41

Kichijoji

K intro

 

So much for two posts in one week. We had to move apartments. Then it was all rainy. Plus hours seem to fly by just trying to work out where to next after Tokyo. But my biggest problem was it just felt cheap. I’m not good at lite it seems. It’s gotta be 52 Suburbs heavy or nuttin’.

And so, to this week’s suburb (apparently it actually is considered a suburb), Kichijoji. 20 minutes west of the city centre and quite different to any area so far. While it has the usual crowd of izakaya – bars with food – it also has a lovely park with a pond (more lake than pond really). Oh, and love hotels too but I missed those completely.

I couldn’t find out much about the suburb’s history so let’s go Kichijoji!

 

Part 1: Arriving at Kichijoji Station

As soon as we stepped out at the station we met Torame and Ken, two young musicians from a band called The Tokyo Numbers. As far as I could understand they were in Kichijoji for a gig at one of the many ‘live houses’ – clubs – around the station. Seeing as ‘old’ Japan with its kimonos and wooden houses have been my main focus to date, it was refreshing to photograph a younger face of Tokyo.

 

 

Torame and Ken from The Tokyo Numbers

Torame and Ken from The Tokyo Numbers

 

 

 

 

Ken

Ken

 

 

 

 

music and love :: 1

music and love :: 1

 

 

 

 

music and love :: 2

music and love :: 2

 

 

 

 

leopard and tiger spotted in Kichijoji

leopard and tiger spotted in Kichijoji

 

 

 

 

lips the colour of Japanese Maple

lips the colour of Japanese Maple

 

 

 

 

and then they were gone

and then they were gone

 

 

 

 

No sooner had I said sayonara to Torame and Ken than this guy appeared. Didn’t catch his name but I know who his favourite band is.

 

 

Kinks fan :: 1

Kinks fan :: 1

 

 

 

 

Kinks fan :: 2

Kinks fan :: 2

 

 

 

 

Part 2: Inokashira Park

As I said, one of the things that distinguishes Kichijoji is its park and ‘pond’. A perfect excuse to indulge my addiction to kimonos, carp and Maple trees all in one go. Here, finally, I found my autumn leaves; I can’t imagine how wonderful Japan must look in spring but autumn leaf viewing – Momiji-gari – is pretty special too.

 

 

park and pond

park and pond

 

 

 

 

floating world :: 1

floating world :: 1

 

 

 

 

floating world :: 2

floating world :: 2

 

 

 

 

nature inspired :: 1

nature inspired :: 1

 

 

 

 

nature inspired :: 2

nature inspired :: 2

 

 

 

 

nature inspired :: 3

nature inspired :: 3

 

 

 

 

nature inspired :: 4

nature inspired :: 4

 

 

 

 

row boat or swan, take your pick

row boat or swan, take your pick

 

 

 

 

boy in blue

boy in blue

 

 

 

 

pastels

pastels :: 1

 

 

 

 

pastels :: 2

pastels :: 2

 

 

 

 

Part 3: Eat street

Like most of Tokyo, Kichijoji spills over with eating options. But Harmonica Yokocho, a rabbit warren of alleys lined with tachinomiya (standing only) bars and tiny restaurants, some of which have been around for 60 odd years, seemed a cut above the rest. Wasted on my gluten-adverse self and anything-vaguely-exotic-looking-is-eew daughter but…

 

 

park then dinner down Harmonica Yokocho

park then dinner down Harmonica Yokocho :: 1

 

 

 

 

park then dinner down Harmonica Yokocho :: 2

park then dinner down Harmonica Yokocho :: 2

 

 

 

 

too much sake? take a taxi home

too much sake? take a taxi home

 

 

 

 

The eateries are all tiny so often there’s a queue. But unlike me, the Japanese don’t seem to mind a queue.

