Tokyo Guide: Kagurazaka
Tokyo Area Guide: Kagurazaka 神楽坂
Kagurazaka is an elegant neighborhood near Iidabashi station in Shinjuku ward well suited for strolling and sightseeing. Kagurazaka is distinguished for its close associations with Tokyo's literary history and culture.
Kagurazaka's focus is the sloping section of Waseda-dori Avenue between Sotobori-dori Avenue (that runs along the outer moat of the Imperial Palace) and which rises to the intersection with Okubo-dori Avenue.
Kagurazaka is characterized by specialty stores and boutique restaurants set in a quiet residential neighborhood. One recommended eatery is Chichukai Uomaru, a Mediterranean-style seafood fusion izakaya restaurant with an informal atmosphere.
But what really sets Kagurazaka apart is its quaint little lanes that slope off either side of the Waseda-dori main street.
Near Kagurazaka is the L'Institut Franco-Japonais de Tokyo, so it has a considerable French community, partly explaining the large number of French restaurants to be found there.
From early days, Kagurazaka was famous as Japan's premier pleasure quarter, or hanamachi (literally "flower town,") with a proliferation of geisha houses. The area's golden age ended with World War II. The remnants of those days remain in the restaurants and kimono and confectionery shops that still have a presence here. Kagurazaka was popular with artists and writers, including the Japanese author Soseki Natsume (1867-1916), whose face featured on the 1000 yen bill between 1984 and 2004 and whose birthplace is marked by a stone monument in Okubo, about 1.5km west along Waseda-dori.
Kagurazaka is scattered with dozens of stately Buddhist temples. One of the most prominent on the slope itself is Zenkokuji Temple, founded by the Nichiren School of Buddhism in 1595 in Bakurocho, about 4 kilometers east, and moved here in 1793. There is also a Shinto presence, with Akagi Shrine at the top end of Kagurazaka.
Kagurazaka was rebuilt after World War II on the same lines as before, complete with little alleys, thus retaining its historical air and still attracting the artists and writers that it did in its hanamachi days. Although 21st century developments are changing Kagurazaka, it still retains a special atmosphere. Take a stroll around Kagurazaka for a taste of old Tokyo.
The Kagurazaka Awa-dori Festival is a feature of the area on the last Friday and Saturday of July.
Access: Getting to Kagurazaka
Kagurazaka is accessible from five train lines:
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