Have you heard of Tsurumi? Tsurumi is a residential suburb of Kanagawa Prefecture, about 40 minutes from Tokyo Station. Most people traveling on the Keihin Tohoku Line skip Tsurumi and visit either bustling Kawasaki, or chic Yokohama. So, how about getting of the train in Tsurumi, and trying something a little different?
At first glance, there is admittedly not a lot to do here. However, if you know where to go, there are actually quite a few interesting places to visit, and some great food shops, all within walking distance of Tsurumi JR station or Keikyu Tsurumi station.
I have put together a walking itinerary (about 5km total) of places I enjoyed visiting, which I hope will make for a good day out.
- Bath set: shampoo, body wash, body towel, small towel, hair tie (if you have long hair), change of underwear or change of clothes
- Comfy shoes, maybe a rain coat or umbrella, something to drink
- A camera or sketchbook if you enjoy that sort of thing!
09:00 or thereabouts – Arrive by train at either JR Tsurumi Station or Keikyu Tsrumi Station.
09:10 – Boulangerie Esplan (エスプラン)
Have breakfast at the best boulangerie in Tsurumi, Esplan! This bakery started life in 1679 as a tea shop on the Tōkaidō Road which connected ancient Edo to the northern provinces.
There are all sorts of different types of bread, including melon-pan, chocolate croissants, apple cake, coffe-anpan bread, pizza, and more…
There is an eat-in space with free water, and drinks are available to buy too.
07:30 – 18:30 Tuesday – Friday
07:30 – 18:00 on Saturday
Closed Sundays and Mondays
10:00 – Shōgakusan Sōji-ji Temple (諸嶽山總持寺)
Leave Esplan and head towards JR Tsurumi Station. Cross through the station by the East entrance steps and pass through the covered walkway, to come out down the stairs at the West exit of JR Tsurumi Station. When you arrive on the road below, turn left and follow the road about 400m until you arrive at the entrance to Sōjiji Temple, marked by two large stone lanterns and a white stone on your right. Follow the path up and explore the extensive temple grounds for yourself.
Sōji-ji Temple was established in 740 on Noto Peninsual in Ishikawa Prefecture, and relocated to Tsurumi in 1911. Sōji-ji Temple is one of only two head temples of the Sōtō Zen sect of Japanese Buddhism, with 14,000 lesser temples all over Japan.
The temple also offers occasional English Zazen (seated meditation) sessions, including an optional guided tour of Sōji-ji Temple. No experience is required, and the fee is ￥500. For guided tours of the temple separate from Zazen meditation training, the fee is ￥400 per person. Check the website below for details and to contact the temple before your visit if you want to take part.
13:00 – Tomokichi Soba (登茂吉)
A gem which a friend introduced to me, this soba shop is well worth the walk. To get here, walk back through JR Tsurumi station to the East exit. Head straight down the road in front of you, past the Esplan turning, past Café Veloce on your left and enter the underpass. Head through the underpass but come out of the exit diagonally in front of you, so you come out on the same road, but on the right side. Follow the road about 400 meters and cross over the bridge. Just over the bridge at the traffic lights and foot-bridge, turn left. Tomokichi is about 200 meters down the road on your left.
Tomokichi serves soba noodles which are hand made on site – you can see the soba machine grinding flour by the entrance. Menu options include Tenseiro, where the noodles are served on a rack with a selection of tempura, or large bowls of hot or cold broth with soba noodles served as a single dish. The noodles have a wholesome texture and everything I have eaten there has been delicious.
Besides soba, the restaurant also serves a variety of other tasty dishes, including rice bowls and side dishes.
11:30 – 15:00 (last order: 14:45)
17:00 – 20:00 (last order: 19:45)
A side note: How to Eat Set Soba (zaru-soba – skip if you’re a soba-eating pro)
Eating soba sets was an anxiety-inducing experience for me at first. All those little bowls! So, just for people like me who worry unduly about looking silly or making cultural faux-pas, a guide to eating soba.
- If you have ordered a set of soba, there will be one bowl filled with sauce (for the tempura), a second empty bowl, and a little jug full of a different type of sauce (for the soba). There should also be a selection of sides like ginger, spring onions or grated daikon.
- The toppings might be divided into two little piles by type. Generally, the grated daikon and ginger is for the tempura dipping bowl, and the spring onions and wasabi are for the soba dipping bowl.
- The dipping bowl with sauce already in it is for dipping your tempura into. Add some of the ginger and grated daikon if you like, and try your tempura.
- The empty dipping bowl is for eating your soba. Pour in an appropriate amount of the other type of sauce from the little jug. Fill it about half way up. Add some spring onions and wasabi paste, giving it a good stir. Dip your soba in by easy-to-pick-up amounts, then scoop it out and eat it, covered with sauce and toppings.
