Exploring Japan: Tachikawa a city away from the city
Exploring Japan: Tachikawa a city away from the city
With mountains lining the horizon to the west and train lines feeding into the capital’s heart on the east, Tachikawa is a perfect intersection of the urban and natural world. One of Tachikawa’s defining elements—and one that is particularly valued during the current pandemic—is its spacious urban design and abundance of outdoor areas which invite locals and visitors alike to relax and socialize all year round.
A perfect snapshot of this neighborhood’s character unfolds as you exit Tachikawa Station via the north side. The department stores LUMINE, Isetan and Takashimaya are conveniently clustered around the station, offering shoppers all the retail opportunities of Shinjuku but without the crowds. Meanwhile, the wide, tree-lined Sun Sun Road extends north alongside the elevated monorail track out towards GREEN SPRINGS and the lush Showa Kinen Koen (Showa Memorial Park).
SHOWA KINEN KOEN
Peppered with cyclists, dog walkers and families, Showa Kinen Koen beats the likes of Yoyogi and Inokashira hands down. Spanning over 160 hectares, the park boasts everything from a cycling track, Japanese garden, dragonfly marsh, water park, bird sanctuary, boating lake, sports areas, children’s playgrounds and more. Whereas most parks in Tokyo receive an influx of visitors around hanami (cherry blossom viewing) time, and again in fall when the leaves change, Showa Kinen Koen’s calendar is busy all year. Diverse flower displays bloom throughout the warmer months and illuminations grace the winter season.
The park was established back in 1983 to commemorate the reign of Emperor Hirohito, and its grounds functioned before that as a Japanese Imperial Army base, which was later occupied by the U.S. post-World War II. However, the latest addition that has been drawing people to Tachikawa in 2020 is the retail and recreation complex GREEN SPRINGS. The development, which opened in April, sits proudly between the memorial park and IKEA, about an eight-minute walk from Tachikawa Station. Health, wellbeing and a closeness to nature are at the center of GREEN SPRING’s design philosophy. Shops, restaurants, cafes, offices and the SORANO HOTEL share the space with fishponds, flora and the open sky.
Due to the coronavirus pandemic, some businesses have yet to fully move in, so keep an eye out for more newcomers in 2021. A 120-meter-long water feature gently rises beside the Tachikawa Stage Garden, leading up to panoramic views across the adjacent parkland. Designed to be reminiscent of the military airfield that once stood here, the architects intended it to feel as if you’re gradually floating into the air.
You’ll find the elegant Dragonfly Bar perched at the top. It’s a contemporary affair with sleek stone walls, floors and counters, floor-to-ceiling windows and an impressive chandelier, but the atmosphere is kept cozy thanks to the deep leather seats, a grand piano and the warmly lit wall feature made from wine bottles. Sit by the windows for a perfect sunset-watching spot after a lazy afternoon exploring the neighborhood.
If you’re in Tachikawa earlier in the day and looking for lunch, grab a takeout option from one of the restaurants and cafes down by the main quad and eat alfresco beside the ponds and flora. Or, in the summer months, sit on the steps of the cascade and cool your feet off in the water while sipping on an iced coffee. The family restaurant 100 Spoons, gelato shop Sestina and bakery R Baker are all particularly good choices for a light lunch. If you need a place to work or study, head down a floor to North Link Coffee & Tea nestled beneath the water feature and make use of the free power outlets for your laptop.
ART: FARET TACHIKAWA
One of Tachikawa’s lesser-known highlights is its art trail. As part of a redevelopment project in the area in 1994, Faret Tachikawa (“fare” meaning “to create” in Italian and the “t” standing for Tachikawa) was born. The idea was to create a city of art that would reflect the diversity of the modern world at the end of the twentieth century. Subsequently, the project includes 109 diverse sculptures by 92 international artists from 36 countries, featuring some big names such as the likes of Anish Kapoor, Marina Abramović or Rebecca Horn. Follow the trail via a guided tour or download the Faret Tachikawa Art Navi app to make sure you spot everything as you walk.
ALSO IN TACHIKAWA
A super stylish plant shop in GREEN SPRINGS. The friendly staff will give you as many care instructions for your purchase as you need (because, let’s face it, most of us are all hopeless plant parents who need the help).
If you visited the new IKEAs in Harajuku and Shibuya only to be dismayed to discover that don’t even serve meatballs, head to their big sister in Tachikawa and enjoy a wider selection of its classic Scandinavian food options, plus better parking.
This cafe serves great drip coffee and has helpful, easygoing staff. The free Wi-Fi makes it a perfect spot to spend and afternoon working or studying.
Tempranillo Tapas & Wines
Owned by former Grand Hyatt Tokyo chef Jose Manuel Diaz and his business partner Rie Imari, this underrated tapas bar serves refreshingly authentic-feeling Spanish dishes. Its welcoming atmosphere and relaxed staff make it a great place to dine with friends.
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