 

 

queue No 1 - the slurpy noodles place :: 1

queue No 1 – the slurpy noodles place :: 1

 

 

 

 

queue No 1 - the slurpy noodles place :: 2

queue No 1 – the slurpy noodles place :: 2

 

 

 

 

queue No 1 - the slurpy noodles place :: 3

queue No 1 – the slurpy noodles place :: 3

 

 

 

 

Still, as I say to Coco, a queue is always a good sign – especially when it’s pretty much a permanent one that snakes around the block from sunrise to sunset like the one at Satou Steakhouse Butchers, right next door to Harmonica Yokocho. The reason? A humble but obviously addictive little number called menchi katsu – breaded and deep-fried ground meat croquettes.

 

 

queue No 2 - for menchi katsu from Satou

queue No 2 – for menchi katsu from Satou

 

 

 

 

worth the wait - Yuriko with her menchi katsu

worth the wait – Yuriko with her menchi katsu

 

 

 

 

One place that didn’t have a queue but I liked the look of anyway…

 

 

no queue at Quina

no queue at Quina

 

 

 

 

I would love to have taken a look at the ‘love hotels’ or found a seedier side of Kichijoji for a glimpse into Tokyo’s infamous dark underbelly. But what with missy by my side and the fact that in the land of the rising sun, the sun sets way too early for my liking in winter (5pm), it didn’t happen. I can only imagine…

 

 

as the sun goes down in Kichijoji, the bars start to fill

night falls – and then what?

 

 

 

 

Part 4: Praying for good fortune

By sheer good fortune we visited Kichijoji’s Shinto shrine on the day when the Japanese visit it – to assure their own good fortune.

Called Tori no Ichi, it’s a festival where people buy a decorated bamboo rake called a kumade to ‘rake in’ good fortune in the coming year.

Very colourful but the best bit was meeting a woman who has 100 kimonos in her wardrobe. 100! Whenever I meet a kimono wearer, I ask, when and why do you wear a kimono. Well, Misato wears hers six days a week. She owns a restaurant where she works all week long, bar one day. On that day she wears normal gear but aside from that it’s the kimono. We tried to work out how I could photograph her bountiful wardrobe – she also has 40+ pairs of tabi socks – but it was too hard. And really, even for me, 100 kimonos would be overkill.

 

 

buying hope - Misato with her kumade at the shrine

buying hope – Misato with her kumade at the shrine

 

 

 

 

one of Misato's 100 kimonos

one of Misato’s 100 kimonos

 

 

 

 

The festival was another great example of how in high-tech, high-speed, high-living Tokyo, they take their superstitions very seriously…

 

 

the whole office came down to choose their kumade

the whole office came down to choose their kumade

 

 

 

 

Other randomness at Musashino Hachimangu Shinto Shrine that day…

 

 

red and green

red and green

 

 

 

 

dressed for the occasion

dressed for the occasion

 

 

 

 

dash of red

dash of red

 

 

 

 

Of course, it’s not only businesses that are in need of good fortune. All those hungry looking carp down in the lake could do with some too…

 

 

in need of a little good fortune too

in need of a little good fortune too

 

 

 

 

The Wrap

Like Shimokitazawa, Kichijoji is a highly sought after area in Tokyo. And you can see why – the park, the lake. The menchi katsu. But what I loved most was meeting Torame and Ken on the station platform. The sun, their energy, Ken’s hair. A younger Tokyo. Next week I hope to find more.

 

 

 

leaving our mark on Kichijoji

leaving our mark on Kichijoji

 

 

 

 

On the ‘home front’

Over the last few weeks Coco has been coming up with some pretty creative fashion ideas. Never much of a drawer, she’s sat quietly for hours with her book, illustrating different looks.

Then this week, walking home from the station:

“Mum, this really is an amazing journey. I know who I am now.”

“Really? Who?”

“A fashion designer”.

Huh. I can actually imagine it. Of course she’s only nine. But who knows. She’s got the right name for it.

This suburb has been brought to you by Kate Croucher

See you next week.

