Tokyo, charismatic to the core, stands out for its many idiosyncrasies. One of its fascinating features is its ability to divide itself into a multitude of cultural and commercial biomes. For example, Akihabara is known for electronics and gaming, while Kappabashi is famous for kitchenware. Ochanomizu is the place to go for musical instruments, and Jimbocho has the best selection of bookstores in town. Though Soshigaya may not be as well known as these other areas of Tokyo, it does have its own claim to fame. This quiet residential neighborhood in the sprawling Setagaya ward is the earthly home of one of Japan’s most beloved fictional characters: Ultraman, the monster-fighting superhero from Nebula M78.

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Hometown Hero

Disembark from the Odakyu line at Soshigaya-Okura Station, and the first thing you’ll notice is a towering monument to the red and silver Ultra Warrior. Today a household name among children and adults alike, Ultraman first entered Japanese homes when the pilot episode of the eponymously named television series aired back in 1966.

The show was produced by Tsuburaya Productions, whose head office was once located near Soshigaya. While the office has relocated in the years since, the love for Ultraman remains unchanged, as evidenced by the neighborhood’s manhole covers, streetlamps and the aptly named Ultraman Shopping District. As expected, the shopping district is a great spot to find Ultraman items, with shops stocking a variety of original merchandise related to the character.

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Local Flavors

Situated around one main shopping street, the area offers visitors a mixture of everything you’d expect from a residential Tokyo neighborhood. In addition to grocery stores and pharmacies, you’ll also find a variety of family-owned businesses that reflect the Showa era during which Ultraman rose to popularity.

There are, of course, plenty of places to grab a bite to eat, whether you’re after quick and easy takeout like gyudon or katsu or a dine-in experience featuring sushi or ramen. But if you’ve come in search of something special, head to the ever-popular Tentama-ya, a standout among Soshigaya’s culinary crowd.

Located right outside Soshigaya-Okura Station, Tentamaya is an udon restaurant that does everything big and fresh. Customers sit around an open kitchen that provides a view of meals being made from start to finish, including the preparation of the shop’s thick noodles that are made from scratch. These noodles form the basis of the menu, which consists of large bowls of udon accompanied by all manner of toppings, such as tamago toji simmered eggs, beef and some of the biggest fried shrimp you’ll find in Tokyo. Though the menu is in Japanese, it has plenty of pictures to help you place your order.

If you still have space for something sweet afterward, head to the nearby Floresta doughnut shop. With a menu consisting of doughnuts, desserts and ice cream, Floresta offers treats that are not only tasty but which are designed to be healthier by focusing on the use of organic ingredients. The shop also operates with sustainability and the environment in mind by using minimal packaging.

Riverside Relaxation

Make your way beyond the shopping district and toward the Sen River that flows through Soshigaya Park and a broad section of Setagaya ward. Along the way, keep your eyes peeled for references to Ultraman both obvious and obscure incorporated into everyday fixtures. If your visit stretches into the twilight hours, you’ll notice that the Ultraman-augmented streetlamps seem to come to life once the lights go on.

During the warmer months, the river and surrounding parkland are awash in a sea of deep green vegetation that offers plenty of shade in which to relax and escape the heat. In spring, the cherry trees overhanging the river burst into bloom in puffs of pink, creating scenes reminiscent of your favorite anime.

Despite its colorful past as the home of a superhero from outer space, Soshigaya is, as a predominantly residential area, a quiet neighborhood. But it’s this laid-back, homely atmosphere that gives the streets their allure. It’s the perfect place to go for a stroll without any plans and a great place to appreciate glimpses of days gone by.

There’s a lot of history in Soshigaya, and not just in terms of pop culture. What you’ll discover is a side of Tokyo that’s becoming increasingly difficult to find — a reminder of the Tokyo that existed before attracting tourists became a priority. Quirky and quaint, Soshigaya invites you to step into a bygone era and embrace its unique charm.