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A Short Guide to Koenji, Tokyo

In the city of sky scrapers where there’s a population density of six thousand per sq km, it’s straightforward to assume it may be exhausting to find a second of peace. But move by means of Shinjuku station, leap on the Chuo line, and only three stops away you’ll discover Koenji; one of the metropolis’s most necessary artistic hubs, and the birthplace of sub culture in Japan’s capital.

Discover Koenji (Photograph: Aleister Kelman by way of Flickr)

Koenji is an easy-beat part of Tokyo where the buildings only rise three or four storeys, the streets are lined with pink lanterns and tangled cables drape between road lamps. It used to be a farming settlement but was enlivened by an inflow of people who’d misplaced their houses within the Kanto Earthquake of 1923. By the fifties it had grown into an necessary a part of Tokyo and was common with locals for its kissaten (small cafes serving tea and occasional).

Over the past weekend of August, Awa Odori (dance) pageant is held in Koenji, which many Tokyo residents will guarantee you is the perfect within the city. Every year, around ten thousand performers dance by way of the streets accompanied by Taiko drums, kane bells and shinobue flutes, watched by a whole lot of hundreds of spectators who flood the streets for the weekend. Residents of all ages can be out to rejoice and it’s unmissable when you occur to be in town presently.

It’s not solely in the summertime months that music and dance is alive and nicely in Koenji. This place has a robust inventive group. Through the sixties and seventies, Koenji made a reputation for itself by turning into residence to the counterculture movement. It was a comfortable base for punks and hippies to collect and these roots have nurtured a robust artistic and activist tradition in this a part of city. Most days you will discover an area singer-songwriter or band enjoying to a gathering crowd.

Koenji Awa Odori summer time celebration (Photograph: Takashi Hososhima by way of Flickr)

Conventional Koenji

Central to Koenji’s core tradition is its quite a few Buddhist temples and Shinto shrines. Hikawa Jinja is a Shinto shrine which was allegedly shaped within the 12th century. It has a meteorological shrine on its grounds which was prayed to in conflict time for weather accuracy and is now prayed to by college students of meteorology for good luck, or by those hoping for good climate.

Koenji, one of the main Buddhist temples within the space was inbuilt 1555. The third Tokugawa Shogun was a patron of this temple, giving it status and causing it to lend its identify to the world. These previous establishments remind the wanderer of the antiquity of Tokyo and strengthen its defining attribute of being a place which has managed to uphold custom alongside innovation.

As you wander the pedestrian streets here it’s additionally value retaining an eye fixed out for conventional structure. Most of the picket homes in Tokyo have been demolished to be replaced with earth quake proof buildings, but in Koenji, houses with sliding doorways, paper walls and large glass home windows, that look out onto small, wild gardens, can still be found.

At the Koenji Hikawa Shrine (Photograph: C-Monster by way of Flickr)


Walking into BnA ‘artist’ Lodge (166-0002 Suginami 2-Four-7 Koenjikita) is like wandering into an animation. Most partitions are painted with scenes from fairy tales or myths and the aesthetic is vibrant however still recent and classy. The founder defined that he needed to create an area where locals would also want to hang around, a spot that might grow to be a melting pot for internationals and Koenji residents to meet and share inventive concepts and visions. The bar is nearly all the time filled with fascinating characters and the texture of artistic spirit is undoubtedly present.

Junjo Lodge (166-0003 Suginami 4-40-20 Koenjiminami) is built into the first flooring of a much bigger building and inspired by traditional Japanese housing. Snug, clean, and an amazing insight into conventional architecture, this can be a excellent spot to keep. Although it’s situated within the coronary heart of a modern neighbourhood, you might feel like you will have been transported to one other time.

A great choice for these on a finances is Grapehouse Hostel Koenji (165-0034 Tokyo Prefecture, Yamato Cho 3-1-5). That is extra of a light-weight, ethereal area than the typical hostel and is stored clear. Every bed has a person mild and charging portal. There’s area for travellers to meet within the widespread room, and it’s potential to explore the encompassing area while nonetheless dwelling affordably.

Slightly out of the centre of Koenji, Bokuno Café and Lodge Koenji (166-003 Tokyo Prefecture, Koenjiminami 2-48-12) is an easy place to rest a weary explorer’s head in a peaceable a part of city. The employees are notoriously absent however when you’re there simply to mattress down this is a simple and convenient choice away from the hustle and bustle, however nonetheless inside strolling distance to the action when it calls you.

