Kagurazaka Area Guide Breakdown
My Kagurazaka area guide to Tokyo’s heaviest concentration of French Restaurants. Home to some of Tokyo’s only functioning Geisha Houses (extremely exclusive) as well as a vibrant French community. Tokyo’s Little Paris is packed to the brim with Cafes, Restaurants, Bars and unique shops.
From Iidabashi Station Above Ground(JR Train or Metro Subway, they are located in the same station) Simply cross the street from the station, crossing over the river. Then follow the river south for a few minutes and turn right at the intersection with the Anpanman Shop and the Kagurazakashita Starbucks. From here simply head up the Kagurazaka Hill and explore.
From Iidabashi Station Underground: Follow signs for exit B2 or exit B3
Kagurazaka Area Guide Highlights
- Cobblestone side streets
- Scenic Hidden Alleyways
- Unique Shops
- Mugimaru Cafe – Like a Japanese Hobbit Hole
- Zenkokuji Temple
- Il Dolce Vita Italian Imports and Wine
- Lugdunum Bouchon Lyonnais – Michelin Starred French Cuisine
- Botchiriya – Snacks and Sake
- Gojuban – Nikkuman, giant savory steamed buns
- Lamb Duck Tokyo – incredible lamb and duck plates with reasonably priced wine
- Craft Beer Server Land – Japanese craft beer
Tokyo’s Little Paris
This Kagurazaka area guide is here to help you get the most out of one of Tokyo’s most unique areas. Kagurazaka has been a nightlife neighborhood for well over a hundred years. It was a former Hanamachi, or Geisha district. In the early 1900’s the French set up a school here that exists to this day as the Institut Francais du Japon. As a result there is a very French atmosphere permeating the area. The hanamachi vibes of the Meiji Era now exist alongside some of Tokyo’s best wine bars, French bistro’s and pastry shops. Come and enjoy the accordion music wafting through the street side speakers of Tokyo’s Little Paris
Getting Around Kagurazaka
Zaka means hill. Kagurazaka is basically a gently sloping hill running Northwest from Iidabashi Station to Kagurazaka Station. I recommend arriving at Iidabashi station as it serviced by 4 Metro Lines and 2 JR lines. From Iidabashi station simply walk South along the river until you see an intersection with a big Starbucks on one side and an Anpanman Shop on the other. Then simply head up the hill. If you came to Iidabashi station by subway then simply follow the signs for exit B3 or B2a. These will drop you off right on the main hill leading through Tokyo’s Little Paris.
Once you’ve arrived simply start walking up the hill. Along the way dive into as many side streets as catch your attention. There are little coffee shops, cobblestone alleyways, and wine bars galore. If you get turned around simply make your way back to the main hill. The first stop on our Kagurazaka Area Guide is up the hill at Mugimaru cafe.
Kagurazaka Area Guide To Do list
Mugimaru – Must Visit Kagurazaka Cafe
Mugimura 2 is located up the hill halfway between the bottom of the hill and Kagurazaka Metro Station. It has to be seen to be believed. It’s a tiny, 2-story cafe that specializes in jet black coffee and manju. The inside of the shop is packed to the brim with knick knakcs, defunct appliances, photos, an extremely lazy cat, you name it. Imagine fi your grandmother was an adorable Japanese hoarder. And also a hobbit. That’s what the inside of this place feels like, a hobbit hole. That photo above is the counter where you order. This place is not big on surfaces.
Mugimaru makes a mean cup of coffee but the real must order dish is the manju. Manju are steamed cakes filled with anything from sweetened anko beans to cheese. Here the manju are made from mugwort dough. Which gives the whole experience a real middle-earth vibe. I suggest drinking the coffee black while nibbling on the Tsubuan Manju (bean paste cake). Dont forget to look around and “thumb through the magazines” as there is a lot to look at in this place. Definitely take your shoes off and head to the second floor if it doesn’t sound too full. This is one of my favorite cafes in Kagurazaka.
