Prices range from very cheap to very expensive depending on establishment
- 3 Chome-37 Asagayaminami, Suginami, Tokyo (general area)
- Distance from Station:
- 1 minute on foot from JR Asagaya Station, south exit
- Many places have English menus, some staff may speak English
KAWABATA DORI STREET
Asagaya’s Eclectic Southern Secret
Many people are familiar with Pal Shopping Street in Koenji or Star Road in Asagaya but the Kawabata Dori Street Area just south of Asagaya Station is also a unique area well known by locals for its eclectic variety, all night eateries, and original entertainment options.
In the center of the area is the short Ginko Alley (Icho Koji), a retro-filled alleyway a bit like Golden Gai or Omoide Yokocho in Shinjuku, but without all the tourists and crazy cover charges. Here you can experience mostly quaint mom and pop establishments that spill out into the streets during warmer weather, creating a very friendly environment. During the Tanabata (Star) Festival people write their wishes on brightly colored paper and light up the street! At the entrance to the alley is a new standing-bar called Asagaya Annaijo that is considered the new gateway to Asagaya, a great place to meet some locals.
Other shops and larger chain restaurants that can accommodate larger groups are located on Kawabata Street proper. The street is mostly filled with eating and drinking establishments stacked 2-3 high. For example the Daishi Shimura building (external map link) alone houses Sundal Kitchen, a traveler friendly cafe with a great sense of community, and Bar Zarame, a Ginza-like cocktail and Italian food bar but with reasonable prices on the second floor, and Rock Bar Edge and a sports bar called Milanista on the 3rd. But the other buildings on the street are equally interesting. You may have to dig a little to discover your new experience but it is well worth the effort.
Drinks and Food: You can get any kind of drinks in the area but there are some of the best sake joints in Tokyo in a more casual atmosphere like Mako-Ya or Izayoi (十六夜), a small izakaya near the end of Ginko Alley. But if you want original cocktails hit up Bar Zarame. The food choices are vast from sea food to Thai, Chinese, Italian, French, Michelin Star rated yakitori at Birdland and gourmet wagyu beef at Sato Buriand (徳湖里) if you can get a reservation (external link), modern as well as traditional Japanese fare, and a 24 hour Chinese restaurant called Gyoza Sakaba that’s pretty cheap! There are also quite a few sushi restaurants in the area, and even a spice and halal food shop.
Music and Entertainment: The area also has a few great places for music and entertainment. Live jazz events are held at Jazz Bar Klavier just out of Asagaya’s south exit, Cool Dread, Reggae bar across from Smile Hotel has DJ and live events, and a tiny live blues bar sits on Ginko Alley called Chicago. Havana Club Tres darts bar (home to the neighborhood cats) is a good place to hear music and an old style karaoke joint called Sound Inn located in the basement under the Smile Hotel is great if you want that Japanese karaoke experience on the cheaper side. Interestingly “kawabata” means “river bank” and the biggest surprise is the Japanese style fishing pond just behind Family Mart. But don’t be fooled, although it may seem like shooting fish in a barrel, these fish are some of the most clever you will encounter! This is truly a Japanese experience! During the Tanabata Festival in August there is an art installation of brightly colored fish as part of the Bata Art exhibition, where you’ll find other outdoor and gallery art installations in the area in August.
Guidance and Accommodation: Many places have English menus and some staff speak English. The environment is welcoming to visitors and tourists, singles or families, young and old. Unlike Star Road or Ichiban Gai street there are some larger chain restaurants and other privately owned establishments with more space to accommodate groups and some places are open 24 hours! There are ATM’s in 7-Eleven, Family Mart, and the Japan Post Office near the entrance of Kawabata Dori Street.
Smile Hotel is directly in this area and there are many AirBNB options in the area if you would like an affordable way to experience what it’s like to live in a traditional Tokyo neighborhood.
Prices: Prices vary significantly from 400 Yen to over 10,000 yen for gourmet beef at Sato Buriand.
When to go: This is mostly a night time entertainment area but there are places open during the day for lunch and during festivals.
Location: To reach this area simply go out the south exit of Asagaya Station and look to your right. This whole area is the Kawabata area. Kawabata Dori is the main street that starts just to the right of 7-Eleven. Asagaya Station is only 8 minutes from JR Shinjuku Station on the JR Chuo Line (10 minutes by JR Chuo Sobu Line on weekends and holidays).
Nomiyasan Matsuri – Pub crawl festival every May and November.
Asagaya Jazz Streets – Live Jazz music festival every October with Jazz played all around the area.
Tanabata Festival – Traditional Japanese festival in August in the Pearl Center Shopping Street with street food and many hanging decorations.
Bata Art Exhibition – Local street and outdoor art at various locations that coincides with the Tanabata Festival and focuses on the Kawabata Dori Street area. In fact “Bata” represents both “Tanabata” and “Kawabata”!
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