Back in time in Yoyogi Park & Halloween in Tokyo

Yoyogi Park time line1.) The start (1946 ~ 1960)

The purpose was actually to focus on the history of Halloween in Japan, but apparently there is a connection between Halloween and Yoyogi park area. So I will tell the history of these two in one story.

It is amazing to see how an area we know now, wasn’t there a couple years before. After the World War II, GHQ, General Head Quarters, the American commander of allied occupation changed Japan to a Democratic country, took over the area of Yoyogi Park.  Yoyogi Park called at that time Washington Heights and the construction started in 1946. It was a huge village with 827 Western looking houses for American Air force and their families and other facilities like churches, theaters and schools. It felt like you were in the US instead of Japan. Japanese people were not allowed to enter except like maids, post-delivery servants and other supported staff. Because of the American Village next to Harajuku station, it is imaginable that there were some shops in Harajuku which focus more on American customers. In 1950 the first Kiddyland selling toys and foreign books, opened in Omotesando dori (Harajuku) and this store focused on American families in Washington Heights.

Washington Heights Harajuku<credit>

Washington Heights Harajuku
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Kiddyland in Harajuku

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2.) The change (1962 ~ 1983)

In 1962 Japan got its country back and American bases were disappearing, which means Washington Heights was also not a closed American community village anymore. Japan and America agreed to keep Washington Heights and used it for the Olympic Games 1964. Partially it had been demolished to create stadiums and other Olympic Games facilities. The part which was kept, it was used as accommodation place for athletes. Finally after the Olympic Games, there was not much choice than changing Washington Heights to a certain area which fits next to the stadiums and Meiji shrine. In 1964 the first trees were planted in the new plan of Yoyogi Park. Except one house of Washington Heights, as a memory, all the parts of Washington Heights were swiped away. Yoyogi Park was completed in 1971.

Before that, Harajuku has still been attracted to foreigners. A lot of Americans wished to have some Halloween items during Halloween. The toy store Kiddyland provided Halloween toys and decorations for foreign customers and it was such a success, the store has organized Halloween parades from 1983. Yearly more and more families in costumes have joined the Kiddyland Halloween parades.

Olympic games 1964 Dormitories

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Olympic Village 1964

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Halloween Kiddyland Harajuku Tokyo

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3.) The booming tradition (1997 ~ now)      

The international influence around Yoyogi Park, years before, has spread the costume love further more. Until now, there are some Elvis Presley look-a-likes at the entrance of Yoyogi Park and the cosplay stores around Harajuku station. Wearing costumes in Japan has been seen as something awesome, and the American theme-park Disneyland came with a huge Halloween theme in 1997. This is actually the beginning of acknowledging Halloween in the Japanese society. It became a big trend and more foreigners have attracted Japanese to celebrate Halloween. Although not everybody in Japan appreciates that, since the Halloween party peeps have been making trouble in the society during Halloween. Beside of a couple of Elvis Presleys in front of Yoyogi Park, the park itself is nothing related to the Americans anymore. It is a popular park for strolls, picnics, seasonal vibes and international events.

yoyogi park
<credit> Elvis Presley Yoyogi Park
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Want to know what is around Yoyogi right now, please check our other blog To-Do-List in Yoyogi, click here.

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Back in time in Takadanobaba

Takadanobaba timeline

1.) The start (1596 ~ 1650)

If you know Takadanobaba, it is totally not like a natural fairytale. Do you agree? In late 16th Century the area of the current Takadanobaba was a fairytale-look-a-like quiet park.

Once upon a time, the shogunate Tokugawa Ieyasu of Tokugawa clan, the powerful feudal military government, had a wife called Takada-dono. Takada-dono means Highness Takada. She was originally from the Takada state and moved to Edo, current Tokyo, because of her husband Tokugawa. She liked to be around in a quiet area outside of the Edo castle city and her favorite spot was…the spot which called Takadanobaba right now. She lived there in a palace with a nice view of nature.

Wife of Tokugawa Takada-dono

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Horseback archery Takadanobaba

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In 1636, after the death of Takada-dono, the ground had become a place to train horses and her son called that place Takadanobaba, which means Takada’s horse field.

