Kichijoji regularly tops polls as Japan’s most livable neighborhood thanks to a lucky deck of lovely nature, quirky cafes, boutique stores, and a thriving anime scene that’s behind some of the country’s most popular series in recent years.
An unaffected, go-with-the-flow vibe prevents the neighborhood from becoming a pretentious cohort to fashionable Tokyo spots like Aoyama and Daikanyama. Instead Kichijoji and its surrounding ward of Musashino, is more comparable to a place like Portland, packed with all the culture and things to do of a major city but with a small town, community feel. It’s a neighborhood that will quickly become your go-to weekend destination, and one you’ll want to return to again and again.
In collaboration with Musashino City, we’ve created this video of some of the unique things you can do in Kichijoji right now. Remember, this is just a handful of our recommended experiences. and you’ll want to check out more at the Musashino City official tourism page (link below).
1. Upgrade your watch at Knot
Anyone who appreciates top quality craftsmanship should stop by this sleek watch store in the narrow back streets just east of Nakamichi-dori. Made in Japan, each watch incorporates an element of traditional Japanese culture, whether it’s material from the edges of a tatami mat or techniques used in the making of kimono. The neat part is that watches are customizable; owner Endo-san will guide you through the process of choosing the face and band to make a completely personal product. Prices are extremely reasonable too, starting from just ¥10,000.
2. Have a manga with your coffee at Cafe Zenon
To call Cafe Zenon manga-themed would be a disservice to an innovative project which provides an immersive space for fans to enjoy manga in different ways. Yes it’s pretty darn cool that you can order a latte with your favorite character printed on the foam while browsing the manga-lined bookshelves, but what really makes this place worth visiting is the artwork on display across the two floors. Check out the collaborations with cult series like Fist of the North Star and Cat’s Eye —you can even take a piece home with you as Cafe Zenon sells manga merch too.
3. Shop rare sneakers at Skit
Sneaker freaks will go nuts for this store, a reverent consumer shrine to the iconic shoe. Kamamoto-san started his enterprise at just 22 with 10 pairs from his own collection and now runs branches in Osaka, Sendai and Fukuoka. A comprehensive range of sneakers from international and domestic brands is made up of new arrivals on the regular, rare limited editions and stock that was never sold somewhere else but has been given a home here. All the goodies are wrapped in plastic to maintain quality, but this also gives the small store the feeling of a walk-in Christmas stocking that you’ll gladly lay down cash for —whether ‘tis the season or not.
4. Listen to live jazz at Sometime
A stalwart of Kichijoji’s long-established jazz scene, follow the steps down into Sometime and enter what feels like a genie’s lamp —if the genie was an obsessive jazz fan with a penchant for pickles. Founded by Iori Noguchi in 1971, jazz legends big and small have graced the elevated stage which sits in the center, surrounded by a mishmash of chairs and tables below and above. Sometime is also a beloved restaurant in its own right, with an eclectic menu to accompany nightly performances. Sometime also places on the lower end of the jazz club pricing scale, offering a much more affordable experience than some of the other places in the city.
5. Go bar-hopping in the maze of Harmonica Yokocho
Harmonica Yokocho is almost as hard to find as it is to escape from. Little by little, a tangle of tiny bars and eateries took over the interior of this former black market which still retains all the characteristics of a clandestine sanctuary today. And Harmonica Yokocho is definitely a refuge for all manner of city residents, each with a story or ten to tell over some of the best food and drinks in town. Don’t miss the second floor of Tetchan, one of the first stops after you enter the yokocho (meaning alleyway), whose recent makeover came courtesy of award-winning architect Kengo Kuma.
6. Stuff yourself with local’s favorite yakitori at Iseya
Nothing short of a Kichijoji institution, Iseya is one of those wonderfully atmospheric izakaya (Japanese-style pubs) that deserves its own museum, though if the smoke-stained walls could talk, we’re not entirely sure if we’d want to hear the stories. Charcoal-grilled yakitori (chicken skewers) is the name of the game here, though the joint is equally famous for its humongous shumai (dumplings) which have burned the roof of the mouth of almost every Tokyoite. Opened in the late 1920s, there are two main branches; one sits on the edge of Inokashira Park and has a window for takeout skewers, while the other you’ll find on the corner of a main road, a block in front of the station’s central exit. Both promise raucous atmospheres and dangerously potent drinks.