- When you have finished your soba, there will probably be some dipping sauce left in your soba-dipping bowl. When it looks like you are coming to the end of your meal, a tea pot will be placed on your table. This contains soba-yu, the hot water which was used to cook the soba in. It has a rich, nutty flavor and is very nutritious. Add this to the sauce left in your soba dipping pot, and drink it like tea. The more you add, the more diluted the flavor will become.
- Congratulate yourself! Hopefully you enjoyed your meal. Well done for not panicking!
14:00 – Ushioda Park (潮田公園)
You walked a lot today! Have a little break in Ushioda Park. It’s a one-minute walk just over the road from Tomokichi. It’s fairly un-inspiring with almost no grass, but there is a nice playground if you have children. The park is also fairly spacious – there are benches, public toilets and you can also re-fill your water bottles from the public tap and drinking fountain. Lots of people of all ages relax here and the atmosphere is very inclusive.
14:30 – Ushioda Shrine (潮田神社)
Just a short walk round the corner is Ushioda Shrine. This is the shrine for the Ushioda block. Created in 1919, by the combination of two extant shrines, the vermilion colour of the large shrine building is very striking. The shrine grounds are clean and well maintained. The shrine is the focal point for Tsurumi Festival which is held every year around the beginning of July.
15:30 – Shimizu-yu Sentō (清水湯)
UPDATE NOVEMBER 2021: The bathhouse has unfortunately been demolished.
About a ten-minute walk around the corner is Shimizu Sentō. This public bath house has a friendly atmosphere and is popular with local residents. It has been operating as a public bath house here since around 1949. In 1984, tiled murals of Western-style classical landscapes were added to the walls inside the baths.
The bathhouse has a traditional appearance with tiled roof and wooden interior. The bath is divided by sex, and, like all onsens and sentōs, you have to take off all your clothes, then wash your body thoroughly at the seated showers before getting into the baths.
Although you can purchase them, Shimizuyu does not provide shampoo or soap for free, so if you are on the stingy side or have preferences for your bath-time products, bring your own for everything. Although towels are listed as available free on their website, whenever I went I always brought my own, so I leave the towel question to your own best judgment.
There are massage chairs and hair driers which you can use for free (women’s side only), and lots of manga to look at in the waiting room. There are two baths; a long, hot bath with super jets and a roiling Jacuzzi-like round bath with exceptionally hot water. Unlike an onsen, sentō do not contain “natural” hot spring water – the water is the same as in our own bathrooms, but in much greater quantities and I would argue that the experience is worth it.
15:00 – 22:00
Admission: Adults – ￥470
Children – Free to ￥370 depending on age
17:30 – Seigetsu Traditional Confectioners（清月）
Tsurumi is famous for its yone manjū, a very soft dumpling made of rice flour and sweet, white azuki bean filling. The long history of these traditional sweets is remembered in the traditional Japanese folk song, Nippon-bashi Bridge of Edo. These sweets are still produced today at Seigetsu, the traditional confectioners located very close to Keikyu Tsurumi Station.
These sweets make good gifts and can be picked up as packs of six to twenty. They are also sold individually, so you can get an extra one for yourself too. There are also lots of other seasonal sweets to try at this friendly shop.
To get here, retrace your steps, nearly all the way back to the train stations. Seigetsu is just next to Café Veloce, on the right side of the street.
18:00 – Ramen and Tsukemen Noodles at Rāmen Dohyō Kakureihō(ら―麺土俵 鶴嶺峰)
This shop is on the other side of the road from Seigetsu, and just a few steps down a side street. I’m not a big fan of ramen as it can be very greasy and heavy, but this place is good. The soup is rich and thick but not too much so, and the noodled have a “whole-wheat” texture to them.
Founded by a former sumo wrestler and named for his stage name, Kakureihō is especially famous for its tsukemen or “dipping noodles.” There are several sets to choose from, and toppings to add, allowing you to alter portion size and extras to suit your tastes. There can be a bit of a queue, but it’s worth it. If you don’t eat meat, however, best to avoid as the soup will inevitably contain pork.
11:15 – 15:00, 18:00 – 22:30 Monday – Wednesday
11:15 – 15:00, 18:00 – 23:00 on Fridays
11:15 – 16:00, 18:00 – 23:00 on Saturdays
11:15 – 16:00, 18:00 – 22:30 Sundays and holidays
So, here you have my itinerary for a day out in Tsurumi! I hope you aren’t too exhausted after so much walking. Tsurumi is actually best known for its Okinawan and Brazilian communities, who also have their own brilliant food shops. I will save that treat for a later blog post. For now, happy travels!