The Smell of Roses in Otsuka The Smell of Roses in Otsuka

The Tokyo Sakura Tram riding along the Toden Arakawa Line Photo courtesy of Toei Transportation

The Smell of Roses in Otsuka


2022.04.21

NAVITIME TRAVEL EDITOR

The Smell of Roses in Otsuka

Spring is around the corner. And with cherry blossoms set to bloom all around Japan, riding the Tokyo Sakura Tram is one of the most nostalgic ways to enjoy the scenery as you roll through Tokyo's streets.

The Tokyo Sakura Tram is the only remaining line of the historic Tokyo Toden streetcar system, which dates back to the early 1900s. The line consists of 30 stations running from Minowabashi station in Tokyo's east side to Waseda station in the west.

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    The Tokyo Sakura Tram riding along the Toden Arakawa Line Photo courtesy of Toei Transportation

    While cherry blossoms are widely recognized as Japan's signature spring flower, they aren't the only flowers you can enjoy this season. There is one special stretch of the Tokyo Sakura Tram line that rivals the beauty of cherry blossoms with another iconic flower — roses.

    It's called Otsuka Rose Street and it lies between Otsuka-ekimae, stop number 23 on the Tokyo Sakura Tram Line, and Mukohara, stop number 24.

    One of the 1,000 roses in full bloom in May or October every year on Otsuka Rose Street

    One of the 1,000 roses in full bloom in May or October every year on Otsuka Rose Street

    This section of the line is special because it has over 1,000 roses from more than 700 different varieties planted alongside the tracks. It is a must-see, if you are in Tokyo in May or October, when the roses are in full bloom.

    Below, we take a closer look at the charming backstory behind how Otsuka Rose Street began and show you some of the interesting details you might find while walking along its path.

  • 02

    Community-led and award-winning roses

    Though Otsuka Rose Street is a spectacular sight today, the area itself wasn't always this way.

    The roadside area along the tram tracks at the south side of JR Otsuka station was dilapidated and unpleasant for many years, according to the Minami-Otsuka Metropolitan Tram Line Council. The council is a volunteer group consisting of local residents and business owners who have been managing Otsuka Rose Street for many years.

    This lasted until 2008 when this volunteer group was first formed as a part of an urban revitalization project. The group cleaned out the area where trash, overgrown weeds and large discarded items like motorcycles, bicycles, and even mattresses were left out on the street.

    The Tokyo Sakura Tram pulling into a station amid a scene of red roses
Photo courtesy of Toei Transportation

    The Tokyo Sakura Tram pulling into a station amid a scene of red roses Photo courtesy of Toei Transportation

    Underneath the trash and weeds, the group had found about 100 old rose bushes which were planted around 25 years prior. They decided then and there to dedicate this entire section of the tram line to creating a vibrant and beautiful "rose road".

    Since then, Otsuka Rose Street has won numerous urban development awards. The surrounding community also celebrates with the Otsuka Rose Festival every spring and fall where roses are sold to the public and photo contests are held.

    The volunteer group today consists of around 80 people, ranging from young children to senior citizens. The group continues to work together to maintain and prune the bushes regularly.

    There are several trams that run the tracks including this wonderfully retro one
Photo courtesy of Toei Transportation

    There are several trams that run the tracks including this wonderfully retro one Photo courtesy of Toei Transportation

  • 03

    The McCartney Rose

    If you look closely, you'll find several surprising details of how Otsuka Rose Street is organized and maintained.

    For example, one section has a sign that marks where the Japanese roses are, one sign marking the roses from England and France, as well as the section which has scented roses.

    Regarding the scented roses, the Minami Otsuka Toden Line Council says that it has committed to growing all the roses organically, without the use of pesticides. This is so that the public can enjoy the scent of the roses safely up close.

    A sign marking the section with Japanese roses

    A sign marking the section with Japanese roses

    In addition, several of the roses are marked with signs showing which famous people they have been named after.

    "The McCartney Rose"

    "The McCartney Rose"

    To see Otsuka Rose Street, you can get off the Tokyo Sakura Tram line at either Otsuka-ekimae station or Mukohara station. The distance between the two stations is only about 700 meters (or about half a mile).

  • 04

    Stop and smell the roses on Otsuka Rose Street

    Spring is here, but remember, cherry blossoms are not the only beautiful flowers that are blooming along the Tokyo Sakura Tram line.

    If you are here in May or October, don't forget to stop and smell the roses at Otsuka Rose Street in one of Tokyo's most charming neighborhoods — Otsuka.

    Red Roses along the Toden Arakawa Line
Photo courtesy of Toei Transportation

    Red Roses along the Toden Arakawa Line Photo courtesy of Toei Transportation

  • 05

    Otsuka Rose Street and Tokyo Sakura Tram details

    • Address: Minami-otsuka, 3-chome, Toshima-ku, Tokyo (along the Toden Arakawa Line tracks from Otsuka-ekimae station to Mukohara station)
    • Toden Real Time Information Service Site: https://tobus.jp/tlsys/navi?VCD=csapproachmap&ECD=TOP&LCD=e
    • More information on the Todenn service here:
    https://www.kotsu.metro.tokyo.jp/eng/news/2018/20180423_9623.htmle


    • "How to Ride the Tokyo Sakura Tram", Tokyo Metropolitan Bureau of Transportation website:
    https://www.kotsu.metro.tokyo.jp/eng/guides/sakuratram/

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