[From March Issue 2012]
Taking the Chuo Line from JR Tokyo Station for about 30 minutes, you will begin to see a lot of greenery out of the train window as you arrive at JR Kichijoji Station. Kichijoji is located almost in the center of Tokyo.
Most people associate Kichijoji with Inokashira Park and this just goes to show how well-known Inokashira Onshi Park is. There are about 20,000 trees planted in the park, and here you can enjoy the beauty of nature all year around. You can observe seasonal flowers and small animals, such as wild birds, at the botanical garden inside the park. Many people bring their lunch and spend all day in the park.
Numerous swan boats and rowboats float upon a large pond within the park. The pier is crowded with couples and families, especially when the cherry blossoms are in bloom, or the trees begin to change color. The park also boasts of spacious tennis courts and has swings and other playground equipment, so visitors can enjoy light exercise as well as serious sports.
On weekends and holidays, crowds of people gather to watch performances held at locations throughout the park. The art market, where artisans sell handmade accessories and knick knacks, is also held on weekends. A few artists also set up shop, and, because of their outstanding talent, there are always scores of people queuing up for a portrait.
Within the park’s grounds is Inokashira Park Zoo, which contains an area for petting guinea pigs, and a small amusement park. Although the zoo mostly houses small animals, its biggest animal, an Asian elephant named Hanako, has become a symbol of Inokashira Park. The food stand in the zoo has been renovated and now offers fashionable café-style set lunches.
Walking along Nanaibashi Street from JR Kichijoji Station toward the park, you will come upon some Asian or ethnic-style shops and second hand clothing stores, this area can get really crowded with people on weekends and holidays. In the evenings there’s always a long line of people waiting to buy yakitori (char-grilled chicken on a skewer) outside Iseya, a reasonably-priced bar that is one of the oldest establishments on the street. Next to a flight of stairs leading down to the park is Donatello’s, a shop famous not only for its gelato, but also for its resident cats.
As you head toward Mitaka no Mori through the park, the Ghibli Museum gradually comes into sight. In the museum, there is a café and an area where originals goods are available for sale. With short movies to enjoy, you can spend a whole day there and never get bored. To visit the museum, reservations are necessary.
Walking along the railway tracks of the Chuo Line from the north exit of the station toward Nishi-Ogikubo, you will come upon Cafe Zenon, a café that has patio seating. The shop fuses manga and art, and is overseen by manga artist HARA Tetsuo, known for his comic “Fist of the North Star,” and HOJO Tsukasa, the author of “City Hunter.” Because the café offers an excellent menu of food and drinks, it has a wide appeal.
Heading from Cafe Zenon toward the north exit of JR Kichijoji Station and turning into Nakamichi-dori Street, you will find Animate, an animation goods store, located at the intersection in front of the station. Carrying a wide variety of anime DVDs and computer game products, ranging from well-known, to cult titles, the shop offers special goods and services not available anywhere else. Also, events featuring voice actors and manga artists are held there regularly.
Kichijoji is famous for having a number of cafés that offer authentic coffee, but the most unique is Ocharaka, located on Nakamichi-dori Street. This café specializes in Japanese tea, and there you can enjoy a delicious cup of green tea, or other kinds of tea. Owner Stephane DANTON is from France. He opened this shop after studying green tea for many years.
In Kichijoji, all kinds of commercial buildings, such as department stores and discount shops, stand side by side. Another building “Coppice” has recently joined their ranks, representing the new face of Kichijoji. The building also houses the Kichijoji Art Museum and Kyara Park, a store which carries character merchandise and is popular with young people.
Along Heiwa-dori Street in front of the station, there is a shopping arcade with small stores called Harmonica Yokocho. The arcade was given this name because the stores lined up together resemble the mouthpiece of a harmonica. With tachinomiya (drinking establishments where customers drink while standing), ramen shops and ethnic food restaurants, the arcade is popular with customers who like to casually pop by for a rest in the middle of a shopping trip and with people who come for a quick drink.
Walking down Harmonica Yokocho, you will see long queues around Daiya-gai (Diamond Street). These queues are a common sight in Kichijoji and are formed outside the meat store, Satou, or the Japanese sweet store, Ozasa. At Satou, they sell menchi-katsu (deep fried minced meat) using Matsuzaka beef, and at Ozasa, sweets containing ingredients such as azuki beans or youkan (sweet bean jelly), and monaka (a wafer cake filled with bean jam), are sold.
Stretching from the north exit of the station is a shopping street called Sun Road. Covered with an arched roof, you can enjoy shopping there even in bad weather. At Gessoji Temple in Area B of Sun Road, a zazen-kai is held every Tuesday morning for participants to practice Zen meditation. There is also a dojo (a practice hall) for aikido, where you can come into contact with Buddhist teachings and Japanese martial arts.
Kichijoji is so popular that it invariably comes first place as the town in Japan that most people want to live in. This is partly down to the town’s excellent public safety and its pleasant green spaces, such as Inokashira Park. Moreover those who love Kichijoji actively participate in events and community development projects in order to make the town even more comfortable for its visitors and residents.
Text: BOTAMOCHI Anko