I was expecting Zoshigaya to be bustling, if not completely rammed, on the Thursday of Golden Week. But it was quiet, relaxing and a surprisingly green oasis away from the busyness of Ikebukuro (which is apparently the second most busy station in the world after Shinjuku). Life in this area somehow feels a little slower compared to my bustling town of Shimokitazawa.
Zoshigaya is not a place I'd ever been to before. I actually had no idea that it was even there, although I do vaguely remember hearing about it from creative friends. I was expecting yet another concreted area of the city with generic buildings and chain stores, but that couldn't be further from the truth. Retro vibes abound, sympathetic renovations of gorgeously historical buildings, no clearing the way for modernism in this small neighbourhood. Thank goodness.
If you’re coming from Ikebukuro, Zoshigaya is around a 10-15 minute walk from Ikebukuro central on the Yamanote/ Saikyo/ Fukutoshin/ Morunouchi lines or a 3 minute walk from Zoshigaya Station (Fukutoshin Line).
I recommend getting off at Zoshigaya on the Fukutoshin line (around 20 mins from Shibuya) Exit 3. Take a left out of the station, cross over the train line on your right and walk a little ahead. To the right you’ll see a Zelkova-lined avenue (around 3 minutes from the station).
I wandered through this shady road and stopped for a delicious iced coffee at Kiazuma Coffee, a beautifully rustic, renovated Japanese shop house with the cutest second floor accessed up a ladder-esque set of stairs. The speciality beans are ground as your coffee is ordered. It doesn’t get fresher, or tastier.
The main reason for visiting Zoshigaya was to meet up with Ken Tanaka (@kenfrog), a Fukuoka-born artist, who was exhibiting in Kiazuma coffee shop.
Ken’s circular works on canvas are mesmerising and are all hand-drawn in pen without a plan. I love the idea of meditative drawing and Ken is such an interesting artist I really wanted to meet him in person. The canvas I was hoping to buy had already been sold, so I commissioned one for my birthday gift (which I can’t wait to receive).
After the coffee stop I wandered to the end of the road, stopping to peer in the teeny boutiques along the way. Taking a left at the bottom of the street I found Kishimojin-do temple (an important cultural property). Within the temple grounds is a 700 year old Ginkgo tree named the ‘Child-rearing Tree’, designated as a national treasure by the Metropolitan government. This temple has a deep history and ‘Kishimojin’ is revered as the goddess of safe pregnancy and child rearing.
If you’re lucky you’ll catch the traditional ‘dagashi-ya’ san, Kami Kawaguchi-ya during opening times (10-5pm). Founded in 1781, it’s as if this traditional sweet shop in the grounds of the temple has been frozen in time. Squid on sticks, senbei, ramune and the cutest Obachan serving treats to kids and nostalgia-seeking adults alike. The prices seem to have been frozen in time too!
Taking a right just after the dagashi-ya san, I wandered through the back streets and then through the tree-line avenues to Homyoji (temple). The pedestrian pathway at the side of temple brings you out on Azuma Dori, the main street to Ikebukuro. At the junction you can find the delicious Racines Bread and Salad shop selling all kinds of amazing donuts, pastries and salads. I took home 3 different types: peanut cream with raspberry icing, chocolate crumble and raspberry iced.
For my lunch I opted for a Japan-style office lunch at the well-know curry-rice chain, Coco Ichibanya. I ordered the Ebi Katsu (prawn cutlet) with a han-juku tamago (soft boiled egg) and managed to find a table away from the crowds. Watch the video for eggy goodness (Vegans look away!) and make sure the sound is on for beautiful supermarket music!
All-in-all, the wandering, coffee and lunch stop took me around 2 hours, but 3-4 hours would be better to take in the other points of interest in the area such as the Missionary House Museum and Zoshigaya Cemetery. Next time, I will plan my route in a huge loop so that I can avoid central Ikebukuro altogether and stay in the Zoshigaya area for a peaceful day out.
Zoshigaya Station (Fukutoshin Line)
Meijiro Station (Yamanote Line)
Toden Zoshigaya Station (Toden Arakawa line)
Ikebukuro Station (Yamanote/ Saikyo/ Marunouchi/ Fukutoshin/ Yurakucho Lines)
OTHER POINTS OF INTEREST
Zoshigaya Missionary House Museum
Recognised as the oldest western-style building in the city.
Address: 1 Chome-25-5 Zoshigaya, Toshima City, Tokyo 171-0032
Tuesday- Sunday 9am-4.30pm
The resting place of Natsume Soseki and Hachiro Sato.
The weeping Sakura lantern festival is held annually on October 16-18.
Zoshigaya Teppan-yaki Senbei Oguraya | 雑司ヶ谷『鉄板焼せんべい』小倉屋製菓
(Traditional Rice Cracker Shop)
Address: 1-5-2 Zoshigaya, Toshima-ku, Tokyo
Hours: 9:00 a.m. – 6:00 p.m.
Holidays: Sundays, National Holidays
CoCo Ichibanya Minami Ikebukuro
Address: Tokyo, Toshima City, Minami Ikebukuro, 2 Chome−13−10
Racines Bread and Salad
Address: Tokyo, Toshima-ku, Minami Ikebukuro 2-12-12
Kiazuma Coffee Shop
Address: 3 Chome-19-5 Zoshigaya, Toshima City, Tokyo 171-0032
Address: Tokyo, Toshima city, Zoshigaya 3-15-20
Kami Kawaguchi Ya (Sweet shop)
Tabineko Zakkaten (旅猫雑貨店)
Handmade zakka goods
Address: 2 Chome-22-17 Zoshigaya, Toshima City, Tokyo 171-0032
Hours: Weekdays 1-7pm, weekends 1-6pm
Holidays: Monday and Tuesday
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I'm Victoria, the founder, designer and creator at Bikudesigns, a vintage kimono accessories brand in Tokyo, Japan.