Plain Talk



Tucked in the residential quarter of Setagaya, Tokyo, hides a forested gorge quite unknown to many tourists. Yet, its enormous scale covering groves of abundant trees, wild plants and a pleasant river located not far from Tokyo’s city center makes this luscious wilderness almost an unbelievable dreamland inside the bustling metropolis.

Todoroki Valley, or Todoroki Keikoku, as known to Japanese, is located less than three minutes on foot from Todoroki Station on the Tokyu Oimachi Line, or approximately around 20 minutes from Shibuya Station. The entrance sign of the Todoroki Valley immediately welcomes you to a visible hillscape of verdant scenery, and once you start to descend the steps down to the ravine, you will know why this hidden forest is worth exploring.

Upon reaching the Yazawa River, the striking red Golf-bashi Bridge appears as the ultimate landmark of this valley. This bridge, which crosses this river, was given its name from the huge golf course developed in this area during the early Showa period. The steel arch bridge in majestic red provides a marvelous contrast against the surrounding greens. The soothing sounds of the ripples of water take you away from the toxic city life as your eyes rove around the towering trees and wild plants. The clear water beautifully reflects the canopy of foliage within this valley that is said to be the only valley trail in Tokyo that stretches up to 1.2 kilometers. The pathway has wood planks to walk on, and there are benches along the way for a pause to drink, eat or simply absorb the pristine nature. The deeper you enter through the gorge, the more colorful the wilderness becomes. You will be wonderfully surrounded by bamboo-leaf oaks, Japanese zelkova, laurels, ferns, and a wide array of wetland plants. On the other side of the river, you may stumble into a small gate that opens to a picturesque Japanese garden. The rocks and orchards with a Shoin-style drawing room building to the right fit perfectly in a landscape painting. Even in springtime, the leaves show bright reds and yellows, shining luminously against the blue sky.

Todoroki Valley may not just be an oasis of greens, but also a niche for peaceful contemplation among several religious statues you will spot along the trail. One of the conspicuous ones is a covered shrine, the Chigo Daishi-do, depicting a statue of the Kobo Daishi priest, who was said to have had a vision of discovering the spring waters in the forest.

The final highlight of the Todoroki Valley journey is the Fudoson Temple that can be reached at the top of the hill. As you climb up the stone staircase, you will be greeted by a breathtaking view of the wild forest with orange lanterns that signify your destination at the temple. The temple, which dates back to the Heian period (about 1100), is dedicated to the Wisdom King Fudo who was said to have been a guardian against evil. There are two entrances to the temple that picture a changing scenery of blooming flowers in numerous varieties and orange standing lanterns in the inner garden. During spring, the temple becomes a popular site for admiring the cherry blossoms.

Todoroki Valley, being designated as a Tama River Scenic District in 1933, will definitely be your quick refuge where you can immerse yourself wholly in the simplest wonder of nature even once in a while.


Address: 1-22, 2-37(38) Todoroki Setagaya-ku

* 3-minute walk from Todoroki Station on
the Tokyu Oimachi Line
* 5-minute walk from Todoroki bus stop using Tokyu Bus and Toei Bus.

Contact: Tamagawa Koen Kanri jimusho

Plain Talk


Drawing the line from reactive to proactive by Camila Guadalupe Cortea

I landed in Japan in 2010, and one of the must-have skills I had to pick up was how to do a self-introduction. Most people I met were wowed by my many free time activities, and soon I started describing myself as an “active” person.

I engaged in a love relationship, moved-in together, and dedicated my every cell to ‘us’. I always made a habit of keeping an eye out for free fun events, and within the relationship I was the one who mostly came up with things to do - which I would then lamely fail to execute if my companion opted out; the back-up plan of curling up on the sofa was always there.

The break-up consequently scrapped the back-up plan, and I found myself alone with loads of time in my hands (a blessing in disguise). Tired of looking for one-shot events, I looked out for activities I could incorporate to my weekly routine, and little by little, the pieces that form my current circles started to fall into place. The first Sunday after the breakup I found my go-to fitness group, SOGO bootcamp, where I have befriended all sort of fabulous people. Some time later, an old friend initiated me to the magical world of pair dancing, which has proved to be the activity that contributes most to my general happiness and well-being.

Then I sailed on Peace Boat, shattering the routine and flipping my life like a cheese omelet. Their cruise, unlike other ships, has replaced “given” entertainment by ‘self-organized’ one, encouraging passengers to explore their hobbies and share them with others. I found that my college-days knowledge could gather crowds to a 200-people theater, and sessions with tips on how to travel safely and inexpensively would burst the capacity of the karaoke bar near the deck.

