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A Walking Guide to Kagurazaka: the Charming Cobblestone Streets of Tokyo’s Old Geisha Quarters

Kagurazaka’s quiet charm is reminiscent of Kyoto’s Gion District. Once Tokyo’s Hanamachi (Japanese courtesan and geisha quarters), Kagurazaka still has an elegant air of traditional Japanese culture to it. Interestingly, the large nearby French expatriate influences can be easily spotted by the many French brasseries in the area too! Deciding we needed a change of scenery from Tokyo’s posh Omotesando area, my good friend Mizuha and I decided to take a day exploring the little alleyways of Kagurazaka this past weekend. Attending the same university as me, Mizuha has been my Tokyo partner in crime for many food adventures–doesn’t queuing at 4am for sushi at Tsukiji Fish Market sound like a beautiful friendship?

I made a gallery for our explorations in Kagurazaka so check out the various captions for recommendations. Here are some highlights: Sakura Roll Cake at the famous Canal Cafe (Tokyo’s oldest boat house, the century-old Suijyo Club, turned waterside cafe), Manju at the Spirited Away-esque Mugimaru2 hidden in a back alleyway, famous French bakeries like Cafe-Creperie Le Bretagne, and many more!

There are many ways to wander around Kagurazaka, but my suggestion is to get off at Iidabashi station, stroll across the Ushigome Bridge and start right next to the Canal Cafe. Then make your way uphill through all the various shops I’ll introduce below!

For lunch, I had been wanting to go to Torijaya for a while now and to my excitement, we manage to get seated at this Kyoto-style restaurant right away. Stepping into Torijaya was what you expected from a washoku (traditional Japanese cuisine) establishment–dim lighting, tatami rooms, traditional hostesses dressed in elegant yukatas, and lively murmurs in a quiet space. So I’ll start off by saying this: Torijaya is an absolute gem–especially if you love chicken. All their dishes incorporate tender pieces of free range chicken, but the restaurant’s centerpiece is their  ‘Udonsuki’ (うどん好き.)

photo 5

Torijaya Honten, located on a side street of Kagurazaka-dori

photo 1

Torijaya’s Udon-suki with a heart mix of shrimp, chunks of tender chicken, vegetable, fish cakes, and more.

photo 2

Mizuha’s Shrimp Tempura Soba set–a refreshing summer set if you don’t feel like having a hot udonsuki.

Tori

The Shrimp Tempura Soba set also included various おかず (side dishes) with chicken.

photo 3

Mizuha and I’s lunch sets–it was constantly adjusted by the attentive hostesses for our convenience which we found very fascinating.

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Our incredible hostess that carried herself like a true lady: with class, dignity, and grace.

Both Mizuha and I thought Torijaya was phenomenal–with each set around ~1,500yen, we were extremely satisfied and set off for some more cobblestone explorations. However, we didn’t make it too far before we spotted Kinozen and its storefront decorated with delicious-looking traditional Japanese sweets.

Kinozen is a Japanese-style sweets place at the base of Kagurazaka, serving traditional kakigori, anmitsu, and more. It is particularly famous for its Matcha Babaroa, a Japanese take on the french-style Bavarian cream. There was a 30 minute queue to eat in (you can also have the desserts carefully wrapped for take-away) but we thought it was reasonable given our recent lunch. Once we were seated, the server immediately brought us each a cup of green tea with some fresh rice crackers and took our orders. Personally, I enjoyed the Matcha Kakigori with shiratama dango more (probably because it was a refreshing break from the summer heat) but I thought the creamy-texture of the Matcha Babaroa was very good too!

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If you want traditional Japanese sweets, Kinozen is the perfect spot for it in Kagurazaka

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The various type of Kakigori and Anmitsu on display

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Complimentary Japanese Senbei crackers

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Matcha ‘Babaroa’ (a version of French Bavarian Cream)

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Matcha Kakigori with a generous serving of sweet azuki red bean paste!

All in all, a wonderful day in Tokyo’s old-geisha quarters. Definitely spend a whole day in Kagurazaka exploring its cobblestone streets because you’ll surely stumble upon various hidden ryotei (traditional Japanese restaurants in which some are still invite only!) and delicious finds. Getting lost will only add to Kagurazaka’s magical whimsy!

love,
eatprayjade x.

P.S. I’ll be making a day trip to Kawagoe, a city right next to Tokyo, this weekend and I heard its famous for its sweet potato cuisine–how delicious does that sound! And lastly, a shout out to Mizuha who has entertained all my food adventures and weekend festivities. Cheers to many more!

Torijaya
Address // 4-2 Kagurazaka, Shinjuku-ku, Tokyo
Hours // 11.30am-2pm, 5-9.30pm M-Sat; 11.30am-3pm, 4-9pm Sun.
Phone // 03 3260 6661
Website // http://www.torijaya.com/pc/

Kinozen
Address // 1 Chome-12 Kagurazaka, Shinjuku, Tokyo
Hours // Tue-Sat 11-8pm; Sun 12-6pm
Phone // +81 3-3269-2920
Website // http://www.kinozen.co.jp/

The Canal Cafe
Address // 1Chome-9 Kagurazaka, Shinjuku, Tokyo
Hours //  Mon-Fri 11.30am-11pm, Sat, Sun 11.30am-9.30pm
Phone // +81 3-3260-8068
Website // http://www.canalcafe.jp/

Le Bretagne
Address // 4-2 Kagurazaka, Shinjuku-ku, Tokyo
Hours // 11:30-22:30, Sun 11:30-22:00
Phone // 03-3235-3001
Website // http://www.le-bretagne.com

mugimaru2
Address // 5 Chome-20 Kagurazaka, Shinjuku, Tokyo
Hours // 12-9pm, Wed Closed
Phone // +81 3-5228-6393
Website // http://www.mugimaru2.com/

15 Comments

    • Hey Celia, thanks for dropping by! I just checked out your blog and it’s fabulous. I didn’t eat at Le Bretagne but I did manage to get a picture of it in my gallery! It was packed when I got there so I’ll be saving it for another day for sure.

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  1. Wow. I love your blogging and photos! I’m SO happy you came by mine so I could discover yours! Natsukashiiii! Your day sounded splendid and the food is making my mouth water. Can’t wait for the next post!

    Liked by 1 person

    • It’s a gorgeous area, you definitely should take a stroll there! There’s an upcoming Kagurazaka Matsuri in which I’ll be checking out, so definitely don’t miss it!

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    • Lovely, I hope it helps! It may be a little dated now, I’ve been meaning to update it since there is so much to see in Kagurazaka! I’m actually in Tokyo for the weekend and I have La Kagu on my list of places to explore 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

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