Discover Grandma's Harajuku! 9 Things to Do in Sugamo Jizo-Dori Shopping Street
Why Is Sugamo Popular With the Elderly?
A bustling day in Jizo-dori
The main attraction of this area is Koganji Temple, home of the Togenuki Jizo (splinter-removing Buddha). It is said that visiting this temple helps cure ailments.But the beneficial temple isn't the only reason that keeps the seniors coming back. Jizo-dori street and the whole area of Sugamo are particularly elderly-friendly. The streets are flat, with textured bricks to prevent slipping. Most shops are barrier-free ad have ramps to facilitate access with walking sticks or wheelchairs. The shopkeepers are incredibly friendly, flexible and willing to speak slowly.
This shop sells things like Azuki beans soup and daikon cough drops
The districts that cater to a younger crowd are always changing, often becoming more westernized. In Sugamo you will find old style shops and restaurants for the people who still remember 'how it used to be'. The whole town has a slower pace and a nostalgic feel that will take you back 40 years.
The First Stop on the Way to KyotoIn the Edo period (1603-1868) a road called Nakasendo used to connect Edo (the current Tokyo) to Kyoto. The first rest stations of Nakasendo used to be located along what is now Jizo-dori street. This brought business and helped develop the area. In 1891 the famous Koganji temple was moved from Ueno to its current location in Sugamo, which drew even more people to this street.
The colorful sign of Jizo-dori
A Day out With the GranniesVisiting Sugamo is a great way to experience some authentic Japanese atmosphere and food. Here are nine things that I recommend trying in Grandma's Harajuku!
1. Get Your Health Taken Care of at Koganji Temple
How not to pay a visit to the place that gives the name to this street? Jizo-dori literally means 'Jizo street'. The famous Togenuki Jizo is enshrined in Koganji, a temple located halfway down the street.
At the temple's main hall you can buy Omikage. It's a paper wrap that contains five small images of Jizo. It is believed that these images will help cure ailments by sticking them on the part of your body that you wish to heal or by eating them. One Omikage is 100 yen.
Hundreds of people also come here to do Arai Kannon, a ritual where you wash a statue of Kannon. Let's try it! First, you get a small towel from the temple for 100 yen. Then you rinse the statue with water. Lastly, use the towel to brush the part of the body that you wish to heal.
The locals were happy to see us interested in their ritual and taking part. A sweet lady told us that she comes here every month from outside Tokyo to brush this statue.
Right next to the statue is a cute little vendor selling happiness dango, little round sweets made from rice flour. Be sure to stop here for a little snack before continuing your walk.
Jizo-dori has many resting spots with benches. One of them is right beside the temple.
InformationKoganji temple | 高岩寺
Address: 3-35-2 Sugamo, Toshima-ku, Tokyo
2. Touch a Duck's Bottom?
Like everything in Japan, Sugamo has a mascot character. Meet Sugamon, a cute duck that is the district's symbol.
Sugamo literally means "duck's nest", that's why its mascot is a duck. You'll spot Sugamon everywhere along Jizo-dori!
At the entrance of Jizo-dori you'll find a big fluffy ball with a sign that reads "Sugamon's bottom". The board next to it says, "Touch the bottom and you will get married. Touch it gently and you won't need assistance when you get old".
3. Get Your Lucky Red Underwear at Maruji
Another symbol of Sugamo is red underwear! In Japanese culture the color red is associated with health restoration and energy. Here it's very common to give something red to people that have reached 60 years of age.
This shop sells only red underwear and clothes. The sign promises "Japan's best red underwear".
Browsing the shelves I also found underwear with characters printed on it. They had Hello Kitty, Sugamon and animals from the Chinese zodiac. Here's my sign, the rabbit.
InformationMaruji | マルジ
Address: 4-21-11, Sugamo, Toshima-ku, Tokyo
Hours: 10:00am - 6:45pm
Irregular holidays 3 days a year
Website (Japanese-only): http://www.sugamo-maruji.jp/
4. Try the Traditional Shio Daifuku at Mizuno
Opened in 1937, Mizuno is the originator of Shio Daifuku, a pounded rice cake filled with sweet bean paste. Daifuku is very common in Japan, but this one also contains salt (shio) to moderate the sweetness. The taste is very delicate and refined.
It's soft and chewy! You can get a shio-daifuku to take out or enjoy it inside with a cup of green tea.
