Kagurazaka has long enjoyed an upscale reputation, since its days as home to some of the city’s most prestigious geisha houses.
This continues into the 21st century, with the area presenting a tony take on both Japanese tradition and up-to-the-minute contemporary culture.
Look a little deeper and you’ll find Kaguarazaka also has some eccentric outliers hidden down its storied streets, including a borderline-kitsch sento bath, and a distinct homely record store.
Buy Incense at Juttoku
Tucked away in the back of Kagurazaka, or Oku-Kagurazaka, lies Juttoku, a chic incense shop brimming with style.
Fresh scent of incense will hit your nose as soon as you duck into the shop. You'll see stick incense, pastel medallions, and decorated wooden shelves. The incense at Juttoku gives off a light aroma even without lighting it, and the incense comes in distinctive Japanese shapes like cherry blossoms and chrysanthemums.
There are also various shapes of traditional Japanese talismans, making them great for interior decorations or even gifts. Take a set home to relax in the balmy fragrances of Japan.
Canal Cafe is set right along the Kagurazaka Canal, providing the ambiance of a breezy resort right in the middle of Tokyo. The cafe is split into two sides: the Restaurant Side and the Deck Side.
On the Restaurant Side you can enjoy authentic Italian dining indoors, while the Deck Side lets you kick back in a relaxed, self-service setting overlooking the water.
They even have a Barbecue Area for up to 100 people from mid March to November. The upscale atmosphere and excellent location are perfect for dates, so share your time at Canal Cafe with that special someone.
Shopping at Akomeya Tokyo in La Kagū
Run by the general goods brand Akomeya, La Kagū is a recently opened shopping complex that offers everything from tableware to sandals.
The items are of the highest standard, all being painstakingly selected from the best options all over Japan. Whether you’re looking for traditional bowls, hand cream, or fashionable apparel, La Kagū has you covered.
It’s an excellent space to find a unique gift to take back to friends and family, as well as picking up a few things you didn’t know you needed along the way. There's also dining options right inside the store, should all the shopping put you in the mood for a bite to eat.
Tonkatsu at Agezuki
There will be line outside of Agezuki before it even opens at lunchtime.
The tonkatsu, or deep-fried pork cutlet, is that good. Agezuki has a special method of frying their tonkatsu, giving it a delightfully crispy outside and delicate, juicy center. Take note of the pinkish color of the pork, which has a distinct sweetness that sets it above the competition.
This is tonkatsu like you’ve never had before. Get the Rōsu-katsu Teishoku, or Deep-fried Pork Roast Set Meal. For 1,598 yen it comes with free refills of rice and cabbage, so you won’t be leaving hungry.
Luxurious Lunch at Hana Kagura
Hana Kagura is a sophisticated modern style Japanese restaurant, befitting Kagurazaka’s roots as a geisha house district. Inside, it has low lighting and dark wooden furniture. Table seating as well as floor or sunken kotatsu options in private rooms are available. Background jazz adds to the intimate atmosphere, but the lunch special is what really has people talking.
The Hanakagura Bento, 1,950 yen, has 12 types of dishes all neatly lined up in a wooden box. You can have a taste of a decadent collection of items all in one meal, with coffee or tea to cap it off.
Hanakagura is 6 minutes on foot from the West Exit of Iidabashi Station.
Visit Two Stylish Shrines
Akagi Shrine holds over 700 years of history, but the most surprising piece of information is that it was completely redesigned in 2010.
Kengo Kuma, a world-renowned architect, reimagined Akagi Shrine and used more modern materials, such as glass to enclose the main hall. There’s even a classy cafe on the shrine grounds.
Tokyo Daijingū is a shrine known for establishing Shinto wedding ceremonies, and many people to this day still visit to ask for a healthy marriage. The shrine however was moved to Iidabashi after the Kanto Earthquake that occured in 1928.
It’s expertly maintained, and the view from the front is terrifically photogenic. You might even run into a wedding ceremony on your visit.
Japanese Beauty Products at Cosmetics Makanai
Women will be especially delighted by the main branch of Makanai Cosmetics, commonly known as Makanai Cosme, in Kagurazaka.
This branch is special in that they also serve doughnuts, monaka, and other sweets, with a small place to rest your feet and enjoy your refreshments. Shoppers will be charmed by their colorfully packaged beauty products, special tea blends and “beauty foods”.
Walk in the door with the intention to treat yourself, and you’ll be thoroughly satisfied with what Makanai Cosme has to offer. Look for the sign with a white rabbit on a red circle.
