NEW! Strolling Zōshigaya – Tokyo Off The Beaten Path

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Tired of the same old Tokyo tourist spots? Meet Zōshigaya, a hidden gem in Tokyo's Ward 23 that most travellers never see. 

This quiet neighborhood is packed with fascinating history, charming streets, and local treasures. If you know where to look.

Imagine sipping traditional sock-filtered drip coffee, visiting Japan's oldest dagashiya (traditional sweet shop), and strolling through a historic cemetery where famous writers rest. 

This guide takes you off the beaten path, showing you a side of Tokyo that even many locals don't know. 

If you're ready to discover the real Tokyo beyond the guidebooks, Zōshigaya is the perfect place to start your adventure! 

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Strolling Zōshigaya Tokyo off the beaten path The Real Japan

Strolling Zōshigaya – Tokyo Off The Beaten Path
by Gilles Poitras



Meet Tokyo Stroll author Gilles Poitras

I know very little about Tokyo, so I turned to Gilles Poitras, author of Tokyo Stroll: A Guide to City Sidetracks and Easy Exploration, for advice on getting off the beaten track in Tokyo. He immediately recommended Zōshigaya.

Gilles has also written three books on anime and has written for magazines including NewType USA and Otaku USA and served as a member of the senior board of Mechademia. He has presented at various Japan-US friendship groups, the Asian Art Museum in San Francisco, the Smithsonian, and at Pixar.

Over to you Gilles…


Starting wandering from Zōshigaya Station

Far too many travelers to Tokyo just go to the few big sites that are in all the travel books/websites and miss so much of the city. One quiet and interesting neighborhood off the beaten track is Zōshigaya.

Tokyo Metro Zoshigaya Station by Rs1421

We start our stroll at entrance No.1 at Zōshigaya Station on the Tokyo Metro  |  Photo: Rs1421 - Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0

We'll explore just a few things in the locality starting at two stations next to each other, either Zōshigaya Station on the Tokyo Metro Fukutoshin Line or Kishibojin Mae Station on the Toden Arakawa Line. I'm listing the locations below by a suggested route to keep the amount of walking to a minimum, also almost all of the locations listed here are wheelchair accessible.


Kishimojin Omotesando

Take the road going northwest and at the fork in the road go to the right to Kishimojin Omotesandō. This narrow street is easy to identify as it is lined with keyaki (zelkova) trees, some of the trees are hundreds of years old. 


Namiki House - home to Tezuka Osamu and Futagawa Yukio

On one of the walkways off to the right of the street is Namiki House, a two story apartment house. This building was built in 1953 and is listed as a National Tangible Cultural Property for its historical and architectural value. The famous manga creator and animator Tezuka Osamu lived there for three years starting in 1954. 

Namiki House The Real Japan

Manga creator Osamu Tezuka and architectural photographer Futagawa Yukio both lived in Namiki House  |  Photo: Suikotei, CC BY-SA 4.0 via Wikimedia Commons

Another famous tenant was architectural photographer Futagawa Yukio who resided there when he was a student. It is very important to not attempt entering the building to respect the privacy of the occupants.


Stopping at Kaizuma Coffee for a beverage and a pastry

Continuing on Kishimojin Omotesandō just past Namiki House you next come to Kiazuma Coffee, a good place for a beverage and pastry. They have an English menu and can speak a little English. Their coffee is made with the traditional sock-filtered technique and they have a variety to choose from. Non-smoking, wheelchair accessible, and closed Wednesdays. 

Kaizuma Cafe Zōshigaya

Kiazuma Coffee is an ideal place to stop for for a beverage and pastry  |  Photo: Coffee Walk

Next to Kiazuma Coffee is the Zōshigaya Information Center which is a good source of maps and tourist information related to the area. There is a gallery space on the second floor. You can also get a shikishi (a paper board for collecting ink stamps) and a map for the Zōshigaya Seven Lucky Gods Pilgrimage. 


Zōshigaya Seven Lucky Gods Pilgrimage

Lucky gods pilgrimages involve going to a series of temples and shrines in an area, usually collecting an ink stamp on a special sheet of paper made for that particular pilgrimage. There are many such pilgrimages in the Tokyo area and the one in Zōshigaya is one of the easiest. 

Most such pilgrimages with stamp collection are only possible during the week after the New Year, this one can be done year round as you handle the stamping yourself without having it done by shrine or temple staff. Several of the locations on the pilgrimage are mentioned in this article, a couple are a short walk away from this immediate area.



Guided Tokyo Off The Beaten Path Walking Tours

Tokyo Old Quarter Yanaka Walking Tour

OLD QUARTER TOUR

The Old Quarter of Tokyo - Yanaka Walking Tour

On a small-group half-day walking tour of the Yanaka neighborhood, check out wooden homes, temples, shrines, and shopping alleys. See a quiet part of Tokyo that many travelers miss and sights you might not find if touring independently. 

