Daytrippers: Kichijoji

By on August 9, 2014

Go to Kichijoji! This is my advice to anyone already living in or merely taking visiting relatives around town.

As much as all the popular spots such as Shibuya, Harajuku, Ginza, Akihabara and Shinjuku continue to hold the interest of the masses, a small jaunt just off the beaten track will take you to a funky, cool, hip, cozy, fresh and beautiful place.

Located just five stops (depending on which express train you catch) from Shinjuku on the Chuo line on the fringe of Tokyo’s 23 wards, Kichijoji exudes the Yin to Tokyo’s Yang. If central Tokyo is about business, shopping, hustle and bustle, Kichi (as it is affectionately referred to by its fans) is chill, relaxed and easy-going.

This does not mean that Kichijoji is a lazy back water; far from it. Here you can frequent Parco department store or Marui, Loft, Yuzawaya and the mega-store Yodobashi Camera. You can stroll along its many streets discovering new, small boutiques, coffee shops, pastry shops, restos, izakayas, ice cream parlors, music and book shops, pet stores, and so many more interesting small businesses. The thrill of discovery is another element of Kichi’s charm.

Be it spring, summer, fall or winter, the jewel in Kichijoji’s crown has to be the beautiful and lively Inokashira Park. Be it for a Sunday with the family, or for photographers, painters, buskers or artisans, this park is the heart through which all of this neighborhood’s arteries flow. It is the node that beautifully connects the residential area to its commercial side – and it is well worth visiting.

Common in and around Tokyo are parks where adults can decompress and children play. Lush greenery in the spring and summer, complemented by the opportunity to rent swan shaped paddle boats, or row boats for those willing to make a bit more effort, Inokashira Park offers a plethora of wonderful distractions.

Not into boating? Check out the zoo, or visit the très cool, Pepa Cafe Forest (http://www.peppermintcafe.com) located just a stone’s throw from the mini marina. In late spring and summer, the cafe owners roll up the walls to let the beautiful sunny weather complement their variety of delectable offerings with a hint of Asian fusion.

If you are coming for a Sunday lunch or dinner with a baby in tow, the place has some kiddie toys to keep them busy.

In the fall and winter, the walls return, along with blankets and heaters to keep its patrons warm and cozy.

After a bite or a short drink, meander over to the small Meiseisan Temple where the purportedly jealous goddess Benzoate is enshrined, or maybe a visit just over the hill to the grassy pitch where people picnic, play a variety of games or job. This area also happens to annex the famous Ghibli Museum, where items related to producer Miyazaki Hayao’s works, such as Totoro, Princess Mononoke, Sprited Away or The Iron Giant can be seen.

If you take the time and make an effort to visit Kichijoji, not only will you not be disappointed, but rather, you will most certainly be aptly rewarded.

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