Saying “Tokyo on a Budget” is a bit of an oxymoron. But a mere 12 minutes from Shibuya Station (one of Tokyo’s busiest railway stations) by train lies a hidden gem — the shopping and café paradise of Jiyugaoka. Known as a perfect escape for the fashion forward, Jiyugaoka has the benefits of central Tokyo, but with more trees and fewer distractions. Unlike neighboring residential areas in greater Tokyo, Jiyugaoka is lively, with plenty to do. Clothing boutiques, book stores, patisseries, restaurants, cafes, specialty shops, and karaoke are bountiful here.
On a recent trip to Malaysia to check out Malaysia Airlines’ new direct flight from Narita, Japan to Kota Kinabalu, we met expat Nadia Sobehart on a day trip though Narita. She recently shared with us the “best” way to get lost in Tokyo. But, as a local student, her specialty is finding hidden gems that won’t break the bank in one of the most expensive cities in the world. Here, she shares her picks when in Jiyugaoka to experience Tokyo on a budget:
Where to Eat
From Japanese to international, Jiyugaoka has most cuisines covered. For 1000 yen or less, visitors can enjoy a great lunch at various shops.
A must-try is Sankyu, a Japanese restaurant with a lovely atmosphere and traditional interior. At 1,100 yen, the lunch sets at Sankyu are an absolute steal. It is rare to find such a high quality, voluminous meal that tastes like it came straight from the countryside.
JUNOESQUE BAGEL CAFÉ
Junoesque Bagel Café, which originated in Jiyugaoka and now has branches throughout Tokyo, is one of the few places in Tokyo for decent bagel sandwiches and salad or soup sets. True to Japan’s love for seasonal products, Junoesque offers both monthly bagel specials and everyday options whose flavors vary from pumpkin to chocolate chip to roasted barley tea.
If home-style cooking is your cup of tea, Fete Café, about a seven minute walk from Jiyugaoka Station, offers a delicious lunch set for 1000 yen, which includes various deli items, a main selection, and coffee or tea.
Where to Drink
For drinks, head to the corner bar on Marie Claire Street near the overpass and flower shop. Sakura Bar (サクラバル) is a great option for reasonable drinks (from 480 yen) and great tapas-style fusion food.
For cheap drinks before 7:30pm, head to Minton House right next to Jiyugaoka Station, across from Starbucks at the main exit. Happy hour drinks are an affordable 315 yen for anything from beer to wine to gin and tonics. Snacks are offered at the same price.
Where to Play
BIG ECHO (KARAOKE)
Within minutes of the station, there are multiple options for karaoke. Big Echo offers half an hour of karaoke from 11am-6pm for 105 yen plus a one drink purchase or all-you-can-drink bar for 500 yen per hour. Considering the price of coffee in many Tokyo cafes, an hour of karaoke with one drink can be yours for less than the 600 yen latte you may purchase elsewhere.
KOMAZAWA OLYMPIC PARK
For those who love an active lifestyle, outdoor enjoyment is within walking distance. On the far end is Komazawa Olympic Park, about a half hour walk east from Jiyugaoka, which offers bicycle rentals for a minimal cost and a bounty of space for outdoor fun.
THE TODOROKI VALLEY
About a 20-minute walk in the opposite direction or three stops on the Oimachi line, is Todoroki. The Todoroki Valley, a few minutes from the station, has a lovely trail along the stream that makes for a particularly nice stroll under fall’s changing colors.
Where to Shop
Nestled next to the train tracks, Trainichi is a mini shopping complex complete with a French toast cafe and various boutiques. One’s Terrace, a home store, is perfect for small gifts and nifty household items. Next door on the second floor is a shop that sells most items for 100 to 300 yen and has nicer goods than the typical 100 yen shop. Both are certainly worth a visit if you’re in the area.
Not far from Trainichi is the small boutique shop Katakana. Here you will find quirkier items as well as traditional goods, both worth every penny.
Where to Chill
MARIE CLAIRE STREET
A nicety that is particular to Jiyugaoka is Marie Claire Street, a main road lined with trees and benches. Home to many festivals and an overflowing orchard of cherry blossoms in spring, Marie Claire Street is a relaxing place to hang out near the station. Especially when the weather is warm, families, couples, and individuals come here to rest on a bench, chat or read, and enjoy being outside. Some cafes along this road open their terraces during summer months. It’s also a fun place to sit with a drink in hand (drinking publicly is legal in Japan) and socialize at any time of the year.
Where to Find an Alternative Reality
Hidden in the back streets of Jiyugaoka, you will find La Vita, otherwise known as “Little Venice”. Like a scene out of a movie, this perfectly recreated block of space will whisk you away to Italy without stepping out of Tokyo. Visiting this place gives you the sudden realization that the crazier, unexpected things in life are the most enjoyable.
Regardless of where you find yourself in Jiyugaoka, you will be sure to enjoy your stay. Close to the entertainment district of Shibuya, Jiyugaoka is convenient yet peaceful by comparison. It’s a great place to visit for a few hours to freshen up, spend a reasonable amount of money, and return to the concrete jungle of central Tokyo.
More Jiyugaoka Resources
Boutique Shopping Guide by JapanTravelInfo.com
Great neighborhood photos of Jiyugaoka by JapanDish.com and LikeaFishinWater.com
The Tokyo Neighborhood That Always Feels Like Sunday by Japan-Talk.com
About the Author
Nadia Sobehart is a full-time graduate student passionate about writing, traveling, music, and adventure. After finding her way to Japan twice as a teenager, she decided to move there on the JET Program to teach English in a rural town on the Sea of Japan. After two years of exploration, surprise, and misadventure, Nadia knew it was time to resume her studies, this time transitioning from business to media design, in the bustling metropolis of Tokyo. Nearly a year and a half later, she is still scouting the city for festivities, experiences, and cute cafes in which to learn and pleasantly pass the time. Nadia balances her time with thesis research, pursuing a career in music and entertainment, and writing for JTB USA and her private blog, Tokyo Doll.