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.
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.
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.
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…
The eateries are all tiny so often there’s a queue. But unlike me, the Japanese don’t seem to mind a queue.
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.
One place that didn’t have a queue but I liked the look of anyway…
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…
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.
The festival was another great example of how in high-tech, high-speed, high-living Tokyo, they take their superstitions very seriously…
Other randomness at Musashino Hachimangu Shinto Shrine that day…
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…
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.
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.”
“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.