Sangenjaya Neighbourhood Guide - Tokyo's Best Kept Secret

By Arezki Beloucif, the Parisian jazz vocalist who manifested his love for Japan in making the sprawling, organic and enchanting city of Tokyo his new home.

Edited by Holly Stark

Tokyo’s best kept secret, Sangenjaya, is the epitome of a true Tokyo neighbourhood; infused with natural beauty in its tree lined streets is an old, homely feel. The local population evidently appreciate style, and down-to-earth chic coffee shops, bars, tea houses, restaurants and bakeries are scattered through the Sangenjaya, Tokyo streets, allowing a glimpse into the charming, quaint and calm vibe of the neighbourhood, which seems miles apart from the busy, raucous pulse of Tokyo’s centre streets. The district has an air of traditional Japan, but also takes influence from the nearby Shibuya, with a vibrant edge, and Shimokitazawa, known for second hand clothes, handmade creations, a romantic atmosphere and a hippy vibe and alternative edge. Located in Setagaya ward, in south-west Tokyo, Sangenjaya straddles Tamagawa-dori Avenue with its elevated Tokyo Shuto Expressway Route 3, slightly south of Shibuya.

There’s a certain magic to the scattered randomness of Sangenjaya, Tokyo; home to a mix of wooden buildings from the Showa period, 1960s apartment blocks and peaceful temples and greenery. Shabby and chic and home to a charmingly bizarre orange skyscraper known as Carrot Tower which rises above the Sangenjaya neighbourhood, the area exudes friendliness and is known to locals to be one of the only places in central Tokyo where a sense of community can firmly be sensed. As well as a strong local community feel, Sangenjaya has, at its heart, a creative vibe; with quirky eateries, calm green spaces and friendly folk, all within five minutes from Shibuya on the Den-en-toshi Line. There are plenty of great things to do in Sangenjaya. Check out this Sangenjaya neighbourhood guide and explore Tokyo off the beaten path; brimming with things to do in Sangenjaya; from Sangenjaya restaurants to Sangenjaya bars. 

Eat and Drink

Cafe hop through Sangenjaya; one of those neighbourhoods where you can effortlessly go from tea house to lunch to coffee shop to dinner to bar without getting bored or breaking the bank. Wondering where to eat in Sangenjaya? Burger fans will want to head to Baker Bounce. The red, quirky, unassuming exterior hides what’s inside; some of the most-loved, best, biggest and most beautiful burgers in Tokyo. It takes around five minutes to walk to from the station and the burger joint is well worth a visit when visiting Sangenjaya. From the bun to the patty, the huge burgers are a delight, especially the teriyaki burger. Brunch fans can start the day at Voi Voi Pancake Mama. The spot is home to many offerings; spicy pancakes, rye based pancakes, and the usual sweet and savoury. A popular spot at weekends, Voi Voi is probably best visited out of peak hours to avoid the crowds. Veggie lovers can head to Olu'olu Cafe; a lantern-lit, atmospheric, Hawaiian-style organic and vegan cafe, located close to Setagaya Park and about a 10 minute walk from Sangenjaya station. This spot is a hidden gem for vegans and vegetarians, especially when seeking a great place to eat in Tokyo. The food is amazing; try the veggie ramen, and the staff are as friendly and wholesome as the food! With its narrow streets, Sangenjaya, Tokyo is a peak spot to eat in Tokyo like a local.

View

Tokyo is home to many great spots where you can catch the city skyline view. But Sangenjaya’s Carrot Tower Observation Deck offers a different approach to the scene. The building was apparently named by local school children and has shops and offices occupying the lower decks, with restaurants and a 26th floor viewing platform. It’s free and not often too crowded. The draping curtains hint at chronological inconsistency and leave you feeling slightly strange; as if the space belongs to a period other than that in which it exists. It’s not quite Tokyo Tower, at 124 metres high, but it has a lot going for it. Check out the view of the metropolis from the 1920’s style parlour room. On a clear day, you can see the majestic Mt Fuji.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Art

For Tokyo creatives, Sangenjaya is at the heart of the arts scene in Tokyo. With a quirky, artsy vibe, and located at the bottom of Carrot Tower, The Setagaya Public Theatre is a must-visit for any art lover in Tokyo. Considered the city's top venue for contemporary drama and dance, the theatre is home to modern nō; a stylised Japanese dance-drama, performed on a bare stage; and butoh; an avant-garde form of dance. Set in a Greek style auditorium, the theatre has 600 seats and a smaller Theatre Tram. Smaller pockets of imagination and art are constantly cropping up in the area. Seeking things to do in Sangenjaya? Check out the Sangenjaya Setagaya 233 Gallery; a kitsch, independent gallery, cafe and shop. Home to photography and contemporary art exhibitions, the space is free to enter. Find local artists presenting and selling their work, have a cup of cup of coffee in the cafe and soak up the vibe of great Tokyo creatives.

Wander

The best way to enjoy Sangenjaya is to zig-zag through the streets with no plan of action. Take a left here and a right there, open your mind and be curious to the various spots of delight; weird and wacky architecture, street shrines, colourful flowers and tasteful tea houses. Your urban adventure might take you to neighborhoods filled with small, traditional, wooden houses, strange shops such as ice stores (selling nothing but blocks of ice) or tree lined avenues. Perhaps ride the Setagaya Line; one of only two streetcars in Tokyo, the charming little tram has been around since the 1920s. At a mere 5.1km long and seemingly going almost nowhere, there’s something wonderfully pointless about the whole exercise. You will feel as if you’ve gone back to the Taisho period in summer when yukata and jinbei locals ride to nearby festivals. The station itself is a lovely spot to soak up with Edwardian style lights.

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