It may be right by rowdy Ikebukuro, but the mental distance between Otsuka and the ‘gateway to Saitama’ could hardly be any greater. What you’ll find in this unpretentious neighbourhood is quiet backstreets, an atmosphere that reeks of Showa-era nostalgia, and an impressive supply of excellent izakayas, bars and eateries, some of which trace their histories back to pre-war times. Just take a walk along the shopping arcades at night and you’ll be sure to feel Otsuka’s old-time charm, a sensation that’s bound to get stronger once you find a nice pub to sit down and plan your travels at.
The neighbourhood is located on the border of Bunkyo and Toshima wards, with the area around JR Otsuka Station belonging to the latter. This section was historically a part of Sugamomachi, a village outside of Edo proper, but was renamed when the train station opened in the early 1900s. Further south is the ‘original’, more residential Bunkyo part, where several parks, universities and temples can be found. If you’d like to start your walk in this area, we recommend taking the Marunouchi subway line to either Myogadani or Shin-Otsuka Station and going from there.