This past Sunday, I went out to the northern reaches of Tokyo to write the practice JLPT exam (Japanese language standardized test). The test was tough and tiring, but I figured that since I have never been to Nishidai before, and am unlikely to ever go there again, I might was well take a stroll around and check the place out. The test site was about a ten minute walk from the station, and all appeared to be like a typical Tokyo suburb. I was intrigued, however, by the decorative solar panels covering a building wall at Daito Bunka University (the test site), and with a little walk around the campus, discovered that the side further from the station is actually rather green. I walked up a big hill, probably where the town got it’s name from (dai = hill), and found the neighbourhood to be kind of special. It was mostly residential, but with some leftovers of a time gone by. There were some large old estates with gardens and bamboo groves. The whole place just had a nice tranquil vibe. There were kids on inline skates and some vegetable patches. I came across this lady who was carefully washing a huge harvest of ume (plums) from a tree growing just outside her house. These ume were so yellow that I initially mistook them for biwa, but the lady told me that the yellow ones are good for ume boshi (picked plums). I guess the green ones will go towards some ume shu (plum wine).
Also atop the Nishidai hill were a couple of veggie gardens. The first I came across looked like a small commercial operation, as there were only a few crops, tomatoes and leafy greens of some sort, and it was very orderly. The second patch I found looked more like an allotment garden or community farm as it was a kind of a hodgepodge and there were a couple of older men standing around chatting.
I really liked the feel up on the hill and was very surprised upon looking at a map to find that the town is remarkably close to the arakawa (Ara river) and a few towns in Saitama that were my stomping ground when I first came to Japan; Toda and Kawaguchi. These places are industrial and not very beautiful, but the area to the south of the river is actually quite impressive.