Patterns of light and colpur on the river in Todoroki Ravine, Tokyo

An afternoon in Todoroki, Tokyo’s little patch of countryside

I’ve spent almost 14 years visiting this delightful little ravine in Tokyo’s Setagaya-ku. It still gets a little busy on weekends but it’s worth it.

The full autumn colours haven’t kicked-in yet. Last year, Todoroki peaked around the 11th December and it turned out to be one of the best years I’ve seen there in a while.

A few photos of Todoroki Ravine from autumn of 2019
Early December will be the best time for leaves at Todoroki

I’m no expert but going by last year’s display and the state of the leaves when I was there yesterday (25th October), it’ll be early December again before Todoroki peaks. I’ll be back there in mid-November to check again and I’m planning to do a photowalk there in early December.

What you’ll see and the best camera gear to take with you

Once you’ve come out of the railway station, it’s a short walk to the red steel bridge that spans the bottom of the north end of the ravine. And this, frankly, is the best place to start. There’s staircase down to the floor of the ravine just behind the Seijoshi supermarket.

The first part of the walk along the river has some narrow parts but all of the pathways were refurbished and renewed a couple of years ago. You can now do the whole walk without getting muddy. Don’t wear heels, but pretty much any other shoes will do in almost any weather… except at some areas just below the shrine.

Along the river, some of the best shots are of the light on the water. I shot these with a 135mm lens. It’s great for picking out the details and getting a nice crop of some of the rocks, still with plenty of the surrounding water.

Deeper into the autumn, when the leaves begin to turn, you’ll get some great overhead shots along the rover, of the tree canopy above you. Anything from 24mm-300mm can be fun.

Shooting at the lower and upper shrine

At the lower shrine there’s a few nice things to shoot. There’s a good, low tree canopy of momiji there. Which gives you a great chance to get some nice layers, bokeh an colours even with a 35 or 50mm. The lower shrine has some nice details for 50, 85 and 135. A slightly longer lens will pick out the dragons. I used the Hasselblad with a 250mm lens to shoot the dragon. There’s a couple of nice bridges just before the shrine, where I got the pic of the doggies and the one of my daughter.

There’s a couple of ways to get up to the top shrine. Halfway up the staircase, I usually choose to take a right and head around in a loop to get up to the top shrine, past another small shrine and a great view up to the main shrine from below.

Once you’re up at the main shrine there are several great viewing decks which put you at tree canopy height for the momiji. The shrine itself is really cute and by late autumn is a carpet of yellow gingko leaves.

Up here you’ll get great shots with everything from 24mm to 300mm. A macro is also a useful lens to have on you. Or just use the smartphone for the macros. My phone is awesome at these. The moth shots were taken with my iPhone 8S Plus.

Todoroki Ravine is in the Setagayu-ku ward of Tokyo, a couple of stops south east of Futako-tamagawa on the Oimachi Line.

The best time to visit, in our experience, is about 2.15pm in the autumn/winter. This will give you plenty of time to walk the lower part of the ravine and get to the top shrine in time for sunset.

Google Map of the area is here.

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