InformationMizuno | 元祖塩大福 みずの
Address: 3-33-3 Sugamo, Toshima-ku, Tokyo
Hours: 9:00am - 6:30pm
Website (Japanese-only): http://www.shiodaifuku.co.jp/
5. Accompany Your Stroll With Some Crunchy Senbei From Raijindo
Get a light and tasty snack to eat while you're window shopping. The friendly shopkeeper will be happy to let you taste the different kinds of senbei rice crackers. One piece is only 50 yen!
InformationRaijindo | 雷神堂 総本店
Address: 3-33-23 Sugamo, Toshima-ku, Tokyo
Hours: 9:00am - 6:30pm
Website (Japanese-only): http://www.e-fujiichi.co.jp/
6. Learn Japanese Folk Tales With Candy at Sugamo Kintaroame
This shop is the dream of candy lovers! Here you'll find shelves upon shelves of handmade candy. They come in all kinds of shapes and flavors, including some quite unique ones.
Their trademark Kintaroame candy depicts the face of Kintaro, a boy from a Japanese folk tale.
InformationSugamo Kintaroame | 巣鴨・金太郎飴
Address: 3-18-16, Sugamo, Toshima-ku, Tokyo
Hours: 9:00am - 18:00pm
7. Stock up on Sesame Goods at Goma Fukudo
This small shop is entirely dedicated to the healthy seed. Enter and you'll be greeted by the aroma of mortar and pestle ground sesame. Here you can get all kinds of sesame products from sesame dressings to sweets. They even have sesame mayonnaise.
I tried this black sesame ice cream made with soy milk! I loved its firm texture and the mild nutty taste. I was so absorbed in eating it that I didn't notice spilling ground sesame all over my camera.
The shop's recommendation are these sweet sesame cubes. They are made from sesame and honey and they're perfect as healthy treats.
InformationGoma Fukudo | ごま福堂
Address: 3-19-13 Sugamo, Toshima-ku, Tokyo
Hours: 10:00am - 18:00
Website (Japanese-Only): http://www.terakoyahonpo.jp/
8. Try Some Original Pickles at Kawamuraya
Pickles are a staple of Japanese home cooking. At this stylish Sugamo branch you'll find a range of high quality products to choose from.
If you want to try something special, Kawamuraya is known for their red wine pickled onions. They are very sweet with a hint of grape aftertaste.
InformationKawamuraya | 河村屋 巣鴨店
Address: 3-21-15 Sugamo, Toshima-ku, Tokyo
Hours: 10:00am - 6:00pm
Website (Japanese-only): http://www.kawamuraya.co.jp/tenpo/sugamo.html
9. Explore More Unique Temples and Shrines
Koganji is not the only interesting temple around. Right at the entrance of Jizo-dori is Shinshoji Temple, where you can admire an 11 feet tall Jizo statue.
InformationShinshoji Temple | 真性寺
Address: 3-21-21 Sugamo, Toshima-ku, Tokyo
If you walk the whole length of Jizo-dori you will arrive to Koshinzuka, a stop on the picturesque Toden Arakawa line. There is a shrine nearby called Sugamo Sarutahiko Koshindo. Instead of the usual guardian lion-dog statues that characterize Japanese shrines, this one has two guardian monkeys.
InformationSugamo Sarutahiko Koshindo Shrine | 巣鴨猿田彦大神庚申堂
Address: 4-35 Sugamo, Toshima-ku, Tokyo
Days With a '4' Are the Best Time to Visit!
Koganji temple holds a small festival on the 4th, 14th and 24th of every month. On these days Jizo-dori fills with street vendors and even more people.
Did you get enough of Tokyo's modern districts? In Sugamo you might find a different face of Tokyo. Spend a day in Grandma's Harajuku surrounded by Japanese culture, traditional food and adorable old ladies.
InformationSugamo Jizo-dori Shopping Street | 巣鴨地蔵通商店街
Access: 5 min. walk from Sugamo Station on the JR Yamanote line. 2 min. walk from Koshinzuka on the Toden Arakawa Line.
Website (Japanese-only): https://sugamo.or.jp/
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).
Liked this story? Like DiGJAPAN!
on Facebook for daily updates!
THIS ARTICLE IS BASED ON INFORMATION FROM 12 04,2017 Author：DiGJAPAN! Editorial Team