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Tora-san and Shibamata

Wife and I headed out to Shibamata, Katsushika, a ward on the northeastern corner of Tokyo. Shibamata is a charming town on the banks of the Edogawa River, and still retains some of the character of the Edo Period, before Japan was dragged into the modern era in the late 1800s.

The town is perhaps best known as the home of Tora-san, the main character of the
Otoko wa Tsurai yo series, which continued for 48 movies from 1969 to 1995, and one special that was a tribute to the actor who played Tora-san—Kiyoshi Atsumi, who died in 1996. Tora-san is a kind-hearted peddler who every so often returns to his hometown of Shibamata, and his elderly and long-suffering uncle and aunt, who run a dango (Japanese dumpling) shop, and half-sister and her husband. After an initial introduction setting the scene, his return tends to mark the beginning of the movie and his adventure (and his troubles).

Statue of Tora-san

Tora-san has his own statue at the front of the Shibamata Station. There is also a Tora-san museum with every detail about the character’s life story you could ever want to know.

The town is well known for its
dango, and there was no shortage of shops selling them. This one (Toraya) was actually used for the first four Tora-san movies. We tried the dango there, and 10/10.


From here we had a walk through the Yamamoto-tei (Yamamoto Residence), a single-story house built in the late 1920s in the
sukiya-zukuri (teahouse) style, although it does incorporate aspects of a Western architectural style as well. It was the home of a businessman from the area, and was opened to the public in the 1990s. The house interior opens out on to a beautiful garden that forms a natural extension to the tatami rooms and passageways.

Yamamoto Residence garden

There are also some interesting shoji and tategu. This is one of the several small alcoves in the house.

Shoji with shokkō pattern

ranma is a beautiful carving of pine trees, and the shoji is a tate-shige kumiko arrangement with one of the many different shokkō patterns as a base. Most of the shokkō patterns require the jaguchi joint for the locking pieces, and I’ll be covering the jaguchi (and the special jig you need to cut it) and many of the shokkō patterns in Volume 3 of my ebook on kumiko patterns.

From there we had a relaxing walk along the banks of the Edogawa River, which is a scene that also appears regularly in the
Otoko wa Tsurai yo movies. As a Tora-san fan, I had a great time.
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