Tokyo has several popular rose gardens, but because of the emergency declaration currently in effect, those in gated parks controlled by the municipal government are closed. That includes Furukawa Teien taken up in my June 2019 JAPAN Forward article. Even when noted rose gardens are still accessible, it may be advisable to avoid them this year because they are a magnet for crowds.
There is, however, an alternative for rose lovers that is inherently completely open access: the roses lining the Arakawa Line tram tracks in the Arakawa Ward. While the Arakawa Line is well-known by Tokyoites, it is so spread out that it does not generate intense crowding.
(For details about interesting stops, read “Trams Through the Blossoms: Discovering Tokyo on the Arakawa Line.”)
Some 14,000 rose bushes representing 140 varieties have been planted along the tram, beginning at the Arakawa Shako-mae stop and extending to the eastern terminus at Minowa-bashi.
The roses along the line usually come into full bloom in mid-May, but warm weather has produced an early flowering this year. When I photographed the roses on May 7, some bushes were already past their peak, but others were still budding. There should be several more weeks of good viewing and there is also a fall season (late October into early November).
Other Things to See
The amusement park for children operated by the Arakawa Ward is closed for refurbishment and will not reopen until sometime in 2022.
The Arakawa Nature Park adjacent to the tram line near Machiya is, however, open and offers free cycling for children. It was a favorite for my two sons in their early years. There is also a play park for children adjacent to the Arakawa Ward office.
Adjacent to the tram maintenance and storage facility at Arakawa Shako-mae station, several streetcars from the once expansive Tokyo network are on display. On weekends and holidays, it is possible to go inside these streetcars.
A shop (Toden Monaka) near the Kajiwara tram stop sells traditional Japanese confections (wagashi) made on premise, including some with a tram theme.
The Arakawa Line intersects major rail lines at Otsuka (JR Yamanote line), Oji (Keihin-Tohoku line, Tokyo Metro Nanboku line), and Machiya (Keise line, Tokyo Metro Chiyoda line).
The section of the line with the best display of roses begins at Arakawa Shako-mae (three stops east of Oji) and continues for several kilometers to Arakawa Yuenchi-mae.
Single fares (paid on boarding) are ¥170 JPY for adults, ¥90 JPY for children. A day pass is ¥400 JPY for adults, ¥200 JPY for children.
Tram stops all have slopes and the trams all have wheelchair spaces. The best rose viewing area is perfectly flat. There is a wheelchair accessible toilet near the Arakawa Yuenchi-mae stop.
One of the many pleasures of living in Tokyo is discovering beauty in unexpected places. While walking or cycling, I frequently come upon small but striking flowers being grown curbside or in tiny gardens in the most mundane, even drab, neighborhoods.
Few people would think of tram tracks through a part of Tokyo once known for its gritty neighborhood metal plating factories as the locus of an extended, flourishing rose garden, but that is what makes Tokyo the city it is.
Author: Earl H. Kinmonth