But there is a great place to swim right next to it.
The photo above shows a view of the river from a bridge that you can find by walking west and downhill from Tokyo’s Meguro Station along Meguro-dori avenue. The trees on the left side of the river conceal the Meguro Kumin Center, a complex of public facilities that includes a 50-meter outdoor pool that is open from July 1 to Sept. 11. (Those are the 2016 dates, and it may not be open on Sept. 4.)
As you walk along the riverbank, the pool will become visible through the trees – along with a typical warning to cover up any tattoos.
I loved this pool. At the time of my visit on a recent Monday afternoon there were a few dozen people using it, but its vast size made it feel relatively uncrowded. There were two wide lanes set aside for lap swimming, with one-way traffic in each so that you had to duck under a rope at the end of each length. The water was clear and cool, and when I realized that swim caps were not required – a rarity at public pools here – I swam my last few laps gloriously naked from the ears up. A 10-minute break was called at the end of each hour.
If the pool itself was wonderful, the locker room was less impressive. It was a small space with nowhere to sit down. The entire floor was soaking wet, and covered with mats of small plastic beads that were uncomfortable to walk on. But with admission at just 200 yen, who can complain?
In addition to the gigantic outdoor pool, there is also a 25-meter indoor pool and a blob-shaped outdoor kiddie pool. Admission to the kiddie pool is a separate 100 yen.
The two outdoor pools are in separate areas divided by a brick walkway, in the middle of which stands a life-size sculpture of a young woman by Fumio Asakura, the “Rodin of the East” who also created the sculptures seen at the Taito Riverside Sports Center across town. Asakura (1883-1964) sculpted the woman in the year Taisho 11 (1922), making this an earlier work than the ones seen at the Taito facility. Its title is “Hana no Kage,” which literally means “Flower Shadow.”
If you’re an athlete who loves art, this is the place to be. Not only does the Meguro Kumin Center have three pools, a room full of exercise machines, and courts for basketball, volleyball and badminton, but it is also home to the Meguro Museum of Art. There are other art museums nearby, such as the Kume Museum of Art and the Museum of Contemporary Sculpture. On the other side of Meguro Station is the Tokyo Metropolitan Teien Art Museum. And on a less artistic note, Meguro is also home to the small but memorable Meguro Parasitological Museum.
Many Tokyo museums are closed on Mondays, the day of my visit to this pool, but the Museum of Contemporary Sculpture has an outdoor sculpture garden you can see at any time. The garden twists its way through several barely contiguous plots of land in a hilly residential area above Yamate-dori avenue, a major thoroughfare that runs parallel to the Meguro River. The Meguro Kumin Center is between the road and the river.
If all of this swimming and art-walking has given you an appetite, look for Ramen Jiro Meguro across Yamate-dori from the Meguro Kumin Center. This is a rather famous place, despite its grungy appearance. Or perhaps because of its grungy appearance: Many ramen lovers revel in the “B-class” status of their favorite dish.
I ordered a “small” bowl of noodles with pork. It was fatty, garlicky and filling – and not exactly small. After a two-kilometer swim, it was just right.