Kichijoji is a cozy, hidden-away destination in Tokyo.

Only a 15-minute train ride on Japan Railway’s Chuo line from Shinjuku, Kichijoji is moderately suburban yet still urban.

In fact, surveys conducted by real estate agents show Kichijoji is one of the metropolitan Tokyo neighborhoods in which people most want to live.

The population of Kichijoji, which is part of Musashino city, increased when families moved there after the Great Kanto Earthquake in 1923 and later after a university moved into the neighborhood, according to the city’s Web site. What used to be farm land became a trendy residential area.

With a scenic park and tucked-away bistros and shops, Kichijoji also became a favorite destination for tourists.

On weekends, you can find families strolling and couples paddling away on swan boats in Inokashira Park. Street performers play violins and make balloon animals, and artists draw portraits. And vendors sell paintings and crafts.

The park is filled in springtime with people picnicking under the cherry blossom trees, celebrating the season of nature’s awakening.

Also in the park is Inokashira Park Zoo. Here visitors can check out Hanako the elephant, one of the oldest elephants raised at a Japanese zoo. Children under 12 get into the zoo for free.

In between the park and the train station are many shops and restaurants. Kichijoji is known as a trendy clothing neighborhood, and it’s not unusual to see many fashionable shoppers strolling the streets. Bars and restaurants that have been in business for decades provide rest stops for refreshments or a meal.

Just across from the Kichijoji station is Harmonica Yokocho. It is a collection of more than 90 small shops and restaurants lined up along small alleyways. It got its name from a famous Japanese author, who saw many little shops packed in a small area and compared it to reed chambers of a harmonica. It was a black market right after World War II, but now many shops have been renovated and house trendy restaurants and bars. At night, young and old crowd bar counters to enjoy red wine and prosciutto or sip sake and eat grilled fish.

Kichijoji is also home to many of Japan’s comic book creators. Alongside Inokashira Park is Ghibli Museum, which features characters and films by famous Japanese animator Hayao Miyazaki and Studio Ghibli.

A lot to offer, Kichijoji is a great place to spend the day on a date or with the family.

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Hana Kusumoto is a reporter/translator who has been covering local authorities in Japan since 2002. She was born in Nagoya, Japan, and lived in Australia and Illinois growing up. She holds a journalism degree from Boston University and previously worked for the Christian Science Monitor’s Tokyo bureau.

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