Sunday, April 8, 2012

A Sunday in Spring: Nishiogikubo and Kouenji

It seems odd to take pictures of sakura. Their frilly, tulle-like appearance and short blossoming time are supposed to remind us of the brevity of youth and life, and all that terribly wabi sabi stuff. Somehow taking a gazillion pictures of the pink fluffiness seems to defeat that purpose... but hey, I'm going to do so anyway!

In a bid to get away from the crowds of Nakameguro, Ueno and Shinjuku, I found out about a minor sakura covered park in Nishiogikubo, about 20 minutes away from the station. Due to a combination of moving around, bad weather and other issues, I have not had a decent hanami in over 4 years, and was looking forward to stretching out under a tree and enjoy the sun and pinkness of it all.

Who knew that Nishiogi would turn out to be my spiritual home? The area somehow manages to combine my favourite aspects of Shimokitazawa, the Ebisu-Daikanyama-Nakameguro triangle and Azabu, while still being laid-back, quiet and completely unpretentious. Rent and food are cheap (yes, I look at apartment prices wherever I go, its a genetic thing), and yet it is superclose to Shinjuku... in a couple years I may well move over there, after getting my fill of East Tokyo.

The walk to and from Zempukuji Park is lovely, as the area is filled with antique stores, family run businesses and houses with beautifully tended gardens. Despite arriving after noon, we got a spot right under a tree, next to the lake... anyone who has done hanami in a major city will understand how rare an occurence this is! The atmosphere was relaxed, but not rowdy, and there was even a bunch of musicians jamming nearby. The park is actually kind of odd, as it seems to be a smaller version of Inokashira Park, but much less crowded.

After hanami, browsing through a kimono store (more on that later) and exploring the opposite side of the station, it was definitely time for dinner, a few stops over in Kouenji. My hanami companion heard about Sempre Pizza by chance, and thank any-deity-present he did! The glorious spread below (Quattro Formaggi and Sicilian pizzas, and an order of zeppoline) was 1010 yen. All of it. Yes, there is a god. The pizzas start at 280 yen, and are all well-below 1000yen. Seriously, if you are in the area, go. Leave space for dessert, as wandering down the colorfully cramped streets there are tons of choices for other cheap nibbles.

And finally: NEW KIMONO! Which is not only in my size, silk and well-priced, but most importantly, not black or grey! Hurrah!


  1. Oh, it looks like a gorgeous neighbourhood! I did the super-crowded sunday hanami in Ueno park and a nice stroll through Asukayama park in Oji, but it's always nice to find a low-key place to hang out. Now I have to know...where did you get the lovely, lacey stole???

    1. Cheers, glad you survived the craziness that is Ueno!
      Btw, whereabouts do you live in Saitama? I pass through Yashio at least twice a month.

      The vest (which can be turned into a stole) is from a store called Coeur Blanc (which I believe is part of a chain) and was bought in Osaka years ago :)

  2. A vest and stole in one? That's awesome! I live near Omiya, which is surprisingly far from Yashio, but pretty handy for Ueno & Ikebukuro :)

    1. I have passed through Omiya, on my way to visit a friend in Tochigi! Saitama is larger than I thought ;p