Kagurazaka (神楽坂)

While checking out things to see and do for our trip to Tokyo last year, I read about an area in the northern part of Tokyo that sounded interesting.

 

Kagurazaka is a pretty authentic bit of old Tokyo, having survived the Second World War relatively unscathed. Now a shopping district, its Edo era life was as one of the entertainment districts of the city. Allegedly, it is possible to see the geisha who still work in this area heading to their appointments late in the evening.

I miscalculated how long we were staying in our Akihabara apartment, and we ended up with a bonus day at the end of our Tokyo week. We decided on a couple of things to do, one of which was visiting the Japanese Sword Museum near Yoyogi Park, the other was to head to Shibuya for some record shopping. Having done both these things, we decided to head up to Kagurazaka for an evening stroll and a bite to eat.

We caught the Sobu line from Shibuya to Iidabashi. Using Google maps and our pocket wifi, we tried to navigate our way from Iidabashi station to the bottom of Kagurazaka-dori. Of course we went in the wrong direction! We headed into a different part of town where we spotted a tiny wooden house tucked in among the modern concrete buildings.

Righting ourselves again, we headed back down the hill past Iidabashi station, down to an intersection and then up onto Kagurazaka. The area is full of interesting shops and winding alleyways and side streets. As promised on one of the websites I’d visited while planning the trip, French music played from speakers suspended on lamp posts the length of the street. It was quite surreal. It didn’t surprise me, as we peered down side streets, that the area is still navigable using an Edo era map.

 

We popped into a shop that sold traditional Japanese hand fans. I had spied a gorgeous green and gold fan in the window, depicting a cedar tree, but on closer investigation it was more expensive than I wanted to pay. We went inside the shop to see what other wares they had, and came out with a hand fan printed with a Hokkusai ukiyo-e style red Fuji-san and a small paddle fan with another ukiyo-e picture of a geisha looking into a mirror. The best part of the shop was the ancient till made from wood that involved intricate pressing of keys to register the correct sales amount. The young woman who was serving me had to call her obaasan from the back of the shop to work it for her! I wish I’d had the courage to take a picture.

For our bite to eat, we had looked on Happy Cow and chosen a Japanese-Italian vegan restaurant called Buona Tsuba Tsuba. In keeping with the general theme of not planning things properly while in Tokyo, I hadn’t checked the website properly and failed to notice that the restaurant was closed on Tuesdays. *sigh* Fortunately, we checked the directions before we started on the 10 minute walk from Kagurazaka to the restaurant and I spotted that it was closed before we set off.

Instead of vegan pizza or vegan pasta, we ended up calling into a small supermarket to buy tofu and vegetables to take back to the apartment with us. We cooked up a feast when we got back, so all was well.

A lot of the shops were closing up while we were there, so on reflection I think it would have been better to head there slightly earlier so we could have more of a look around the shops. Next time we’re in Tokyo, I’m sure we’ll head back there to see what other treats we can find. Maybe not on a Tuesday, either!

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