|Traditions, food, art, and fashion — all of these diverse aspects of culture issue forth from Tokyo. In particular, the area around Toshima City’s Ikebukuro Station, one of Tokyo’s commercial districts, is known as Drama Town thanks to the liberal sprinkling of theaters. Toshima City has been chosen as the Cultural City of East Asia for 2019, and, in its role as a city that strives for development driven by the arts and culture in Japan, China, and Korea, has a wide range of cultural and arts events planned. As you can see, all of Toshima City is special, but one place we particularly recommend is the area around the Sugamo and Otsuka Stations. In this unusual town, traditional lifestyles linger to rub shoulders with modern culture. As you wander the streets, you are sure to discover a myriad of charms.|
Wander a shopping street that retains the atmosphere of Tokyo’s traditional neighborhoods
A five-minute walk from Sugamo Station, lies the Sugamojizo-dori Shopping Center where the hospitable spirit of the local residents shines through. You’re bound to get a sense of that traditional residential and commercial area’s atmosphere in amongst the rows of highly-original owner-operated stores not found anywhere else in Tokyo. One of Sugamo’s local specialties is shio daifuku. The shopping center is home to a number of long-established Japanese-style confectionary stores, including Iseya, Mizuno, and Sugamoen, each proud of the shio daifuku they sell. “What makes our shio daifuku unique is the firm texture of the mochi pounded by mallet each morning, and the adzuki bean paste salted to perfection with a hint of sweetness. The flavor of the shio daifuku differs from store to store, so please find a flavor that suits you,” says Iseya’s proprietress.Enjoy shaved ice at Kakigori Atelier Sekka
As you approach the middle of the shopping center, take a moment to worship the Togenuki Jizo at Kogan-ji Temple. It is said that sometimes the head priest will even give visitors a guided tour, explaining the rich history of the temple in fluent English. Perhaps try making inquiries at the temple office. When you are tired of wandering, pause to catch your breath at Kakigori Atelier Sekka. This store sells feather-light, melt-in-your mouth kakigori, shaved from blocks of ice from groundwater reserves under Mt. Fuji. All of their syrups are made to original recipes, and include delicious flavors that can be enjoyed year-round, such as “Strawberry Milk,” which condenses the umami of Japanese-grown strawberries, and “Matcha” with the rich flavor of tea grown in the green tea mecca of Shizuoka Prefecture. At Sugamojizo-dori Shopping Center, the 4th, 14th, and 24th day of each month are fair days. On these days, food stalls and variety goods stalls line the grounds of Kogan-ji Temple and the shopping center, and visitors are sure to find themselves enjoying the traditional Japanese festival atmosphere.
Riding the tram through the town is all part of the fun
The shopping center is about 800 m long. Once you leave the Sugamojizo-dori Shopping Center, Koshinzuka Station (Toden Arakawa Line) comes into view. Climb aboard the single-car train and make your way to Otsuka Station. The views from the windows as the train passes through the residential area will give you a sense of day-to-day life in Japan.
Enjoy communicating with the local residents in Otsuka
When you alight at Otsuka Station, head to Hoshino Resorts OMO5 Tokyo Otsuka. This hotel is run by Hoshino Resorts, a company with a range of ryokan (traditional Japanese-style inns) and hotels in Japan and overseas. One aspect in particular is worth mentioning —— the unique services they offer to guests as part of their “enjoy your neighborhood” concept. One of these services is the “Guided Neighborhood Tour Led by OMO Rangers”, a group made up of the hotel staff. These OMO rangers will take you to bars and restaurants frequented by locals, show you recommended walking courses, and otherwise be your attentive and friendly guides to the town of Otsuka.