Shinjuku-ku _ Kagurazaka district

Shinjuku-ku _ Kagurazaka district

Kagurazaka is one of my favorite district in Tokyo. It’s located near Iidabashi station and it’s easily accessible from 3 different metro/rail station/lines: Iidabashi (JR,  Nanboku line and Oedo line), Kagurazaka (Tozai line ) and Ushigome Kagurazaka (Oedo line).

Below a picture of the Iidabashi station.

For us Kagurazaka is just 2 Km far from our apartment therefore we normally go there walking from home and that’s the reason it became one of our favorite destination for our family evening walks, especially in summer.  The Neighborhood has so much to offer in terms of shops, restaurant, bar, cafes, temples, events, … so you will never get bored about it.
The main street is a long axis starting from the north east side of Iidabashi Station but from this primary spine there are several secondary streets that are worth a visit. My favorite one is extremely narrow and therefore only pedestrians can access. It’s located at the center of the neighborhood but it’s quite hard to find if you do not know where exactly it is. Along the narrow streets there are several great restaurants and bars. My favorite place on this street is definitely Isetou 伊勢藤.

Isetou ( ) is a traditional Japanese house where they serve only sake accompanied by few “traditional snacks”: edamame, miso soup and others. There are two important rules to follow if you decide to enter here: no photo and no loud chatting. The place is run by the same family from 4 generations and they want to preserve it as it is: a quiet place where to enjoy few glasses of sake without loud crowds around.
The space inside is gorgeous. It’s organized by one main area with two side tatami rooms. The main space has a counter table embracing a fireplace at the center where the owner prepare and serve the sake while the two side rooms in tatami have small tables and there are settled for small groups of people. When I entered there on my first time there was only one Japanese customer enjoying his sake and talking with the owner. Both of them spoke English and we had a nice conversation.  They were surprised I could find the place just looking around by myself and by getting curious about the quality of the building from outside.

Below a picture of the Isetou building

There is another interesting secondary street, parallel to the previous one. It’s wider and definitely more popular. Along the street there are several interesting restaurants: a garlic restaurant in a very characteristic building, a great and cheap Yakitori restaurant and a good French restaurant where they serve a large variety of Cidre (Le Bretagne bar a cydre).

Below a screenshot of a portion of the map I have created with Google Mymaps about all the places I recommend to visit in Tokyo.

On the other side of the main road there are two great Italian restaurants. I have to say that I don’t go often to Italian restaurants in Japan since I love cooking and normally I do enjoy cooking Italian dishes on the weekends but sometimes when I want something special (or I just do not want to cook J) I know where to find great Italian restaurants in Tokyo and in Kagurazaka there are two of them right next to each other. The name of the two restaurants are: Il Bollito and Gli Scampi. One is an Emilia Romagna cuisine restaurant and the other one is a Venetian style restaurant. Both restaurants are small and I suggest you to make a reservation if you want to make sure to find a table there.
Talking about Italian restaurant… I forgot to mention before that right next to the French restaurant La Bretagne there is a good pizzeria called Pizzeria Gelateria Zio which I recommend in case you are in a mood for pizza and you are in Kagurazaka. Talking about Pizza make me think that I should make a post only about great Pizza places in Tokyo…. Definitely I should.

Further north on the main spine street coming from Iidabashi you can find another interesting place: The Akagi Jinja (shrine). The shrine and the residential building next to it are designed by Kengo Kuma and Associates, the architect firm where I work. Few meters after the temple there is another building designed by our office and that is worth a visit: the La Kagu buillding, a shop like no others. The intervention from KKAA was a renovation of a previous Book warehouse into a double story bookshop and gallery. A wide organic-shaped wooden staircase lead you from the inclined street to the upper floor following the movement of the ground. On the ground floor is located the main shop, completely open towards the street while the bookshop, the gallery/exhibition space and another part of the shop is located on the upper level.

Below a picture of the La Kagu building exterior wood stairs

In front of La Kagu there is a lovely café and bookshop ( ) where to rest a bit before proceeding in exploring Kagurazaka.
For whoever are interested in Live music there is a nice new place very close to La Kagu building. The place is called U-ma Kagurazaka ( ). I found it accidentally and I have to say I really enjoyed there.

Kagurazaka is especially good in Summer and especially during the matsuri in July. The entire street is lighted by several traditional lamps creating a magical atmosphere. On the summer weekends the main spine street is close to the car traffic and therefore spending time there is even more enjoyable.
The success of Kagurazaka as a lively and beautiful district is connected with its own history and location in the city. On the internet you can find websites describing the history of this neighborhood and if you interested in visiting it and you have never read them I suggest you to take a quick look.

Other information about the architecture of Kengo Kuma in Kagurazaka here: