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How to spend a day in Tokyo’s most charming neighbourhood, Kagurazaka

How to spend a day in Tokyo’s most charming neighbourhood, Kagurazaka

If you prefer spending a relaxing afternoon reading in a quiet cafe or peeking through little shop windows away from the bustling streets and crowds of downtown Tokyo (東京), you’ll like Kagurazaka (神楽坂). 

 

As one of Tokyo’s most charming neighbourhoods, it is situated in an unlikely place—sandwiched between the prominent university area of Waseda (早稲田) and the more upscale district of Iidabashi (飯田橋), with its shiny offices and high-rise buildings. 

 

If I were to pick my absolute favourite place in Tokyo, it would be Kagurazaka, an area seemingly made entirely for cafe-hoppers, trinket-shoppers, and backstreet explorers. There are French cafes, beautiful shrines, old shophouses, and some hidden surprises to discover too. Here’s how to spend a day in Kagurazaka, plus some cool spots to check out. 

 

Visit the Akagi Shrine

Akagi Jinja. (Image credit: Winnie Tan) 

 

Just outside one of the exits from Kagurazaka Station (神楽坂駅 Kagurazaka-eki) is Akagi Shrine (赤城神社 Akagi jinja), an ancient site that in 2010 was entirely remodelled by renowned Japanese architect Kuma Kengo (隈 研吾). You don’t have to know anything about architecture to appreciate the beauty of it though; the shrine embodies a simple, minimalist aesthetic with unpainted wood making up the entire structure, while glass panes add an elegant and modern touch. 

 

The area surrounding the shrine is mostly residential, and thus quiet and serene. Start your day on a good note with a prayer or a wish here, before heading to lunch.

 

Akagi Shrine (赤城神社)
Address: 1-10 Akagi Motomachi, Shinjuku-ku, Tokyo 162-0817
Nearest station: Kagurazaka Station (神楽坂駅)
Opening hours: 9am–5pm 

 

Sample some French cuisine 

Savoury scallop and bacon crepe. (Image credit: Winnie Tan)

 

Locals sometimes refer to Kagurazaka as “Little France”, and authentic French restaurants and bakeries can be found all around the area. For decades, Kagurazaka has housed a large French expat population thanks to a nearby French school, so you can expect good quality cuisine that gets pretty close to the original!

 

Apple and caramel crepe. (Image credit: Winnie Tan)

 

My favourite place to go for lunch is La Bretagne, located in a cobblestone off the main street. The whole restaurant is charming, and being there feels like you’re sitting in someone’s own dining room. The place has a very cosy, European cottage look that’s almost like taking a trip to France. 

 

Crepes are the specialty at La Bretagne, and you can get them either savoury or sweet. It’s really hard to choose just one to try, so bring a friend with you if you’re looking for some variety!  

 

Maison de la Bourgogne. (Image credit: Winnie Tan)

 

Maison de la Bourgogne is another fantastic restaurant where French chefs prepare truly authentic French cuisine. A lunch course that includes an appetiser, main dish, bread, and a drink is available from ¥1,800, and you’ll get to dine in a shop that will transport you to Paris, with hanging globe lights and artful movie posters plastered on the ceiling. 

 

La Bretagne Creperie (ル・ブルターニュ神楽坂)
Address: 4-2 Kagurazaka, Shinjuku-ku, Tokyo 162-0825
Nearest station: Kagurazaka Station (神楽坂駅), Iidabashi Station (飯田橋駅)
Opening hours: 11:30am–8pm (Weekdays), 11am–8pm (Weekends)
Tel: +81 3-3235-3001

 

Maison de la Bourgogne
Address: 3-6-5 Kagurazaka, Shinjuku-ku, Tokyo 162-0825
Nearest station: Kagurazaka Station (神楽坂駅), Iidabashi Station (飯田橋駅)
Opening hours: 11:30am–8pm
Tel: +81 3-3260-7280

 

Shop for nice things

Display at Iwakura Stone Goods. (Image credit: Winnie Tan)

 

Looking for authentic souvenirs? Trawl through the many shops in Kagurazaka and you’re sure to find the perfect memorabilia of your trip to Japan. The stores here are stocked with beautiful, everyday Japanese items like handmade porcelain dishes, Japanese slippers, household ornaments, and more. For the parent who likes tea, there’s a tea shop with freshly roasted hojicha (ほうじ茶) and tea wares, or for the fashionable friend, second-hand kimonos can be found here too. 

