Tokyo Neighborhood Guide: Shibamata 

Tokyo Neighborhood Guide: Shibamata 

Tokyo’s retro time capsule


Haikara Yokocho Credit: Faina Gurevich

Complete with classic Edo-period temples, river-crossing services and shopping streets, Shibamata is Tokyo’s home of old-time charm and retro love. The Katsushika Ward district bordering Tokyo and Chiba prefectures holds some of the most cherished memories from the nation’s post-war period. You can feel the love for all things Showa through the area’s museums, stores and shopping precincts—the fragrance of nostalgia wafting through the air here is a reminder that Shibamata really is the home of the good old days.

Tora-san Memorial Museum – Memories of Japan’s beloved TV series

Running from 1969 to 1995, the TV series Otoko wa Tsurai yo (It’s Tough Being a Man) remains a huge hit with the baby boomer crowd. Centered on the daily troubles of Tora-san, a good-natured salesman who struggles to find love and settle down. Tora-san traveled the country working but never stopped dreaming of when he could return to settle own in his hometown of, that’s right, Shibamata. Tora-san’s tribulations became a regular part of the lives of millions of viewers. The aptly named Tora-san Memorial Museum aims to celebrate this. The museum does a great job of appreciating the show’s yesteryear charm, recreating scenes and displaying props and sets straight from the show.

6-22-19 Shibamata, Katsushika-ku

Yamada Yoji Museum – A retro filmmaking titan

The director of the Tora-san TV series, Yamada Yoji, gets his own chance to bask in the glow of yesteryear with the Yamada Yoji Museum. Part of the same complex as the Tora-san Memorial Museum, the museum is organized into numerous themes. Beginning with Yamada’s entrance into the world of TV and film, it continues with an exploration of his famous career. The museum itself is not particularly large but the curators haven’t skimped on quality—they pack a huge amount of respect into it. And there’s no CG either. Instead, classic film posters fill the museum and replete with pre-digital film equipment, scripts and casting shots—retro filmmaking at its best.

6-22-19 Shibamata, Katsushika-ku

Shibamata Toy Museum Credit: Winhorse

Shibamata Toy Museum – Playing with yesterday

Calling the Shibamata Toy Museum a “museum” may be a tad ambitious. While it may not be a standard museum, as a throwback to days gone by, its name fits perfect. The collection is a labor of love, a delightful blast from the past. The top floor is filled to the absolute brim with Showa-period toys, dolls, characters, games and slot-car tracks. In fact, the entire establishment is a memory of real-life pre-digital goodies that stir the hearts of anyone born before the Atari 2600 entered the world. Pick up a ticket from the first floor and head on up. Be careful though. The museum is a weekend retro retreat, opening its doors only on Saturdays and Sundays.

7-3-12 Shibamata, Katsushika-ku

Check out our other Tokyo Neighborhood Guides: Musashi Koyama and Tsukishima-Tsukuda.

Haikara Yokocho – A taste when time began

On the first floor of the Shibamata Toy Museum is a true kid in a candy store experience. Relieving the memories of Japan’s classic dagashiya cheap candy stores, Haikara Yokocho has shelves stocked full of sweet old-style delights and the childhood memories they recall. Make no mistake about it, if the retro pinball machines and old-style knick knacks here don’t deliver the knockout memorial punch, then the sweets certainly will. Open every day, the store started as an exercise in flexing the old-time memory muscles. It has now become a classic must-visit spot for just about everyone making the trip out to Shibamata.

7-3-12 Shibamata, Katsushika-ku 

Cafe Sepia

Opened in 2013, Cafe Sepia is the home of quirky-flavored memories come back to life. Drawn from a childhood love of shojo girl comics, Cafe Sepia serves up a range of lovestruck fare that was all the rage back in the day. This includes retro classics like Napolitan pasta, omurice, pancakes and cream sodas. At first glance, it may seem tiny—but have another look. There are two floors overflowing with a feeling of those wistful teenage years. Special rooms are designed as a young lady’s Showa-period hangout with retro wallpaper, furniture, and posters. You can even rent the rooms for special occasions, and special memories.

7-4-11 Shibamata, Katsushika-ku