Kichijoji Travel Blog› entry 14 of 32 › view all entries
October 13th, 2007 – by: hellokiel
When we first arrived, we wanted to try this ramen shop that we had heard so much about. Not knowing the name or the location of the shop, we dropped in the koban (police box) next to the station and asked the officers if they knew about 'Kichijoji no yuumei ramen-ya', or the famous ramen shop in Kichijoji.
The ramen shop is located below street level and could easily be overlooked by any passerby. I guess it's one of those places that you have to know about or that you stumble upon accidently. Needless to say, there was a small line at the door which is always a good sign for a restaurant in my book. We waited no longer than 5 minutes before we were seated. The warm wooden decor was complemented by the friendly wait-staff who call out a hearty 'irasshaimase' (welcome) as you enter. For being such a small place on the outside, it was surprisingly spacious on the inside, even though every table and all the spots at the bar were filled with lively customers of all ages.
After a delicious, filling, and cheap (the average price for a bowl was about 700 yen) meal, we wandered around Kichijoji, exploring its many alleys and streets lined with shops. The main drag is known as Sun Road, a covered pedestrian street that is lined with stores.
If you take some of the side alleys that branch off from Sun Road you'll find a nice variety of bars and restaurants as well as Pachinko parlors. Kichijoji is also a hot spot for jazz clubs. 'Sometime' looks to be the best of the ones I've seen. While we didn't check it out this time, I already know I'll be returning to Kichijoji just to check out this bar in particular. Again, located below street level, the jazz club offers live acts every night of the week starting around 7pm.
After shopping, we decided to stop in and try our luck at the Pachinko parlors. The blaring noise and madness of bright flashing lights is an experience in itself. Although we did come out empty handed and smelling like an ashtray, we left with a little more knowledge of how this side of Japanese culture works. It was fun.
We continued walking down an alley when we suddenly found ourselves at the back of a fairly long line that was forming in the middle of the road. The line was to a steakhouse that happened to also serve katsu to-go. We were intrigued, and being the sucker that I am for lines at a restaurant, decided to buy in.
Kichijoji is not so hip that there's no room for a bit of traditional Japanese religion to sneak its way in. Scattered throughout the neighborhood are various Shinto shrines that offer a bit of sanctuary from the consumer rush. We wandered through a few and paid our respects to the various Shinto gods.
I think my favorite spot of Kichijoji is a little bit further away from the crowds of Sun Road. If you head a little bit further east and cross Koen-dori, you find yourself in a much quieter and more relaxed shopping district that has a distinctly artsy feel to it.
After I bought a key chain for my cellphone at a small shop specializing in artwork by local artists, we turned around and headed back toward the station. We happened upon a flea market where vendors were selling memorabilia, so we decided to take a look. Surprisingly, most of the items being sold were toy relics of the past, but a past that seemed distinctly American. McDonald's toys, Disney figurines, and Barbies were piled upon table tops as curious crowds meandered among the tents. I was instantly hit with a strange nostalgia that seemed remnant of a past that I may not actually have experienced, if that makes any sense.
Tired but not quite ready to head back, we sat down in a coffee shop 'Choco-Cafe' for tea and pastries. At three stories high, there were plenty of seats that offered a quiet break from our shopping adventures. I had a chai latte that was way different from any chai latte in the States. This one tasted much more like tea rather than sweet, spiced milk.
A bit tired from a busy afternoon, we finally made our way back to the train station and headed home. It was a successful exploration of a cool town on the outskirts of Tokyo. I know I'll be spending more time there in the future, but this was definitely a great introduction.
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