I recently took the Keio-line from Shinjuku and headed for the Chofu（調布）station. Chofu looks just like your average Tokyo suburb on first sight, but if you take the bus from the station to the Jindaiji temple （深大寺）, you will find that there is a fantastic tourist spot hidden here you might not know about. The Jindaiji temple and its surroundings are very “WA”, authentic, not too crowded, and there’s enough to do to spend the whole day.
As soon as you get off at the Jindaiji iriguchi（深大寺入口）bus stop, you will feel as if you have reached a special destination, where time goes by slowly and feels like a trip to the past. The leafy promenade that leads you to the temple’s entrance exudes peace and calmness, with water mills and old houses with traditional Japanese roof tiles.
At the entrance of the temple you will see a cosy and old fashioned alley that almost seems like a picture taken from a history book. Together with many stalls selling street food and souvenirs, a number of restaurants are also lined-up along this alley.
You will notice a specific house with a pair of gigantic zori (草履, Japanese sandals) on its roof, and manga characters standing in front of it. This is the Kitaro Chaya （鬼太郎茶屋, Kitaro Tea House), which honours the spiritual father of nationwide popular ghost manga series “Gegege no Kitaro” (ゲゲゲの鬼太郎）, Shigeru Mizuki, as he resides in the neighbourhood. The series has been running since 1965, and is still going strong today as the now 93-year old Shigeru Mizuki still continues his work.
Buy some cute souvenirs here, and be sure to go up to the second floor, where you can enjoy a small museum that introduces you to Japanese ghosts.
After your visit, have soba noodles for lunch at one of the restaurants. Soba noodles have been a specialty at the Jindaiji temple since the Edo era (1603-1868) and are renowned for their chewiness.
If you are still a bit peckish after the soba noodles, have something small at one of the food stalls. There is a lot to try out, but be it rice cakes, crackers or sandwiches, they all have a soba-flavour to them.
With a full belly, it’s now time to admire the temple itself. The complex consists of the large and majestic main temple together with a number of smaller temples, a big bell and more. The compound is located on the foot of a hill surrounded by a myriad of leaves that change their colour together with the seasons which adds to the peaceful and sacred atmosphere. Jindaiji temple is not only one of Tokyo’s oldest temples, but also one of the city’s most authentic.
If you are a nature lover, head over to the Jindai Shokubutsuen （神代植物園、Jindai Botanical Park) nearby. It is the only botanical park in Tokyo and has over a hundred thousand trees and flowers that come in more than 4,800 varieties. Next to roses, azalea and clover fields, you will also find traditional Japanese garden plants such as Satsuki (皐月, Rhododendron indicum) and Tsubaki (椿、Camellia japonica) which have been cherished by the Japanese since the Edo period.
End your day by heading to the Yumori no Sato （湯守の里. It is a gorgeous hot spring just a 5 minute walk from the temple, which not many people seem to know about. There are no signs, so be sure to check the location on a map beforehand. When you arrive at the Yumori no Sato, you will realise that you have discovered a true heaven on earth (or an oasis in Tokyo actually).
Who would have thought that Tokyo had a natural hot spring that’s as large and picturesque as this?
After some relaxing with the locals, be sure to receive a therapeutic massage or beauty treatment, so that you can head back to Tokyo’s busy city life with a refreshed body and soul.
Jindaji Temple (Japanese only)
Kitaro Chaya (Japanese only)
Photo credits: JNTO, Kitaro Chaya, Yumori no Sato, WAttention