Just 20 minutes from Shibuya on the subway, Todoroki Valley is a welcome retreat for anyone seeking to unwind from the hustle and bustle of Tokyo. Meander along the river bend and discover Japanese gardens, secluded shrines and vibrant wildlife.
Carved out by the Yazawa River, Todoroki Valley is Tokyo’s only river ravine. Extending through a lush canopy of jungle foliage, the riverside walk is just over a kilometre in length and is crisscrossed by several wooden bridges that seem straight out of a watercolour painting. As you descend down the steps to the valley entrance, the sounds of the city begin to fade away, replaced by a cascade of rushing water. Take your time as you stroll along the winding towpath and ease back into nature.
Unlike the meticulously manicured parks and gardens that are dotted around the city, Todoroki Valley offers a stretch of untamed greenery. A habitat for a range of birds, including the Azure-winged magpie (onaga), Japanese black-faced bunting (aoji), Japanese great tit (shiji-kara) and the Oriental turtle dove (kijibato), this ravine truly transports you away from the concrete jungle of Tokyo. Be sure to listen out for Japanese woodpeckers (kogera), which have also been known to make this ravine their home.
Nestled within the valley, are several beautiful shrines that pay homage to Buddhist priests. One of these, the Chigo Daishi Mieido, features a statue of Kobo Daishi, who is said to have invented the Japanase kana. Legend has it, he was inspired to explore Todoroki Valley after having a vision and discovered the spring water that flows here. Besides this shrine are two small waterfalls which spout from carved dragon heads. Though their flow is not as great as it once was, these waterfalls were traditionally used for ascetic training.
Continue up the stone steps past the dragon waterfall and you’ll reach Todoroki Fudosan. A sub-temple of the nearby Manganji Temple, Fudosan is said to have roots that stretch back 1,300 years, even though its main structure was built in the mid-19th century. A peaceful refuge, you can relax here amidst the smell of incense and the ring of an occasional gong. A nearby café will keep you refreshed with matcha ice cream and tea as you enjoy your surroundings.
Just beyond this temple, along the valley path, you’ll stumble upon a wooden archway that frames a garden of towering bamboo and gentle brooks. Meander through this small patch of cultivated foliage and immaculate ponds to reach the ravine park house. An open room featuring photographs, pamphlets and stamps, you can learn more about this secluded valley whilst enjoying a picnic or reading respite.
Todoroki Station is on the Tokyu – Oimachi Line. From Shibuya, take the Tokyu-Toyoko Line for two stops and change at Jiyugaoka Station.
On your way home, why not use Hanna to discover some of Jiyugaoka’s speciality bakeries?