Exploring Tokyo: Kichijoji Walking Tour
Picnic in the park, meet Totoro and travel back in time to a retro shotengai.
Kichijoji is just a 15-20 minute train ride from Shinjuku Station and one of my favourite neighbourhoods. It’s a trendy, popular area west of Tokyo, with a relaxed vibe compared to places like busy Shibuya. From vintage boutiques, spacious parks, a retro shotengai (shopping street) and a huge variety of cool restaurants and cafes, there really is something for everyone here. Have an afternoon free to go exploring? Check out this walking tour!
- Rummage through vintage shops and quirky boutiques on your way to Inokashira Park.
- Pick up some snacks and picnic besides the pond
- Ride the swan paddle boat (lovers, beware!)
- Visit the goddess Benzaiten and Totoro
- Caffeine break at the bird cafe
- Head back to the station (and back in time) to explore the retro shotengai
1. Rummage through vintage shops and quirky boutiques on your way to Inokashira Park
One of Kichijoji’s crowning features is its huge, verdant park that's just a five minute walk from Kichijoji Station. We’ll start by taking the Park Exit and heading south, but there’s lots to see first on the way there, including the vintage shops and quirky boutiques.
Kichijoji has a hive of vintage shops clustered in this area. Some recommendations to check out are Flamingo Kichijoji, Safari, Amber Lion, Santa Monica, Little Brothers, New York Joe Exchange and Nico. There’s a great list here too. If vintage isn’t your thing, there’s also lots of little boutiques and quirky independent stores dotted around here. You could definitely find an unusual souvenir!
Image source: Unsplash.com
2. Pick up some snacks and picnic besides the pond
Around the same area, you’ll notice loads of places to get snacks, from bakeries to German hot dogs, bubble tea and bento. Grab some lunch here and head into the park. In springtime, it’s bustling with people picnicking under the cherry blossoms, but the benches around the pond should be free at other times of the year for you to relax and watch people paddling around on the boats. Sitting among the lush trees and nature, it’s easy to forget you’re in the biggest city in the world.
3. Ride the swan paddle boat
Now join the others on the water! The boats are cheap, easy and fun to rent. Simply get a ticket from the vending machine, hand it to the staff and hop in one. There’s a few choices:
- Swan Paddle Boat
¥700 for 30 minutes; 2 adults max.
- Regular Paddle Boat
¥600 for 30 minutes, 2 adults max.
¥600 for one hour; 3 adults max.
Beware though! There’s a superstition saying that couples who take the swan boat will break up soon afterwards, so choose the rowboat or regular paddle boat option if you’re in love!
(If you don’t want to do too much walking after this point, or don’t have much time, skip to number six.)
4. Visit the goddess Benzaiten and Totoro
More than just a beautiful, green space, this park has a ton of other things to do. Head a little further south-west and you’ll come across the Benzaiten shrine near the zoo. Benzaiten has a long and complicated history, but she’s associated with being the goddess of everything that flows (music, water, words etc). That’s why the shrine in Inokashira Park has been built on a small island surrounded by the water.
Continue south for about five more minutes and you’ll bump into Totoro! Although you need to book tickets way in advance if you want to actually go inside the Ghibli Museum itself, you can still walk around the outside of the museum’s charming buildings and take a photo with Totoro through the window.
Image source: Flickr.com
5. Caffeine break at the bird cafe
Now we’re at the edge of the park. If you need to grab a caffeine fix before heading back to the station, cross the road to Kotori Cafe. Japan is famous for its cat cafes, but at Kotori Cafe you hang around with birds as they play and flit around in their enclosure. All drink orders come with a cute bird cookie and everything from the decor to the menu is themed around our feathered friends. There’s a nice review here.
Image source: chuo-besthome.co.jp
6. Head back to the station (and back in time) to explore the retro shotengai
The Sun Road is a 300-meter long shopping street with a glass roof and a huge variety of eclectic shops. Here you’ll find everything from fashion to daily essentials, plus plenty of bargains, all set within this 1970s feeling arcade.
Once you’re shopped out, there’s an abundance of food options around Kichijoji Station and all along the Sun Road if you want to get dinner before calling it a day. Coco Ichibanya and Ichiran Kichijoji are always good Japanese chain restaurant options if you’re on a budget. They’re also perfect for if you’re dining solo and, though they are chain restaurants, these places are essential for you to check out if you’re in Japan! Ichiran is one of the most famous chain ramen restaurants in Japan and the Kichijoji branch is usually less busy than it’s Shibuya cousin, as there’s less tourists. Coco Ichibanya is a popular, cheap and quick Japanese curry restaurant. You can customize everything from the spice level to your toppings and portion size.
Image source: town.ietan.jp
If you want something cheap but from an independent place, Garage 50 is a small restaurant serving ¥600 pizzas from a retro VW campervan. The owner cut the roof off and converted into a kitchen. Grab a mouthwatering gyoza and rice set at Minmin for around ¥700 (it’s busy at peak times), or drop into Stamina Ramen Nobu Chan for a huge choice of old-school ramen at just ¥500.
Image Source: kichijoji-go.net
Written by: Jessie Carbutt
Originally from the UK, Jess lives, works and writes in Japan. A lover of exploring and anything creative, she's always discovering new things in her Tokyo home.
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