Located in the vicinity of Iidabashi station on the Sobu Line, Kagurazaka is a delightful mix of traditional Japan and international influence. L’Institut Franco-Japonais de Tokyo is nearby, meaning that on any given day you’re just as likely to hear French on the streets as Japanese. The area is full of expat-owned French restaurants, Japanese mom-and-pop shops, and a wonderful maze of cobblestone alleyways filled with tiny bars and cafes.
I recently got to know Kagurazaka over several nights spent volunteering at the Iwato Theater for a friend’s play. As a huge fan of the kind of narrow alley, wooden facade atmosphere that is harder and harder to find in Japan (Kyoto’s Ponto-cho and Sannen-zaka / Ninen-zaka area being prime examples), I was thrilled to discover this piece of traditional Japan practically in my back yard. Kagurazaka may at first appear similar to dozens of shopping streets all over Tokyo, but a little exploring yields some wonderful surprises.
For starters, the place is a foodie paradise. A lot of the restaurants are pricey, but a little digging can turn up some bargains. Some of the French restaurants, for example, are super-refined and offer lavish fare typical of Tokyo French restaurants, but then there’s Le Bretagne, which serves up delicious crepes and salads starting at 850 yen (more on that in the next post). If you just want to grab a bite you can stop at the well-known Goju-ban (Number 50), which sells steaming hot meat buns and dumplings. Or drop in to one of the area’s many sweet shops.
Kagurazaka is a wonderful place to wander and just get lost–I’m sure I’ll be back to sample some more of the food offerings (if I don’t just end up going back for Le Bretagne’s crepes every time). A Kagurazaka walking tour has finally made its way into the pages of Lonely Planet Japan, but thankfully the place doesn’t seem to be crawling with tourists yet.