Explore Kagurazaka, Where France Meets Traditional Japan
Kagurazaka's history is quite unique. In the Edo period it flourished as a hanamachi, a geisha town. During the Meiji period it became a bustling shopping and entertainment district, thanks to its vicinity to the city's castle gates. After surviving the Great Kanto Earthquake of 1923, it was hosting about 150 ryotei, traditional Japanese restaurants.
Mostly destroyed during World War II, it was recently revitalized by the French and European presence in the area. Today, sophisticated French eateries mingle with traditional ryotei restaurants. The coexistence of European and Japanese vibes made Kagurazaka popular again.
The Kagurazaka area is centered around a slope that goes from Iidabashi station to Kagurazaka station. If you plan to visit, we recommend you start your walk from the Ushigome bridge outside Iidabashi station and make your way up.
The main road is closed to cars everyday from 12:00pm to 1:00pm and from 12:00pm to 7:00pm on Sundays and holidays.
Here are some recommendations on what you shouldn't miss in Kagurazaka.
Relax by the Water at Canal Cafe
Facing the Kanda River and the JR train tracks, this is one of the rare outside cafes in Tokyo. You can also rent a rowboat for 600 yen per a half hour.
CANAL CAFE | カナルカフェ
Hours: 11:30am-11:00pm Monday to Saturday, 11:30am-9:30pm Sunday and holidays
Address: 1-1-9 Kagurazaka, Shinjuku-ku, Tokyo (open map)
Website (mostly in Japanese): http://www.canalcafe.jp/
Enjoy Your Walk with a Huge Nikuman
Do you like snacking on street food while exploring the city? Then we recommend you stop by Gojuban. Open for half a century, this shop serves homemade nikuman, steamed buns with a filling of minced meat. Apart from meat they offer many other fillings like mushrooms, mozzarella cheese, and bean paste.
Gojuban | 五十番神楽坂本店
Hours: 11:30am-11:00pm Monday to Friday, 11:30am-10:00pm Saturday, 11:30am-9:00pm Sunday and holidays
Address: 4-3 Kagurazaka, Shinjuku-ku, Tokyo (Open Map)
Website (Japanese-only): http://www.50ban.com/
Pay a Visit to the God of Treasure
While walking up the slope you'll come to a bright red temple. It was founded in 1595 and it's called Bishamonten Zenkokuji. It's dedicated to Bishamonten, one of the Seven Lucky Gods of Buddhism and the god of treasure.
Savor Some Freshly Steamed Manju in an Old House
You probably wouldn't find Mugimaru2 if you weren't looking for it. This quirky cafe's entrance is literally covered in vines. You'll find it hidden in a side street near the crossing between Waseda-dori and Okubo-dori.
The lovely owner of the cafe makes her own manju, which is a kind of Japanese pastry usually filled with sweet beans. At Mugimaru2 you'll be able to choose from a variety of dough types and fillings.
We tried cheese and chocolate fillings in the original white dough, and a red bean and cinnamon filling in a black tea dough.
There is a sign warning patrons that the cafe is also home to a cat. You might want to skip this place if you're allergic or not particularly fond of felines.
Crunch on Some Kagurazaka Senbei...And Learn How to Make It
This popular Kagurazaka shop's specialty is their additive-free, completely handmade senbei (rice crackers). They also offer senbei making workshops where you can learn to grill your own thin senbei!
Kagurazaka Jizoya Kagurazaka-dori branch | 神楽坂 地蔵屋 神楽坂通り店
Closed on summer holidays, year-end and New Year holidays
Address: 6-8 Kagurazaka, Shinjuku-ku, Tokyo (Open Map)
Website (Japanese-only): http://kagurazakasenbei.com/
Watch a Master Make Traditional Sweets While You Eat Them
At Baikatei you'll witness the preparation of wagashi, traditional Japanese sweets. They are patiently crafted, like works of art, by the chef right in front of you.
We went for their two top sellers: a cloud-shaped, maccha flavored fluffy meringue and a fish-shaped sweet filled with red bean paste.
Try a Modern Way of Praying at Akagi Shrine
Continuing your walk along the main road, you will come close to Kagurazaka Station. You will see, on your right, the entrance to Akagi Shrine.
This shrine was completely rebuilt in 2010 in a modern style, so it makes for an alternative praying experience.
Don't Forget the Cobblestone Alleys!
One of the most distinctive traits of Kagurazaka are its cobblestone back alleys. From the opposite side of Bishamon Zenkokuji temple, squeeze into the narrow back alleys and discover a small maze of paved roads, stone steps, traditional restaurants, bamboo trees and lazy cats.
Have Lunch at Honta Yokocho
If you get hungry, make sure you to check out the eateries at Honta Yokocho, a side alley filled with restaurants of all kinds.
This charming and picturesque neighborhood is ideal for a laid-back, relaxing day in Tokyo. Try it and let us know what part you liked the most!
About the author
Laura is an Italian living and working in Tokyo. She loves exploring hidden and unknown places, taking pictures and listening to Punk Rock music. When she’s not busy doing the above, she might enjoy a craft beer or play the sanshin (an Okinawan instrument similar to a shamisen).
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THIS ARTICLE IS BASED ON INFORMATION FROM 05 11,2017 Author：DiGJAPAN! Editorial Team