In Tokyo and already seen the main sights? Hop on a train from Shibuya or Shinjuku to Kichijoji for something different! This town offers traditional pleasures, modern charms, and is the perfect place for a date or simply a fun day out with friends or family.
After you`ve arrived at the station, make sure to visit Atre on the basement level of the station, a collection of some cool shops and a few super-fashionable cafes, one of which is styled to look like a greenhouse. Once you`ve had a drink and done some shopping, head to the north exit and cross the street to get to `Sun Road`, an undercover shopping mall with some flair. If you`re still peckish, there are plenty of restaurants and cafes selling delicious food down this street to help fill your stomach. There are also a surprising number of vegetarian restaurants in Kichijoji, so if meat-free meals are your thing, be sure to try one out.
Cross back across to the station and follow the signs to the Inokashira Park, on the opposite side of the station. This is the highlight of Kichijoji, and is particularly beautiful in spring and autumn. On your way drop in for some fro-yo (frozen yoghurt) – which is just becoming popular in Japan. Once you arrive in the park you may even be lucky enough to see some local musicians or street performers delighting a few spectators. If not, the scenery is still beautiful and the mood peaceful. Take a leisurely stroll around the paths on the bank of the lake with your loved one and take a few artsy snaps. There are a few cafes inside the park if you want to quench your thirst with some coffee or wine. At one end of the park there is also a large red shrine which reminds you that you`re in Japan and gives you a glimpse into traditional Japanese culture.
As you`re heading back, you might decide to grab your lunch or dinner in Kichijojji. There are a whole lot of izakaya (perhaps best described as the equivalent of a pub in Japan) between Inokashira Park and the station, so choose one, any one, and get eating and drinking. One thing to be careful of in izakaya is that, while they often have `all you can drink` packages which sound great (most are about 1000-2000 yen an hour), the drinks that will be brought to your table will probably be about one percent alcohol. Basically, they will taste like juice. For something stronger, grab a Sapporo or Orion Beer.
Photo : Taichiro Ueki on FlickrWhile there are lots of great izakaya in the area, on the second floor of a building on the street leading back to the station is one predominantly selling kushiyaki. This is a specialty of Osaka, and basically sells fried stuff on sticks – for example renkon (lotus root), onion, eggplant, chicken, every other meat and vegetable you can think of, cheese mochi (sticky cake), and – here`s the highlight – Oreo. That`s right, this particular Izakaya sells fried Oreos, covered in breadcrumbs, and presented on a skewer for you to eat (see pic below). Believe it or not, it may just be the most delicious thing you`ve ever tasted. You also get a bit of a show at the izakaya as they shout out your orders, clap, and generally go over the top whenever someone comes in, goes out, or orders. As you start your meal, remember the one important rule about this Japanese pub (and in fact all kushiyaki izakaya) - never double dip your kushiyaki in the dipping sauce!
Looking for something else to do nearby to fill up some time? Why not visit the Studio Ghibli Museum located just a 12 minute bus ride away from the station? If you`re already in Inokashira Koen, just walk there – the museum is actually located in the park - about a twenty minute leisurely walk from the entrance of the park from the station! Here`s the catch – the Studio Ghibli Museum is so popular that you can`t just rock up on the day – you will need to book a few months before. You can book your Studio Ghibli Museum tickets at any Lawson Convenience Store in Japan using a booking machine which resembles an ATM – just ask the friendly staff to help you make your booking and get your tickets. Alternatively, there are a few travel websites which buy up a whole lot of Museum tickets and then sell them online for ten times the price. While pricey, the good thing about this system is that you can buy these highly-priced tickets the day before instead of trying to acquire them months before, when you may not even be in the country.
Photo : Takashi Hososhima on FlickrStill not enough Kichijoji for you? Check out our page on Kooky Kichijoji Cafes as well!