My favourite hideaway with Junya Matsumura of Tabi Bagel

· Wednesday April 8, 2015

Junya Matsumura is the self-taught baker and spice maker behind Tabi Bagel, a pocket-sized Yanaka bakeshop with an undeniable sense of charm. For the first in our series of local favourites – all handpicked by the city’s residents – Junya took us for a morning cruise on Ueno’s Shinobazu Pond.

“I live close-by in Yanaka and this is one of my favourite spots to relax. Almost every day I come here for a walk with my wife and daughter – it’s always the best time of day for me. It feels so good just walking around; the scenery changes with each and every season. Also, it’s a place where people from all around the world, not only Japan, come to visit and so it often reminds me of San Francisco – worldly and never lonely.

Once or twice each season, I hire a boat and take my wife out on the pond. Rather than rowing, I usually choose one of the big swan boats so that we can just sit back, pedal and chat. In Spring we go right up underneath the cherry blossoms and Summer is just so beautiful and green.

I’ve actually never rowed here because I had a bad experience when I was in high school – the girl I was with fell halfway into the water while I was excitedly trying to row [laughs]. At this time of year it gets quite busy here in the afternoons and you see lots of collisions on the water. I really think it’s best to be in a swan boat [laughs].

Almost every day around 2 o’clock, old people meet on the benches to play shogi (Japanese chess). People from the local community come to watch the boats and in the afternoons you'll often see men in suits enjoying some quiet time as though they’ve escaped from their offices.”

One of the more peaceful pockets of Ueno Park, Shinobazu Pond is a place to slow down, relax and watch the world slowly drift on by. The western pond hosts scores of coloured boats and is encircled by a tree-lined path and dozens of sun-soaked benches, while the adjacent Bentendo Temple and lotus pond bring a sense of peace to the area. For morning picnics, afternoon strolls or a spot of contemplation by the water, Shinobazu is a great stop between trips to the nearby museums, galleries and station-side hustle and bustle.