Neighbourhood Watch: Kichijoji

After what felt like forever, dreary winter has finally come to an end, making way for bright and cheery spring. What better way to celebrate this much-awaited season than by taking advantage of its perfectly warm weather and strolling around one of Tokyo’s currently trending neighbourhoods, Kichijoji?

Harmonica Yokocho Kichijoji -- Photo by Odigo Travel
With the same vibe as Shimokitazawa, shopping opportunities like in Shinjuku, and attractions similar to Ueno Park, Kichijoji seems to attract groups of all ages and personalities, from hip teenagers to families with children.
The streets right outside the north of the station are reminiscent of those in Shinjuku, lined with ramen shops, izakaya bars, coffee shops, chain restaurants, game centers and upscale shopping malls.
Perhaps the most popular tourist destination at Kichijoji, however, especially during this time of the year, when the cherry blossoms have started to bloom, is Inokashira Park.
Straight ahead from the south exit of the train station is a narrow street leading towards the park. Like in Shimokitazawa, this street is filled with various shops selling antiques, ethnic products and vintage clothing, creperies, yakitori stands, Japanese specialty restaurants, themed bars, and cafes.
At the end of the street, is the entrance to Inokashira Park, from which you can really go whichever direction you would like, considering all the activities the park has to offer.
Not far from this entrance is a large pond where visitors can rent paddleboats, rowboats, and even swan-shaped boats for just a small fee. A rowboat costs 600 yen for an hour, while a pedal boat and swan-shaped boat costs 600 and 700 yen for thirty minutes, respectively. Rumours have it that if a couple rides a boat together in the pond, they are destined to break up. Despite this, it still remains one of the ultimate date spots in Tokyo. The pond is exceptionally beautiful when the cherry blossoms are in full bloom, draping over the pond and covering the surface of the water.

Inokashira Park -- from Flickr cc by Kanegen
There is also the Inokashira Park Zoo, which would surely be a hit among the kids. Top residents at the zoo include “Hanako” the Asiatic elephant, wild cats, and monkeys. Right in front of the zoo is a small snack stand, selling local Japanese sweets and snacks, such as dango rice sweets and rice burgers, recommended for an all-Japanese experience.
Another popular attraction at the park is the bright red shrine located at the east end of the pond dedicated to the Japanese Buddhist goddess Benzaiten. Here, visitors are welcome to explore the shrine, pray to the goddess, draw their fortune, and write their wishes on cardboard panels. Make sure to wash your hands the entrance, however, before touching any holy object.

Inokashira Benzaiten Shrine -- Photo by Odigo Travel
Walking around the park is really a calming and relaxing experience. During your visit, you will surely lose track of time and get lost in nature at one point, because of the several winding paths, but the scenic view will make up for it. As for me, I can definitely imagine coming back soon, once the cherry blossoms have fully bloomed, for 花実 (hanami), or flower viewing, and visiting the ever-popular (and busy) Ghibli museum nearby.
Kichijoji should be at the top of every tourist’s list of places to visit in Tokyo, along with Shibuya, Harajuku, Akihabara and other usual tourist destinations. There is always something to do for everyone, whether you are a nature lover, shopaholic, or even a foodie.
To see more of Angeline's favourite spots in Japan click on her profile below!

Angeline Elopre