Kiyosumi Shirakawa (清澄白河) is a historic downtown district in the Fukagawa (深川) area located in eastern Tokyo. In the Edo Period (1603-1868), the area was home to merchants and other working-class specialists. Due to its low ground level and large lower class population, it was aptly named “Low Town”. Much of Tokyo has gone under development but Kiyosumi Shirakawa has managed to keep its original charms. Many of the old charms still shrine through today and many artisans have created their own home in the town. The town has become increasingly popular for its art spaces, coffee cafes, and cycling pathways. So to help you escape the hustle and bustle of the city here are a few things to do to experience the charm of Kiyosumi Shirakawa.
Explore the Town’s Cafes
The coffee scene has grown in Tokyo and Kiyosumi-Shirakawa is known as Tokyo’s “Coffee Town”. Blue Bottle Coffee is one of the most popular places for coffee drinkers in the area.
It’s a California-based coffee retailer that’s grown to be one of the most popular coffee spots for locals and visitors. They serve Western-style espresso, they also serve Japanese siphon coffee. Not too far from Blue Bottle Coffee, ARiSE Coffee Entangle is a great spot to experience authentic Japanese coffee. Coming from New Zealand Allpress Espresso first opened in Kiyosumi Shirakawa in 2013 and it’s been a big hit ever since. The matte black exterior makes an interesting contrast to the light beige office buildings. Iki Espresso offers more distinctive New Zealand flavors. The menu is mostly brunch with some Japanese adaptations. Another popular destination is Fukadaso Cafe. Renovated from an old apartment building, the cafe does get quite crowded so it’s recommended that you come early or prepare to wait.
Just a few minutes from the Kiyosumi Shirakawa station, Kiyosumi Garden awaits to greet visitors. The garden is popular among visitors for its seasonal foliage. It’s a traditional landscape garden, originally built to please the Edo-era feudal lord and his guests before it was donated to the city of Tokyo in 1932. Since then the park has been open to the public. There’s a large central lake, featuring giant stones called iso-watari which are placed to form a bridge across the still water. Around the stones, you can see turtles and fish swimming in the pond. The ryōtei (料亭)— a type of luxurious traditional Japanese restaurant that appears to float above the lake and creates a great spot for pictures. Near the entrance is the Taisho Kinenkan, a memorial hall of Emperor Taisho.
Museum of Contemporary Art
Art museums are always a hit for visitors new to the city. The Museum of Contemporary Art is situated in Kiba park and was reopened in 2019 after its renovations. Situated in Kiba Park, the Museum of Contemporary Art Tokyo has only recently reopened after renovations in early 2019. The museum features paintings. Sculptures, fashion, designs, and architectural works with rotating themes throughout the year. It’s dedicated to art created from 1945 and onward and holds artwork from the likes of Andy Warhol, Roy Lichtenstein, and Tokujin Yoshioka. After walking through the museum, be sure to stop by the gift shop and purchase some exhibit exclusive items.
Opening hours 10:00-18:00 (closed Mondays)
Admission Fee: Adults 500-1500 yen (depending on the exhibition)
Fukagawa Edo Museum
Another museum to check out is the Fukagawa Edo Museum. Visitors can take a step back in time to experience the fascinating culture of the Edo period. The museum authentically recreates the homes and streets of Tokyo during the 17th and mid 19th centuries. There are exhibitions to learn about the materials and construction techniques that were used to build the residences accompanied by sound and light effects to replicate the different seasons and time of day. The museum also hosts various activities related to Shitamachi culture. If your Japanese skills aren’t up to par there are some volunteer English guides available who can walk you through the museum to explain the lifestyles of people during that era.
Opening hours: 09:30-17:00 (closed on the second and fourth Monday of each month)
Admission: 400 yen (adults) and 50 yen (children)
The Basho Inari Shrine
Tokyo might be the center of innovation in Japan but there is a lot of cultural history in this city. The haiku master, Matsuo Basho (松尾芭蕉) started his 150 days-long journey across the Tohoku region from the Fukagawa area. At the Basho Inari Shrine (芭蕉稲荷神社), Basho Memorial Park (芭蕉記念館 史跡展望庭園), and the Basho Museum are key places to visit for traditional culture enthusiasts. The museum is only enjoyed by fans of Matsuo Basho, but the small-forested garden on the side of the building is still a nice place to relax and take in the scenery. In the garden, you’ll find a huge rock engraved with one of Matsuo’s famous poems.
Cycling has recently become popular in Tokyo city. It’s fun, convenient and allows you to see much of the city. If you want to cover Kiyosumi Shirakawa as much as possible in a short time, then we suggest renting a bike for the day. The streets are much quieter than many of the other Tokyo neighborhoods, so there’s no need to worry about crowded streets or heavy traffic. For rental bikes Alohaloco, a boutique bicycle maker rents out their stylish bikes during the daylight hours. Go for the classic beach cruiser, the Kailua, or go for something more utilitarian for a comfortable ride. Some popular biking trails are through Kiyosumi Park, Kiyosumi Shirakawa Shopping District, and the bar street Tatsumi Shinmichi.
Full-day rentals cost 500 yen (tax included), with the shop open from 10:00-18:00 daily.
The Best Tokyo Tours
Japan Wonder Travel is a travel agency offering guided tours in Japan.
From private walking tours to delicious Food and Drink tours, we will organize the best tours for you!
If you want to explore around Japan to learn more histories and backstories of the area, our knowledgeable and friendly guide will happily take you to the best spots!
Also, we can provide you with any assistance for your upcoming trip in Japan, so please feel free to contact us if you have any questions/need some help!
- Tokyo Fish Market Tour at Tsukiji
- Tokyo 1-Day Highlights Private Walking Tour (8 hours)
- Tokyo Local Street Food and Drink Tour at Sunamachi
If you’re looking for a small-town feel amid the big city, Kiyosumi Shirakawa is a great place to spend the day. Filled with great coffee, traditional museums, contemporary art, and opportunities to cycle it’s easy to see why this town quickly became popular with the locals.
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Jamila Brown is a five-year resident of Japan, teaching in the day and writing at night. She enjoys movies, reading, cosplaying, and eating good food in her downtime.