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Monday, October 26, 2015

Matsubara-danchi Station Saitama


Today was an idyllic Tokyo Sunday, not a cloud in the nihonbare (literally "Japan fine weather") sky, and the early autumn air clear, crisp and bracing. I spent the afternoon in Soka City, in Saitama prefecture, about 25 minutes north of Asakusa station on the Tobu Skytree Line, as my partner had business to do there.

East Exit, Matsubara-danchi Station, Tobu Skytree Line, Saitama.
East Exit, Matsubara-danchi Station, Tobu Skytree Line
We alighted at the station next north of Soka-shi Station: Matsubara-danchi Station. Danchi means "housing estate," and name pretty much reflected the environs: block after block of huge, bland public apartment blocks, an average of about 15 stories high, clumped around either side of the railway line and stretching out somewhat beyond.

Hyakutai-bashi Bridge, Soka-shi.
Hyakutai-bashi Bridge
However, a one-hour walk around the neighborhood redeemed it to the remarkable degree that a leisurely walk around pretty much any neighborhood can do.

Iron pine cones, Hyakutai-bashi Bridge, Soka-shi
Iron pine cones, Hyakutai-bashi Bridge
A quick online search for Soka-shi before leaving revealed Hyakutai-bashi Bridge as about the only thing of fame. It had about six feedbacks on TripAdvisor, most of them "Average." The bridge was just five minutes walk from the east exit of Matsubara-danchi Station, accessed by walking down Pine Avenue, named for the trees that line it. The street was lined with banners for Soka International Harp Festival.

Pine Avenue, Matsubara Danchi, Soka City, Saitama Prefecture.
Pine Avenue, Matsubara Danchi, Soka City
Hyakutai-bashi is a rarity of a bridge in that it is right beside a river, but without crossing the river. Rather, it's a footbridge over a road, in the style of a traditional Japanese bridge, and part of the path in the pine-planted Fudabakashi Park that extends several kilometers along the west bank of the Ayasegawa River. Alongside the path was a stone memorial engraved with a haiku by the haiku master from Soka City, Shoushi Mizuhara (1892 - 1981).

Shuoushi Mizuhara haiku monument, Ayasegawa River, Soka
Shuoushi Mizuhara haiku monument, Ayasegawa River, Soka City
I'm generous. I'd give Hyakutai-bashi Bridge a "Very Good," I guess, in that it is convincingly antique in atmosphere, and is endowed with the little touches Japan is famous for, the most memorable being cast iron pine cones on the path (see photo).

Ayasegawa River, Matsubara-danchi, Soka City, Saitama
Ayasegawa River, Soka City, Saitama
Back to the station to explore the west side of Matsubara-danchi Station. The biggest feature: Dokkyo University, is not visible from the station, but, depending on the time you're there, perhaps, is very evident in the crowds of students coming and going.

Earthquake simulator truck, Matsubaradanchi Nishiguchi Koen, Soka City.
Earthquake simulator truck, Matsubaradanchi Nishiguchi Koen
Both sides of the station have a lot of shopping, but the west side has more, or at least bigger scale, shopping, including a large Tobu supermarket. The Soka City Central Library is right across from the station, and is flanked by a shopping mall that seems to occupy basically part of the same building. Just beyond the library is a small park called Matsubara-danchi West Exit Park.

Matsubaradanchi Station, West Exit
West Exit of Matsubaradanchi Station
In the park, I happened upon a disaster preparedness fair for the local community happening there, with a big shiny red fire engine and firemen in their uniforms. There was also an "earthquake simulation truck" and hardly had I entered the park than a very friendly old helper invited me to try it. It was just me and an old lady, and we sat at a small table in the truck being violently shaken for about 4 minutes (felt about four times that long), having nothing to do or say but politely giggle together while being vigorously rocked and rolled to recorded sounds of breaking crockery.

Matsubara-danchi Station and environs is best experienced in brilliantly sunny weather on a balmy day. (But isn't everything?)

Finally, for something very cute I discovered on my walk around the Matsubara-danchi neighborhood, see my "Kawaii ne!" post on Google+

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