It was a warm, spring day as the Setagaya Line snakes its way through the quiet, residential streets of Setagaya Ward. Its ten-station line is a haven for local feeling and one of the true little joys of suburban discovery. The compact, two-carriage tram might be just a regular commute for locals, but it also gives sightseers a rare glimpse of Tokyo away from the crowds. Easy to get to, easy to ride and easy to enjoy, the Setagaya Line is a must for those looking for a picturesque day of feel-good sightseeing. I spent a day getting on and off, exploring quiet residential neighborhoods and local shopping streets.
The Setagaya Line is one of two surviving tramways in Tokyo (the other is the Arakawa Line which i will blog about it separately). Sangenjaya is a town with a long history. Beginning as an area with three tea houses, travelers and warlords stopped here on their way in or out of Edo city. Today, Sangenjaya sits beneath a towering expressway, offering a fascinating mix of old and new.
I've made this series of photos into a comic book illustration. Making a picture different, quirky, and a little bit crazy doesn't necessarily make the image immature. Such effect has great potential to really make moments memorable and really etch that fun memory in stone. The comic effect can be an important reminder to not take life too seriously, have fun, and enjoy those special moments in life.
To use the Setagaya Line, you will first need to get to Sangenjaya Station, which is only five minutes away from Shibuya Station on the Tokyu Den-en-toshi Line.
Strolling down the main street, you will pass an overwhelming number of cafes and eateries — perhaps the result of this being a university town.
The cute two-car trains of the Setagaya Line are used as a means of transport by the local Setagaya Ward residents. Looking like both a regular train and also like a tram car that navigates through the city, this is a unique train line. It runs through a narrow passage surrounded by retro scenery and homes, also has a somewhat nostalgic feel.
Although you might think such a small line would be annoyingly infrequent, the Setagaya Line is almost the opposite. Forget checking train times, it's easier to simply show up as they pass every six minutes like clockwork.
Traffic is stopped with a traffic signal rather than a crossing gate. Like the cars, Setagaya Line trains diligently stop and wait for the signal to change before proceeding. It is a gentle scene typical of Setagaya and visitors can see it here.
The Setagaya Line ends at Shimo Takaido, whose shotengai shopping street is a bustling magnet for the area and an excellent place to wander around and savour the intimate shopping atmosphere of local Tokyo. Thanks to the small tram line, the stops have avoided a lot of the heavy redevelopment swallowing up other nearby areas and are still filled with older, more traditional houses as well as smaller apartment buildings.
One of the highlights of the area is that it's great for cycling. Although a bit of a maze, it has quiet streets and is filled with families pedaling around at a surprisingly relaxed pace. For those who are nervous about busy roads and heavy traffic, the Setagaya area is ideal, with clearly marked cycle lanes and extra-wide pavements throughout the area. This also means you can reduce your commute by riding to a connecting-station or to the surrounding lines instead.
As a line that operates charming little two-car tramcars, the Setagaya Line is a rarity in Tokyo. Moreover, many of its stations are unmanned, making it highly unusual for an urban railway. A stroll along the line is enjoyable. The pace is slow. Getting on board and casually exploring the local area may be just the ticket for you.