Building entry is free, most performances require tickets
2 Chome-1-2 Koenji-kita, Suginami, Tokyo
Distance from Station:
4 minutes on foot from JR Koenji Station (North Exit)
03-3223-7500 (Japanese only)
9:00am - 10:00pm, Closes irregularly and during New Year's holidays
Website: (external link)
  • no-smoking


To Theater and Beyond
[published September 2020]

Walking along the Chuo Line east from the north exit of Koenji Station, the boxy circus tent-shaped architecture of Za Koenji appears. Za Koenji is a public theater opened in 2009 and designed by renowned and international award-winning architect, Toyo Ito. The building contains three halls, three practice rooms, and a café, spanning six floors from below ground and above ground.

When designing Za Koenji theater, Ito imagined it as a circus tent in the city center. It has a remarkable appearance with few windows, but an organic pattern of small circular windows also has a big impact. Like the roof of a circus tent, it is made up of seven curved planes for a very unique appearance. The “closed” structure is presented in consideration of the environment and local residential areas. The designers imagined a powerful playhouse that would embrace the energy of the plays performed there. Contrary to its outside appearance, the inside is spacious. The circular windows and lights are so unique and show the playful mind of Itoh. The stair case from the second basement floor to the second ground floor is dynamic.

Theater 1, the main auditorium, has a flexible floor layout system used for plays, dance performances and just about anything else. Theater 2, the civic hall, is mainly used for local recitals. The Awa-Odori hall on the underground floor is literally used for the practice of Koenji’s most famous annual event, Awa-Odori, including a bimonthly Experience opened to the public, but sometimes dance recitals are also held there. The gallery on the second basement floor usually shows exhibits that change monthly.

There is a cafe-restaurant on the second floor, Henri Fabre, where you can enjoy around 300 picture books which are lined up along the wall of the cafe. The theater owns the illustrated book collection of over 1,500 titles that change by season. Not only children but also adults can enjoy these books.

The director said that the Za Koenji is not just a theater to hold a plays and workshops, but also a gathering place for people to meet face to face. On the third Saturday of the month, there is a food and farmers’ market held in front of the theater. As the director has said, Za Koenji is “beyond theater.”