Tokyo Oldest Sake Brewery riverside walk tour

BREWERY TOUR

Private tour: Tokyo's Oldest Sake Brewery and riverside walk

Escape the hustle and bustle of the big city on this day trip to Tokyo's oldest brewery and enjoy a relaxing day of sake and a gourmet Japanese lunch. Enjoy the fresh air and the stunning scenery of the Tama river valley. Learn about the production methods, varieties and cultural importance of sake.
Tokyo West Side Walking Street Food Tour

FOOD TOURS

Tokyo West-Side Walking & Street Food Tour

It can be tricky sniffing out the best local haunts on the Tokyo street food scene, but on this walking and food tour, you’ll gain an insider’s knowledge. Learn about everyday life in the eclectic local neighbourhoods of Nakano and Koenji, with delicious street food tastings along the way.


Zōshigaya Kishimojindō - the Buddhist temple that survived WWII firebombing

At the end of Kishimojin Omotesandō turn left and the road will take you to Zōshigaya Kishimojindō. This Nichiren sect Buddhist temple is associated with Kishimojin a protective Bodhisattvā, especially for children; people pray here for an easy childbirth. Originally the temple was just a wooden hut built by local farmers to house a statue they found buried, it eventually became a proper temple building. 

Zōshigaya Kishimojindō

Zōshigaya-Kishimojindō | Photo: Sahaooon 

The main hall dates from 1664 having survived the firebombings of WWII, restoration work was carried out in the late 1970s. The building is a registered as a Tangible Cultural Property of Tokyo and a National Important Cultural Property, a large ginkgo tree on the grounds which was planted in the early 15th century, it is registered as a Natural Monument of Tokyo and as one of the Toshima City Important Trees for Landscape. 


Inside Tokyo’s oldest traditional sweet shop

There is also an Inari shrine for Uka no Mitama no Mikoto that was founded before the temple. On the grounds you will also see a simple wooden building called Kamikawaguchiya. This is a shop selling all sorts of inexpensive snacks, the kind kids can buy with pocket change. This kind of shop is called a dagashiya and was once quite common. The selection is broad, some of the items are made by the owners. 

This particular one has a long history having been founded in 1781, is the oldest in Tokyo, the current building is over 100 years old, and the business is still run by the same family that started it. They open up in early afternoon. Kamikawaguchiya also has a connection with anime, it was the model for the dagashiya in the Studio Ghibli movie Only Yesterday. 

The store appears in the "Snack Time" episode of NHK World's DESIGN X STORIES TV show (click on the link to watch).

Snack Time DESIGN X STORIES NHK World Japan Zōshigaya

Kamikawaguchiya, Tokyo's oldest sweet shop, appears in the "Snack Time" episode of NHK World's DESIGN X STORIES TV show  |  Photo: NHK World

The first store seen is Kamikawaguchiya on the grounds of Zōshigaya Kishimojindō, a Tokyo temple. Kamikawaguchiya was founded in 1781 & run by the same family.  The Toden Arakawa Line will take you to this area.

To get to the next spot, walk back the way you came and go past Kishimojin Omotesandō and follow the road as it eventually curves to the right to Zōshigaya Ōtori Jinja. This Shintō shrine is the guardian shrine for the Zōshigaya area and dates from 1712 when it was founded to protect against disease. In the past it was also popular with local farmers as a place to pray for good crops. 

Crossing the train tracks to find the Rain Prayer Pine tree

One of the better known crops grown in Zōshigaya was aubergines (eggplants) and you will see them growing at this shrine. Next we can head to the Buddhist temple Mitakesan Seiryūin by continuing to the intersection past Ōtori Jinja, making a left turn at the tracks, and crossing the tracks at the next intersection. 

Three blocks past the tracks take a left turn then the second right turn to reach the temple. Founded in the early 13th century as a Shingon temple named Seiryūji, the temple name changed in the later half of the 17th century when it became a Nichiren sect temple. 

Farmers would pray for rain at Mitakesan Seiryūin; a tree on the grounds is named the "Rain Prayer Pine." If you go behind the temple you will find a stone near the eleven headed kannon statue with a carving depicting the area in the Edo Period.


Finding graves of the famous in Zōshigaya Cemetery

Next to Seiryūin is Zōshigaya Cemetery, one of the first Western style cemeteries in Japan, founded in 1874, and one of the largest in Tokyo. I recommend you backtrack slightly from Seiryūin and at the first intersection turn right to enter the cemetery near the offices. At the office you can get a map which makes for a good souvenir and can help you find famous graves. 

Zoshigaya cemetary by Nesnad

Many famous people are buried in Zōshigaya Cemetery  |  Photo: by Nesnad - Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0

Among the famous personages buried here are writer Nagai Kafū, Hani Motoko (founder of the magazine Fujin no Tomo "The Women’s Friend"), novelist Izumi Kyōka, samuari Nakahama "John" Manjirō, painter and poet Takehisa Yumeji, novelist Natsume Sōseki, writer Koizumi Yakumo (Lafcadio Hearn), Ogino Ginko (the first licensed women physician in Japan, her grave has a statue of her), and the infamous Class-A war criminal Tōjō Hideki

Many of these famous graves have a small green name plate with the person's name in Roman letters. There are restrooms and plenty of greenery to keep you out of the sun if it is a hot day. 