高田 = his mother’s name (takada)

 = possessive form, ‘s in English (no)

 = horse (ba)

 = field (ba)

In Takadanobaba, there were samurai’s practicing horse riding and other horsemanship.
The popular martial art was Yabusame, horseback archery. Still now, every year in Toyama Park, south side of Takadanobaba there is Yabusame festival, horseback archery festival.

Horseback archery perfomance Takadanobaba

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Tokugawa horseback riding

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2.) Change (1694 ~ 1910)

The original name of this area is Totsuka and during this period, the area lost the name Takadanobaba and it got the original name, Totsuka, again. This area stayed the same for a long time. Step by step more houses were established. In 1737, a new style of Yabusame was introduced, since archery was not anymore a thing in that time. The gun was the hot weapon from then and the original horseback archery faded away.

Takadanobaba station

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3.) Back to Takadanobaba (1910 ~ now)

The character of the green park with horses is kind of gone and around 1910 it started to become the Takadanobaba which we know now. Yamanote line had such a big influence of the urban change in this area. In 1910, Takadanobaba station opened and since then the name Totsuka got kicked out and the addresses started to change to Takadanobaba.

From 1964 until now, the Yabusame, horseback festival has taken place as a Shinto ritual yearly in October.

Waseda dori Takdanobaba

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Urban growth Takadanobaba

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2021 Takadanobaba

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To know more about the history in Tokyo, check our other blog about Roppongi:
Back in time in Roppongi

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To-do-list in Nakano

Akihabara will always be the Mecca for converts to otaku-ism, but if you’re really serious, I mean really serious about picking up those collectibles during your stay in Japan, Nakano Broadway is the place to do it. Akihabara is crowded and touristy, once you do find the collectible you’re interested in there’s a chance it could actually be fake.

Nakano Broadway’s shop owners generally know what’s what. Which brings us to the most prolific pop culture goods shop housed there.

To-do-list Map Nakano

Nakano has a mix of everything, which is great for many people. Otakus are chilling there, but next to Nakano Broadway, there is a Showa-style izakaya district. Normally, it is crowded with many different kind of people who like to enjoy a pint in small restaurants, bars and cafes.

Close to South exit of Nakano station, there is a romantic street Renaga Zaka. Little lights along the streets, which remind me of Christmas lights. Stroll up the lit-up brick road and go for some wine at one of the Spanish eateries, or just a good old fashion nama beer at one of the fancy bars.
It has a totally different night life vibe than the Showa Izakaya area of Nakano. Are you searching for cocktail bars and more fancy French food, then this is your place.

 

Nakano station is in 13 minutes reachable from Shinjuku station by train:

  • Chuo line
  • Chuo Sobu line
  • Tozai line

 

Some historical facts about Nakano:

  • Nakano was an agricultural place, but after the Kanto earthquake (1923) in the metropolitan area in Tokyo, a lot of people had moved to Nakano and Nakano has become a popular residential area.
  • Between 1915 and 1983 Nakano had a big prison, called Former Nakano Prison. As visitors it would be interesting to see the remaining gate of the former prison.
  • In front of Nakano ward office there are 5 dogs statues. They represent the day the 5th ruler of Tokugawa family instituted animal protection laws, specifically for dogs.
    The memorial statues called Dog Shogun.

 

Interesting points about Nakano:

  • Day-time-people are able to join the food trucks, picnic, barbeque and restaurant terraces along the open green field.
  • The official Manga source for the die-hard anime and manga fans. But you are also able to find more than just manga and anime. Items of the 20th century American popular music and movies, movie figures, Barbie’s, trains and Gatcha Gatcha veding machines.
  • Tokyo Metropolitan Police Hospital in Nakano is one of the largest hospitals in Tokyo. If you have a problem that can’t be assessed in a small clinic, a hospital like this is where most go to get an in-depth check-up.
  • There are so many restaurants and bars to choose from.

 

For knowing the area a bit better, a map with images:

Nakano Central Park

Mangan and Anime

Gatcha gatcha anime NakanoOthers nakanoLife map Nakano

 

To know more local places to visit in Nakano, our reviews are interesting to read too. Bozhana tells her story of the neighborhood:
Resident Interview Happy House Orange with Bozhana

 

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To-do-list in Zoshigaya

Zoshigaya, a humble hidden area, between the outspoken siblings Ikebukuro and Mejiro. It’s humble, but special, especially for people who are interested in Japanese culture and history. Probably, having a daytrip in Tokyo in a quiet spot it is more recommended during the pandemic period too.

