Translated by Shinji Takaramura
Tokyo's Everyday Life In Suginami - Nostalgic Shopping Streets With A Youthful Vibe
Written by MATCHA-PR
In Koenji, Asagaya, and Ogikubo, located in Tokyo's Suginami ward, you'll see nostalgic shopping streets bustling with a vibrant youth culture. We introduce a walking route through this area where you can get a taste of Tokyo's everyday life.
Koenji, Asagaya, Ogikubo and Nishi Ogikubo - these towns in Suginami are all located along the JR Chuo Line, and have developed around the shotengai (shopping arcades) which were built here in the 1960s. These shopping streets are loved by the locals for their moderate-priced restaurants and stores handling daily goods.
However, there is a lot more to this area. The low cost of living, wide variety of restaurants and entertainment facilities has attracted students from the local universities to Suginami, and a unique youth culture has flourished as a result.
The nostalgic atmosphere of this area attracts artists and musicians, along with young entrepreneurs who started their own original stores in the shotengai.
The towns in Suginami, full of both traditional and modern appeals, are only a few minutes away by train from JR Shinjuku Station. If you are visiting Tokyo, it might be fun to take a stroll in this area.
10:00 - 12:00 -- Ogikubo - Where the Best Ramen Restaurants Compete
Ogikubo Station, which is only 10 minutes away on train from JR Shinjuku Station, is the start of our tour. Ogikubo is famous for its number of ramen restaurants, but before we eat, let's go to Otaguro Park, where visitors can feel the history of Ogikubo.
Recommended Spots in Ogikubo - No.1
Otaguro Park - Classical Music in a Japanese Garden
Picture courtesy of by Chuosen Aruaru Project. Photograph by Diego Rojas
Otaguro Park, located 10 minutes by foot from Ogikubo Station, is a Japanese garden built on the site of the former residence of Otaguro Motoo (1893 - 1979), a music critic who introduced Western classical music to Japan.
The building in the park used to be the workplace of Otaguro. It is now open to the public, with free admission. Music is played at all times inside. Visitors can view the garden, while listening to beautiful classical music.
Recommended Spots in Ogikubo - No.2
Harukiya - Exquisite Soy-Sauce Ramen
Harukiya, a ramen restaurant located two minutes away by foot from Ogikubo Station's North Exit, was established in 1949. The restaurant serves ramen with soy-sauce based broth, a style regarded by many as the original type of ramen. Many customers come from afar just to taste this highly acclaimed ramen dish, and the restaurant often becomes full soon after it opens.
Their specialty is the "Chuka soba" (Chinese noodles), a masterpiece with a rich soy-sauce based broth. From the counter seats, customers can enjoy watching the cooks preparing the ramen.
12:00 - 15:00 -- Asagaya - Experience Daily Life on a Vibrant Shopping Street
Take the Chuo Line from Ogikubo Station, and head for Asagaya Station, which is the next stop. The busiest place in Asagaya is the Pearl Center Shotengai, a shopping street whose entrance is right by the station's South Exit.
More than 270 stores line up in the arcade. You can find here groceries selling fresh vegetables, fish and meat, along with cafes, confectionery shops, and stores handling clothing, gifts and stationery. Some of these stores have been open for over 60 years, and are loved by the local residents.
Recommended Spots in Asagaya - No.1
Nejime Mingei-ten - Folk Craft Items from all around Japan
Nejime Mingei-ten, located at the middle of the arcade, is a gift and souvenir shop which has been in business In the Pearl Center Shotengai since 1972.
It handles various folk art items such as washi (Japanese paper) made in Kyoto, yosegi-zaiku (parquetry) from Hakone and kokeshi (wooden dolls with a round head on top of a cylinder body) from Miyagi prefecture.
These tenugui (hand towels) with beautiful Japanese patterns are perfect for souvenirs. Japanese paper also makes a nice gift, as it can be used for decorative purposes or as wrapping paper.
Recommended Spots in Asagaya - No.2
Tomoe-an - The Best Taiyaki in Town!
As you walk around the middle of the shopping street, you'll feel a sweet aroma filling the air. This aroma most probably comes from the taiyaki shop Tomoe-an. This shop is famous for making taiyaki (fish-shaped pancake filled with bean jam) one by one, in the traditional style called itcho-yaki.
The dough of the taiyaki is crisp and appetizing. It is heartily filled with delicious bean jam, which is burning hot when the taiyaki is fresh, so be careful.
