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Wandering through Kagurazaka

My little Audrey Hepburn corner at tombolo (the cafe) while eavesdropping on the other patrons' conversations

When you're filled with a craving for travel and are a little restless, there's no better way to soothe that urge than to go out exploring. In an attempt to curb the wanderlust, I spent a cheeky weekday in Kagurazaka getting lost in the numerous back alleys and cafe hopping. The district is compact yet big enough to spend a leisurely day, perfect for when you're just looking for travel nibbles. Thanks to the presence of French schools nearby, the fashionable district has a high concentration of French restaurants in addition to Japanese cafes and restaurants. Plenty of choices for me to choose from! Kagurazaka is a short walk from Iidabashi Station just north of the Imperial Palace.

During the Edo Period, Kagurazaka was located just outside the outer moat of Edo Castle. Now, it is also one of the few districts in Tokyo that still has a lot of its historic townscape (which explains the numerous narrow back streets), and retains a fair bit of old world charm. Not quite busy like Shinjuku or Shibuya, nor mode and trendy like Aoyama and Shimokitazawa, Kagurazaka is a comfortable balance between the two. Older folks would be as comfortable checking out the shops as the younger generation. In fact, I saw lots of older visitors checking out the sights in the district when I was there, everyone equally lost as I was (more like they had maps and I was lost).

No prizes for guessing what they sell here
The tiniest smoothie stand I've ever seen, complete with a line outside
The freshly made smoothies are put in a flatpack bottle with minimal labelling. Hipster? I'm going to say yes.
Obligatory selfie against a restaurant door in one of the many alleys
Love the greenery and the colours around it
One of the many French restaurants in Kagurazaka
Shrine and door
Settled on cafe-creperie Le Bretagne for lunch in Kagurazaka
My delicious buckwheat galette with a cup of cidre. Miam!

There is the one main street leading from Iidabashi Station to Kagurazaka and the many back alleys snake their way out from there. Some of the narrow streets lead to deadends, while others continue into the residential areas. I set off in Kagurazaka with no fixed plans, just wandering around and poking my head into shops. In the day that I spent at Kagurazaka, I managed to see two buildings - the Akagi Shrine and La Kagu, a lifestyle shop - designed by renowned architect Kuma Kengo, wished I had more stomach-space to go to all the cafes and restaurants I saw, had a bath at the local public bath, before ending the day with the most gorgeous sunset along the Kanda River.

Found this cutie squinting in the sun
This isn't an abandoned house but a real shop cafe that's open for business.
Briefly considered going for shiatsu in Kagurazaka
This doesn't look like Japan at all, more like an alley in a Mediteranean city
The minimalistic Akagi Shrine by Kuma Kengo has a cafe and an apartment block on the right
Even the protective lion-gods (komainu) are simple and sphinx-like
Book store, gallery space and cafe, excellent alone or with good friends
La Kagu by Kuma Kengo, wooden steps and the remodelling of former book warehouse into a lifestyle shop
Apartments in Kagurazaka
Two tiny cafes under one roof, a little intimidating to enter as it felt a little like crashing a home party alone
Glad to have gathered up courage to enter one of the cafes. The interior was very calming, hardly scary at all.

It felt slightly indulgent to explore the big city on a weekday and I felt sorry for my friends who were at work for a moment (only for a brief moment). But a day out treating yourself is about doing the things that inspire and make you happy, right? Although, I'm not too sure if it helped to curb the travel bug or if it made me want to do this for the rest of my life (oops!)

Homes along narrow streets
Narrow streets jammed with eateries
Poked my head in Kohaku, wishing I had dinner reservations here
Headed to the nearby local public bath, Atami-yu, to wash away the sadness of no-dinner reservations
A funny thing happened to me inside the bath, which had a very quaint painted mural, ask me about it next time
Refreshed from the bath, I decided to go to the traditional Japanese dessert shop, Kinozen, for some oshiruko
The Canal Cafe is one of the best places to end the day if you're in the Iidabashi/Kagurazaka area (in my opinion)
Got my drink
Listened as the trains chugged by
Watched the sun set, bringing a close to a beautiful day out

The "Chotto Zeitaku Japan" series by japan-guide.com is a continuing project to seek out places that allow us to enjoy the better things in life. Not exactly a sightseeing guide, but one that transports the visitor into a different space to relax and get away from it all.