Tokyo is a city that is widely regarded as being second to none when it comes to its public transport. The accuracy of its trains, despite it being one of the most heavily populated cities on earth, have become a byword for Japanese efficiency. However, the efficiency of the public transport system means that many residents of this fantastic city often miss some of the fabulous scenic walking routes that the city also offers.
Given the current pandemic situation, less people are willing to ride public transport the world over, and more and more people are taking the chance to explore Tokyo on foot. Here three of the most interesting and often overlooked walking routes that give pedestrians a chance to rediscover the city.
1. Kanda River and the waterways of central Tokyo
(Ichigaya to Ochanomizu – 45min)
It is a common feature of the city center but is often not seen as one of Tokyo’s main waterways besides the mighty Arakawa and Sumida rivers. However, one of the most enjoyable and unexpected walks can be found alongside the Kanda River. The river itself stretches almost the entire length of central Tokyo from Mitaka to Ryogoku but the most scenic and interesting part of the river passes through an area of central Tokyo between the train stations of Ichigaya and Ochanomizu.
Starting at Ichigaya Station, the path along the river’s edge follows an upward curve to the neighborhood of IIdabashi. This area is well renowned as a student area and so it has a young and vibrant feeling. It is also, rather interestingly, a French culture hub for Tokyo and is home to numerous French restaurants and bakeries, the Institut Francais du Japon and the Agnes Hotel (long a favorite haunt for French celebrities visiting the city). It is also worth quenching your thirst in the Canal Cafe and admiring the view from the water’s edge before proceeding on.
From Iidabashi, the route follows the river along to Suidobashi Station, an excellent detour point for Koshikawa Korakuen Gardens or the fantastic Space Museum TeNQ. Those following the path onwards should also take the opportunity to cross the river into the Jimbocho neighborhood, a wonderful labyrinth of relatively unchanged, old school Tokyo, famous for its antique book shops. Finally the path continues on a short distance to the final destination of Ochanomizu Station.
2. Walking Rainbow Bridge
(Tamachi to Tokyo Big Sight – 45min)
While many walking routes through the streets of Tokyo would encompass many of the unique cultural treasures hidden away down the city streets, this next walk has one pure and simple draw, the jaw-dropping view.
Beginning from Tamachi Station, cross over the canal to the futuristic Shibaura Island and then you enter the Rainbow Bridge complex. After taking an elevator to the pedestrian walkway, you are confronted with one of the most unmissable views in a city that is already fairly spoilt when it comes to amazing views.
While the noise of the traffic and the concrete walkway do not make this the most romantic of walks, the Blade Runner-esque night view of the Tokyo skyline hugging the shore in front of you and stretching up the Sumida River is a sight you will surely never forget.
3. New Tokyo meets old Edo
(Tokyo Skytree to Akihabara – 1hr)
Perhaps saving the best for last, this walk encompasses the best mix of traditional and modern Tokyo over the course of one walk. It is even possible to see history played out before you as you walk from old alleys of Edo to the modern streets of the metropolis of today.
Beginning at Tokyo Skytree, a brief walk will bring you to Sumida Park, a large and open green space with a number of fashionable new cafés and restaurants. Heading towards the river, you will discover a hidden gem in the form of the Sumida River Walk, a newly built pedestrian footbridge with amazing views down the river towards the city.
After crossing over the bridge, you will be in the famous Asakusa district, perhaps one of the most authentic historical Japanese cultural hubs in the city. It is a short detour from the route to take in the sights and sounds of the Sensoji temple complex and surrounding shopping arcade.
From Asakusa, proceed south taking in the up and coming and artsy district of Kuramae. If you are in need of a pit stop, this area is also home to one of the city’s best new burger restaurants, McLean. From Kuramae it is simply a short, straight walk west to Tokyo’s digital wonderland of Akihabara.
We hope that these three options have given you the motivation to dust off your walking shoes, grab your map and head out to explore the infinite hidden surprises and pathways that this city rewards to those who explore.