Taiyaki is a sweet treat that is very dear to the Japanese because it makes one recall their childhood. Do try the delicious taiyaki made at Tomoe-an!
Recommended Spots in Asagaya - No.3
Inageya - A Famous Yakitori Shop
Keep on walking through the shotengai, and a store selling yakitori (grilled chicken on skewers) comes into view. This is Inageya, a yakitori and unagi (eel) restaurant which has been in business for eight decades.
At the shop front, they offer twenty types of yakitori, made with carefully selected ingredients. They can be enjoyed in the restaurant, but also as a snack while walking.
Customers can also enjoy here a tasty dish of unaju (grilled unagi on rice), a specialty cooked with quality eel from Aichi prefecture.
Recommended Spots in Asagaya - No.4
Toraya Chinzan - A Well-Established Japanese Confectionery Shop
Toraya Chinzan is a Japanese confectionery store serving sweets created by artisans, with more than ninety years of history to its name.
Our recommendation is the Kurimanju (chestnut-shaped sweet bun) shown in the photograph above. This is a traditional confectionery made using a whole chestnut and bean jam wrapped in soft dough and shaped as a chestnut.
There is a spacious tea room in the back of the store, so customers can enjoy sweets and tea right here at the store.
15:00 -- Koenji - The Place to Enjoy a Laidback Afternoon
After fun-filled Asagaya, our next stop is Koenji. Walk along the elevated railroad towards Shinjuku, and you will reach Koenji in about 10 minutes. You can also take the Chuo Line train to Koenji Station, the next station after Asagaya.
Koenji is full of chic cafes and clubs offering live music, and is always bustling with young people. The area is best-known for its many vintage clothing stores, so your visit here may be a golden opportunity to find rare items currently out of the market.
Recommended Spots in Koenji - No.1
Rabi Adesso - Meet Lovely Bonsai
Walk five minutes south of Koenji Station and you'll reach Rabi Adesso, a shop handling bonsai (miniature potted trees) and antique items. Various trees such as pines, cherry trees, maples and cypresses are made into adorable bonsai and displayed in the shop.
There is also a small tea space in the shop where visitors can take a break and enjoy conversating in English with the friendly shop owner.
Those who are interested in Japanese antiques should take a look at the charming interior items and cups displayed inside the store.
Recommended Spots in Koenji - No.2
Hirari - Try on Beautiful Vintage Kimonos
Hirari, located near the North Exit of Koenji Station, handles rare, classic kimono, and also offers a kimono rental service.
A wide variety of beautifully patterned kimono and obi (sash for kimono) made in the Taisho and Showa periods are available here for purchase. The owner will be happy to help you choose an obi to match the kimono you like.
Visitors can try their one-day kimono rental service for only 3150 yen (including tax). It might be really fun to walk around the town in a kimono. Please note that a telephone reservation is required in advance for the rental service.
Recommended Spots in Koenji - No.3
Tensuke - Enjoy Delicious Tempura
For dinner, how about some delicious tempura? Our recommendation is Tensuke, a tempura restaurant located just two minutes away by foot from Koenji Station's North Exit. The owner is an affable person who speaks English, so feel free to tell him your preferences upon placing the order.
Do try their "Tamago Set", which consists of tempura with rice and a softly fried egg (shown in the photograph above). The egg is placed on top of the rice, and when the runny yolk spreads in the rice, it creates a heavenly combination with it.
The vegetables, shrimp and fish made into tempura are covered in a crispy coating while being surprisingly soft inside. Dipped in the homemade tentsuyu (a thin sauce for tempura), they taste amazing! It will probably the best tempura you've ever had!
At the End of a Fun Day in Suginami
If you want to spend more time in Koenji after dinner, it might be fun to take a walk along the shopping street and vintage clothing stores near the Koenji Station's South Exit, stop by an izakaya (tavern) or check out one of the live music clubs in the area.
A walk through the towns of Suginami ward offers a chance to experience aspects of Japanese culture that emerged in the 1960s and 70s, along with the everyday life of Tokyo residents. The old shopping streets bustling with a vibrant, youthful culture create a unique atmosphere, something that can't be seen in major sightseeing spots.
For further information about the many charming places worth visiting in Suginami, check out the Experience Suginami Tokyo website.
Photos by Naoya Konakai (*with the exception of the photos of Otaguro Park and Tensuke)
Sponsored by Chuosen Aruaru Project