Fugu Sashimi (Photograph: Raita Futo by way of Flickr)


In case you’re looking for a famed Japanese dish, then Genpinfugu Koenji – No – Seki (2-Three-3 Koenjikita Suginami 03-3330-3129) is a superb place to experience consuming “fugu” (AKA puffer fish). The poison in a single fugu is sufficient to kill thirty people. Worry not, the Japanese authorities has made it regulation for fugu chefs to research the fish for several years earlier than they will get into the kitchen. This can be a great spot to attempt the delicacy in soups, starters or as a most important course.

Sushizanmai Koenji is one department of a sequence run by a businessman turned nationally famous sushi chef. The sushi is persistently good however it’s mainly value coming right here to chuckle on the animated videos of Zanmai himself wielding a Samurai sword at a fish market whilst buying an enormous tuna. It’s a sort of fantastic madness value immersing in. The reside mackerel shouldn’t be for the faint-hearted.

In the direction of the northern a part of Koenji is Karashitei Higashi Koenji (3-58-8, Wada, Suginami), a steamy Korean BBQ joint. True to Korean BBQ fashion, a small BBQ is lit in the midst of your desk and plates of various components, like cuts of meat, are introduced out. You’ll be able to prepare dinner it simply how you prefer it, medium, rare or someplace in between and maintain ordering till you’re full. The sauces are second to none.

If it’s scorching, Tachigui Kigari Soba Koenji (2-16-2 Koenji Minami, Suginami, 166 – 0003) serves nice chilly soba noodles which are a staple within the summertime in Japan. They’re brought out in a field on a bed of superb bamboo strips with a separate pot of dipping sauce. They’re equally nearly as good once they’re scorching and this place goals to cater to a variety of culinary preferences.

Koenji is residence to a plethora of various communities, and it exhibits in the food obtainable. To at least one aspect of Takano Seika is an area referred to as Daichi Ichiba, which was beforehand a market however is now residence to a number of Izakayas and eateries. Chopsticks Koenji Honten, a Vietnamese restaurant in this complicated, is a must. The Vietnamese house owners have imbued the place with an authentic feel and environment, good costs and, as in most eating places in this space, there are just a few tables so the food comes shortly. The Pho is prime of the record with perfectly cooked noodles and choices for starters embrace rice rolls and deep fried snacks. It’s also a fantastic place for these consuming gluten free as a lot of the menu is rice-based, somewhat than wheat.

Additionally on Nakadori Shontegai Street is a small restaurant referred to as Dachibin (Three-2-13 Koenji-Kita, Suginami-ku), run by Okinawans who serve up real Goya Champuru (fried bitter melon) and Okinawa Sobu. The Okinawans are famend worldwide for his or her lengthy lifespans, so chow down right here and also you may make it to 100 and two years previous.

If animal products are off your menu then there’s a cosy and serene restaurant referred to as Meu Nota (Koenjiminami, Three Chome−45−11), which serves up basic vegan consolation food like tacos, nachos and curry. Be sure to order a tea to accompany your food as their brewing selection is especially special and chosen with care to embrace rosehip, burdock and Yerba Mate blends.

A typical afternoon in Koenji (Photograph: lazysupper by way of Flickr)


Nakadori Shontegai Road is a superb place to hang out in the evenings. As well as the eating places we’ve listed, there are greater than a handful of tiny bars, Izakayas (traditional Japanese consuming and eating institutions) and yakitori diners. It’s west of the station and is a superb place to go earlier than you head out dancing.

Otherwise there’s Craft Beer Market Koenji (2-22-6 Koenji-kita, Suginami-ku, Tokyo) where there are about thirty beers on tap. The employees is helpful and can advocate favourites or beers that complement certain dishes. There’s a choice of fusion foods on the menu including seaweed pizza and quite a lot of other bizarre however scrumptious mixtures.

For a quieter night time out, head to Cocktail Shobo (Three-8-13 Koenji-Kita, Suginami-ku). That is part library, part coffee store, half fantasy food stop. Open until 12pm for late night time espresso drinkers, right here you can see any sort of scorching chocolate you possibly can imagine, racks and racks of previous books on the market or swap and a number of other dishes inspired by the favorite meals of characters in books on the cabinets.

