Tokyo is the number one tourist destination in Japan, probably because it is very well connected both with the main Japanese cities and with the main world cities outside Japan. Almost every European Capital has at least one daily flight to Tokyo and there is a Shinkansen train arriving in Tokyo Station every 3 minutes.
Despite being so thrilling and flooded with tourists it looks like everybody gathers in the same places and districts like Shibuya, Shinjuku and Akihabara. In a way it is a shame because all those people won’t have the chance to know all the faces of Tokyo. On the other side it is gold for people like me and my boyfriend who love the Tokyo neighborhoods where there is still a local feeling and where there is not too much crowd.
One of my boyfriend favorites is Jiyugaoka (自由が丘).
Jiyugaoka seems very far from the colorful and bustling Shibuya but it is actually just 10 minutes away from it. It is mainly a residential area, classy and sophisticated, where Tokyoites, and well informed tourists, enjoy walking and shopping in fashion boutiques and ware stores filled with pieces of design.
One of my favorite shops is Popeye Camera, a shop specialized in photography related goods. I usually go there to buy film for my Instanx and look around for inspiration.
Jiyugaoka is also one of the few places in Tokyo where you can eat al fresco. Dining al fresco is very common in Europe during spring and summer but it is not common at all in Japan and I really miss it. My boyfriend explained that it probably due to cultural reasons since usually the Japanese associate the street with dirt so it is strange for a Japanese person to eat dinner sitting by the sidewalk.
Luckily for me Jiyugaoka has a European side and makes me feel at home. There is even a block that looks exactly like Venice, with a bridge and a canal. There are also a number of buildings with a clearly European architecture and, during summertime, people have the habit of indulge a bit outside chatting while sitting on the benches of Green Street.
Jiyugaoka is definitely one of my favorite destinations in Tokyo.