This past month I had a chance to collaborate with NHK World on one of their excellent English-language programs. ‘Tokyo Eye’ features the latest trends, events and hidden attractions in and around Tokyo.
Having conducted my own tours of Kichijoji for the Tokyo American Club Women’s Group members over the past few years, I was curious to see what they would pick up on for this show.
Although Kichijoji has already been featured several times on Tokyo Eye, this month’s program chose the theme of new trends showcasing the diverse cultural feel of the community.
Sure enough, even after living in the neighborhood for 14 years, I discovered a few new things!
We met on a Sunday morning to film the Harmonica Yokocho ‘asa ichiba’ – morning market. This area of narrow winding alleys just to the north side of the station is typical of the post-war barrack-style construction characterizing post-war construction in Tokyo. The dark winding alleys hanging with paper lanterns have made this a popular retro feel late-night drinking area.
In recent years it has also seen a number of tiny lunch places open, and this latest edition, the morning market, runs once a month on the last Sunday of the from 7-10 am. I’ve always noticed how Japanese folks (or is it just Tokyo folk) seem to have a penchant for loud, cramped, bustling areas, and this morning market delivers the goods. You will find anything from fresh vegetables, home-made cookies and jams to trinkets and crafts. The casual, chatty manner of the vendors and the elbow-brushing nature of the experience convey an authentic open-market experience, and will certainly leave you awake and invigorated on an early Sunday morning.
Next stop on our off-the-beaten-track tour of Kichijoji takes us to the Arts and Crafts building, just around the corner from Ocharaka on Nakamichi. Started a couple years ago, this multi-purpose space holds a jewelery school and several small ateliers and galleries.
Based on a western-inspired model of artists co-ops, it seeks to break away from the more rigid hierarchical structures associated with the world of Japanese arts, and instead encourages the free exchange and communication of ideas and inspiration. If you ever stop by, make sure to pop out on the rooftop deck for a lovely view over the jumbled rooftops of Kichijoji- don’t forget to look for the trees in Nishi-en, and even Mt. Fuji on a clear day.
Our last stop was Nishi-Koen, the small open green space (can one call something so diminutive a park?) on Nakamichi dori, just down the street from our home. I remember years back when the park was created- my children used to come to chase pigeons and collect acorns here after preschool.
Considering Kichijoji has been rated the most desirable neighborhood to live in for years in a row by Tokyo housewives, it seemed a good move to carve out a space, no matter how small, for children to run around in. And with the addition of the popular Hara doughnuts shop across the street, it is always a nice place to sit and take a break from the weekend crowds. And lastly, it has two stunning trees- and yes, as more and more old gardens around the neighborhood vanish, they just might someday be the last two big trees standing in Kichijoji.
On a personal note, I thoroughly enjoyed the chance to experience being a live-reporter on the streets of my neighborhood! All the seemingly basic things that skilled reporters make look so easy- walking, talking, and enthusiastically presenting things- actually take quite a bit of skill and flair to pull off well! I thoroughly recommend ‘Tokyo Eye’ as a source of up-to-date information on lesser-known points of interest around the constantly-changing mega-city that is Tokyo. Thank you Hiro-san and Felicia for the fun experience!
You can see the Tokyo Eye segment “Fantastic Towns along the Chuo Line” on NKH world’s website– it airs on NHK World satelite TV on April 17th, and on April 30th on ETV at 3pm Japan time. To find out more about the Kichijoji walking tours check out the nihonbi facebook page.