Fussa – 福生
Let’s be frank: Fussa is not what you’d call “quaint.” It appears, like many communities in Tokyo’s orbit, to be a product of necessity, of unromantic economics and rapid development.
But you’ll see it in a new light if you take the time to poke around. First, you’ll find it’s an utterly fantastic asset to have just outside the gate. Fussa is a walkable city and a bike-friendly place. Its train station, a mere 12-minute walk from Fussa Gate, connects you to the national rail system, to Tokyo, and to the whole of Japan. The Tama River, on the city’s western flank, provides a quick nature fix and has endless trails for walking, running and biking. Its stores and restaurants are good training grounds for you to trot out new Japanese phrases as you learn them and get used to commerce in Japan. Don’t be shy. You think you’re the first clueless American they’ve seen in these parts?
Just when you think Fussa is merely utilitarian you’ll start uncovering its secrets: Temples tucked away in neighborhoods. A little pastry shop. A watering hole where you feel you could become a regular. A sudden view of snow-covered Mt. Fuji. A clutch of older homes that, if you squint, gives you a peek at a previous century.
How do you find these hidden places? Read on, my friends. That’s what we’re here for.
Discovering hidden Fussa: Two walking tours
1. The West Route
This route will show you some of the Fussa gems that are concealed in plain sight. It’s about 3 miles long, if you take every side trail. It can easily be cut short – just make for Fussa Station and back to Fussa Gate. See the route map here. I’ve also posted it below. This makes an excellent bike tour, also.
View Fussa Walking Tour No. 1 in a larger map
Into the center
Start by walking out the Fussa Gate and cross the first set of tracks. Stay left at the “Y.” In 300 feet, pause to window-shop the tiny antique store on the right side of the street, right on the corner. It specializes in old electric sewing machines and post-War “Made in Japan” porcelain. Now continue down the street as you were. Cross the second set of tracks and go two more blocks. You’ve now gone 1km from Fussa gate and you’re at an intersection, with the main Fussa Post Office on your right and the Fussa City offices on your left. (GPS position: 35.739264, 139.326756)
To Shinmeisha Shrine
Turn right, onto Shin Okutama-Kaido and continue past the post office. Half a kilometer (a third of a mile) past the post office – having gone through five intersections, one with a traffic light – you will see a concrete elementary school on the right side of the street. (GPS: 35.74265, 139.32479). There’s a cute coffee shop on the left, with lots of mugs in the window. Stop in for a cuppa and continue down the street. You’ll see Skylark, and a noodle restaurant called Kama-Age, next to a fire station on the right side of the road. On the left is a cemetery. Next to the cemetery is the entrance to Shinmeisha Shrine. Note this location and ask yourself if you’re hungry. If so, grab a bite at the one of restaurants next to the fire station, or continue down the road, past Sega, to a most inviting sandwich shop, Cheese and Olive. Once you’re done, go back to Shinmeisha Shrine. Walk through the Torii Gate and you will see smaller shrines spaced on the left side.
If you continue through to the Torii Gate on the opposite side and down a set of stairs, you will find a small park on the right side of the stairway. Go down the steps to the street, and turn left to look at the sculptures depicting the Buddhist god Jizo, the patron of travelers and deceased children. They are dressed in red caps and, on one recent visit, fleece Winnie the Pooh jackets.
A leafy respite
Now do a U-turn. Go past the stairs you came down to the end of the block. Make a left at the corner and walk three small blocks to the end of the street. There will be a blue pedestrian overpass. If you look behind the house on the corner, you will see a very old temple, Kannondou Temple, down a small alleyway. Cross the pedestrian overpass and the small bridge. Now, remember this spot because we’re coming back here.
After the bridge, you can turn right and walk along the side of a small canal to Kanizaka Park (toilet and water fountain available). This canal is what remains of the Tamagawa Waterway, built in 1653 to supply water for Edo. The road becomes a path as it follows the canal past a small residential area to a small leafy park. This peaceful area is laced with paths up and around a small embankment dotted with picnic tables and benches. Climb up. There’s a nice view of the Tama River far below. Does the lumpy topography seem out of place? This park was built on the fill dug up 350 years ago to build the canal.
Choutokuji Temple & Tamura Brewery
Now follow your breadcrumbs back to the bridge. If you face away from the bridge and go straight, down the hill, you will see a grandly rebuilt temple, Choutokuji Temple, and across the street the picturesque Tamura sake brewery. Continue past the temple; the road will begin to curve to the left (you’ll see the Tama River). There is a small park with benches and a small shrine just as the road curves. The next intersection will be Fujiami Street. Turn left here. If you continue straight, you will come to Fussa Station. Walk through the station, down to street level and past McDonald’s to the corner. Turn right, then take the first left. It’s a straight shot from there to the Fussa Gate.
Seiganin Temple, Est. 1394
If you want to see one more cool temple, make the left onto Fujiami Street and walk two blocks to Naka Fussa Street. There’s no sign, but if you get to the bridge over the canal you’ve gone to far. Turn right down this street and go halfway down the block. (GPS: 35.737853, 139.323693) You will see a small alley to the left. Turn here. About 300 yards up this alley is one of the most ornate temples in the area, the Seiganin Temple. This temple, orignally built in 1394, is home to Buddhist monks.
Now you can backtrack to Fujimi Street or you can continue past the temple to the next intersection, take a left, and follow the curve of the road (left), back to Fujimi Street and then a right back to Fussa Station and the Fussa Gate. Michele Kreuziger, Emily Pishnotte, Liz Ruskin, 2010.
2. The Tama River Tour
This route is about 6km. It’s good for walkers or bicyclists. Bring a snack as there are several nice parks to take a break in, or plan on getting lunch at the Ishikawa Brewery.
