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Shibamata: Nostalgic Tokyo Town From Classic Film “Otoko wa Tsurai yo”

By Ashley Owen
January 12, 2021
Updated: January 12, 2021

If you want to step off the regular tourist track in Tokyo and experience a more traditional side of the city, look no further than Shibamata! Although famous as the setting for the classic film series Otoko wa Tsurai yo (“It’s tough being a man”), this charming neighborhood remains relatively unknown to foreign tourists. 

In this video, Marvin discovers what makes the town so special, from its retro shops and the beautiful Yamamoto-tei Shibamata house and garden, to the delicious sweet treats available to enjoy! 

A traditional shopping street in Shibamata, Tokyo

Shibamata: The Nostalgic Tokyo Town From Classic Film “Otoko wa Tsurai yo”

The town of Shibamata is brimming with history and culture, and once served as a link between Chiba prefecture and Tokyo city. In fact, as you’ll see in the video it’s still possible to ride a traditional yagiri no watashi boat across the Edo river into Chiba from here and get a feel for what it was like to travel during the Edo period 400 years ago!

Marvin’s exploration of this delightful neighborhood begins at Shibamata Station, which is just 20 minutes from Asakusa. 

As soon as you get off the train, you’re surrounded by authentic buildings that house quaint souvenir shops, restaurants, and tea houses. These include a dagashi store at the unique Shibamata Haikara Yokocho, which has old-school arcade games to play, as well as selling retro candy. Check out the video for a first-hand glimpse at what kids enjoyed in Showa-era Japan!

Colorful, retro arcade games in Shibamata, Tokyo

One of the town’s most famous landmarks is the Shibamata Taishakuten temple, which was constructed in 1629 and is renowned for its intricate wooden carvings and pretty gardens. It sits at the end of the shopping street, and its entrance is easy to spot thanks to the striking Nitenmon gate. 

Close-up of details on Shibamata Taishakuten temple roof

Just behind the temple is the elegant Yamamoto-tei merchant’s house, where you can sip matcha green tea and admire the peaceful gardens. 

Poster from old film "Otoko wa Tsurai yo" in Shibamata

Shibamata’s other claim to fame is as the location where the Otoko wa Tsurai yo series of movies was filmed – see if you can spot the statues of the briefcase-carrying main character Tora-san in the video! Holding the Guinness World Record for the longest-running film series starring the same main actor, the story follows the adventures of a man who is perpetually unlucky in love. 

Cartoon statue of Tora-san from "Otoko wa Tsurai yo" in Shibamata

Marvin also visits Toraya, the exact confectionary store that Tora-san lives above in Otoko wa Tsurai yo. Their specialty is kusa mochi: deliciously soft and chewy sticky rice cakes made with Japanese mugwort and served covered with sweet red bean paste. 

Exterior of Toraya Confectionery Shop in Shibamata

His final stop is at a kakigori shop that serves melt-in-your-mouth shaved ice topped with a range of syrups bursting with flavor. The perfect end to a day of sightseeing!

Syrup being poured onto a mound of shaved ice

Enjoy an online sweets-making experience!

If you can’t make it to Shibamata in person to try their local sweets, why not join our Online Wagashi Making Class with Certified Instructor instead? Your expert teacher will show you how to make nerikiri dough from white bean paste and rice flour, then shape it into beautiful designs that look too good to eat… almost!



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Ashley Owen
Ashley is a freelance travel writer from the UK who spent the last two years living in Japan, and is about to embark on her next adventure to New Zealand. She's always on the lookout for exciting new vegan treats wherever she goes!
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