 

40

Shimokitazawa

S intro3

 

So, you’ve heard of Harajuku right? The place where young Japanese do extreme dress-up? Okay, well, this week I thought we wouldn’t go there (too famous) – but somewhere that I’d heard was a Harajuku-lite. Hip but more relaxed. A neighbourhood in western Tokyo called Shimokitazawa, or Shimokita as the locals call it.

While I knew we wouldn’t find grown men in onesies or gothic lolitas there, I thought at least we’d see some dress-up. But no. Maybe we missed it. Because Shimokita seemed more cozy and kawaii (cute) than anything else, its narrow car-free alleys filled with a fairly ordinary mix of people hanging out at the independent cafes, vintage clothing shops and tiny bars and eateries.

Pretty amazing considering it’s just 10 minutes by train from the skyscrapers and madness of Shinjuku.

Let’s wander…

 

Part 1: Food and drinkies in Shimokita

As I mentioned, the neighbourhood is dotted with bars, cafes, restaurants. My favourite bar was the one where Tony Montana was at. No, not that Tony Montana (Al Pacino, Scarface, 1983). This Tony Montana…

 

 

everyone stands at a stand-up bar - that's Tony, on the right

everyone stands at a stand-up bar – that’s Tony, on the right

 

 

 

 

mushrooms and chook on the grill

mushrooms and chook on the grill

 

 

 

 

hey, hello, anyone?

hey, hello, anyone?

 

 

 

 

 

Tony was there with his owner, Kawabata. I asked Kawabata what he liked about living in Shimokita – he said, “It’s exciting”. (Or at least I think that’s what he said. Kawabata, if you’re reading this and I just misquoted you, please let me know.)

 

 

what? I'm hungry

what? I’m hungry

 

 

 

 

finally

finally

 

 

 

 

Given how many rules there are in Tokyo, I’m sure there’s one that says – No dog, including one named after a famous American actor, is allowed to eat at a bar. But this is Shimokita – chill.

There are lots of cute dogs in the neighbourhood – like this one…

 

 

let's call her Fluffy

let’s call her Fluffy

 

 

 

 

…. but really, Tony Montana was the best.

 

 

in their own worlds

in their own worlds

 

 

 

 

Aside from the bars, the main food focus in the neighbourhood seemed to be on fish and noodles.

 

 

fish, fresh and dried

fish, fresh and dried

 

 

 

 

let's get a taxi, this thing weighs a tonne

let’s get a taxi, this thing weighs a tonne

 

 

 

 

where would Japan be without its noodles?

where would Japan be without its noodles?

 

 

 

 

noodles in the making

noodles in the making

 

 

 

 

As for cafes, my favourite was this one, with a small photography gallery out the back and a very sweet barista, Susumu…

 

 

Ballon D'essai

Ballon D’essai

 

 

 

 

Susumu

Susumu

 

 

 

 

thank you Yoshida!

thank you Yoshida!

 

 

 

 

Part 2: On the main street

We met all sorts of people…

 

 

the inspiration for his hair do? - Teruaki

the inspiration for his hair do? – Teruaki

 

 

 

 

tradition

tradition

 

 

 

 

Kaede

French-ish – Kaede

 

 

 

 

half Dutch, half Japanese - Yuzuki and Luca

half Dutch, half Japanese – Yuzuki and Luca

 

 

 

 

Shunto

Shunto

 

 

 

 

There are few cars around but occasionally you see the odd taxi – of which I am strangely fond. Their bright colours, the lace seat covers and the impeccably dressed taxi drivers and their white gloves. Pity they cost an arm and a leg.

 

 

 

taxi!

taxi!

 

 

 

 

the smartest taxi drivers ever

the smartest taxi drivers ever

 

 

 

 

Part 3: Obsession No. 1

Lanterns. Love them. Can’t stop snapping them. Especially when combined with gleefully happy two year old Mei.

