My Private Tokyo – Tama River Cherry Blossoms
Three years on, Odakyu line, has become somewhat of a name often uttered with a tone of frustration. I can’t count the number of times it has delayed my departures and arrivals with its altogether frequent issues. It’s often said by visitors of Japan that trains are never late. Perhaps they should take a step outside the subway and Yamanote lines. Beyond all that it seems to be perpetually busy and for quite a while now it’s felt like any trip in and out of Shinjuku came with a dismal chance of snagging one of the rare empty seats on the express train.
All that grumbling aside, I generally have warm memories of that line all things considered. Despite its difficulties there were also a fair share of funny and nostalgic memories made along those trips. One of those happens to be crossing Tama River on the way back home from Shinjuku.
The river itself is not altogether anything that stands out while passing over it on Odakyu line. The expanse of it can be a point to appreciate. A number of paths run along side it cutting a rather locally renowned distance for bicycling. Beyond that though It can have a really beautiful pastel sky if you’re lucky enough to be heading back around sunset. To me at least, this melts rather nicely into all the concrete when heading into Shinjuku. Lament the endless concrete in Tokyo all you want but it has points of appreciation in the right light. There’s a really nice aesthetic quality in that expanse to it that seems to pull a scene out of Shinkai Makoto’s own art work. On the opposite side of the setting sun though you likely wouldn’t really notice anything special, unless you’re passing in early April, when all the cherry blossoms are starting to bloom.
I came across this scene one afternoon and noticed a much smaller river streaming off from Tama river itself, lined with many blossoming cherry trees leading off into the distance. I made a mental note of it but somehow in the excitement of my very first spring in Japan I completely forgot about it until the following year. By then the draw of the big name locations around Tokyo had an irresistible pull to them and I spent most of my spring days enveloped by the sights of Ueno Park and Meguro River, both beautiful locations in their own respects. As life tends to go, we get comfortable with the the places we come to experience and so the 3rd spring, with the short amount of free time I did have, I made it out once again to Meguro River and also jogged along the evening blossoms near my home. Once against straying from the previous path and choosing those familiar places.
I passed by on Odakyu line any of number of times during that period, continually making a mental note to get around to visiting but for one reason or another talked myself out of it.
This year rolled around and I made my way to Meguro River. By then it started to lose some of its lustre. I started to realize I knew this place, I knew it far too well now. I knew all the locations to take great shots, all of which I had done several years over. I knew the foods, the celebrations, the people, and those experiences. It was fun and comfortable but it was missing that magic of first stumbling across that unique and grand experience.
Coincidentally, on the last day of my annual spring break I finally made it out to Noborito Station, just off of Tama River. I walked down towards the river and came across one of the most peaceful walks under cherry blossoms I’ve had in all my time here in Japan. The sun had decided to come out and play, something it avoided doing a few days prior when I visited my regular spots. For an instant the weather was absolutely perfect for a nice stroll. The next few days were filled with rain, a closing to the flower viewing season.
Despite making the effort to fly to the other side of the world and start a new life, in all that chaos I lost some of my will for exploration and started to cling to what I knew. Simple fleeting moments can be a good wake up call from those sleepy train rides.