Nikuman at Gojuban
Nikuman are steamed pork buns, and Gojuban has been serving up their famous rendition to Kagurazaka since 1957. The Nikuman (393 yen) at Gojuban are hefty, offering fluffy, chewy dough packed with pork fragrantly seasoned with ginger and sesame oil.
It’s an exceedingly popular snack to take with you on your Kagurazaka stroll, so you might unfortunately run into a line during busy times of the day. They have dozens of choices of fillings aside from the standard pork nikuman, including beef, seafood, and vegetables, so choose wisely.
- 五十番 神楽坂本店
- 東京都新宿区神楽坂6-4 葉月田中ビル1F
The Shop Called "the Cat Post Office"
Cat lovers will definitely want to check out "The Shop Called the Cat Post Office", commonly known as Neko no Yubinkyoku. Only 3 minutes’ walk from Kagurazaka Station on the Tozai Line, this shop is a general goods store dealing in cat-themed products.
Inside is a tight space jumbled with feline goods covering every surface, giving it a strangely nostalgic vibe. You can find baseballs, picture books, and a wide collection of stamps all adorned with cats.
There’s a handsome stray tabby, Kijitaro, who acts as the store’s mascot. It’s apparently good luck to get a picture with him. The store is only open Fridays, Saturdays, Sundays, and Holidays, so plan accordingly!
Cat Post Office URL: http://4125.jp/?page_id=13
Cafe Mugimaru 2
Cafe Mugimaru 2 is a charming Japanese cafe more akin to an urban hideaway, with an aged exterior covered by climbing vines of ivy. It’s actually a manju (steamed bun) specialty cafe, and inside you’ll find a warm assortment of vintage odds and ends among exposed wooden beams.
Have a seat and order a manju with a sweet filling, like chocolate or red bean paste. Then relax in the soft lighting that has an at-home vibe. If you’re lucky, you might even get a chance to meet the cafe cat — the perfect companion for your chill afternoon.
Stroll through Kakurenbo Yokocho
Kakurenbo Yokocho is a tightly knit web of stone & brick streets that harken back to Kagurazaka’s time as a geisha district. However, most of the businesses now are izakayas, but the area still retains the secretive atmosphere of its Edo-period days.
The name Kakurenbo Yokocho comes from the Japanese word for hide-and-seek, where the story goes that anyone trying to follow you on your trip to the geisha houses would lose track of you once you entered these labyrinthine streets.
Simply walking through the narrow alleyways and taking in the sights feels like a fun little trip back in time.
Relax at Atamiyu
Atamiyu is a sento, or communal bathhouse, that’s maintained its original stylings since it opened in 1954.
Movies and TV shows have taken advantage of the bathhouse’s retro atmosphere, and Atamiyu’s signature Mt. Fuji mural can be spotted in films and series even today. The bath itself is a bright space with plenty of natural scenes to reflect upon during your soak, and the water is still heated the old-fashioned way: with firewood.
It is on the warmer side though, so ease yourself into the bath and let the heat soothe those aching muscles.
Enjoy seafood at "Fingers"
Fingers is an unabashedly laidback, US-style seafood diner in the heart of tony Kagurazaka.
In this cozy space bedecked with vintage Americana, foreigners and locals alike use their digits (hence the name) to tuck into lobster; king crab; mussels; and other tempting fare, garnished with a choice of garlic butter, herb lemon, or cajun sauce (the latter also offered in extra strong and devilishly strong varieties).
Buffalo wings and Jamaican-style jerk chicken are also served, for the unswervingly carnivors.
- シーフードダイナーFINGERS 神楽坂店
- 東京都新宿区矢来町122 矢来イーストビル1F
Music at Mash Records
Music lovers shouldn’t overlook this singular used record store hidden down in a basement. Look out for the shop’s neon sign which is helpfully conspicuous on its quiet residential street.
Mash delivers a comfy vibe, with a worn-in sofa and numerous guitars hanging from the ceiling. It gives the feeling of having stumbled into a fellow music maniac’s living room.
With gleeful disregard for genre, crates of vinyl, CDs, and cassette tapes mix up everything from Japanese enka to hard rock, via ’70s disco and ’90s pop.
Yakiniku restraunt Shozantei
This refined restaurant, in keeping with Kagurazaka’s tony vibe, puts a high-class spin on yakiniku. The popular Korean-originated cuisine which involves diners grilling their own beef and other meats over a charcoal-filled hibachi.
The cuisine here is elevated by both by the refined environment (the traditional building could be mistaken for the former home of a high-ranking samurai) and an insistence on only using the finest cuts of meat.
- 翔山亭 神楽坂本館
- 東京都新宿区神楽坂3-1 クレール神楽坂3・3F