Tokyo Polytechnic University Suginami Animation Museum is situated in Ogikubo, known as being home to over 130 animation companies. Part of Suginami Kaikan Hall, the museum spans three floors and is packed with interactive exhibits which are perfect for kids and adults alike. The museum also explains the history of animation in Japan and the massive cultural influence it has on the country and, of course, globally.
Tokyo Polytechnic University Suginami Animation Museum (which is free to enter) is extremely popular with foreign anime lovers and has some really quirky exhibits such as the animation timeline wall that showcases over 100 years of animation history in Japan. Other highlights include digital workshops for drawing and coloring animation in addition to the voice-over booth for famous animation “Astro Boy.” Visitors can hear their own voice while watching a short clip from the hugely influential animation.
There is also a kids drawing and sketching area as well as computers available for games and interactive activities. The third floor library is a welcome oasis of calm and visitors can leisurely sit and read through various books about animation or watch a selection of DVDs. There is also a small cinema which shows various animations that can be enjoyed on the large screen.
Although it’s a space dedicated to Japanese pop culture, the museum has made a huge effort to cater for foreign guests and has audio guides in a variety of languages as well as exhibit explanations in other languages including English. Suginami Animation Museum is a really entertaining experience and even non-anime geeks will enjoy the eclectic array of exhibits and activities. Perfect for families or anyone with a passing interest in pop culture and Japan.
From Sep 15 2020—Apr 4th 2021, this special exhibition features a mecha anime series developed by Suginami's Studio Sunrise, which created Gundam and Cowboy Bebop, among others. Explore 16 works across 4 series, as well as screenings and limited edition merchandise.
With Koenji being a "creatives town" it's no surprise that BnA Hotel opened there in 2016 and has had, subsequently, an incredible impact on the local community. BnA (Bed and Art) has other spaces dotted about Tokyo and Kyoto but the Koenji edition is possibly more immersive as the concept is "stay in an artwork." In collaboration with local artists the BnA has created an impressive multi-storey art experiment for art lovers and creatives with a desire to inhabit art. The first floor acts as a front desk and bar which comes alive at night with events and selected DJs. It also hosts Masu Masu onigiri cafe with artists being asked to come and exchange artwork with each other in a gesture which reflects the true spirit of Koenji. With two "living art" twin rooms taking up the second and third floors designed by a seasonal rotation of local artists, guests can engage with and inhabit their art rooms. BnA Koenji also plays host to a rooftop lounge and a basement space which is used for artists residencies where their work is shown to the public and DJ booth and streaming equipment for live performances. With live painting events and an eclectic variety of regular events the BnA Hotel becomes, itself, a living canvas. The BnA believes that it's a machigata hotel meaning that guests should (and encouraged) to interact with Koenji. Use the public sentos, eat in the local restaurants that surround the hotel and buy locally from the multitude of shops, market stalls, bars and cafes which make up the fabric of Koenji. Feted by international press such as The Guardian, BnA acts as a creative network with the concept of serendipity being discussed as the bar becomes an ad hoc meeting place where collaborations and friendships between artists and locals are born. The BnA was also instrumental in a street art festival named MCP (Mural City Project) which was supported by Suginami Ward. MCP was incredibly ambitious and truly communal with the desire to transform and coalesce the community through the creation of public murals. The BnA, Koenji and Suginami spearheaded a public art movement which should be commended and replicated throughout Tokyo.
Located right next to Shinjuku Chuo Park, THE KNOT TOKYO Shinjuku is a modern hotel with an exceptional design and easy access to the nearby Shinjuku train station and the Meiji Shrine. The 14-story hotel building was renovated and reopened in August 2018 as THE KNOT TOKYO Shinjuku . The western-style rooms offer a park view on the top floor as well as a newly opened terrace suite. The spacious atrium design offers a relaxed atmosphere and connects the restaurant, bar, lounge and lobby with one another. One of the highlights of THE KNOT is the delicious dishes. There are six areas in which food and drinks are offered. From the grill area to high-quality black tea and fresh bread, everything is on offer.
Oakhouse Social Residence Koganei in Tokyo's Koganei suburb is a share house that offers long term residence to both Japanese and international residents.
Re:gendo is a cafe, apparel and arts and crafts store found in the quaint backstreets of Nishi-Ogikubo, just a few minutes from the station. It embodies everything about Shimane prefecture, capturing the essence of its history, culture and beauty that help inspire everything on offer here. Located in a spectacular wooden structure, which is said to be around 90 years old, Re:gendo is an homage to Shimane and the staff and owners take great care to display the cultural history of their beloved homeland. It’s a curious space, layed out over two floors. It acts as a thriving restaurant, apparel store, arts and crafts shop and a workshop space which focuses on teaching craftsmanship and culinary skills. The cafe recognizes the nuances involved in Shimane produce such as rice which it uses for its extremely popular, seasonal lunch menus musubi zen and nigiri zen. Musubi zen consists of a main fish or meat dish while nigiri showcases vegetable nigiri sushi. Both courses come with accompaniments including vegetables, pickles and miso soup. The ingredients at Re:gendo are sourced locally in Toyo or from Shimane. The cafe also does a fine collection of sweets (Shimane folk are particularly fond of wagashi or traditional Japanese confectionery). The apparel and crafts section, situated on the first floor adjacent to the cafe includes a range of arts and crafts from Shimane and a curated fashion line which uses a type of non-toxic dye from Shimane so it’s safer for pregnant women or customers with allergies. The second floor hosts regular workshops about local craftsmanship and cuisine. Visitors from all over the world come and participate in workshops and learn the intricacies involved in Shimane’s abundance of specialities. Re:gendo acts, then, as a local hub and a popular attraction for many of Tokyo’s Shimane transplants. Refined, cultured, respectful of ancient traditions and friendly, it should be considered an essential stop on any visit to Nishi-Ogikubo.