The most famous icon in Zoshigaya is the Kishimonji temple. It is known for worshipping a god of children, pregnancy and birth and surrounded with monumental Ginkgo trees which are about 700 years old. The second oldest ginkgo trees in Tokyo. They are impressively big! Recently, there is an anime called Saekano, how to raise a boring girlfriend. The story is in Zoshigaya area, and also one of the steepest slope in that area is showing on the background of this anime poster. It might be, Zoshigaya will be a more popular spot to visit, it is a potential spot with hidden gems and it is very convenient to live, since it is so close to Mejiro, Ikebukuro and Takadanobaba.

Zoshigaya map

Zoshigaya station is just 16 minutes walking to Ikebukuro station, 10 minutes walking to Mejiro station and 17 minutes to Takadanobaba station.
Zoshigaya station:
–  Fukutoshin line

Kishibojimae station:
– Toden-Arakawa line

Mejiro station:
– JR Yamanote line

 

Some historical facts about Zoshigaya:

  • Tokyo government created 6 cemeteries in Tokyo and Zoshigaya cemetery is one of the six cemeteries, opened in 1874. A lot of famous novelists and artists have their grave stones in Zoshigaya. Including the novelist Natsume Soseki. Tokyo cemeteries are not that creepy, people stroll, jog, and picnic in those areas.
  • Kamikawaguchiya is the oldest candy store in Japan. It was established in 1781, and still children and adults like to buy some traditional and modern candies.
  • In Japan, there are certain pilgrim routes and Zoshigaya has one of the famous pilgrim routes. Basically you visit 7 different temples and shrines to worship 7 lucky gods with different purpose. Homyoji temple is established in 810 and is one of the seven religious spotsin Zoshigaya. During New Year, some of the locals like to visit all the seven, to collect 7 stamps, which give luck if you have all of them.

 

Interesting points about Zoshigaya:

  • Close to Kishimonji temple, there is a small street with large Zelkova trees and along the street there is an old style Japanese coffee shop, Kiazuma Coffee, with a bit of modern hipster twist. It is quite popular to have a good coffee there with a piece of cake or a small hotdog. Beside of this café, there are some crafts shops and some ateliers of young designers.
  • McCaled old Missionary House is an American style house lived by an American missionary John McCaleb. Currently it is a museum (free entry) and it is unique, since it has Western and Japanese architecture techniques.
  • Beside of Kiazuma Coffee, other cafes and bread store are recommended too. Zoshigaya is a good spot for daytime.

 

For knowing the area a bit better, a map with images:

Zoshigaya CemeteryTemple and ginkgo tree Store: Candy and Melon panAubergine shrine Dango store and Missionary house Stores:ife map Zoshigaya Facilities

 

To know more local places to visit in Zoshigaya, our reviews are interesting to read too. Ms. R. tells her story of the neighborhood:
Resident Interview Happy House Stella with Ms. R.

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To-do-list in Nakameguro

Is Nakameguro a residential area? Especially in weekends and in March and April, you probably think Nakameguro is part of Tokyo’s center. But! Nakameguro is officially a residential district. It is noticeable when you arrive at the main road next to Nakameguro station, there are all apartments along this road. Despite being a place to live peacefully, there are many unique shops, restaurants, art galleries, green strolling areas and other facilities.

Not far from Nakameguro, there are some iconic spots for visitors, like Starbucks Reserve Roastery, Meguro Sky garden (a roof top park), Tokyo Metropolitan Teien art Museum, Hotel Gajoen and it is extremely close by Shibuya, Ebisu and Sangenjaya! It is a great place to visit several spots in 1 day. Going from one spot to another, the famous river is a good place to walk along. When all the cherry blossoms are blooming, it is the best moment to stroll along Meguro River, since this place is one of the most famous cherry blossom spot in Tokyo. Beautiful during daytime and nighttime. Although, during the blooming season, don’t expect a smooth stroll. It can be so crowded, that there are moments that you are trying to dive in a bath of people and pink flowers.

