Famous as a classy and stylish shopping hub, Jiyugaoka is often called the “Little Europe” of Tokyo. Jiyugaoka is only ten minutes by train from Shibuya, but feels like a lifetime away from the crowds, the neon, and the noise. As soon as you step out of the train, you’ll immediately find yourself surrounded by people in their finest dress, immaculate and glamorous, with streets that feel like you’ve been transported to somewhere in Europe. Around every corner, there’s a European-style bakery or a boutique store (usually with a French name that doesn’t really make sense), but it’s fun to buy into the fabulousness of it all, even if just for an afternoon. If you want to feel fancy for a day and dine on some posh food while you’re at it, our Jiyugaoka Food Guide offers a huge range of exciting options for both European and Japanese food.
Jiyugaoka Station is the major junction where the Toyoko Line and Oimachi Lines cross paths, so it’s busy here but it’s a leisurely, pleasant buzz. It’s got faux cobbled streets and elegant boutiques on every corner, with architecture heavily influenced by European styles, but of course, there’s still an air of Japan. Take a stroll down the wide main street on the station’s east side, where the pavement is lined with cherry blossom trees and park benches. There’s every intention for fashionable families to relax in the sun together and munch away on crepes, bought from the resident Momi & Toy’s cart, or a coffee from the trendy coffee van across the way.
1. Bake Cheese Tart
The first thing on your trip to Jiyugaoka should be a sweet snack. Head right out of the Jiyugaoka Station’s South Exit and go straight, where on the corner you cannot miss the glorious Bake Cheese Tart shop. Rows upon rows of golden baked tarts twinkle at you from inside of the sleekly designed windows, unless passers-by are in the way, pressing their noses to the window to get a proper peek. These bright yellow babies are baked in store but originally hail from Hokkaido, which is famous for its milk and cheese products. Their premium tart with its perfect oozing centers is the must-try snack if you’re in the area. They also sell soft-serve ice cream and coffee, which you can stop and enjoy on the second floor.
2. Peter Rabbit Garden Cafe
The Peter Rabbit Garden Cafe, one of Tokyo’s many themed restaurants, is a charming little place even for those who aren’t familiar with the Beatrix Potter picture books. Surrounded by trees, the cafe itself is whimsical and quaint in its decor, conveying the essence of the English cottage in which the adventures of Peter Rabbit and friends were dreamed up. Not just for kids, the colorful, lavish food is themed, of course, and is quite impressive. Peter Rabbit’s face is printed on everything from the bread rolls to your coffee, and you can choose your favorite Beatrix Potter character plushie to come and dine with you at your table.
3. Salon Tamago to Watashi
The humble omurice (an omelette over fried rice) is a popular fusion food of yoshoku (Western-influenced food) It’s a fitting dish to be had at a place like Jiyugaoka, an area which really epitomizes the crossover of cultures. Pop down to the underground store of Salon Tamago to Watashi, meaning “egg and me,” where the atmosphere is lovely and the omelettes are soft and fluffy. This concept of omelette over rice has slowly developed from the basic ketchup-flavored rice to all kinds, with a demi-glace or a dreamy cream sauce to go with it. They serve up plenty of other unusual but delicious omurice creations such as souffle omelette.
4. New New York Club
For a little taste of America in the tiny Europe of Tokyo, make your way down to the New New York Club. Known for their outrageously colored bagels and soul food, here you can get a range of America- style burgers and grilled cheese sandwiches (they even have a mac and cheese grilled cheese sandwich, popular with the local high school girls). It’s a tiny place that’s jam-packed with every signature American product you could imagine. With just a few tables and a couple of counter seats, it’s topped off with some cool Korean hip hop tunes. We strongly recommend the falafel, stuffed in pita bread with a tasty spicy sauce. The New New York Club also has another store in Azabujuban.
5. Kyushu Ramen Hakata Kichimon / 6. Unagi Hosokaya
If you’re in the mood for some Japanese food, take Jiyugaoka Station’s North Exit and turn left, which will lead you to a small but busy area with a cluster of fantastic Japanese restaurants. With so many oshare (Japanese for “stylish” or “fashionable”) restaurants packed in one place, it’s so dazzling that you’ll find it difficult to choose just one. Amongst the number of typical yet delicious Japanese foods offered here, try some Hakata ramen at Kyushu Ramen Hakata Kichimon, a specialty of the Fukuoka Prefecture. This ramen has thin noodles and featuring a juicy soft boiled egg and chargrilled chashu pork slices. For something smaller, try some tender unagi eel sticks, chargrilled at the little hole-in-the-wall specialty shop, Unagi Hosakaya.
Keen for something a bit fancier? Try the finest tempura from Tenichi, one of the big names of deep-fried happiness in Tokyo. While tempura can be seen as a regular Japanese dish, Tenichi’s tempura goes above and beyond, with every vegetable imaginable and seafood that melts in your mouth. With a sister restaurant in the also-posh Ginza district, don’t be surprised that this world-class tempura comes with quite a hefty price tag, even for a lunch set. However, it’s worth it because every morsel is deep-fried to perfection with wonderful service in this traditional-style restaurant. You can add ponzu sauce, lemon and salt, or Japanese curry powder to your delicate tempura, to really up the ante.
8. Alpha Beta Coffee Club
Alpha Beta Coffee Club, where the cups are as generous as they are delicious and there’s a wonderful outside terrace, should be your go-to coffee place in Jiyugaoka for a pick-me-up. This modern cafe gives the impression that you’re drinking coffee of the future, as the pristine and minimalist design is all white and wood, yet somehow the atmosphere is anything but stale. In partnership with local roasters, at ABC they have three types of beans that are always fresh and they pride themselves on serving beautifully-crafted coffees. Bringing on the brewed good times throughout the entire day, they also sell craft beers and offer a luscious cafe snack menu.
9. Kosoan Teahouse
If you’re more of a tea drinker, walk for 7 minutes to the northern part of Jiyugaoka and you’ll reach an unsuspecting cultural gem: Kosoan, a traditional teahouse that’s over one hundred years old. Briefly step out of Europe and back in time as you walk up the little stone path which leads you to this beautiful Japanese teahouse and its gorgeous traditional architecture and decor. With knickknacks and artwork to marvel at on every shelf, inside the teahouse is cozy like a Japanese home. Here you can sit on tatami mats on the floor and snack on some Japanese wagashi sweets, like kakigori shaved ice and anmitsu. Sipping matcha green tea while looking onto the beautiful Japanese garden is a lovely experience, and just behind the tea house is the 800-year-old shrine, Jiyugaoka Kumano Shrine, for that extra cultural immersion.
An indulgent blend of East meets West, Jiyugaoka makes for a trendy afternoon trip if you want to get away from the inner city of Tokyo. Not only is the neighborhood glamorous, cozy, and not yet overrun by tourists, it has plenty of amazing foods options with Japanese and European flairs.
Never not hungry, Lucy is an artist and foodie from Australia. You can find her hunting for the next delicious deal, documenting her food, or brunching. She lives firmly by the philosophy that food friends are the best of friends.