Toden Streetcar Station Offers Memories of Old Tokyo

The Yomiuri Shimbun
An arch of roses, tended by locals, is seen at the entrance of Minowabashi Station in Arakawa Ward, Tokyo.

An environment filled with the atmosphere of the late 1950s/early 1960s appears before the eyes as one passes through a five-meter-high arch decorated with fresh roses at Minowabashi Station in Arakawa Ward, Tokyo.

The station is a terminal on the Toden Arakawa Line, also known as the Tokyo Sakura Tram. Despite being located near busy National Route 4, the station feels peaceful. Passengers were chatting and relaxing nearby while waiting for the next train, and metal signs advertising Kinchol insecticide, Oronamin C Drink and Bon Curry adorned the platform, enhancing the nostalgic atmosphere. The Tokyo metropolitan government’s Transportation Bureau procured the signs from antique dealers across the country in order to recreate the scenery of the Showa era (1926-1989).

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Old-fashioned metal advertising signs

Minowabashi Station has been a symbol of the local community since 1913 when the Arakawa Line was opened by Oji Denki Kido as a private line. The City of Tokyo, now the Tokyo metropolitan government, acquired the line before World War II.

In 2007, the metropolitan government renovated the station while bringing back the classic design of the train cars from the Meiji (1868-1912) to Showa eras. A government official also explained that special paint was used to make the wooden fence and ceiling of the platform look aged.

The Yomiuri Shimbun
A Toden train pulls up to the platform.

I found a route map from 1950 being displayed at the Minowabashi Omoidekan, an information office next to the station. The map shows that Toden trains used to run not only on the Arakawa Line but also throughout Tokyo. Takeshi Sato, 59, an employee of the information center, said the station is “a place where we can talk about memories of the Showa period.”

“The station is an indispensable part of the community,” said Yoshitaka Takagi, 70, chairman of the adjacent Joyful Minowa shopping street, which is also lined with an old-fashioned coffee shop and deli store, among other shops, and full of the historic downtown atmosphere. The coffee shop serves “Toden blend,” showing that the town has developed along with the station.

The economy was stagnant and mostly in deflation when I was very young. I could sense the energy of the era when the nation was recovering from its defeat in World War II from the station and the town. I found them fascinating.

The Yomiuri Shimbun
A rounded clock stand in Minowabashi Station
The Yomiuri Shimbun

Minowabashi Station

Address: 1-12 Minami-Senju, Arakawa Ward, Tokyo

Access: 5-minute walk from Minowa Station on the Hibiya Line. About 55 minutes from Waseda Station on the Toden Arakawa Line

Note: Four-hundred roses of about 60 varieties, cared for by locals, bloom from mid-May to early June and from mid-October to early November.