There are cities in Japan that deserve to be recognized well beyond the few lines that general guides give them. Located just twenty minutes by train from the boiling Shinjuku, the city of Fuchu, west of the Tokyo metropolitan area, is a hidden gem in an urban setting dear to the Archipelago that you will have to discover during of your trip to Japan.
Not stingy in tourist pleasures that will delight the most hardened of explorers, Fuchu offers itself to visitors who walk its shaded streets towards historical and architectural treasures, according to the four Japanese seasons.
The icing on the cake, Fuchu will soon hold the attention of French lovers of the oval, the city hosting the camp of the France team for the pre-competition training of the Rugby World Cup, in 2019, in Japan.
Whether you are an expatriate in Japan, a simple adventurer on a trip of a lifetime or a subscriber to stays in the Archipelago, the constant search for wonder is part of the very essence of what binds us to this country. .
Japan is full of world famous places which monopolize, without interruption, the tops of the travel sites.
But to sum up the land of the Rising Sun to a handful of must-see tourist hubs would be a colossal mistake, because Japan likes to keep its secrets, selfishly, for those who take the time to venture there in the hope of benefiting from a unique moment, one-to-one, with jewels from Japanese culture.
Elegantly nicknamed “The Mistery City”, Fuchu is part of this large family of places, imbued with cultural, historical and architectural richness, which live in the shadow of the tourist giants from the four corners of the country.
The perfect place to explore for a day trip or two, from central Tokyo, the heartwarming and striking Fuchu is waiting for you.
Babadaimon no Keyaki Namiki, the Japanese street with zelkova trees
The train Keio line stops at the platform of Fuchu station, after a short trip from Shinjuku. The adventure in the mystery city can be started with envy.
Welcomed by a modern station where department stores, luxury residences and an intermingling of pedestrian bridges come together, the traveler will have to wait a few meters in order to tread the cobblestones of the most famous street in the city.
The tunnel, created by the sixty zelkova trees, impresses at first glance. The visitor is struck by the desire to trudge from north to south, all along Babadaimon no Keyaki Namiki Street.
Bordered by many shops and restaurants, it offers an ideal setting for a stroll for your first steps in the city, all along the six hundred meters that make it up.
Far beyond the simple fact that this avenue is considered, today, as a haven of peace and hedonistic pleasure, its historical character is also of the most interesting. Its status as the second historic natural monument of Japan, obtained in 1924, instantly gives it a strong and invaluable character for the city and its inhabitants.
A statue of Minamoto-no Yoshiie stands proudly, since 1992, in the middle of the street, in homage to this samurai of the clan Minamoto who was the first to plant a zelkova tree in situ. Rich in symbolism, this gesture then underlines his own victory in the battle. Zenkunen no eki, in full heian period.
Nowadays, Babadaimon no Keyaki Namiki allows a platonic ride under the benevolent shade of trees, from Fuchu station to the city’s priceless treasure: Okunitama Jinja.
Okunitama Shrine, in the heart of Fuchu
Steeped in history and culture, the sanctuary Okunitama is undoubtedly the centerpiece of the city of Fuchu, which will delight many visitors amazed by the place.
Littered with trees and secondary sanctuaries, the walk to the main hall is a call to contemplation and introspection. Erected on May 5 of the forty-first years of theEmperor Keiko, in 111, Okunitama is considered one of the oldest sanctuaries in the country.
Dedicated to the cult of the eponymous god, Okunitama has been part of the priceless tangible heritage of Japan since 1667, following the reconstruction of the main building after a powerful fire in 1646.
This current status ensures it a well-deserved place among shrines. Meiji Jingu, Yasukuni, Hie and Mie whose importance is matched only by their historical richness.
A visit to the Okunitama shrine is a must for all lovers of Japanese culture, looking for a moment of communion with Japan, far from the basic postcard.
Remaining insensitive to the unique atmosphere of the place seems to belong to the realm of the impossible.
Although only groups can enjoy it, one of the annex buildings of the sanctuary is home to real treasures related to the matsuri which punctually govern the life of the place, over the seasons.
The mikoshi (portable sockets carried by worshipers) and taiko line up to provide instant amazement to everyone who walks through the doorstep. Due to its monumental and titanic side, one of the taiko holds everyone’s attention.