Koenji High (Photograph: Lucius Kwok by way of Flickr)

Music and Theatre

For music, Koenji is scorching. Muryoku Muzenji (3-67-1 Koenji-Minami, Suginami-ku), a teeny tiny stay home underneath the practice tracks has been rated one in every of Japan’s weirdest venues. Cats are an enormous deal in Japan and the owner of this place has collaged the walls with reminders of those tiny lions. There’s a small stage on the front and area for an intimate gig with area for around fifty individuals sitting on cushions or standing and stomping, relying on the acts; the music ranges from tech-punk to grunge to psychedelia.

Knock Koenji (Koenji Minami Three-48-6 B1F) is an unassuming basement bar within the PAL arcade which hosts Tokyo local artists and DJs enjoying mainly ambient and experimental sounds. It’s solely open on the weekends and there aren’t all the time on-line listings so it’s value simply going along to see what’s occurring. For those enthusiastic about digital music it’s also an excellent place to drink and dance alongside individuals involved in the native scene.

Koenji High (4-30-1 Koenji-Minami, Suginami-ku) is especially a scorching spot for local indie rock and electronica bands and infrequently hosts acts from outdoors of Japan. It’s the most important reside area in the area with room for up to 300 individuals and in 2010 it hosted the Tokyo Blip Pageant, a world occasion which showcased video game-inspired music.

Za Koenji (2-1-2 Koenji-Kita, Suginami-ku) is an unbiased theatre for modern performing arts. The vision of founder, director and playwright Makoto Sato was to create a forum theatre where individuals from communities of all ages and all nationalities might meet in drama, dance, music and storytelling. It’s open to participation and there are performances which anybody can attend. It’s an exquisite approach to get acquainted with the world and the individuals via play and improvisation.

Make buddies in Koenji (Photograph: Gakuto Ochi by way of Flickr)


Koenji has been on the hit record of buyers in Tokyo for years now due to the fact that it’s house to more than forty classic outlets. You will discover virtually anything right here; from candy colored, barely dusty second-hand gear that makes you sneeze, to a tradition of explosive DIY culture in addition to a lot of outlets that host a number of the wiliest designers from the land of the rising sun and beyond.

Hayatochiri (3-4-13 Kita Koenji, Suginami ku, Tokyo) is understood for promoting a few of his designs to Woman Gaga. You’ll discover him behind his store gluing diamonds, studs and mirrors onto leather-based jackets or around city sporting a pair of denims made completely of badges, sifting by way of trays of trinkets on the lookout for the perfect factor he can use to pimp his slippers. The shop front seems like a green monster and the door is its mouth. Scorching tip: examine the sale rail outdoors for a discount.

Simply next door is Nincompoop Capacity (3-4-13 Kita Koenji, Suginami ku). To enter this wonderland you will need to climb a paint-splattered hearth escape staircase, the walls surrounding that are caked in posters for local events. Once you reach the door, pull arduous, and don’t be alarmed by the bells that chime as you enter a boudoir of adidas sweatshirts meshed with pink frocks, jumpers with 3m lengthy sleeves, mesh onesies and hoodies that go down to your knees. It’s one of many Tokyo fashionistas’ havens, completely sprinkling kawaii (cute) culture on prime of a grungy outsized sports fashion.

Macaronic (2-38-4 Koenji-kita, Suginami-ku, 166-0002) is like a department store for local designers, housing experimental creatives from thrifters to creators from Osaka in addition to Tokyo. They’re the type who shred up previous ties to create hats made from plaits and use kitchen cleaning bobble scrubbers to make extravagant padded sleeves. This isn’t for many who travel to japan to explore the concept of minimalism, but in addition one not to be missed by those that come to Tokyo for eye busting colour clashes and textures.

If it’s not rags however décor and residential aesthetics you’re looking for, Scrap Studio (Four-8-7 Suginami ku, 166-0003) is the inside design heaven of this a part of city. You’ll be able to’t miss it for the twinkling lights displayed in the windows, glowing from a distance as you walk down the road. Where there is perhaps rails, there are rows and rows of re-purposed lamps, including a Zildjan cymbal mounted on an engraved picket stand and hand-made lampshades lining the partitions.


No guide to a Tokyo district can be full with no pointer to the most effective local “onsen” or scorching spring tub. Kosugi-yu Onsen (Three-32-2 Koenji-Kita, Suginami-ku,Tokyo) is Koenji’s best and one of the oldest traditional tub homes within the city, with paintings of Mt. Fuji on the partitions. There are milk baths and scented baths however sadly no electrical baths here (found in other elements of Tokyo – apparently extremely invigorating!) It’s open until 10pm and a few ten-minute walk from the station. Take a night out to soak right here, chat to locals and let your body rest.

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