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Tokyo’s “Little Kyoto”

If you find yourself in Tokyo, but daydream about the picturesque shrines, temples and gardens of Kyoto, then Kagurazaka—little Kyoto in Tokyo—should be the next stop on your hit list. Tucked away in a less-frequented area of Tokyo, Kagurazaka is best known for its stylish cafés, restaurants and shops. But, and it’s a big “but,” there is a side of Kagurazaka which has remained somewhat under the radar—its spectacular array of outdoor spaces!

Kagurazaka Neighborhood Guide Walking Boutique Shops Modern Historical

Kagurazaka’s bustling streets

A Fusion of Traditional and Modern

Situated in Shinjuku, between a fork in the Kanda River, Kagurazaka’s centre is also home to a cluster of stores selling a wide-range of modern and traditional goods. Although Kagurazaka was prominently known in the 1900’s for its multiple geisha houses, it now seems to be a fantastic fusion between modern day living and historic culture. 

Kagurazaka Neighborhood Guide Walking Boutique Shops Modern Historical

Kagurazaka Neighborhood Guide Walking Boutique Shops Modern Historical

Kagurazaka combines modern and traditional

Kagurazaka is my new home, yet I had limited knowledge of the area before moving here. Prior to moving, I feared that my future neighbourhood would lack the intimacy that I had recently grown to appreciate. However, as Yoda once said, “fear is the path to the dark side,” and I needn’t have worried. I seem to have fallen and landed on my feet. Because, what I love about Kagurazaka is how “local” it feels, with a number of boutique stores, grocery shops and book-cafés!

Kagurazaka Neighborhood Guide Walking Boutique Shops Modern Historical Cafe

One of Kagurazaka’s many book shops

Take a Walking Tour of the Neighbourhood

Always one for chasing cute scenery, this little Kyoto has quickly become my favourite hang-out spot in Tokyo. Below you’ll find a walk through my favourite gardens, shrines and temples in the area all of which are free! The walk starts at Waseda Station and ends at Iidabashi (both are accessible on the Tozai Line).

Kagurazaka Neighborhood Guide Walking Boutique Shops Modern Historical

Take a walking tour of Kagurazaka

Kanda River

First on the list is the Kanda River. Personally, I like to join the river at Waseda and walk east towards Kagurazaka, visiting my favourite spots along the way. What always strikes me about this section of the river, is how it seems to resemble a mini, manicured rainforest. Especially while the sun is blazing. The river cascades like a waterfall, the towering trees encapsulate you and the resident-owned flowers seem to dance merrily in their pots.

Kagurazaka Neighborhood Guide Kanda River Walking Path Plants Flowers Garden Greenery Tokyo

Kanda River Path

Kagurazaka Neighborhood Guide Kanda River Walking Path Plants Flowers Garden Greenery Tokyo

Kanda River’s beautiful scenery

Kagurazaka Neighborhood Guide Kanda River Walking Path Plants Flowers Garden Greenery Tokyo

The residential path alongside the Kanda River

Shouseikaku: Buddhist Temple and Japanese Garden 

This is my favourite place in the whole neighbourhoodit shouldn’t be missed! Why? Because the temple and garden are a full 360 degrees of splendour. From the elegant water displays and a tea house, to the immaculately-kept garden.

Kagurazaka Neighborhood Guide Shouseikaku Gardens Walking Path Plants Flowers Garden Greenery Tokyo Japan

Kagurazaka’s Shouseikaku Gardens

Kagurazaka Neighborhood Guide Shouseikaku Gardens Walking Path Pond Greenery Tokyo Japan

Shouseikaku’s Pond

Kagurazaka Neighborhood Guide Shouseikaku Gardens Walking Path Pond Greenery Tokyo Japan

Shouseikaku’s water features

The tranquility of the space makes this garden the perfect place to relax on a bench and enjoy a book. Additionally, lovers of Japanese history or fine art, may like to visit the Eisei Bunko Museum. This quiet museum is nestled away at the top of the garden.

Kagurazaka Neighborhood Guide Shouseikaku Gardens Walking Path Pond Greenery Tokyo Japan Eisei Bunko Musuem

Finding serenity at Shouseikaku

Kagurazaka Neighborhood Guide Shouseikaku Gardens Walking Path Pond Greenery Tokyo Japan Eisei Bunko Musuem

Kagurazaka’s peaceful garden spots

If you’re lucky, there may still be a collection of stilts and toys available for everyone to enjoy. As you can see,  I had a go myself!

Kagurazaka Neighborhood Guide Shouseikaku Gardens Walking Path Pond Greenery Tokyo Japan Eisei Bunko Musuem

Parks and playthingsKagurazaka

Sui-jinja: Shinto Shrine

Continuing the walk towards Kagurazaka, only next door to Shouseikaku, is Sui-jinga. Like most places on this list, this petite shrine is both quaint and peaceful.

Kagurazaka Neighborhood Guide Kanda River Walking Path Pond Greenery Tokyo Japan Sui-jinja Shinto Shrine

Sui-jinja Tori

Hotel Chinzanso Tokyo: Japanese Garden and Shinto Shrine

Next, only a few minutes away from Sui-jinja is another must-see. Similar to Shouseikaku, the magnitude of this garden was totally unexpected as it sits behind a high wall and is almost invisible on Google Maps.

