It’s hard to believe that Jiyugaoka is only ten minutes by train from Shibuya. Walking the calm and sophisticated streets of this leafy residential area, the gaudy neon and Manga inspired mayhem of Shibuya seem a world away.
For the discerning international visitor Jiyugaoka offers a glimpse of an urban Japan rarely seen by other tourists. For Tokyoites, however, this place is no secret and many dream of making a life here. It’s easy to see why as you join young families, dating couples and singles, all out to enjoy the area’s understated, yet creative and classy, shopping and dining scene.
Jiyugaoka is relatively compact and rewards an aimless stroll. Below are some suggestions for spending a half-day in the area.
There are a wealth of fashion boutiques and home-ware stores here that offer astute shoppers the chance to move away from high-street lines and find something unique. Many collections and pieces balance elements of European and Japanese design.
Watashi no Heya and Quatre Saisons – Located on Sunset Street, these popular stores have collections of home-ware accessories, tending towards a clean, organic sensibility.
Popeye Camera – Enthusiasts will love this store just north of the station, which sells trinkets with which to deck out your camera along with frames and albums to display your Japan pics. There’s also a delightful collection of vintage cameras.
Luz – A smart little shopping center for Japanese fashion on Suzukake Street which attracts a younger crowd who want urban style without losing sophistication.
Jiyugaoka Department Store – Next to the train station (central exit) this department store harks back to an older era (and an older clientele). It’s an interesting local attraction without being a tourist trap, and a great place for authentic souvenirs.
The Japanese obsession with cake is astonishing given how slim everyone is. (Where does it all go?). Jiyugaoka has an abundance of French inspired boulangerie (French Bakeries) for you to drool over. A local favorite is Pais S’eveille on Hilo Street which sells an exquisite range of cakes, cookies and jams. For a more low-brow experience (yes, Jiyugaoka is capable) Sweets Forrest on Green Street has a whole floor of treats for you to enjoy.
Meet The Locals
Green Street, so named for the row of trees running down the center, is one of Jiyugaoka’s main thoroughfares. On the pedestrianized stretch south-east of the train station you’ll meet many locals, visitors and the occasional old-timer hanging out on benches beneath said trees. It’s the perfect place to enjoy a break with your purchase from the boulangerie and watch some beautiful people rocking the latest in tasteful Japan fashion.
Go To Temple
Follow Green Street west out of town and you’ll arrive at Joshin Temple, also known as Kuhonbutsu. The temple is a mystery. The mystery being how a place so staggeringly beautiful and peaceful, surrounded by some thirty million people, could be so little visited. Founded in 1678, it’s a large complex of amazing buildings, Buddhas, gates and bells, hidden in an area of woodland. People spend days chasing around Kyoto for experiences like this. And it’s free! I almost feel guilty for writing about it.
Dine Al fresco
Opportunities to dine Al fresco in crowded Japan are limited so take advantage of the charming options in Jiyugaoka to round off your visit. One of the nicest terraces belongs to the Rakeru restaurant on Hillside Street. Surrounded by greenery it offers privacy, peace and fresh air. Although it’s a chain restaurant it’s one of the best places to try an ‘only in Japan’ combination of omelet and rice. Otherwise known as omuraisu!