Matsudo City, easily accessible from Tokyo on the Joban local and express lines, is a bedroom community just on the other side of the Edo River. For local people, it’s a convenient and less-crowded option from living in dense Tokyo, but it also has historic and beautiful places to take a break from urban life. Not far from the city center is 21st Century Forest and Park.
This urban park occupying 50.5 hectares, rivaling Tokyo’s Yoyogi Park, preserves elements of the landscape that once was common in the region. Until the modern period, Matsudo City was part of a district that served as the farmlands that fed Tokyo and the fields where the shogun’s horses grazed. Today, the city is part of the Tokyo conurbation, but retains some farm manor buildings (you might spot some bordering the park) and continues to be a center for the cultivation of nashi pears. The park, despite National Route 51 running through it, presents uninterrupted vistas. You won’t see any tall buildings from most view spots in the park.
The park has a variety of landscapes centered around spring-fed Sendabori Pond. The pond is home to waterfowl that nest in the nature preserve at the north end of the park, making it a good spot for bird watching. Wildflower gardens and a nostalgic village garden with lotus ponds and cultivated fields give a glimpse of Matsudo’s heritage. Wide lawns, walking paths, and dense plantings make for shady spots to relax and space for families to play and picnic. On the southern end of the park is a dense forest that climbs up a steep hill, and visitors can spot reconstructions of prehistoric pit houses.
The park is beautiful in all seasons, but especially in spring when plum and cherry trees bloom. Consider combining a visit to the park with the Tokiwadaira Sakura Festival in early April, celebrating an avenue densely planted with a variety of cherry trees.
For urban hikers, an option is to walk from Mabashi Station on the Joban local line to Tokywadaira, about a 45-minute walk to appreciate the pink blossoms arching over the street.