Kagurazaka Neighborhood Guide Hotel Chinzanso Gardens Shrine Pagoda Walking Greenery Tokyo Japan

Chinzanso’s entrance

Kagurazaka Neighborhood Guide Hotel Chinzanso Gardens Shrine Pagoda Walking Greenery Tokyo Japan

Chinzanso’s bridge

Hotel Chinzanso's Japanese garden in Kagurazaka, Tokyo, Japan.

Autumn colors at Chinzanso in Kagurazaka

The twisting pathways lead up to different sections of the hotel via a multitude of different features, including a famous well, stone lanterns and a waterfall. The three-tiered pagoda is the most noteworthy of all though, taking centre stage at the top of the hill.

Kagurazaka Neighborhood Guide Hotel Chinzanso Gardens Shrine Pagoda Walking Greenery Tokyo Japan

Chinzanso’s pagoda

Kagurazaka Neighborhood Guide Hotel Chinzanso Gardens Shrine Pagoda Walking Greenery Tokyo Japan

Chinzanso’s water features

Throughout the garden there are signs in Japanese and English which have certainly helped me gain a greater appreciation for the history here.

Kagurazaka Neighborhood Guide Hotel Chinzanso Gardens Shrine Pagoda Walking Greenery Tokyo Japan

A history lesson at Chinzanso

Kagurazaka Neighborhood Guide Hotel Chinzanso Gardens Shrine Pagoda Walking Greenery Tokyo Japan

Chinzanso water wheel

Unsurprisingly, because of how incredible this place is, this hotel is a popular spot for weddings and photoshoots. Every time I have been here so far, I have seen at least one wedding! So, no doubt you will most likely see ladies in kimono, men in hakama and a plethora of happy faces!

Kagurazaka Neighborhood Guide Hotel Chinzanso Gardens Shrine Pagoda Walking Greenery Tokyo Japan

Hotel balcony is a poplar spot for weddings and receptions

Kagurazaka Neighborhood Guide Hotel Chinzanso Gardens Shrine Pagoda Walking Greenery Tokyo Japan

Kagurazaka Neighborhood Guide Hotel Chinzanso Gardens Shrine Pagoda Walking Greenery Tokyo Japan

Peaceful waterfall at Chinzanso Hotel

Kagurazaka Neighborhood Guide Hotel Chinzanso Gardens Shrine Pagoda Walking Greenery Tokyo Japan

Peaceful waterfall at Chinzanso Hotel

Edogawa Park

Moving further along down the river, is Edogawa Park. This park is especially fun if you have children as there are slides to slide down and swings to swing on!

Kagurazaka Neighborhood Guide Edogawa Park Walking Greenery Tokyo Japan

Edogawa Park path

While the kids play, if your legs are feeling strong, you can climb the stairs to the top of the hill!

Kagurazaka Neighborhood Guide Edogawa Park Walking Greenery Tokyo Japan

Edogawa Park

Denkyu-ji: Buddhist Temple

Away from the river is Denkyu-ji Temple, a stop similar in size to Sui-jinja. Just behind Kagurazaka Station, this modest shrine only takes a few minutes to see. But I find it especially relaxing because it is always calm and usually empty.

Kagurazaka Neighborhood Guide Walking Tokyo Japan Denkyu-ji Buddhist Temple

Denkyu-ji Temple

Akagi-jinja: Shinto Shrine

Around the corner from Denkyu-ji, is Akagi-jinja Shrine. Just two minutes walk away from Kagurazaka’s main high street, this is probably the most well-known shrine in the area. Although the shrine itself is substantially older, the buildings around the shrine were renovated in 2010 and include a modern café.

Kagurazaka Neighborhood Guide Walking Tokyo Japan Akagi jinja Shrine

Akagi-jinja Shrine

Kagurazaka Neighborhood Guide Walking Tokyo Japan Akagi jinja Shrine

Lanterns at Akagi-jinja Shrine

Kagurazaka Neighborhood Guide Walking Tokyo Japan Akagi jinja Shrine

Dusk falls at Akagi-jinja Shrine

 

(Bishamonten) Zenkoku-ji: Buddhist Temple

Last but not least, is Zenkoku-ji. This Buddhist temple from 1595, is located on Kagurazaka’s main high street and was relocated to Kagurazaka in 1792.

Kagurazaka Neighborhood Guide Walking Tokyo Japan Zenkoku-ji Buddhist Temple

Zenkoku-ji Temple Entrance

Kagurazaka Neighborhood Guide Walking Tokyo Japan Zenkoku-ji Buddhist Temple

Zenkoku-ji Temple lights

Bishamonten is one of the seven Japanese gods of fortune and is thought to grant wishes. If you were looking closely, you may have seen a statue of him in the gardens of Hotel Chinzanso! So then, what is your wish!?

Kagurazaka Neighborhood Guide Walking Tokyo Japan Zenkoku-ji Buddhist Temple

Zenkoku-ji Temple stairs

 

Tamara Burgess

Tamara Burgess

Tamara fell in love with Tokyo during a two-week trip around Japan and Korea in 2015. After a few excursions in Europe and a year of “life-admin”, she finally moved to Shinjuku in 2017. She now spends most of her time memorising Kanji, discovering Japanese gardens and running through the streets of Shinjuku in search of new coffee shops. Her perfect day would involve retro games or plum wine, or even more preferably, both.

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