Kichijoji is a popular neighborhood for travelers to visit in the north-western part of Tokyo, mainly due to the famous Ghibli Museum and Inokashira Park. But among the Tokyoites, it is ranked as one of the most desirable areas to live in Tokyo. The rent here isn’t expensive, especially compared to Shinjuku (even though they are relatively close), and there is a huge variety of restaurants, izakayas, and bars. Even for students it is a convenient place to live, as there are 9 universities in the neighborhood as well. Visit Kichijoji for a taste of authentic local nightlife in Tokyo!
Kichijoji has been a prosperous area since the Edo Period, when a great fire in another part of Tokyo forced a number of people to relocate from their former homes and settle in Kichijoji. At that time, Kichijoji was part of the Musashi territory, but it didn’t yet have a specific name. The people who settled here were particularly attached to a temple called Kichijoji located in a completely different part of town, and they decided to name their new home after that temple. The population of the neighborhood only grew from there, as the quality of the water from Lake Inokashira and the Kanda River gathered even more people to the area.
During the Edo Period, a statue dedicated to Benzaiten, the Goddess of Water, was built, and the village expanded. Kichijoji became prolific thanks to the abundance of water and the benevolence of the Goddess. The fortune of this area continued until the 19th century, when the JR train line started transiting to and from Kichijoji. At the turn of the 20th century, several military production factories were established here, but unfortunately, during World War II, a large part of Kichijoji and its factories were destroyed. But thanks to the popularity of the area, and the fact that it had flourished before the war, the reconstruction was fast.
Kichijoji has preserved the same post-war aesthetic up to now, which makes it fascinating to explore. Kichijoji stretches out in several directions, and each part of it is equally interesting. As soon as you leave the station from the south exit, you will have such a great time exploring Inokashira Park, the heart and symbol of Kichijoji. The streets that lead to the park are filled with cute little shops that sell all sorts of things. From second hand shops and boutiques to stores selling miscellaneous supplies and decorative goods, there is no lack of shopping options in Kichijoji.
Inokashira Park is the perfect spot for spending a relaxing day. It is one of the biggest parks in Tokyo and offers several attractions. Like most Japanese gardens, it is designed to be beautiful in every season, and it is particularly famous in spring for its sakura trees, or cherry blossoms. If you come in March or April, you will see a lot of people picnicking under the trees with their family, friends, and colleagues, as well as a lot of young girls dressed in cute kimono, ready to snag the perfect picture! In the middle of the park is Lake Inokashira, where you can enjoy a fun (and often romantic) swan boat or pedal-boat ride. The park also has a zoo, popular with children and adults alike.
While circling the park, don’t forget to visit the Benzaiten Shrine. The shrine was built here in 1197. Benzaiten is a Shinto Goddess, and is associated with water and art. Her power is said to have helped the area flourish and prosper. You might want to pay a visit out of respect, especially if you are on a date. The goddess is said to be really jealous, if you visit the park as a couple without paying her shrine a visit, you will be cursed and doomed to break up. Or at least, that’s what they say…
Places to Eat
If, while exploring the park, you need to grab a bite and rest a bit, go to SubLime. Despite the modern name, this is a Japanese style izakaya. They are open for lunch and dinner time. SubLime offers a menu able to satisfy any craving you might have! It is located really close to Inokashira Park, and the view from here is really gorgeous!
Address: 4 Chome – 1 – 11 Inokashira, Mitaka 水月ビル2F
After visiting the park, you’ll definitely want to explore more of the neighborhood. About 10 minutes from the park, towards the north exit of the station, there are many local restaurants that will grab your attention. One of my favourites is Tamaya. Tamaya is really famous in the area for its yakitori, or chicken skewers, but it’s way more than just that! In particular, they have a yummy menu for lunch, where you can enjoy oyakodon, a rice bowl with chicken and egg on top (which is awesome!), chicken tempura, and so much more. The atmosphere is like a typical local izakaya, but with a modern and simple decor.
Address: 1 Chome-34-2 Kichijoji Honcho, Musashino
Just around the corner is another one of my favourite spots, Momokichi. Momokichi specializes in chicken, since “momo” means chicken thigh, and fresh vegetables, which is a bit of a rarity in Tokyo. They serve fresh, high-quality veggies sourced from local farms in a number of their dishes, including their “vegetable sashimi platter.” They also have some unique chicken dishes, such as chicken dango (meatballs) and chicken tartar (half-cooked minced chicken)! Don’t worry, it’s perfectly safe and very delicious.
Address: 1 Chome-34-3 Kichijoji Honcho, Musashino
If chicken is not your thing, why not try some Niigata tare katsudon? At Tarekatsu they combine the western style pork cutlet with the traditional Japanese sauce called tare. Japanese love tare, which usually is associated with yakitori, or chicken skewers, and is often used as a marinade or dipping sauce. Tare is a mix of soy sauce, mirin, dashi fish broth, and a couple more secret ingredients that make Tarekatsu’s sauce so special! When combined with fried pork cutlet, it creates a totally tasty and unique flavour.
Address: 1 Chōme-1-9 Kichijōji Minamichō, Musashino
While walking around Kichijoji north of the station, stop by Satou, a tiny food vendor famous for menchi-katsu. Menchi-katsu are beef croquettes made with minced wagyu beef, onion, and seasonings mixed together and then deep fried. These are so good that there is usually a queue outside the shop to buy them! Perfect for an energizing and yummy snack while exploring.
Address: 1 Chome-1-8 Kichijōji Honchō, Musashino
If you’re a fan of dreamy places, this is probably the cutest cafe in Tokyo. Born as a simple shop, Hattifnatt cafe now includes a cafe and a small gallery area as well. Each piece you will find here is one of a kind. Why not having a coffee break in a cafe that looks like it is straight out of an enchanted forest? Treat yourself with some latte art and a sweet treat!
https://www.hattifnatt.jp/blank-citr (Japanese only)
Address: 2 Chome-22-１ Kichijoji Minamicho
Kichijoji has a really cute style and vintage atmosphere, but nothing says “authentic” like Harmonica Alley. Even though the majority of Tokyo is becoming more and more modern, there are still a few hidden spots left where you can feel the history and local culture, like Harmonica Alley. This area is made of a few narrow streets filled with small standing bars and izakayas. The area owes its name to the fact that its shape reminds people of a harmonica mouthpiece. In the evening, you will see many locals going to their favourite eatery to enjoy some sake and good company. Come to discover this area and experience local nightlife in Tokyo!
Sunroad Shopping Arcade
This is the most famous shopping street in Kichijoji. Despite being relatively new (opened in 1970), it became instantly famous. Here you will see locals, Japanese tourists, and international travellers all looking for a good deal. If you are looking for a cute souvenir, either for you or for someone back home, come and check Sunroad Shopping Arcade. The arcade has a mix of brand shops and local shops, which makes it perfect to explore!
For Ghibli and Miyazaki fans, this place doesn’t need any introduction. This art and animation museum is like stepping into a dream. From the moment you enter, you will feel as though you’ve been transported into one of your favourite animated movies! By the way, which Ghibli movie is your favourite?
The Ghibli Museum is a must-see when in Tokyo, but check the availability of the tickets online ahead of time. Being one of the most famous spots in Tokyo, the tickets are sold more than a month in advance, and they tend to sell out quickly!
Kichijoji is the perfect place to get a closer look into Japanese everyday life. Definitely less crowded and touristy than other famous neighborhoods like Shinjuku or Shibuya, and it will satisfy your desire to explore and teach you all about local nightlife in Tokyo. Come to Kichijoji and share a drink with the locals!