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Kagurazaka area guide

Peek behind the scenes of a refined neighbourhood full of tasty surprises

Bishamonten Temple in the heart of Kagurazaka

Famed for its picturesque cobblestone streets, ample selection of French restaurants and sophisticated atmosphere, Kagurazaka first rose to prominence as a hanamachi (geisha district) in the Edo era. Benefiting from a convenient location just outside the city's castle gates, it continued to serve as a centre for entertainment long into the Meiji period, when Bishamonten temple's night markets and street performances drew crowds of well-off city-dwellers.

Escaping the Great Kanto Earthquake of 1923 more or less intact, the neighbourhood eventually came to host up to 150 ryotei (traditional fine dining) restaurants, some of which have survived to the present day. After the postwar decades took their toll on Kagurazaka, the area has recently experienced a mini-revival with the influx of French and other European influences, which coexist with the hanamachi vibe of bygone days.

This guide takes you on a tour of 20 visit-worthy spots in Kagurazaka, from hideaway cafés and trendy bookstores to old-school eateries and restaurants specialising in orthodox washoku. Start exploring right away, or check out our Neighborhoods page for more area guides.

Start out with lunch

Torijaya Bettei

The other branch of Kagurazaka's famed 'udon kaiseki' purveyor Torijaya, this refined restaurant is found along a winding, cobbled street and oozes old-style elegance. Dinner courses start from around ¥5,000, but as is customary in Tokyo, the lunches are far more affordable: we recommend the excellent oyakodon (¥980), a hearty protein punch of a dish...

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Saryo

Japanese-style sweets dealers Saryo now operate branches all over town, but this restaurant and tea house, hidden on a back street, is where it all started. In addition to the plentiful dessert menu, the eatery serves up a wide variety of healthy meals, from Kyoto's obanzai vegetables and rice porridge to keema curry and udon...

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Ryuho

Beloved by the locals, this casual Chinese eatery is always crowded, but you can usually sneak a seat after only a few minutes of waiting. All the essentials from ramen to mapo dofu are available, but most regulars go for the fried rice, a voluminous, aromatic dish that's sure to fill up even the hungriest of visitors...

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Do some sightseeing

Akagi Shrine

This historical shrine was completely renewed in 2010 under the direction of renowned architect Kengo Kuma, resulting in an impressive, modern version of a Shinto holy site. The shrine hosts recurring markets and other seasonal events, as well as a casual Italian eatery, Akagi Café...

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Bishamonten Zenkokuji

First founded in 1595 by shogun Tokugawa Ieyasu, this temple has been a symbol of the neighbourhood ever since moving to its current location in the late 18th century...

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Frasco

With a large glass door and white walls, Frasco looks exactly like a stereotypical hip Tokyo gallery, but is actually far more relaxed than its appearance might suggest. Opened by a local shopowner who needed more space for his many creative projects, the gallery exhibits a wide range of products...

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Sit down for a coffee break

Kiitos Café

The shop name means 'thank you' in Finnish, and you'll sure be thankful for setting foot inside this cute café, decorated with antique furniture and old books picked out by the friendly owner. Slept in? Go for the breakfast menu served only between 10am and 11am...

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Manju Cafe Mugimaru 2

Even with sign and other paraphernalia outside, it's hard to believe that this small, time-worn dwelling in the heart of Kagurazaka actually houses a café. To get to the good stuff, you need to take off your shoes, go up the narrow staircase and step into a space that brings to mind a grandmother's living room...

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Shop like a local

Sada

Stocking a wonderfully random selection of durable, high-quality items from clothing and shoes to ceramics and decorative knickknacks, this petite shop has been doing steady business since 2001. Especially worth visiting if you're after Made in Japan footwear, Sada cultivates long-term relationships with craftspeople...

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Kagurazaka Karyo

There aren't many shops in Tokyo dedicated entirely to crispy okoshi rice snacks, but Karyo is one of them. The 33 varieties available include long-running favourites like the signature Kagurazaka Okoshi, flavoured with peanuts and mugi-mizuame sweetener, as well as more innovative varieties such as the Vegetable Mix Okoshi...

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Taiyo Record

Tokyo is heaven for vinyl fiends, with old-school record shops still found all around the city, from Shimokitazawa to Kita-Senju. This Kagurazaka retailer is more CD-oriented but makes up for the fact with an incredibly plentiful selection of Brazilian and Argentinian music, more or less chaotically stacked on shelves inside the small space...

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Suika

Stock up on fresh produce at this fancy greengrocer, run by a real vegetable otaku who travels far and wide in search of the finest cabbage, oranges, cucumbers and so on. Stocking only seasonal vegetables – many of them organically grown – shipped directly from producers...

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Baikatei

Baikatei has been satisying the sweet cravings of Kagurazaka residents since 1935 and is still going strong with its orthodox, additive-free wagashi, made with all-organic, domestic ingredients. Familiar classics like mame daifuku and warabi mochi are complemented by seasonal specials...

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La Kagu

Opened in October 2014, this new area landmark plays a handful of different roles, including those of street fashion heaven, bookstore and café. The La Kagu building, designed by Kengo Kuma and Associates, is built around a 1965 storage facility that's been carefully revamped while maintaining its Showa-era charm...

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Grab a quick snack on the go

Gojuban

The venerable 'Number 50' has actually been serving its old-school Chinese street food in Kagurazaka for more than half a century: founded in 1957, the shop has survived the area's many transformations by keeping things simple, tasty and cheap. The signature dish here is the nikuman, a steamed flour bun filled with ground pork...

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Kameido

Stepping out of Kagurazaka Station, head toward Akagi Shrine and turn left at the torii gate to find this wonderfully retro neighbourhood bakery. We'd be hard pressed to say that the basic bread here has any taste whatsoever, but loafs aren't where Kameido's strengths lie: the secret to its popularity is the plentiful selection of simple pastries...

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End the day with drinks and fine edibles

Ebihara

You won't be finding a menu at this gem of a Japanese restaurant, which sits pretty just a few steps from Ushigome-Kagurazaka Station and is operated by a laidback but extremely dedicated couple. Kaiseki is the order of the day – choose from three 'chef's selection' meals and prepare for an evening of culinary surprises...

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Esaki

Size isn’t everything. This oden restaurant may seat just 16 customers, but its menu is far deeper, including fine quality sashimi and excellent ajitsumire fish balls made with sashimi-grade aji (jack mackerel), ginger and spring onions. Of course, the oden is the star, including large chunks of stewed buri (yellowtail), fat hamaguri clams...

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Tsuruko

Hidden along Michikusa Yokocho, the 'gateway to Kagurazaka' right by Iidabashi Station, is this tiny counter-only izakaya with seven seats that look like they could crumble under the weight of a burly foreigner at any time. The place is still worth seeking out, if only for the excellent Kanto-style oden, served at a mere ¥80 per piece...

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Kado

Finding an affordable place for dinner in Kagurazaka can be a challenge, so we were more than happy to discover this casual kappo restaurant, located on the ground floor of a tastefully renovated traditional house. Choose from a selection of seasonal specials for the full experience, or stop at the standing-only bar by the entrance...

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Comments

1 comments
Angus G
Angus G

Thank you. This trip made my day. Such a cut neighborhood which in getting to be more European ends up being even more Japanese. There was a mini festival as well which helped. The Oyako don setto at Torijaya Bettei was delicious but I wouldn't try and find it without Google maps!