7. Row a boat under the blossoms at Inokashira Park
An absolutely gorgeous park, Inokashira often surprises first-timers with its size and diverse landscape. Babbling brooks, groves of trees and winding mossy pathways sprawl outward from the park’s iconic central pond, where wide stretches of turf are bustling with artists, musicians and street performers. Explore further and you’ll stumble upon a picturesque shrine, the waterside home of the goddess Benzaiten founded in 1197. A coin and a prayer here might bring you good fortune. That is unless you decide to row a boat out on the pond with your S.O., in which case her jealousy will cause a breakup soon after —or so the urban legend goes. The pond’s beauty might prove too hard to resist however, especially during cherry blossom season.
8. Say a prayer at Gesso-ji
Follow Sun Road to this tranquil temple founded in 1659 for a moment away from the hustle and bustle of Kichijoji’s shopping arcades. The compact complex includes several interesting Buddhist structures, with a cherry blossom-lined pathway leading past an atmospheric cemetery to the main building. Local festivals and events take place here throughout the year; a highlight is the summer bon-odori (dance festival) when the temple gets to let its hair down in a vibrant and colorful celebration of ancestral spirits.
9. Explore old-school shotengai
Shotengai, pedestrian shopping streets, are a wonderful way to immerse yourself in everyday Japan and Kichijoji has enough of a variety of them to keep even the most discerning shopper entertained. Right out of the station’s northern exit is Sun Road, a covered maze of shops reminiscent of a bazaar, except better organized. Shop everything from shoes to perfume to meat and menchi katsu, a kind of deep fried meat cutlet that’s a favorite local’s snack —just look for the queue outside meat deli Kichijoji Satou. On the other side of the station, Nakamichi-dori is a shotengai that doubles up as a promenade for young couples browsing the kawaii knick knacks. Nearby, Nanaibashi-dori is the perfect route to wander down to Inokashira Park dipping into the vintage clothing and homeware stores along the way.
10. Meet the community at local events
Kichijoji’s event calendar is busier than your average socialite meaning that the chances of joining a local event are pretty high no matter what time of year you visit. Starting with spring, the cherry blossom celebrations in the various parks and gardens draw visitors from across Tokyo (you won’t be able to move for revellers in Inokashira Park), while coming soon after is the Kichijoji Music Festival, a 30-year-old annual street showcase of local and international talent. In September the events take a more traditional yet surprisingly rowdy turn with the Kichijoji Autumn Festival. Mikoshi (portable shrines) transport the gods inside from temples across town to central Musashino Hachimangu temple to ring in the fall season. Finally, featuring pop-up stores, anime-themed booths in and around Inokashira Park and performances from popular anime, the new Anime Wonderland is a much-needed acknowledgement of Kichijoji’s importance in the world of anime.
Getting to and around Kichijoji
Kichijoji Station is served by three main lines within the Greater Tokyo area. The Keio Inokashira Line (which runs between Shibuya Mark City station to Kichijoji station), the JR Chuo-Sobu Line (running between Chiba station and Mitaka Station via Shinjuku), and the JR Chuo Line Rapid (which runs between Tokyo station and either Otuski or Ome stations, also via Shinjuku).
The Musashino tourism office website gives you insight to local events, activities, sightseeing, local restaurants, and hotel information.
Alternatively there are two offices near to Kichijoji station where you can pop in and speak to the team:
Musashino City Urban Tourism Corp
- 5-minutes from the north entrance of Kichijoji Station by foot
- 1F, Musashino Chamber of Commerce and Industry BLDG, 1-10-7, Honcho, Kichijoji, Musashino-shi, Tokyo 180-0004
Kichijoji Machi Informational Center
- Located within Atre Kichijoji shopping center, adjacent to the train station
- Hanabi-no-Hiroba, 1F, atre Kichijoji Main BLDG, 1-1-24, Minamicho, Kichijoji, Musashino-shi, Tokyo 180-0003