Known as ‘Gakudai’ to locals, this lesser-known residential area in Meguro flourished as a former university town along the Toyoko line. Even though it's close to the trendy neighbourhoods of Nakameguro and Jiyugaoka – and only a 10-minute train ride from Shibuya – the area is less crowded and perfect for a relaxing day out. Explore the narrow streets and sample international cuisine at one of the many small restaurants, shop for beautiful ceramics, and unwind in a traditional sento (bathhouse) to round off your day.
Eat and drink
Higuma Doughnuts’ Hokkaido-born owner uses ingredients from his home prefecture to create the store’s delightfully fluffy and ‘mochi-mochi’ (springy) doughnuts. Free from additives and preservatives, these rings have garnered cult status in Tokyo. You can’t go wrong with the classic varieties – plain, cinnamon sugar, kinako (roasted soybean powder) and black sugar, and raspberry jam – but keep an eye out on the seasonal offerings such as honey-mascarpone and limoncello. There’s seating inside, where you can watch the doughnut-making action through the glass wall.
This eclectic, pint-sized Vietnamese restaurant seats just five guests along its ceramic counter. On the menu is a selection of colourful Vietnamese dishes with a Japanese twist. The classic bánh mi overflows with layers of house-made pâté, pork, fresh herbs and pickles. The dashi-braised pork bowl, on the other hand, is served with fragrant jasmine rice, namasu (Japanese pickles), a soy-marinated egg and a fistful of Vietnamese herbs. Ingredients are mostly organic and locally sourced, aligning with the store’s philosophy.
Owner Megumi Fukuda opened Tsukinowaguma in 2018 out of a love for, and the desire to, showcase Japanese craft beer. The interior is simple yet modern, with one long timber bar running the length of the room, while the huge windows give it an airy, spacious vibe. Beer comes on tap as well as by the bottle, and includes Japanese breweries such as Far Yeast, Punk IPA, Big Hazy Monkey and Sakura Gose.
Only open five days a week during lunchtime, this udon joint can be real hard to get into – paying little heed to the listed business hours, the shop often runs out of noodles and closes long before 2pm. Prepare to queue up for a seat inside the small space, but once you get in, you'll be glad you did: the soft, aromatic noodles are served in a flavourful sardine-based broth, making for a heavenly combination. The tempura, fried on order, also maintains excellent quality: we recommend the mochi and soft-boiled egg.
Atsu Atsu Ri Carica is a small natural wine bar-meets-inventive Italian gastropub. The owner, being part Italian himself, rolls with the Italian idea of what is good food: a few simple but good ingredients, dressed up with the bare minimum yet make them shine precisely through that. Add in a little extra Japanese precision, local ingredients, and a flair for plating, and you have yourself some of the area's most interesting dishes. The menu changes along with the seasons, but their staple ‘cacao risotto’ should be available whenever you go. Made with the rice leftover after making narezushi (fermented sushi) and topped with cacao from Peru’s Amazon, it has the smoothness characteristic of risotto, but with a tangy bite.
The folks at Book and Sons hope to open your eyes to the soul and beauty of typography. To this end, the elegantly monochromatic warehouse-like bookstore is fitted with a thoughtful arrangement of impeccably curated Japanese and European books on design, photography and art, with a focus on typography. There’s also a gallery space, a coffee stand, plus a selection of artisan-made goods for sale, like leather folders, canvas bags and stationery.
Japan is known for its beautiful crafts that bring colour and sophistication into the home, and Yuyujin is just the spot to shop for them. Its shelves are filled with ceramics of various styles, from the traditional to the more contemporary. You can also find wares made from glass, lacquer, wood and enamel by artisans from across Japan. So come shop for vases, plates, bowls, teacups, chopstick holders, glasses and much more besides.
Located just a short walk from Gakugeidaigaku Station, this established cake shop has been turning out all sorts of sweets since 1952. At the shop upfront you'll find everything from classic strawberry shortcakes and mont blanc cream cakes to pudding and tarts. The tea room attached to the shop is well-worth a visit for their parfaits and ice cream, with one of their most popular items being the mocha soft cream served on a bed of coffee jelly and an ice cream cone attached to the side.
With its deep-blue wall tiles and high ceiling, one corner of Chiyo no Yu sento (bathhouse) resembles a cave. This ‘meditation bath’ is filled with artificially carbonated hot spring water and is designed to be a place to clear your mind. Chiyo no Yu was renovated in recent years under the direction of designer Kentaro Imai, and is a chic example of a modern sento in Tokyo. In the main bath area, luxuriate in various baths fitted with body jets and carbonation as you gaze at majestic Fuji murals. The water is soft (high pH), said to help rejuvenate the skin and physical health – so you’ll feel incredibly relaxed as well as squeaky-clean after a visit.
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