Nakameguro to do lmap

Nakameguro station is in 12 minutes reachable from Ebisu station on foot and 25 minutes reachable from Shibuya on foot. The trains and undergrounds which are coming to Nakameguro station:

  • Hibiya line
  • Toyoko line

 

Some historical facts about Nakameguro:

  • The name Nakameguro seems to come from an important guard of Edo period. “Naka” means “Inside”, “Me” means “Eye” and “Guro” came from “Kuro”, which means “Black”. Meguro, so Black eyes can from the guard statue with black eyes. That statue is to protect at the Edo borders.
  • Not so far from Nakameguro, closer to Meguro station, there is a temple called Meguro Fudoson temple. Around that temple there are at least 2 main points known of that area, the iconic Meguro-ame, in English Meguro candy. And the second iconic food was the bamboo shoot rice.
  • Apparently around Meguro there was a lot of bamboos. Nowadays the bamboo farmers have been disappearing.

 

Interesting points about Nakameguro:

  • Nakameguro is still changing, and more interesting shops, restaurants and galleries are coming. Especially Nakame Gallery Street under the railways, is becoming more elegant hipster style.
  • Interior Design of different cafes and shops are also interesting to check!
  • The cherry blossoms are a must-see

For knowing the area a bit better, a map with images:

Nakameguro restaurants

Nakameguro Temple and BookstoreNakameguro Coffee + Hawaii + Notebook store

Nakameguro Hotel Chocolat

Nakame gallery street

Nakameguro Aesop + Sri Lanka restaurant

Nakameguro others

Facilities map Nakameguro

Special thanks to Elena Calderon Alaez to guide us in Nakameguro.

This is about Nakameguro in Setagaya-ku, but in walking distance, you can easily walk to Yutenji. To know more about Yutenji, see our guide map:
To-do-list in Yutenji

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To-do-list in Yutenji

Tuuu-tuu-tuuu, for train geeks, Yutenji is probably an interesting area. A train geek opened a train curry restaurant and actually bought an original wheel of the last locomotive C57117. The original wheel is seen in public, not far from Yutenji station. The train restaurant has moved to the north part of Yutenji, but it basically has the same train theme as before.
Funny thing is, you will get your curry meal by a train toy, which goes through the restaurant.

Yutenji is a bit similar as Mishuku and Ikejiri area, since they are all three quiet residential areas, conveniently close to main areas, like Shibuya, Sangenjaya and Nakemeguro. Yutenji is just one train stop further from Nakameguro and is not far from Sangenjaya. So basically these main areas are in walking distance from Yutenji.

to do map yutenjeTrain to Yutenji

Yutenji station is in 2 minutes reachable from Nakanmeguro station by train and 14 minutes on foot, and 18 minutes reachable from Sangenjaya station by bus or 28 minutes on foot. The train which is coming to Yutenji station:

  • Toyoko line

Some historical facts about Yutenji:

  • The name Yutenji is derived from the famous temple, Yutenji temple. In 1723 a Buddhist monk opened this temple dedicated to his master Buddhist monk Yuten.
  • The kept wheel of the locomotive C57117 is made by Mitsubishi in 1939. In 1973 the locomotive went through Japan.

Interesting points about Yutenji

  • There are small good shops spread all over the place. A popular lunch café Torse, is in the middle of a residential area close to Yutenji station, but there is always a line of people waiting before it opens.
  • Yutenji was not a place of trains or locomotives, just the owner of the train curry restaurant is am extreme train fan and made Yutenji a locomotive area.
  • In the end of April, there is the ceremony for firemen at the Yutenji temple, Edo Firemen’s Annual Memorial. This event is a memorial ceremony for fire fighters who sacrificed their life.
  • In mid-July there is the summer children Obon dori festival. Normally people with their Japanese yukata wear, will come and join the obon dance.

For knowing the area a bit better, a map with images:

Train curry restaurant and Art galleryJam pack Sawing store

Coffee and Cookies

Mexican restaurant

Sweets and spicy curry

Others

Facilities Yutenji

This is about Yutenji in Setagaya-ku, but in walking distance, you can easily continue to Mishuku and Ikejiri. To know more about Mishuku, see our guide map:
To-do-list in Mishuku & Ikejiri

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To-do-list in Kagurazaka

Kagurazaka West side has small shops, cafes and art galleries. It is less crowded than the east side of Kagurazaka, although it doesn’t mean it has less interesting stuff. The famous Japanese architect Kengo Kuma and his architectural family members built some architecture pieces which make Kagurazaka West side more interesting.

