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From bars and cherry blossoms to Totoro, Kichijoji has it all

by

Staff Photographer

The Kichijoji area in Musashino, western Tokyo, has long been popular for its panache, shopping and peaceful park. But tourists, too, are hearing of its charms and venturing out along the JR Chuo Line to explore the neighborhood.

On the north side of Kichijoji Station are clusters of arcades, restaurants and department stores that have turned the area into a magnet for shoppers.

But small shops run by merchants dealing in fish, dry foods and other traditional items are thriving, too. Customers can often be seen lining up in front of those with time-honored reputations.

Patrons of tiny, old-style shops may want to visit Haamonika Yokocho (Harmonica Alley), where about 100 stores, eateries and izakaya (pubs) are concentrated in a small area where their rectangular frontages line up like the air holes in a harmonica.

On the south side is verdant Inokashira Park, famous for its cherry blossoms and large pond, which create an exquisite display in early spring. In 2017, the park, which offers a perfect place for jogging, strolling or people-watching, will celebrate its centenary.

The park is also the home of Inokashira Pond, the source of Kanda River, which flows through central Tokyo before joining the Sumida River.

There also is a zoo in the park, where Japan’s oldest elephant, 68-year-old Hanako, welcomes visitors. And fans of Totoro, Ponyo and other magical Studio Ghibli anime characters often head through the trees to the southwestern side to visit the Ghibli Museum.

Since the 1960s, Kichijoji has tried hard to create an environment in which both large businesses and small merchants can coexist. This is expected to continue, helping the area remain a vibrant destination into the future.

Shoppers browse cups and plates at one of several stores selling antiques in the Kichijoji area.
Shoppers browse cups and plates at one of several stores selling antiques in the Kichijoji area. | SATOKO KAWASAKI

Hamonika Yokocho (Harmonica Alley) is crammed with shops, bars and
Hamonika Yokocho (Harmonica Alley) is crammed with shops, bars and ‘izakaya’ eateries, near JR Kichijoji Station in Musashino, Tokyo. | SATOKO KAWASAKI

Japan
Japan’s oldest elephant, Hanako, is 68 and still healthy, welcoming visitors to Inokashira Park Zoo in the city of Musashino, western Tokyo. | SATOKO KAWASAKI

Visitors to Inokashira Park in the city of Musashino, Tokyo, enjoy a boat ride.
Visitors to Inokashira Park in the city of Musashino, Tokyo, enjoy a boat ride. | SATOKO KAWASAKI

Guinea pigs spark delight in a young visitor to Inokashira Park Zoo. The zoo has 180 guinea pigs, all of which were born there.
Guinea pigs spark delight in a young visitor to Inokashira Park Zoo. The zoo has 180 guinea pigs, all of which were born there. | SATOKO KAWASAKI

This section, appearing on the first Monday of each month, offers a snapshot view of areas that may interest tourists.