Nestled between Ebisu and Shibuya is a quiet little district where famous actors, comedians, models and successful businesspersons congregate, live and spend their time and money. Daikanyama (代官山) is somewhat of a secret from tourists; with the famous districts of Shibuya, Shinjuku and Ikebukuro, Daikanyama is often overlooked.
When you’re walking around Daikanyama, it’s difficult to believe that you’re a mere kilometre and a half away from the noisy nightlife of downtown Shibuya. Daikanyama is just different from the rest of Tokyo and possibly the rest of Japan. The mayhem rush of the downtown areas is gone. Most people around you work locally; no rush hour trains or morning stress for them. Everyone walks a little slower, and smiles a little wider.
Stephen Spencer on Flickr
Even if you’re short on money, the specialist shops are a must-see for visitors to Daikanyama. Even if you’re not planning to buy anything, they’re worth a look. Do you know how much a specialist rug is, or the finest silk laced umbrella? Close to the train station is a cluster of must-see shops, including:
- Converse Tokyo. As you’d expect, this shop only specialises in genuine Converse-branded items including shoes, shirts and hats. No fakes or counterfeits here.
- Blossom39. If you love babies, or know someone who has small children, Blossom39 is worth a visit. They sell all things for babies – clothes, shoes, foldable baths, bibs and strollers. Local, well-off people tend to buy expensive strollers for their children. One stroller there was ¥118,000. Don’t let those put you off, though – there are plenty of fun, affordable things in this little shop.
Tatsuo Yamashita on Flickr
- CA4RA (pronounced “Ca-shi-la”). There’s a funny sign saying “It’s not fun. It’s not a hat.” It’s interesting how missing one word “if” can completely change the meaning of a sentence. IF you love hats, pay a visit to this hat shop.
- Tenoha. As well as a fancy shop selling the highest quality (and most expensive) version of everything, this little square is also home to a beer garden, a coffee shop called Bondolfi Boncaffe, and a restaurant (each meal being around ¥1300). This beautiful place is lit with hanging fairy lights and also has rentable office space for entrepreneurs and writers.
Cafés and Restaurants
Amehare on Flickr
- Café Mercurius Located right next to the 7/11. It offers free Wi-Fi, and the menu includes coffee, juice and delicious bagels. Be careful though – just a café latte is ¥600. However, the fresh and yummy bagels are well worth the money.
- Café Monkey Sometimes has people playing music outside. With a relaxing atmosphere, gelato and crushed ice on the menu and services available in English, it’s more accessible and arguably more tourist-friendly than Mercurius.
- Manin Restaurant Located on Sarugakucho Road, towards Shibuya. News anchors, actors and comedians often go there for a drink or a meal. Manin has friendly staff and a calm atmosphere, although it’s a little expensive. If you’d like to eat there, order the soba – the chef’s delicious speciality soup that comes with it is one of a kind.
- Osaka Ousho Ramen Right outside the east exit of the station, it has delicious and affordable Osaka-style ramen and gyoza (Chinese dumplings) near a Family Mart convenience store. Despite being in Daikanyama, the prices are very good.
- Sasa Grill Burger Outside the east exit and turn left. At the end of the little cul-de-sac is a gourmet burger shop; fairly rare and a stone’s throw from the station, it’s worth a visit if you’re in the mood for meat.
Vanessa Pike-Russell on Flickr
- Hacienda del Cielo A Mexican restaurant which is close to Manin. It’s in between Subway and a gym, which is, unfortunately, exclusive to residents of Shibuya. Check out the unique drinks vending machine opposite the gym – it sells foreign drinks quite rare in Japan, such as root beer and cream soda. Close by and visible from the vending machine is a rather plain-looking, grey building. In here, up on the 10th floor, is a somewhat secret, but absolutely excellent, Mexican restaurant. It’s hidden on the roof of the building, overlooking the streets as far as Ebisu. If you visit, order the tapas – they’re affordable and delicious.
- Takoyaki If you love this Osaka-style octopus dish, there’s a takoyaki shop near the station, between the 7/11 and Subway. 8 pieces of takoyaki is ¥540, which is enough for one or two people. There’s also a small beer store right next door to compliment your meal.
Things to Do and See
Aside from fine dining, there are a few must-see spots in Daikanyama. Very close to the station, near the hat shop mentioned earlier, is a tall, manmade tree, perfect for a photo spot. If you follow the road opposite the tree, you’ll come to one of Daikanyama’s most popular hangout spots – Tsutaya Book Store.
free range jace on Flickr
Tsutaya has a floor of books, a floor of music and a floor of rentable DVDs, including the newest Hollywood releases. On the ground floor is a Starbucks, where you’ll often see writers and artists working on their latest work. On the second floor is a very expensive café, which you need to pass through to get from one building of Tsutaya to another. Finally, on the ground floor of the third building is a large Family Mart; if you’d like a quick snack, it’s got a much larger selection than most convenience stores.
Outside Tsutaya is a beautiful candlelit restaurant – beware, however, as it’s quite expensive. Nearby is a dog grooming shop, easily noticeable by the huge dog statue outside. If you love little dogs, Daikanyama is an excellent spot for you – it’s difficult to walk around this district without seeing at least one pug, chuahua or toy poodle.
Carlos Jimenez on Flickr
Daikanyama is also home to some luxury massage boutiques and, of course, hair salons. If you’d like a massage, a great place is Serapia, at ¥2000 (plus tax) for 30 minutes. Serapia is located on the floor above Subway restaurant, about a thirty-second walk from the iconic tree.
no_typographic_man on Flickr
Although there are many unique places in Daikanyama, many familiar shops and restaurants are there too. Close to the station, in the same building as Peacock Supermarket, is a Seria – a ¥100 shop selling everything from kitchen utensils to notebooks. There is also a Subway restaurant close to the Daikanyama tree, although you won’t see any other fast-food restaurants such as McDonald’s or KFC. Along the same road as the Subway is a 7/11, where you can also get free Wi-Fi. Upon exiting the station via the east exit, there’s also a Lush body care store.
chinnian on Flickr
Daikanyama is a hidden treasure amongst the many fascinating places of central and eastern Tokyo. If you find yourself longing to see somewhere different, away from the beaten tourist path, and you’d like the chance to perhaps see someone famous, a trip to Daikanyama is a must-see on your list of things to do in Japan. Don’t forget your camera!
How to get there
Naohisa TSUCHIDA on Flickr
- By train: Daikanyama Station is on the Tokyo Toyoko Subway Line, in between Shibuya and Nakameguro. Alternatively, you can catch a JR train to Shibuya Station or Ebisu and walk from there. It’s about fifteen minutes from Ebisu’s West Exit, and about fifteen minutes from Shibuya’s Hachiko exit.
- By bus: The Hachiko bus from Shibuya also goes to Daikanyama; if you get off at Sarugakucho, it’s ¥150 per adult one way. The bus also has services available in four languages besides Japanese – Arabic, English, Danish and Malaysian.