Kichijoji

Kichijoji Travel Blog

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ippuudou ramen-ya, the best ramen (in Tokyo?)
Today, a few friends and I spent half the day in Kichijoji. Kichijoji, described as the "Harajuku of the chuo line" according to my travel book, is a hip, young, fashionable neighborhood that lies on the edge of Tokyo. It definitely appeals to the younger Japanese crowd for its numerous clothing stores, small restaurants, and coffee shops. Kichijoji has an upbeat, urban atmosphere that is, at the same time, distinctly laid-back. It was the perfect place to spend a Saturday afternoon.

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.
pachinko fever!
One of the guards instantly piped up and pointed across the street to a tiny sign that read "Ippuudou".

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.
the infamous 'sometime' jazz bar
Since they took our order as we were waiting in line, our bowls of steaming hot ramen were delivered to our table not long after we sat down (I've decided that everything in Japan is designed for efficiency and convenience). There was a wide variety of toppings and seasonings to put on the ramen and if you happen to finish the noodles before the rest of the broth, you can always order an extra plate of noodles for an easy 150 yen, just make sure to specify how hard you want the noodles. For the record, this has been by far the best ramen I've had while in Japan.

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.
a fugu restaurant. fugu is pufferfish and a delicacy in japanese cuisine. why? because if not prepared correctly, it can kill you. i didn't try it this time, but i did see the chef fishing out a few fish from the tank for dinner.
Here, the clothing stores are the main attraction, but there are several variety stores and boutiques, discount supply shops, as well as restaurants and coffee/pastry shops. There are several department stores around as well offering a wide variety of merchandise in case you didn't find what you were looking for on Sun Road.

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.
geri holding the menu for the menchi-katsu, 1-ko is 180 yen, or you can buy 5-ko and receive a discount at 140 yen a piece.
The cover is 1600 yen, but if you want to just go during the day and avoid the cost and crowd, 'Sometime' also acts as a coffeehouse before 6p. I'll be sure to write a more detailed report on this joint the next time I go.

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.
this machine was sooo cool. it allowed you to play jun-ken-poi (rock paper scissors) with doraemon!
We were not let down in any way. We made it through the line fairly quickly and ordered our menchi-katsu, or fried beef meatballs, that were promptly handed to us from the side window in a white paper bag. We stood on the sidewalk and happily consumed our katsu while watching the shoppers walk by. Delicious? Of course.

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.
the kichijoji flea market.
We browsed the many boutiques and scouted out future restaurants that we wanted to try. Kichijoji has a nice selection of international cuisine restaurants like Thai, Indian, and Italian from what I saw.

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.
standing in line for our menchi-katsu!
I guess that says something about the consumer trends of 1970s-80s Japan.

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.
ellechic says:
I love Ippudo. They opened one here in NYC. There's one in Tokyo as well - but I didn't get to go when I was there last July.
Posted on: Oct 30, 2009
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ippuudou ramen-ya, the best ramen …
ippuudou ramen-ya, the best ramen…
pachinko fever!
pachinko fever!
the infamous sometime jazz bar
the infamous 'sometime' jazz bar
a fugu restaurant. fugu is pufferf…
a fugu restaurant. fugu is puffer…
geri holding the menu for the menc…
geri holding the menu for the men…
this machine was sooo cool. it all…
this machine was sooo cool. it al…
the kichijoji flea market.
the kichijoji flea market.
standing in line for our menchi-ka…
standing in line for our menchi-k…
at the front of the line, we could…
at the front of the line, we coul…
mmm, menchi katsu!
mmm, menchi katsu!
a rather scary looking ronald mcdo…
a rather scary looking ronald mcd…
Japanostalgia: american memorabili…
Japanostalgia: american memorabil…
strange curry from the past!
strange curry from the past!
behold, ichikazedou ramen shop!
behold, ichikazedou ramen shop!
the stairs leading down to the ram…
the stairs leading down to the ra…
i was really excited about the ram…
i was really excited about the ra…
some shinto shrines around kichijo…
some shinto shrines around kichij…
the mystery revealed
the mystery revealed
jonathan being a pachinko junkie!
jonathan being a pachinko junkie!
my cellphone accessories, the smal…
my cellphone accessories, the sma…
Kichijoji
photo by: hellokiel