 

A shop I really enjoy is Akomeya, a trendy shop blending modern design and traditional Japanese aesthetics. Items sold inside include interesting food products from around the country, high-quality kitchen utensils, and handcrafted items that all make really great souvenirs. 

 

AKOMEYA TOKYO in la kagū 
Address: 67 Yaraicho, Shinjuku, Tokyo 162-0805
Nearest station: Kagurazaka Station (神楽坂駅)
Opening hours: 11am–8pm
Tel: +81 3-5946-8241

 

Have tea by the moat

Canal Cafe. (Image credit: Winnie Tan)

 

If there’s one place you absolutely have to go to on a nice day in Kagurazaka, Canal Cafe would be it. Located at the very end of Kagurazaka Street and outside Iidabashi Station, the cafe has two sections: a restaurant with indoor and terrace seating, and a deck area beside the old moat of the former Edo Castle. 

 

In a bustling metropolis like Tokyo, a cafe like this feels like a hidden oasis. Sitting by the deck, you’ll find a peace of mind within the urban jungle. While the surrounding view is generally of modern residential and office buildings—with the occasional passing of bright yellow and orange trains—there’s also plenty of greenery (and sakura in spring!).Keep an eye our for some fish and birds drifting along in the water too. The rowboats floating along the deck are available for rental, if you fancy doing something special. 

 

Canal Cafe
Address: 1-9 Kagurazaka, Shinjuku-ku, Tokyo, 162-0825
Nearest station: Iidabashi Station (飯田橋駅)
Opening hours: 11:30am–11pm
Tel: +81 3-3260-8068

 

Street snacks, desserts, & gourmet meals

Nikuman from Kagurazaka Gojuban. (Image credit: 極地狐 / CC BY 2.0)

 

Kagurazaka is one of Tokyo’s best gourmet towns to eat, so come with an empty stomach! There are quick snacks you can grab while you’re strolling along the main street, including Kagurazaka Gojuban (神楽坂五十番), a shop famous for their nikuman (肉まん steamed pork bun). Japanese sweets like matcha parfaits and anmitsu are available in cafes around the area—just look out for signs on the street. Also a treat are packaged sweets from local shops that are perfect for omiyage—a souvenir you can bring home to share with friends and family. 

 

Nabe dish from Kagurazaka Ishikawa. (Image credit: City Foodsters / CC BY 2.0)

 

Foodies into fine dining will find several Michelin-starred Japanese restaurants in Kagurazaka, including Kohaku (虎白) and Kagurazaka Ishikawa (神楽坂 石かわ),  which are named among the best restaurants in Japan. Just remember to place your reservation way in advance! 

 

Kagurazaka Gojuban Main Store (元祖五十番神楽坂本店)
Address: 4-3 Kagurazaka, Shinjuku-ku, Tokyo 162-0825
Nearest station: Iidabashi Station (飯田橋駅)
Opening hours: 10:30am–9pm
Tel: +81 3-5228-8450

 

Kohaku (虎白)
Address: 3-4 Kagurazaka, Shinjuku-ku, Tokyo 162-0825
Nearest station: Iidabashi Station (飯田橋駅)
Opening hours: 5:30pm–12am (closed Sunday)
Tel: +81 3-5225-0807

 

Kagurazaka Ishikawa (神楽坂 石かわ)
Address: 5-37 Kagurazaka, Shinjuku-ku, Tokyo 162-0825
Nearest station: Iidabashi Station (飯田橋駅)
Opening hours: 5:30pm–12am (closed Sunday)
Tel: +81 3-5225-0173

 

Access 

The main street of Kagurazaka stretches between JR Iidabashi Station (飯田橋駅 Iidabashi-eki) and Kagurazaka Station on the Tokyo Metro Tozai Line (東京メトロ東西線 Tōkyō Metoro Tōzai-sen). Either station gives easy access, though I prefer starting my day at Kagurazaka Station and move towards Iidabashi, as it’s an easy downhill walk the entire way.  

 

Kagurazaka-shita street, as seen from nearby Iidabashi Station. (Image credit: Winnie Tan)

 

One of my favourite things about Tokyo is how much contrast and variety life in the city offers. You can look up at neon lights and talking billboards in one area, and drink coffee by an ancient moat in another—every day can hold a different experience if you know where to look. As for Kagurazaka, there’s plenty of secrets and surprises to discover still. To find them all, you’ll just have to come visit yourself! 

 

Header image credit: Winnie Tan

 

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