Dolce Vita – Cheap Wine in Kagurazaka
The next stop on our Kagurazaka area guide is some of the cheapest wine and biggest pours in Tokyo. Simply head back to the main hill from the Mugimaru Cafe and head a little further northwest up the hill. When someone in an apron offers you a massive piece of free parmigiano reggiano you’ll know you’ve arrived.
Welcome to Dolce Vita, an Italian food and wine shop. This shop only sells foods, ingredients and wines from Italy. This place offers samples of almost everything, including the wine. This shop is brilliant and incredibly cheap. They offer a space for Italian brands hoping to make it in Japan to display their goods. They then sell data on what was popular to the higher end Japanese department stores which all have food halls in the basement. Which means all the plonk and nibbles are sold for yennies.
Just look at that sample station! While you cant serve yourself you simply need to look interested and a very enthusiastic woman will come over and start pouring you as many tiny free samples as you like. If you feel like splashing some cash they pour MASSIVE nami nami cups of wine for about 2.50USD. Nami nami is a sake term meaning poured to the brim. Sip it off the brim before picking up the cup. Note I said cup, as in bigger than a wine glass. Spumante for 4USD. You have to visit this place!
Lamb Duck Tokyo
If you’re wondering where to eat in Kagurazaka then stop by one of my favorite restaurants in all of Tokyo when I’m in the mood for lamb is Lamb Duck Tokyo. They have a massive grill inside that is pumping out some of the best lamb and duck dishes in Tokyo. They also have a very reasonably priced wine menu and overall a great atmosphere. For the Kagurazaka Area guide I wont go into too many details but to learn more about my visit to Lamb Duck Tokyo click here. However, if you’re not ready for dinner and need a few more drinks try stopping by Botchiriya. It is right next door to Lamb Duck Tokyo and a great place to try sake and a few snacks.
Lugdunum Bouchon Lyonnais – Michelin Starred French In Kagurazaka
If you’re wondering where to eat in Kagurazaka that is extremely French than look no further than Lugdunum. I came here for lunch and it was amazing. They offer a full French lunch course of Lyon staples for 30 USD. Probably one of the cheapest Michelin starred meals you’ll find anywhere on the planet. Everything we had was absolutely delicious. I’ve not been for dinner yet but I bet it’s epic. Learn more here.
This temple was first built in another part of Tokyo that kept catching on fire. So it was relocated to Kagurazaka. It must have brought some good luck along with it as this is one of the few neighborhoods that survived the Great Kanto Earthquake of 1923. Stop by for a peak inside, some quick photos or simply have a coffee or a wine at one of the nearby French cafes or pastry shops.
Kagurazaka Area Guide Honorable Mentions
My Kagurazaka Area guide is here to inspire you to visit Tokyo’s Little Paris. The guide does not need to be strictly followed. The area is not large and its entirely possible you will spend the entire time eating free cheese and getting over served on wine at Dolce Vita anyway. Well done, I say. This area is very much off the tourist radar for now.
If you need some more ideas you could stop by Craft Beer Server Land to try a few International beers as well as domestic Japanese craft beers. Stop by Gojuban for nikkuman a massive Japanese, steamed pork bun. If you’ve never been to a Boulangerie Paul, a famous chain of French bakeries, definitely stop by and get canele. Mmmmmmm….canele. For souvenirs stop by No-ren. This is one of the coolest souvenir shops in Tokyo. Even Japanese visitors from other parts of Japan stop by for souvenirs here. There is lots to look at and it is not your usual fake ninja star tat.
Kagurazaka Area Guide Uncharted Territory
Every time I visit Kagurazaka I find somewhere new I want to try. Aside from the main hill there are cobble stoned alleyways lined with bamboo winding through the entire area. Ryotei restaurants, standing sake bars and vinyl shops. My favorite part of this area though are the Tiny French bistros. Many with stern looking Japanese chefs and French university students waiting tables and greeting you in Japanese. They may be in Japan but I doubt the French are going to trip over themselves to accommodate you in English, and why should they? It is Tokyo’s little Paris, after all.
Learn some more about Kagurazaka