Zōshigaya - the Carpenter Gothic old missionary museum

The next place is a side trip so you may want to skip it. A short way to the south of the cemetery is the Zōshigaya Old Missionary Museum. The museum was the home of missionary John Moody McCaleb and was built in 1907 in the Carpenter Gothic style. He lived and worked there until his return to the U.S. in 1941.

Zōshigaya Old Missionary Museum Tokyo

Zōshigaya Old Missionary Museum home of John Moody McCaleb built in the Carpenter Gothic style  |  Photo: captainponta10X

The building was declared a tangible cultural property by both Toshima-ku and by the Tokyo government.

At this point in your strolling you can continue to explore the area or leave it by walking back through the cemetery to Toden-Zōshigaya Station on the Toden Arakawa Line and head in the direction of either Minowabashi Station in Arakawa ku, the longer ride, or Waseda Station near Waseda University in Shinjuku ku, the shorter ride. 



Guided Tokyo Off The Beaten Path Walking Tours

Jujo Akabane  walking tour

JUJO AND AKABANE SHOTENGAI TOUR

Explore the Local "Non-touristy" Side of Tokyo: Jujo and Akabane Walking Tour

This small-group tour of the Jūjō district allows you to discover a side to Tokyo that most visitors miss. You'll explore the historic and atmospheric shotengai (shopping street), which is considered one of the best in Tokyo. As you soak up the colorful atmosphere, your guide will introduce you to the vendors and their unique wares. 

Tokyo highlights walking tour

TOKYO HIGHLIGHTS TOUR

Tokyo Highlights, Korakuen Garden, Kagurazaka Backstreet Walking

Once located outside Edo castle’s mote, the area has historic landscape garden and still remains atmosphere as entertainment district. The tour starts with strolling along in Korakuen garden where the seasonal trees and flowers surrounding garden’s pond are remarkable. Navigate the backstreets of Kagurazaka, a former entertainment district. Lastly we visit Sensoji temple, the oldest temple in Japan.
Tokyo Hidden Gem Kagurazaka tour

OLD EDO STREETS TOUR

Private Walking tour at Tokyo's Hidden Gem: Kagurazaka

Kagurazaka Street, built for the 3rd Shogun Tokugawa Iemitsu in 1636, offers an authentic Edo experience. Kagurazaka boasts a rich history, blending samurai and temple districts with a geisha area and shopping street. Stroll through its charming, narrow cobblestone alleys, unchanged since the Edo period. Explore with old maps, but be mindful of the maze-like streets, best navigated with a local guide.


Riding the last streetcar in Ward 23

The Toden Arakawa Line is the only streetcar line left in the 23rd ward area of Tokyo and the ride itself is quite pleasant taking you through many varied neighborhoods in either direction with interesting places to visit, or you can ride to the end of the line and explore from there.

In any case, enjoy wandering and exploring such areas of Tokyo that are little visited by tourists.

Gilles Poitras

About the Author

Gilles Poitras is the author of Tokyo Stroll: A Guide to City Sidetracks and Easy Exploration. The book covers 22 other Tokyo neighborhoods you can wander about in at random. Photo Credit:  

Where to stay near Zōshigaya

Despite its off the beaten path location, Zōshigaya is actually well-served by hotels and lodging surrounding the area. There's a good selection of familiar Japanese chain name hotels, along with independent boutique accommodation as well.



Recommended for you

Resources

Google Map and Organic Map App Bookmarks

For a set of bookmarks including the locations above that you can import into navigation apps like Organic Maps or Google Maps go to: http://www.koyagi.com/TokyoStroll/TSMaps.html 

For information on the Zōshigaya Seven Lucky Gods Pilgrimage go to: http://www.koyagi.com/TokyoStroll/TSZoshigaya7LuckyGodsPilgrimage.html


Gilles Poitras' Tokyo Stroll Book

Tokyo Stroll: A Guide to City Sidetracks and Easy Exploration


Namiki House

Namiki House Official Website


Seiryuin Temple (The Zoshigaya Seven Lucky Gods)

Seiryuin Temple Official Website


Zōshigaya Kishimojindō Temple

Zōshigaya Kishimojindō Temple Official Website (Google translated)


Zōshigaya Cemetery

Zoshigaya Cemetery - Wikipedia

Zōshigaya Old Missionary Museum

Zōshigaya Old Missionary Museum Official Website (Auto-translated)


Guided Tokyo Off The Beaten Path Walking Tours

Explore the Local "Non-touristy" Side of Tokyo: Jujo and Akabane Walking Tour

Private Tour: Tokyo's Oldest Sake Brewery and Riverside Walk

Private Walking tour at Tokyo's Hidden Gem: Kagurazaka

The Old Quarter of Tokyo - Yanaka Walking Tour

Tokyo Highlights, Korakuen Garden, Kagurazaka Backstreet Walking

Tokyo West-Side Walking & Street Food Tour

Walking Tour in Yanaka Nezu and Sendagi: Tea Ceremony & Old Tokyo


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Destinations Travel Hub

My List of Recommended Japan Travel Resources

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