From the Tokyo's Best Stuff series.

Kichijoji is, I think, one of the most 'civilised' (no disrespect intended) parts of the full-on Tokyo metropolis. It took me years to discover, and I can recommend this little neighbourhood wholeheartedly. Take your pick from boutiques, stores, restaurants and funky caf├ęs, very friendly Izakaya (pubs), flowers and so on. In Honcho, behind the fabulous Tokyu department store.

Kichijoji is a major station on the JR Chuo Line and Keio Inokashira Line that serves as a major bus and rail hub for parts of the Mitaka, Musashino, and Nerima areas in western Tokyo. Kichijoji itself is located in Musashino-shi, far enough from Tokyo's 23 wards to be comfortable, but not far enough to be inconvenient.

Kichijoji is often voted one of the top places to live in Tokyo for the same reasons that places like Shimokitazawa and Koenji are. Each of these areas has a characteristic flavour that attracts people from all over Japan, as well as being convenient places to live. Kichijoji is 17 minutes away from Shibuya on the Inokashira Line's express, and about 20 minutes from Shinjuku and 30 minutes from Tokyo station on the Chuo line. You can also take a JR-Subway link to the Tozai line which will take you through to other places in central Tokyo.

The area is probably most well known for the Inokashira park located a few minutes by foot from the station. The Inokashira park has a small lake situated in the center, around which expands a small island of green. Boats can be rented to go for a little ride in the lake, or you can take a stroll around it. In the area near the entrance of the park closest to the station, there are many street vendors, and musicians on the weekends. There is also a small animal park with many monkeys.

On either side of the road leading back to the station, there are a bunch of nice shops, selling things ranging from black goth leather outfits to cute ethnic dresses. On one of the side streets to the right there is a little shop that specializes in antique guitars. Keep walking along the street back to the station and you'll have a OIOI on your right, and a long string of bus stops stretching down the main street. Across this street and past the KFC is the Keio side of the station.

The other side of the station is slightly busier. Outside the main JR exit are more bus stops. Let's take a short walk around.

Crossing the street, there will be an old man wearing a dirty navy jacket standing in the middle of the road. His job is to blow the whistle and clear the way every time a bus has to pass this otherwise uncontrolled crossing. This crossing is the site of many near misses between pedestrians and big buses. (The bus passenger drop off area on the other side of the station cuts it even closer with another navy man clearing the way on a street with tons of foot traffic. On top of that, this street is so narrow that you'll often find yourself rubbing up against a bus.) If you get safely to the other side, you'll find Sun Road, the main shopping street, with a McDonald's and a Bank of Tokyo-Mitsubishi at the entrance. The way forward leads past some non-descript shops, so let's turn left instead. You'll see some electronics shops, and a long line in the distance. This omni-present queue is for a butcher. They have famous meatballs, apparently. I've never had them, but the smell is mouth-watering. Keep walking past the line... Turn right. There's Isetan

Wandering around in the area surrounding the Tokyu department store and Isetan is probably the most interesting. There are many narrow paths leading in between buildings that hide a few shops and clubs. Kichijoji is famous for it's live music. It has traditionally been known as a place for young pop and rock bands to play, but recently it is turning into a jazz lover's paradise. There are an abundance of hidden jazz clubs where good music can be heard for small amounts of cash. This is an area of Kichijoji I've not yet experienced, but I'm looking forward to sticking my head in the door soon.

There is probably one shop you shouldn't miss in Kichijoji. Vilidz Vanguard. It is hard to get bored there, with so many little things packed in such a small space. It is primarily a book store, but it is also a toy and novelty store and is laid out like a maze with just-enough-for-two-people-to-squeeze-sideways-past-each-other -unless-one-of-them-is-wearing-a-backpack space between the piles of books and toys. There is also one in Shimokitazawa near the Honda-gekijo.

There are also two things that almost anyone who frequents Kichijoji will know about. One is the band of Peruvian musicians. In the small space by the entrance of Sun Road, a band of Peruvian musicians frequently play traditional Peruvian music in the evenings. They always have a small crowd around them and give the area around the station an Andean state of lightness that diminishes the urban fog.

You are also likely to see students of palmistry. If you are walking alone through the station, you will sometimes be stopped by someone who is "learning palmistry and would like to read your palm for free to practice". You can see people coupled off at the edges of the corridors, with one of them with their hand spread out, and the other poking at it, trying to decode the lines. Harmless fun, I suppose.

Kichijoji is a busy and lively place. There is always some place new or something you haven't seen that pops into view, no matter how long you've lived there. But there is also something cozy about Kichijoji- maybe it's the parks, (or the monkeys)- which gives it something that better known places like Shibuya and Shinjuku lack.

One interesting fact that should not be forgotten when talking about Kichijoji is that Studio Ghibli has built its museum on the far side of the Inokashira Park.

The Ghibli Mueseum is well worth a visit for any fan of Hayao Miyazaki, and only a 15 minute walk from Kochijoji Station. Don't come without tickets though, as there are none sold at the door. Tickets can only be obtained in advance from Lawson stores, which is a bit of a drag.

Parts of Kichijoji are also featured in various anime, such as Tokio Wars, GTO, Rokudenashi Blues and Umi ga Kikoeru. Studio Ghilbi once has its office here and one passage had its signposts designed by Katsuhiro Otomo.

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