In ancient times, every blow to leather resonated for more than a hundred kilometers around.
The matsuri at Okunitama shrine, a Japanese atmosphere
Although the sanctuary is worth a visit every day of the year, it also hosts many matsuri. Okunitama then becomes a staple of local festivities, if not more.
The festivals stamped Okunitama are true moments of communicative jubilation for the population of Fuchu but also for the many tourists who do not hesitate to swallow the kilometers to experience these matsuri, known and recognized.
The most important of these, the Kurayami festival, takes hold of the night of May 5 each year for a moment of trance and intense joy. The mikoshi are then transported from outside the shrine to the main building amid a compact and frenzied crowd.
Particularly original at the time, the procession took place in complete darkness, around midnight (kurayami translating to darkness).
Since 1959, this ancestral custom has been abandoned for a mid-afternoon procession.
The matsuri is at its peak when the eight mikoshi and the six gigantic taiko join the shrine. There then reigns an indescribable atmosphere which leaves a lasting mark on each participant in this popular jubilation.
The Kurayami festival is now part of the intangible heritage of Tokyo and this recognition attracts more and more people every year.
Another season, another atmosphere, July 20 is the occasion for the sanctuary to welcome sumomo matsuri (a type of Japanese plum), while dozens of stalls line the front of the main building.
Children flock to play the games, adults feast with specially imagined kakigori with the famous plum and various shows and attractions punctuate this day of celebration so dear to the inhabitants of the city of Fuchu.
Not far from the Okunitama shrine is literally hiding the Koan-ji temple, a small architectural marvel from which emanates a feeling of spirituality and peace.
See as well
Eclipsed by galloping town planning, Koan-ji allows instant meditation thanks to the calm that emanates from it. Only a few locals, come to pray, delicately break an exquisite silence.
Established in the twelfth century, the temple of the city of Fuchu has several wooden buildings including a sumptuous and impressive two-storey door, protected by two Nio, the famous Japanese guardian deities of Buddhist temples.
Although the symbolism is heavy with meaning (the protection of the souls of children who have died too soon), part of the temple immediately catches the eye and suspends time for a parenthesis of visual poetry.
Hundreds of jizo statues dot the main aisle of the temple in a whirlwind of color, accented by the many small windmills, woolen hats and deep red bibs.
Not far from the entrance, untouched by the urbanized exterior environment, is an annex of the Koan-ji temple.
When it is opened, a feeling of wonderful cinematographic aside emanates from it, which can only panic dreamy and artistic souls.
A blood-red lantern adorns the center of the wooden room, providing a mystical and striking atmosphere for the lucky traveler who walks through it.
The soft and warm tatami under the soles of the feet, one can indulge in reverie, among all the lanterns lit with pleasure, under the benevolent eye of the divinity. Extremely photogenic, this place is a unique nugget of the mystery city of Fuchu.
The imagination that emerges from it marks the minds and we instantly regret having to put on our shoes to go to other horizons.
The Fuchu Kyodo-no-Mori Museum
This open-air museum brilliantly combines nature and architecture, history and traditions.
Inspired by local folklore, lifestyles and ancient Japanese dwellings, Fuchu Kyodo-no-Mori offers a true cultural and sensory experience for visitors, whether adults or children.
Tokyo urbanizing ever faster, to lose its mind, this museum is an invaluable showcase on the evolving architecture of the last centuries and the habits of the population of the time.
Designed as a museum open in the heart of a park, three times the size of the Tokyo Dome, Fuchu Kyodo-no-Mori is lived as we see fit, without demotivating or frustrating guidelines.
The visitor can walk according to his inspiration of the moment through the different paths of the park, in search of the many Japanese architectural remains, going from an old pharmacy to a farm, then from an intimate tea house to a reconstituted post.
Getting lost is then only pleasure and the surrounding nature cradles visitors by offering them a setting that likes to evolve according to the seasons. Plum trees and Japanese maples make up, mainly, the local flora for the greatest pleasure of the eyes, in winter and in autumn.
For a paltry sum of 300 yen, this tour deserves the full attention of lovers of the tangible and intangible heritage of Japan. In a bucolic setting like this, the experience becomes enchanting.