Fast-forwarding to 2018, I recognized how patterns in my engagement with events have changed. Originally, my participation depended heavily on whether I could lure a friend to join me - or ideally get the invite from them first. Later, joining (dance) circles taught me that I could meet my friends regularly without needing to text to check on attendance; this discovery empowered me towards independent outing. My bag proved evidence to my proactiveness; a default pair of dance shoes and comfy clothes keep me ready for any last-minute party.

Of all places, I never expected international waters to provide the safe environment to evolve into an event host. Years of networking in Tokyo provided me with a base of fun people who would join me in my crazy endeavours, which helped me launch the ‘Edo Quidditch’ sport team- which took off as an experienced player from the UK leagues joined our ranks - but that is another story for you to read on the Tokyo Notice Board.

Organizing may have hardships, but I still choose to be ‘the proactive 2.0’, for the involvement in the creative process leads me to achieve a more exciting outcome in life. I challenge those with time in their hands to start a new activity, and invite the other ‘active’ people (and reactive as well), to join me in fun and inexpensive activities in town.


What’s App With You?



Now that Autumn is here. it's time to shelve the beach reads and get a bit more serious? Ready to dive into a few really good books? Why spend a ton of money on ebooks if your local library already has a digital media lending system? Libby is the latest incarnation of Overdrive's popular digital media management system, allowing users to borrow ebooks and audiobooks from participating libraries. Simply sign in with your library card and then you can browse your library's digital media collection, allowing you to search for titles, set holds, borrow ebooks and audiobooks with a tap, and return or extend a lend just as easily. You can preview books from the app, downloading borrowed titles or streaming them to your iPhone or iPad if you prefer to save space.


Finding something to eat should never be a problem if you've got Tasty on your iPhone. The app connects you to 3,000 recipes, with curated recommendations and the ability to personalize what you see. (Vegetarians, for example, can make sure that Tasty never serves them up a recipe idea loaded with meat.) Tasty's search tool lets you filter by ingredients, cuisine or even the occasion, and you can save ingredients to a shopping list with a tap. When it's time to cook, a step-by-step mode makes it easy to follow instructions on your iPhone, without fear that the screen is going to go to sleep right when you're in the middle of mixing something.

Tokyo Voice Column


Keep the Resources by Mr. T. Mitsuyasu

I recently was on a business trip in Europe. While in Germany, I saw PET bottles in the supermarket, I was surprised. Why was I surprised? Here is a quiz. I prepared three answers, (A) shape (B) color (C) price. The answer isn’t (A). The color and the price amazed me. In Germany the Mountain Dew bottle is optic orange. I’ve never seen vivid color like that in Japan. When I bought it, the price was not the same as the price shown on the shelf, later I found that a deposit of 0.25 Euro was added. When consumers return the empty bottles to stores the deposit is returned to you. Germany has the highest recycling rate of waste in the world. It’s around 65% and Japans’ is just 19%. The one binding force for the recycle system in Germany doesn’t depend only on education but also refunding deposit money.

By the way, why are Japanese PET bottles clear? According to my research, producers use uniform clear plastic in order to make recycling easier. The recycle goal rate in Japan is more than 85%, and our past record is about the same for the past several years now. This rate is tremendously higher than other countries are regardless of having no refund charge or return fee.

Japanese people are truly earnest when it comes to recycling so we have great potential to reduce garbage and waste. If we can continue to make more innovative guideline and be creative, we can control our resources even more. I think this is an urgent task for our generation to make a more beautiful and richer world for our children.

Signing off for now, The Midnight Writer.






Strange but True


No Phone on the Loo

Being glued to your phone is certainly not an uncommon trait these days. And in these modern times, whether we care to admit it publicly or not, we've all taken our phone to the loo to help pass the time. But this tempting habit could cause you serious health problems, doctors have warned. In particular, they say it could give you haemorrhoids, also known as piles, which are lumps around your bottom. The problem can originate from sitting on the throne for too long, which scrolling through your phone may sadly only encourage. Constipation and straining to poo is a major risk factor for piles – being pregnant, chronic cough and getting older also factor. "But so too does prolonged sitting on the loo. And while in the past, some of us took a good book into the toilet with us, these days it’s more likely to be the ever-present mobile phone. So tempting while it may be to scroll through your apps while you’re waiting to perform, doctors don’t recommend it."

Deodorant at Night?!

Get up, have a shower, get dressed, sort hair and make-up then head out for the day. Most of us do this pretty much every morning without even thinking. Easy. But according to a skin care expert we've actually be doing a key part of our morning routine wrong, and we should actually be putting our deodorant on before getting into bed. It may seem a bit odd, but a dermatologist claims this is the most effective way to use the product if you don't want to smell, and she has the science to back it up. "Deodorant is best applied at night, it is most effective at night because you're putting it on when your sweat glands are the more dormant so it's going to make it more effective." Who knew?!



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