Kashiwa is a city resting in Chiba Prefecture only 30 minutes from Tokyo along the Joban train line (one of Tokyo’s train networks) that contains all the fun of Tokyo nightlife packed into a smaller, hip, welcoming place. It’s easy to get to, affordable, perfect to use to explore the surrounding area, and extremely open to travelers (English-speakers, in particular). Travelers or not, though, Kashiwa is definitely a place to check out, even during the normal course of weekly travels and weekend fun.
Tokyo’s Coolest Nighttime Neighbor
En route from the nearby city of Noda, I arrived at Kashiwa after dark and was immediately struck by how energized, yet relaxed, trendy but inviting its streets looked. Having spent a lot of time in downtown Tokyo, it reminded me of a miniature, much more accessible version of an area like Shinjuku. There was a strong sense of local identity throughout the entire city, and it’s true to say that nearly everyone I passed and spoke with seemed happy to be there.
Kashiwa has gone far out its way to promote itself as a haven for travelers, especially English-speaking ones. I had a brochure that was a map labeling local eateries around Kashiwa station that included a key indicating vegetarian-friendly options, and a chart of helpful Japanese phrases for greeting people, ordering food, and so forth. It was very nicely produced and shows exactly how friendly and open the city is. There are Spanish restaurants, pizza places, izakaya (Japanese-style bar), Western-style bars, cafes, and many, many more options.
I had two stops on my journey into Kashiwa nightlife (even though there are dozens of options). The first was Yakitori Tsukasa (Facebook Page, Instagram @yakitoritsukasa), an izakaya/sports bar with television sets for watching games. The owner, Kazue Osa, spoke perfect English and was more than happy to not only host foreign guests but to take any and all types of customized food requests. The regular menu contains the entire array of expected izakaya food such as various types of yakitori (grilled chicken) and yakiniku (grilled wagyu beef). The fare was excellent, surprisingly filling given that izakaya food always comes in lots of small plates, and the environment was incredibly cozy. There’s a back room for parties as well, which at the time I went was full of the owner’s friends who were having a giant party. I really didn’t want to leave, but there was so much to explore in Kashiwa that I had to head out.
The second stop of the night was Mikenekoya, a spectacularly intimate, darkly lit, and upscale space that specializes in high-grade sake and homemade cocktails. The proprietor, Ayumi Takahashi, was incredibly warm, friendly, and made everyone at the bar feel comfortable. Mikenekoya is the kind of bar where most of the guests are regulars, everyone talks to each other, and the bar becomes a small family for the night. Ayumi takes music, food, and specialty drink requests, and enjoys learning about the lives of travelers. I was especially delighted with the complimentary snacks that each guest receives, which include (rather unusually) a small cup of absolutely delicious miso soup.
Even only taking these two places into account, Kashiwa is a superb choice for having fun at night, especially if you’re visiting Tokyo, and doubly so if you want to escape from the hectic hustle and bustle of the city. Kashiwa provides a website with a downloadable map and links to the many bars and restaurants contributing to its fabulous nightlife.
Ideal Accommodations for the Evening
If you’re heading out to Kashiwa for the evening, you could carefully watch the clock and race to make the last train back into Tokyo. However, it’s much more enjoyable to simply take advantage of some of Kashiwa’s extremely reasonable hotels and forgot about time as you enjoy your evening.
After hanging out in two of Kashiwa’s excellent nightlife choices, I went back to my lodging, Sotetsu Fresa Inn Chiba Kashiwa. Fresa Inn is a chain of hotels across Japan that have exceptionally clean and comfortable rooms, amenities like unlimited free coffee (after 6pm), and English support at the front desk. The staff were quite friendly and even helped me fill out some forms (seeing as my handwriting is absolutely terrible). The hotel is excellently located as well, within arm’s reach of multiple 24-7 convenience stores, the train station, and all of Kashiwa’s nightlife itself.
I was perfectly happy to shower, settle into bed, and get comfortable in my room. For a change, the temperature controls were easy to understand (no small thanks in part to an English sign that clearly stated the functions of the air conditioning/heating. The breakfast in the morning was a combination of Japanese food like fish, rice, miso soup, and Western food like eggs, yogurt, and cereal. It was a wonderfully satisfying meal, and after a night out, the perfect means of recuperation before heading out for the day.
Kashiwa is an ideal place to get away from Tokyo while still enjoying everything that Tokyo has to offer. For locals, it’s a way to escape and relax in a familiar, but far less stressful, urban environment. For travelers, it’s a perfect opportunity to become familiar with one of Tokyo’s coolest neighbors and gain a glimpse into one of Japan’s many alternative nightlife hotspots.
How to Get to Kashiwa City
Ueno – Kashiwa: JR Joban line: 35 minutes
Shinagawa – Kashiwa: JR Joban line: 50 minutes
Haneda Airport – Kashiwa station: 55 minutes by train
Narita Airport – Kashiwa station: 80 minutes by train
Sponsored by Chiba Prefecture