The Tea House
Start at the Supply Gate and walk straight across Route 16. Keep going straight, along Itsukaichi Kaido Avenue, Route 7. The entrance to the first site on our tour, the City Tea House, will appear in 400 meters, after you cross the first set of railroad track, on the left side of the street. You are looking for a small wooded area with a stone path. (The woods are across Itsukaichi Kaido from the Civic Center , a large red brick auditorium. If you reach the blue pedestrian overpass you’ve gone too far.) Follow the stone path to see a bamboo fenced area, where you’ll find the City Tea House. (The Tea House, built for tea ceremonies and other cultured events, is available for rent but you must make reservations months in advance.) Walk around and up the hill past the Tea House, turning right at the top, taking you to the rear of the Fussa Library. The entrance is around the building to the right, directly behind the Tea House. (The library is open 10am -8pm Tuesday-Friday, 10am – 5pm Sat-Sun, closed Mondays, or Tuesdays if Monday is a Japanese holiday. www.city.fussa.tokyo.jp/englishguide/88vtda000000fzsq-att/88vtda000000fzuc.pdf) Next, follow the stone path back to the main street or look next to the Tea House and the library for the cute little bridge and waterfall. Whether you exit through the parking lot or take the stone path, walk back to the main road, Itsukaichi Kaido.
Firefly Park (Hotaru Park)
Turn left on Itsukaichi Kaido, going downhill, away from the base. Your first chance to stop for a snack is past the library at the Jonathan’s Restaurant on the left.
Stay straight and cross a bridge decorated with artwork tiles of fireflies. Continue walking straight. Turn left onto Okutama Kaido, and move to the right side of the road. You should see a sign in Japanese for the steps down to Firefly Park (Hotaru Park). The entrance to this path is across from Gray Shining Hills apartments and a bright yellow building. Or continue further down Okutama Kaido and take the bike path. This park has bathrooms, a stream, a fountain and a greenhouse where firefly larva are grown. Come here around 8pm in mid-June to see the glow bugs. Fussa holds an annual firefly festival around this time to celebrate the magic.
To continue your walk, pass the greenhouse, exit onto the street and turn left. Go under the the elevated railroad tracks. You’ll see a small playground on the right just beyond the tracks. But ahead on the left is a cuter park with fish ponds that might be make for a nice rest.
The River Path
When you’re ready to continue, backtrack to the playground and cut through it to reach a small road that parallels the railroad tracks. Walk along this road until it dead-ends at the river. Now climb up the small embankment and turn left. You’ll see you’re walking on a bike path built on the levee of the Tama River. The path is lined with cherry trees and is stunningly gorgeous when the trees bloom in early April. In fact, Fussa has a festival for that, too, and the main venue is just ahead on your left, Myojinshita Park (GPS: 35.7236,139.3305, halfway between the railroad tracks behind you and the next bridge.) Walk on, keeping the Tama River on your right, for about a kilometer. Here the path ducks under the Mutsumi Bashi bridge. If you go under the bridge you will be at a large picnic area called Minami Park. If you wish to barbecue or play tennis here, get a permit from the log cabin park office by the entrance.
To continue, turn left at the traffic circle and go uphill to exit the park. Turn right on the main street, Mutsumi-bashi Dori. Stay on the right side of the road, and bear right along the sidewalk, flanking a stone retaining wall. At the top of the small hill is a billboard advertising the Ishikawa Brewery, which is just ahead. Go there now if you’re losing energy and in need of refreshment.
Otherwise, take the scenic route: Make a sharp right and follow the road as it winds its way past beautiful homes and the Senjuin Temple.
At the intersection with Kumagawa Dori (there’s no sign, but trust us on this one), about 80 meters past the temple, there is an old stone monument on the far left corner. (What does it say? Is it a historical marker? An ancient road sign? If you find out, leave a comment below.) Turn left here. On the left, there is a well-tended property with black walls and a series of old white buildings. This is the Sake Brewery Tama-Jiman, also known as the Ishikawa Brewery. It has a little museum and two nice restaurants, which you can read about here. Stop in to check it out
Once you leave the brewery, go back to Kumagawa Dori and continue in the same direction you were headed, northeast. Immediately past the bewery you’ll come to a “T” intersection. (Look left and you might be able to see the billboard you were standing at minutes ago, before you opted for the scenic route.) Turn right at the “T” and then a quick left onto the continuation of Kumagawa Dori, a tiny street, no wider than an alley. This will take you back to the big street, Mutusumi-bashi Dori, which is, like Itsukaichi Doir, labeled Rt. 7 on maps. Cross this road and continue along Kumagawa Dori. Keep going straight until you reach a four-way intersection of streets no bigger than the one you’re on. Turn left, so that you’re walking down the alley that has a metal fence running along the right-hand side. You will soon reach Kumagawa Shrine, a unique animal temple. The day we were there, they had live raccoons, a goat, cranes, a dog, and a large cage full of parakeets. There are signs that say “Don’t Touch the Animals.” This is also the site of a very nice shrine sale, held on the second Sunday of every month.
Back to Base
Tired? OK, let’s get you home. Exit the temple grounds and continue going north on the road you came in on. When it ends, turn right and cross Shin Okutama Kaido. Keep going along this small residential street until you come to a 4-way intersection with a light. Turn left here. Follow this road as it crosses a set of track, curves to the right and then crosses another set of tracks. Stay on it, across a third set of tracks until you reach Route 16 and the Yokota fence. Turn left to get to the Supply Gate. Michele Kreuziger 2007. Directions updated 2012.
I followed and updated directions in late 2010. No animals at the temple on my visit, perhaps due to the cold. Liz Ruskin