Located in the western suburbs of Tokyo, Kichijoji is considered one of the top places to live in Tokyo, with trendy shopping areas, local markets, famous parks, museums, and galleries. It is a Tokyo neighborhood that is favored by college students, creatives, and families for the slower pace of life and natural beauty of the area. Those who are curious about where to eat in Kichijoji will find that the eclectic and artsy neighborhood has a few surprises in store, including a local yokocho drinking alley, horror-themed bar, stylish manga cafe, and wagyu steak that won’t break the bank.
Kichijoji is a playground for artists, offering galleries, museums, and auditoriums galore. The birthplace of anime culture in Japan, it is also a major destination for animation fans, as it is home to the Studio Ghibli Museum, Kichijoji Animated Film Festival, and several anime production companies. Many anime series and films even feature scenes with the backdrop of Kichijoji streets.
Aside from the art scene, the serene and sprawling Inokashira Koen (Inokashira Park) is one of Kichijoji’s most iconic attractions. It’s a popular hanami (flower-viewing) and date spot where couples can rent swan-shaped boats and paddle out onto the cherry blossom-filled pond. During sakura season, groups get together and spread out on picnic blankets beneath the lush trees, enjoying a variety of sakura snacks and drinks. The park also houses ecological sites such as the Aquatic Life Park and Inokashira Park Zoo. Painters can be seen with easels and brushes at hand, inspired by the stunning scenes of the park, and festivals like the Kichijoji Music Festival and Kichijoji Anime Wonderland Festival lead even more people to congregate at Inokashira Park.
To fuel a day of exploring, here are some of the best eateries, bars, and restaurants in Kichijoji.
When it comes to popular watering holes and izakayas, Kichijoji is known for Harmonica Yokocho, which began as a flea market following World War II and still has that same retro, Showa-era vibes today. Now, Harmonica Yokocho is a popular drinking alley for locals, crammed with several tiny gastropubs, many of which can only seat around five or so people. It’s an intimate drinking experience, as the local regulars who frequent Harmonica Yokocho are all friendly and eager to strike up a conversation. Visiting Harmonica Alley is a great way to get a dose of Kichijoji’s community feeling.
While most yokocho alleys are only open at night, Harmonica Yokocho is lively even during the day. You can explore the winding backalleys and pop into specialty stores, like little boutiques, grocers, and mom-and-pop shops. At night, the whole scene at Harmonica Yokocho changes; the alleyway awash in red from the glowing lanterns, peals of laughter ringing out every so often. And no visit to Harmonica Alley would be complete without the area’s signature whisky highball, “Harmonica High,” with some succulent gyoza.
Cafe Zenon in Kichijoji is unlike any other manga cafe. It’s not even strictly a manga cafe, but rather, a place where manga, art, and coffee converge. Artwork from a variety of artists is displayed around the store, many with manga motifs, and they also have a dedicated gallery space where creators can display their work.
Inspired by the natural greenery of Kichijoji, Cafe Zenon is stunning. Hanging exposed lightbulbs illuminate the deck outside while vines creep up pillars; it’s a dreamy and inviting retreat. Cafe Zenon serves specialty coffee with beans from Honey Beans in Fukuoka, which are sourced from a small farm and roasted in small batches by Cafe Zenon’s coffee specialist. Their latte art is stunning and their baristas even take requests for illustrations. The menu places an emphasis on seasonal ingredients, featuring pasta and curry dishes, wholesome salads, and sweet teatime treats (think creamy puddings, elaborate parfaits, and cakes plated with swooshes and swirls of sauce). For the cheese lover, they also have a cheesy fondue set, while those with a sweet tooth can indulge in their chocolate fondue set with 4 highly-dippable types of molten chocolate.
One of the best restaurants in Kichijoji for high-quality wagyu beef is Steak House Satou. The second-floor restaurant sits above their ground-floor kuroge wagyu butcher shop, so you know that they are getting their meat fresh. Steak House Satou focuses on carefully-selected Tajima wagyu, a pedigree of cattle which is highly prized in Japan. But they can keep their wagyu prices lower than other restaurants, as they remove the middleman and do everything from purchasing (the owner is a top-tier beef appraiser) to removing the bones and preparing the cuts of meat, with their own butcher on site.
You can watch right at counter as the chef cooks slabs of marbled steak on the teppan, stimulating your appetite with the sizzling sounds and wafting aromas. If you’re in the mood for a quick snack rather than a sit-down meal, try their round menchikatsu, a breaded and fried meat patty, which Steak House Satou supposedly invented. You can pick it up on the first floor and be on your merry way.
A former butcher shop, you bet Iseya Sohonten knows their yakitori (grilled chicken skewers). At this 80-year-old yakitori joint and izakaya restaurant in Kichijoji, you can treat yourself to their signature grilled chicken, with prices starting at ¥80 per skewer. In addition to the original Sohonten branch, they also have two other locations in Kichijoji: Iseya Koenten, located in front of Inokashira Park, and Kitaguchiten, located at Kichijoji Parking Plaza, B1F. All three locations are usually jam-packed.
Located just a minute walk from the station, embrace the cheesiness at this cozy Western-style restaurant in Kichijoji. With vibrant teal walls and warm red bench seating, the interior is colorful, comfortable, and simple. Daily deliveries of fresh domestic cheese products from Hokkaido keep Cheese Craft Works well-stocked, while various types of imported cheeses mix things up. From their Cheese Fondue Hamburg (a bubbling skillet of cheese topped with a Japanese hambagu enveloped in sauce) to their Cheese Risotto and Roasted Caramel Cheesecake, Cheese Craft Works celebrates all things cheesy.
Follow the sounds of chainsaws ratting and monotonous chanting, a distinct prickle climbing up your neck as you descend the stairs to Yurei, a Kichijoji bar that’s fashioned after the underworld. Fans of Tim Burton and Japanese horror will be drawn in by this kooky and spooky bar, ordering eyeballs (assorted cheese balls) and bloody voo-doo dolls (deep-fried sausages doused in ketchup). Other menu items are even more ghoulish, like the Cremation Pyre Spareribs, which, true to its name, involves pyrotechnics. The servers are decked out like traditional Japanese ghosts (known as yurei), wearing the signature triangular white headband (hitaikakushi) of the spirits, and they can even hold your funeral service, complete with chanting and the use of their in-house coffin.
To sample a variety of craft beer at reasonable prices, head to Craft Beer Market in Kichijoji, where a glass goes for ¥480 and a pint for ¥780. They have around 30 high-quality craft beers on tap, each with their own unique personality, and the offerings change frequently so there is always something new on the menu.
From IPAs, ales, black beers, white beers, lagers, and fruit beers, there is such a wide range of types to suit every palate and occasion. The food menu is just as diverse, with Chinese food like mapo tofu, classic izakaya dishes like gyoza, and Western food like pizza and fries. Like their beer list, Craft Beer Market’s food menu is always changing. They also have all-you-can-drink (nomihoudai) party plans that come with an assortment of dishes in addition to the 30 types of beer, wine, cocktails, whisky, and sodas. The plans range from ¥4,000 to ¥6,000. Craft Beer Market also has branches in Jimbocho, Kanda, and Otemachi, to name a few.
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