Kengo Kuma renovated the old warehouse La Kagu to a Life style store with a bunch of wooden steps, Akagi Shrine and its surroundings. His wife  Satoko Shirohara (Spatial Design Studio) designed the tall sharehouse SHERE close to the warehouse La Kagu. And his son Taichi Kuma got an opportunity to design a small temporary foodtruck Trailer at Kuma’s property in Kagurazaka.

Kagurazaka to do list map

The stations and metros in Kagurazaka are

  • Tozai line (Kagurazaka station)
  • Yurakucho line (Edogawabashi station)
  • Oedo line (Ushigome-Kagurazaka station)

Some historical facts about Kagurazaka

  • Kagurazaka dori connected to the Edo castle (the current Imperial palace) started to develop in the 17th century with a lot of shops and houses of the Samurai warriors.
  • More in the 18th century it became more an entertainment area, since there was a red-light district developed with various theaters, the Zenkokuji temple and its festival.
  • Akagi shrine was built in 1300, but the latest version was opened in 2010.

Interesting points about Kagurazaka:

  • The character of France continues from Iidabashi to the west side of Kagurazaka by having several French patisserie stores and French international restaurants.
  • There is a lot of art or design touch in cafes and stores. With 2 small art galleries around, there is a café called Syrup which is also an exhibition space. It is the same for Hasabon. Also Weekender is interesting, it has art books to buy.

For knowing the area a bit better, a map with images:

The old area of Kagurazaka

Akagi shrine & Donutsu

Aux Merveilleux de Fred and coffee

Akomeya La kagu

Kameido bakery and Italian restaurant

E-to, Cat post office

others in Kagurazaka

Kagurazaka life map

This is more about the west side of Kagurazaka, but in walking distance, you can easily continue in Kagurazaka dori until Iidabashi station. To know more about Iidabashi, see our Iidabashi guide map:
To-do-list of Iidabashi

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To-do-list in Roppongi

Roppongi is well known of endless entertainment night life with an international vibe.

If you look back, how Roppongi developed, it is not a surprise it has turned to this international night life hub. Roppongi was an American military base, shortly after the world wars and the Americans created their entertainment facilities to enjoy during their free time. The bars and clubs were introduced too. Ever since, more and more international bars and restaurants have come.

But don’t forget, during day time Roppongi has many entertainment as well! Roppongi is an art hub, with 4 big museums (Roppongi Mori museum, National Art museum, Suntory museum and 2121 Design museum) and lots of galleries. They call it the Roppongi Art Triangle. Beside of the art facilities, Roppongi has a lot of shopping centers with great unique shops and restaurants. No any plans in daytime, no worries there are many things to watch in Roppongi.

Roppongi to do map

 

Roppongi station is in the center of Tokyo, it is easy access almost anywhere in Tokyo. Shibuya is reachable in 10 min. Tokyo station in 15 min. and Shinagawa in 21 min. The trains which are coming to Roppongi station and Roppongi Itchome station.

  • Namboku line
  • Oedo line
  • Hibiya line

Some historical facts about Roppongi

  • Roppongi means 6 main trees. It is still a mystery how the name came from, but the rumors are, either the name came from the 6 large trees which were the landmarks of the area, or there were 6 lords staying in this area, who coincidentally have this kanji 木 (tree) in their names.
  • Can you imagine, Roppongi was just a piece of empty land, a bit outside of old Tokyo?
  • Roppongi started to develop when it started to be a base camp for Japanese soldiers in 1890. Later on after the Second World War the American Military base moved to Roppongi.

Interesting points about Roppongi

  • Roppongi is well known for bars and clubs, but there are also other kind of entertainment. There are theaters and dance shows. Burlesque shows and theater are here too. Also if you would like to do salsa, here is the place!
  • As an art lover, it is nice to be in a hub with more art related spots. Roppongi has started to be an art and culture hub, starting with the big museums around Roppongi station and now with small galleries around it.
  • Every year there is a huge art event in Roppongi, called Roppongi Art Night. A lot of performances and art pieces outside at night and museums and galleries are open too.

