Nishi-Ogikubo area guide

Our top picks of eats, shops and bars in down-to-earth yet eccentric Nishi-Ogi

The curry at Café Orchestra is an essential Nishi-Ogikubo eat

A wealthy residential district before the counterculture movements of the 1960s swept over it, Nishi-Ogikubo leads a charmed existence as one of the more quaint neighbourhoods on the Chuo line. With express trains speeding past the station on weekends and holidays, Nishi-Ogi feels like a world away from busy Kichijoji only one stop further west: instead of big malls, multiplex cinemas or Starbucks, the area is home to quirky antique shops, rowdy gig spots, scruffy curry caffs and upscale apartment buildings.

Above all, Nishi-Ogi is heaven for local, independent businesses, including one of the best katsudon joints in town, an izakaya that draws patrons in with wagashi and owls, several galleries dealing in local artists' works, and a 'recycle shop' that doesn't even open until 9pm. Check out our top 20 picks of restaurants, shops, cafés and more, and delve into the depths of this wonderfully dreamy ’hood – or check out our Neighborhoods page for more area guides.

Fill up first

Entsuko

Located a five-minute walk from the station's north exit, this bakery is run by a husband-and-wife team. Raisin-stuffed bread, cinnamon rolls, baguettes and loaves of bread are all made in-store with 100 percent Hokkaido-grown flour, but the real appeal lies with the hedgehog-shaped 'Nishiogi Harry-kun' pastry...

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Sakamotoya

Although it looks like any ordinary Chinese restaurant, this eatery is famed for its katsudon. The recipe is three generations old and combines a crunchy fried pork cutlet with sweet dashi, onions and egg, on rice. Even the fiercest critics fall for it...

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Café Orchestra

Considering the vast amount of curry joints in Nishi-Ogi, the fact that Orchestra is always popular is a good enough sign. You'll find chicken curry, keema matar (ground chicken and green peas) and other Indian-style curries, but a sure standout is the sag chicken, a luscious spinach and chicken curry. The deep-verdant sauce next to the rice, topped with a mini tomato, is hardly an eyesore...

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Teineini

Occupying an apartment building from the ’50s, this café rewards those who don't mind a bit of a surprise: the staff (and thus tenants) change between weekday lunchtimes, evenings, Saturdays and Sundays. But whevener you head over, you'll be getting food that's soothing for both the mind and the body, all in a friendly environment...

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Then hit the shops

Cikolata

Certainly easy to spot with its brown-and-white striped awning and baby-blue painted front, this shop is run by a lady specific in her style, likes and dislikes. She curates the selection of clothing, accessories and stuffed toys like a private collection: if she doesn't like it, she won't stock it. There's enough to look at and lust for as soon as you enter...

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Country Quilt Market

Quilting: kitsch or the epitome of cool? It's up to you to decide at this handicraft shop, the exterior of which looks like it has just walked off a set for a 19th-century movie about the American Midwest. Set across two floors, there are enough colourful fabrics, ribbons and lace here to keep even the pickiest of quilters happy – although a love of prints is a precondition...

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Red Heart Store

This shop is a virtual ode to the Mrs. Grossman sticker brand, which has been around since 1979. It oozes a very friendly vibe, and makes you feel at home among the myriad of stickers, which are regularly re-stocked to make sure the top sellers are always there. And there are so many: from old favourites to seasonal newbies and even versions that are currently out of production...

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Higurashi Antiques

If you spend so much time in coffeeshops that they've become a second home, then perhaps it's time to head to Higurashi to buy some café-worthy bits and bobs to make your actual home feel the same way. From tables and chairs to shelves, clocks and more, all items here have a very high-design feel and are carefully selected by the owners...

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Soak up Nishi-Ogi's art scene

Mizunosora

An invaluable refuge for artsy types with a couple of hours to burn, this gallery is found inside a beautifully remodeled home that originally belonged to the owner's great-grandfather and hosts a new exhibit every month, while the café at the back serves up basic drinks...

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Fall

Located on the north side of the stations, this gallery exhibits visual art, music, stationery and ceramics. There's also a small shop on the premises, where you can find everything from import CDs to pieces by local artists...

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Kick back with a cuppa

Monozuki

Not all kissaten in Tokyo are worth the moniker, but this one sure makes the grade: stained-glass windows, antique clocks and the soft jazz soundtrack make you feel like you’ve stepped back in time. Founded in 1975, Monozuki offers a very simple menu...

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Kies

Birthing Kies in its current form required quite the journey: the owners used to sell baked sweets at a small stall called Magali, which was perched in a corner of another café, on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays, before finally managing to branch out in late June 2016 and open a proper shop of their own...

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Chaho Asuka

Tea lovers looking for a fine brew will be very excited by this shop, which carries over 100 leafy varieties. From domestic sencha to Chinese and Taiwanese black teas, pu'er and jasmine tea, all varieties are presented in simple bags alongside equally simple vessels, but that simplicity also means that the store manages to strike an overall calm balance...

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Nishiogi Itochi

Folk toys and tea might sound like an unorthodox combination, but this cutesy shop gets the mix just right with powerful brews and charming traditional kokeshi dolls and clay figurines displayed in every corner. The speciality here is English tea, with Earl Grey figuring plentifully in both straight and milk tea varieties...

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Explore the local scene some more

Tam Tam

Easily recognisable by the Moroccan flag proudly flying outside, this restaurant serves up a variety of North African dishes, with a focus on Moroccan home cooking and Tunisian cuisine. There are plenty of bold flavours to choose from, including the harira soup, the classic tajine, and lamb hamburgers...

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Juha

Surrounded by a whole load of ice cream parlours, this jazzy kissaten was named after Finnish director Aki Kaurismäki's movie Juha, which the owner loved, inspiring him to put together a decidedly Scandinavian-vibe interior. Settle into one of the chairs and contemplate life or read a book while listening to the soothing music...

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Akai Hana

All sorts of watering holes are clustered around Yanagi-koji, an alleyway just off the station's south exit. Akai Hana, a venture focused on Okinawan and Taiwanese cuisine, is one of the best of the bunch. A self-respecting izakaya, it stocks more than enough boozy substances to choose from, including classic beers and sours, awamori, herb liquors and sweet plum wine...

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Yakitori Ebisu

The smoke coming from this izakaya is heavy with the smell of roast chicken, and starts enticing patrons from the early afternoon. Don't resist the urge to follow your nose and plonk yourself down here, as you'll be handsomely rewarded with ¥100 skewers and reasonably priced small plates that go rather well with a glass or two of something...

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Recycle Shop Jet

With a tagline of 'anything goes' and opening hours that seem to run on a different timezone – 9pm to 1am – you know you've found something out of the ordinary. Indeed, this recycle shop is a veritable treasure chest, with vintage gems and high-quality variety stuff from different eras strewn across the space...

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Wokashiya

If Wogashiya was a person, you might wonder if they were schizophrenic. This almost ridiculously diverse place manages to combine an izakaya, wagashi shop, owls and a whole load of other things into one space. To start off, you'll be greeted by little Chobi, an Eurasian scop owl that was under a year old when we first visited...

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By: Mari Hiratsuka

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