori, just across the street from the temple. The Megurogawa Funa-iriba
is where the river was widened to make room for boats unloading cargo. No boats ply this
part of the river, though, so the widening is unused. There are three levels of open
plazas which host flea markets and other events on the weekends. During the week, this is
a popular spot for pigeon-feeding seniors, for citizens exercising their dogs and
sometimes for teenagers to practice rollerblading. It's a good place to take a break and
watch the ebb and flow of people walking their dogs and stopping to chat with one another.
If you want to learn about the technology of the river and its water management, as well
as the river's flora and fauna, don't miss the free River Museum of Meguro,
also in the plaza. On the first floor of the museum you can peer down into the actual
structure of the retarding basin that prevents flooding; upstairs a multimedia display
demonstrates the workings of the basin. The river improvements included building the high
river walls you've been walking along, which help to prevent flooding.
During the summer the river dries to a shallow stream and you might wonder how it could
possibly flood. In part this is due to our increasingly paved and cemented-over world.
Descriptions of the techniques used to ensure that water seeps through the ground and into
the waterway are one of the museum's highlights.
Back out in the sunshine, continue walking along the river. The area around the museum is
home to many spotbill ducks, who seem to like the rocks in the funa-iriba. You'll
recognize the incineration plant on the north side of the river by its tall, white
smokestack. This is where the city's garbage comes to be burned.
The Meguro Citizen's Center complex combines a park with three swimming
pools, a bowling alley, an archery range, tennis courts, a library with a small collection
of English language books, a restaurant and rooms for community activities. Facilities are
available to citizens of Meguro city and the general public. If you're in the mood for a
swim or a bowl as you pass through, you can make use of the facilities for a small fee.
Also in the Citizen's Center complex is the Meguro Art Museum. There are
two sections: one exhibits paintings and artworks by Meguro artists and is free to the
public; the other half has visiting exhibitions. The admission price depends on the
exhibit but is in the JY500 range.
Thread your way back through the Citizen's Center park to the river. At Meguro Dori, turn
right and cross the street for a side trip to a unique museum - truly the only one of its
kind in the world. A few blocks down Meguro Dori you reach the Parasite Museum.
Get your fill of parasite specimens and don't miss the eight-meter tapeworm display on the
second floor. Interactive displays allow you to see exactly what parasites inhabit Japan
and what they can do to you. The souvenir gift shop boasts parasite jewelry, tote bags and
After being sufficiently grossed out, return to the river. You'll see a tall, turreted
building on the south bank. This is the Gallery Hotel/Meguro Club, a
discreet, pricey love hotel. Depending on who is in your walking party, you may want to
pop in for a "rest." You can buy two hours of quiet space for only JY8000!
Past the hotel, you'll come to the final bridge of the day, Taikobashi.
Restored in 1991, it is designed in an Edo-period style. It, along with Meguroshinbashi,
which you passed over at Meguro Dori, are government designated Famous Bridges.
At Taikobashi, cross over to the north side of the river. On the right are Meguro Gajoen
Hotel and Sugino Women's College. Up the hill past them is your final stop before reaching
Meguro station, the end of your walk.
Daienji Temple in late afternoon is a solemn place. Jizo figures,
commemorating stillborn or aborted infants, stand sentinel near the gate as you enter.
Weathered toys and stuffed animals left as tributes are poignant. To the right statues of
the Gohyaku Rakan (500 followers of Buddha) are arrayed on the hill behind a large Buddha
sculpture. Daienji is not a large temple, so touring it takes only a few moments. The new
building in the back is used for funeral services.
To reach Meguro station, turn right as you leave the temple and make a steep but brief
ascent up Gyoninzaka. The station is on your left as you reach the large intersection. And
home is not far away!