For knowing the area a bit better, a map with images:

Roppongi Hills

Piramide Roppongi

Mori tower Roppongi

Drinks > Juices & Alcohol

Art Galleries Hub

Mid Town facilities & Swedish Restaurant

Food > Restaurant & Snack bar

Mid town Museums

Others

Roppongi Life map

To know more local places to visit in Roppongi, our reviews are interesting to read too. Alex from sharehouse Roppongi tells her story of the neighborhood:
Resident Interview Witt-Style Roppongi with Alex

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To-do-list in Kamikitazawa & Sakurajosui

When you walk around Kamikitazawa area and its neighbor Sakurajosui, there is one thing you will notice specifically. These areas have a lot of small green pockets, wonderful gardens and parks around. There is a long narrow Public garden between houses, it called Tamagawa Josui Second Park. It is a part of the 2000-meter waterway Tamagawa Josui, which was created in the Edo period to supply drink water to Edo town (Tokyo city). That canal had transformed to a park, which is lovely and beautiful, especially during spring time.

About 20 minutes on foot from Kamikitazawa station, there is a park called Roka Koshu-en Garden. This is a designated cultural heritage site, and the most unique part of this public garden is the original Japanese-style house from Tokutomi Roka (a Japanese famous author) and the high bamboos. Beside of these two parks, you have Shogun Pond Park and Koshinomiya park in walking distance. And there is a small temple (Mitsuzoin) which its architecture is interesting. You can tell this residential area is good for a walk or a run.

Kamikitazawa and Sakurajosei Map

Kamikitazawa and Sakurajosui stations are in 13 minutes reachable from Shinjuku station by train and Fuji mountain and Yomiuri theme park are reachable too from these two stations. The train which is coming to Kamikitazawa station and Sakurajosui station.
– Keio line

Some historical facts about Kamikitazawa
– Kamikitazawa started to develop when the station Kamikitazawa opened, which happened in 1913. So it has been residential for a long time, but it is developing more and more, since more people prefer living outside of the city center.

Interesting points about Kamikitazawa
– A lot of green and low built houses. Nature-friendly and peaceful area
– Some owners of hybrid café & shop like Kepo Bagel, Okaz design and Megane Coffee, started with their unique business because of their passion. Passion for design, food and coffee.

For knowing the area a bit better, a map with images:

Guide

To do list map kamikitazawaTo know more personal opinion of Kamikitazawa our reviews are interesting to read too. Edith from sharehouse Kamikitazawa tells her story of the neighborhood:
Resident Interview Happy House Kamikitazawa with Edith

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To-do-list in Sugamo

Searching for traditional food stores and red underwears in Tokyo, Sugamo is a good place to check it out. Another name of Sugamo is Grandma’s Harajuku (Obaachan no Harajuku). You will notice a lot of Japanese traditional snacks, sweets, tea and food which seniors love because of their childhood memory with. In the recent years, some modern stores are squeezed in between the old ones. It is basically a cute shopping area for seniors, families and younger visitors.

Sugamo map

Sugamo station is one of the JR Yamanote train stops, which makes it one of the convenient places to live. In 6 minutes you reach Ikebukuro station by train, With the Mita line, you have easy access to Tokyo station and Meguro station. The trains which are coming to Sugamo station
– JR Yamanote line
– Mita line

Some historical facts about Sugamo:
– Sugamo was a resting place for pelgrims. Beside of temples in this area, it needed stores for the travelers.
– The current Grandma’s Harajuku street was an important part of the road Nakansendo in the Edo period, which connects Nihonbashi, Tokyo until Kyoto

Interesting points about Sugamo:
– You will notice a lot of stores selling strong red items, especially red underwear. They restore health and the color symbolizes the seniors of 60 years old, becoming babies again. Babies called in Japanese “Aka chan”, which means little reds.
– It might started being a senior famous street, because of the famous temple of health and healing along this Grandma’s Takeshita Street in Sugamo.
– There is a semi-arcade street close to Sugamo station, which has been renovated with some sustainable technical equipment, like solar panels, led street lights and dry mist system during the hot summer.

For knowing the area a bit better, a map with images:

visiting places in Sugamo

Life map Sugamo

To know more local places to visit in Sugamo, our reviews are interesting to read too. Thidaphat from sharehouse Sugamo tells her story of the neighborhood:
Resident Interview Apricot Terrace with Thidaphat

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