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Kagurazaka – Tour the Alleyways of Old Edo

May 30, 2008

Kagurazaka – Tour the Alleyways of Old Edo

The Kagurazaka district is located in the center of Tokyo, in the middle of JR Yamanote Line. The area is famous for its lively main street, Kagurazaka-Dori (Dori means “street.”) and it’s winding cobblestone alleyways. The name Kagurazaka is a combination of kagura (a shrine-dance to music) and saka (hill) and evokes the sites and topography of this beautiful part of Tokyo. The layout of the area is much the same as it was when the town was built in the 17th century despite the fact that most of the area was burned down as the result of an air raid on Tokyo in 1920 during WWII.

Karyukai, or Geisha culture, was born in Kagurazaka and many Ryotei (Geisha houses) still operate in the area. In 1910 there were as many as 600 Geishas entertaining business men, famous writers and politicians in the area. Step off Kagurazaka-Dori and spend some time wandering the alleys and you will get a feel for what it must have been like in old Edo.

In contrast, a stroll up Kagurazaka-Dori will take you past trendy clothing shops, traditional tea merchants, lacquer ware stores and you will find sushi restaurants competing for business with French pastry shops. It’s quite the mix of old and new.

But don’t miss the alleyways! Continue reading to find out how…

On a recent visit to the area, while admiring the beautiful lacquer ware in one of the shops, the owner gave me a Walking Guide for Kagurazawa. This amazing map will direct your stroll through the alleys, past ancient temples and shrines, the current Geisha office and identifies a number of restaurants and stores in the area. The map is produced by Michi Travel but is not available online.

The front of my well used brochure is pictured on the left and I would recommend that you pop into one of the stores at the base of Kagurazaka-Dori and request a copy. Then take some time to wind your way through the cobblestone alleys of this fascinating area. Kagurazaka is conveniently located and accessible from the JR IIdabashi station on the Yamanote Line. As you exit the station, turn to your right and a one minute walk will place you at the base of Kagurazaka-dori. Tokyo Metro Iidabashi and Ushigome-Kagurazaka stations also provide access to the area.

The Shinjuku City Tourism Association offers a great guide to Kagurazaka with some photos and history of the various points of interest and don’t forget to pick up your Walking Guide for Kagurazawa from one of the area vendors.

Sources: The Ikamachi Club, KAGURAZAKA Explore the past in cosmopolitan ways
Photos: Personal Collection