Ramen has become a global cuisine over the past decade with ramen-ya popping up in cities all over the globe. Millions of visitors, however, flock to Japan every year to experience the real deal. Harukiya, located a few minutes from JR Ogikubo Station, is a Tokyo institution. Established in 1949 it is the originator of Tokyo-style ramen which uses niboshi (dried baby sardines) in its broth and has been serving up first-class soy sauce which hasn’t changed for more than 70 years and has, rightly, earned it a legion of devotees. Although Harukiya has a sister branch in nearby Kichijoji, the Ogikubo store is the original and takes great pride in creating its authentic Tokyo-style chuka soba as well as chashumen and wontonmen. The aroma from the ramen floats into the outside streets having a visible effect on the patrons who queue daily to get their hands on Harukiya’s mouth-watering ramen. Popular with Ogikubo residents and foreign ramen aficionados, Harukiya has a small, curated menu with toppings, cold noodles and a few side dishes which accompany the ramen. Harukiya has led the Tokyo ramen industry for generations and there’s a reason for this. The aromatic soy sauce ramen and hand made noodles which are freshly kneaded every morning have inspired ramen lovers and ramen chefs the world over and will continue to do so for many more years to come.
Harmonica Allee is located in the trendy area of Kichijoji and is a section of local izakaya bars that are only a few minutes' walk from the train station. The alleys of Harmonica Allee are narrow and at the same time full of life. There you can find fashion, local market traders, which are open during the day, as well as izakayas and pubs that can be visited until late at night. Since the 1990s, Harmonica Allee has been very popular, especially among the locals, for its stand-up bars with inexpensive snacks in the late evening. The area was named for the way this tight tangle of restaurants, shops, and bars resembles a harmonica. It can get full quickly, but it definitely never gets uncomfortable!
Situated in Tokyo’s Nishi-Ogikubo area, which acts as the capital’s antiques hub, Tori Tori is a quirky and relaxed antiques store located a few minutes walk from JR Nishi-Ogikubo Station. Adjacent to another excellent antiques store, Kidoairaku, Tori Tori is renowned for dealing in Japanese dolls. Vibrant and full of life Tori Tori specializes, mostly, in hinakazari or dolls used for hinamatsuri (event that prays for girls' healthy growth and happiness). The incredible display of vintage dolls from various historical periods is spellbinding and a reminder of Japan’s profound connection with history and antiquities. The store also sells other, quirky dolls in a variety of styles as well as a fine collection of textiles, furniture, miniatures, toys and hand-crafted sensu (Japanese hand held fans) which are popular with many visitors looking for a taste of genuine Japanese culture. Tori Tori, then, is a window into Japan’s rush, cultural past and is a flourishing member of Nishi-Ogikubo’s antiques scene.
Kidoairaku is very much part of Nishi-Ogikubo’s antique community and plays a role in reflecting the wealth of antiques from Yamagata Prefecture where the owner, Takashi Watanabe, hails from. Situated a few minutes from JR Nishi-Ogikubo Station on the Chuo Line, Kidoairaku is a treasure chest of antiquities and is a charming and welcoming store in which to lose yourself. The store is compact but full of interesting antiques from a variety of historical periods including Edo, Meiji and Taisho. Kidoairaku doesn’t particularly specialize in one particular kind of antique, rather it reflects the interests and passions of the owner and loyal customers that flock there daily. Popular amongst foreign visitors are the range of beautiful ukiyo-e prints. The store also hosts a curated selection of porcelain, pottery and furniture such as sakura (cherry blossoms) designed chests of drawers. Kidoairaku is a lovely and welcoming spot which acts as an informative and attractive gateway into the thriving and bustling Nishi-Ogikubo antiques scene.
A relatively short distance from the south exit of JR Ogikubo Station is the supremely tranquil Otaguro Park. The former home of influential classical music critic Motoo Otaguro who introduced key classical composers to a Japanese audience, it’s a beautiful and serene environment perfect for a stroll or as a resting spot. Many classical musicians live in the Ogikubo area and there are also a plethora of music venues and festivals which take place in the area. The commemorative house, situated in the park, acts as a museum and occasionally as a compact space for music events and concerts. The park is legendary for its autumn illuminations (to celebrate koyo or the changing color of leaves) which begins at the end of November and lasts for 10 days and draws between 40,000 and 60,000 attendees every year. The park also has an area where cherry blossoms bloom in spring which is also popular with visitors. One of the most charming points of the park is the pond which is full of incandescent carp and it’s undeniably one of the most Instagram-friendly natural spaces in Tokyo. The park is lush with nature and many visitors come to take photographs as well as wedding photos and other celebratory events. As Otaguro Park is located in a residential area its atmosphere is hushed and muted but stunning in its ataraxia. Otaguro Park, then, is a beautiful and tranquil space which embodies the ambience of Ogikubo. The museum space, pond, natural environment and peacefulness makes it an essential spot on any visit to Ogikubo.