 

 

hanging out with grandpa - Fukai and Mei

hanging out with grandpa – Fukai and Mei

 

 

 

 

fish

fish

 

 

 

 

the kiss

the kiss

 

 

 

 

fun

fun

 

 

 

 

Speaking of fish and lanterns…

 

 

attracted by the light

attracted by the light

 

 

 

 

early evenings

early evenings

 

 

 

 

Part 4: House and garden

After we’d explored the main shopping area, we walked up the little hill to check out the houses. While most of them were the typical Tokyo low-rise 70s-80s kind, there was one that caught my eye – old, of course, with a traditional garden.

 

 

the garden :: 1

the garden :: 1

 

 

 

 

the garden :: 2

the garden :: 2

 

 

 

 

the garden :: 3

the garden :: 3

 

 

 

 

And I cannot ignore a nice old wall…

 

 

wall :: 1

wall :: 1

 

 

 

 

wall :: 2

wall :: 2

 

 

 

 

bows

bows

 

 

 

 

And even when there’s no space for a garden, nature still sneaks in…

 

 

windows

windows

 

 

 

 

Part 5: Autumn

One of the reasons I decided to include Tokyo in this project was I wanted to see the autumn leaves. While there aren’t many in Tokyo, I did spot a few. On trees and as well as elsewhere…

 

 

a slow reveal

a slow reveal

 

 

 

 

Inside this beautifully wrapped packaging from a shop in Shimokita was…

 

 

autumn :: 1

autumn :: 1

 

 

 

 

autumn :: 2

autumn :: 2

 

 

 

 

autumn :: 3

autumn :: 3

 

 

 

 

Japanese design is unbelievably wonderful. From their papers and fabrics to the sweets above. And these ones too…

 

 

kawaii!

kawaii!

 

 

 

 

The Wrap

When they ask young people where they most want to live in Tokyo, apparently Shimokita is one of the top choices. I can see why; it’s an incredibly relaxed and friendly little corner of Tokyo that’s minutes away from the bright lights of Shinjuku et al. I just hope it manages to hang on to its charm – just around the corner from Susumu’s hand-drawn coffees is a Starbucks. Just saying.

 

 

 

at the cat cafe

at yet another cat cafe

 

 

 

 

tea and hot chocolate

tea and hot chocolate

 

 

 

 

On the ‘home front’

Coco loved Shimokita. Aside from its small town charm, it had a cat cafe. A done deal really.

Now, I hope you’re still reading because I have news. Having almost not come here, Tokyo has got me firmly in its clutches. So we’re staying a few extra weeks. And, I’m so sorry if this is going to disappoint anyone, but I’m cancelling Mexico City. After Tokyo, one more big city may just do me in – well, us in actually. We’re both pretty exhausted. The kind of exhaustion that makes you feel quite odd at times and unable to move. We’ve been going at it for 11 months and it’s showing.

There’s more. You know how I’m running late – as in, I’m only up to ‘Suburb’ No 40 which means I have 12 more installments to go – but the year ends in just six weeks?

Well, the problem is, my Around the World tickets expire at the end of those six weeks. If we don’t finish by then, I’ll have to buy new tickets home. It may not sound like much but it’s just one cost too many – even with the wonderful support of my sponsors and Kickstarter supporters (hello! I love you!), this project has ended up costing me a pretty penny.

I’ve been really struggling with this for weeks. I’m so passionate about this project and so committed to making it the best possible virtual travel experience I can for you. But I just can’t take any more out of my mortgage to fund it (I know, extreme huh?).

So, here’s my solution. I’m going to do 12 ‘suburbs’ in six weeks. Ha! They’ll be shorter for sure, it may kill me, but…

And after Tokyo, we’ll finish the last few weeks in a mystery location.

If anyone has another solution (eg, know someone at Qantas who’ll extend my tickets for another month) please do tell.

I’m so sorry if you’re disappointed by any of this. But I think my plan will work out okay. It’ll just be 52 Suburbs Around the World ‘Lite’ from now on…

This suburb has been brought to you by Nirah Mattila 

See you next week – twice hopefully.

 

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