The area once had that background of being a lively geisha district of old, and even now it is a unique neighborhood that hints at a Japanese chic and gaiety. Recently, a lot of foreigners have come to live in the area, and a certain liveliness has risen with the younger generations coming to visit. Leaving the main avenue and going into the side streets, there is the scenery of the stone pavements along with the classy ryotei restaurants hidden away here and there. The streets are just like a maze, and it’s fun to take a walk through the winding alleys with the basking cats, the seasonal blossoms at the front of the residences and the scattered temples and shrines.
Having said that, there are no major landmarks in Kagurazaka including any tall towers. However, it’s enjoyable enough to look out for the inerasable reminders of that old entertainment quarter while walking, dining and relaxing in an area that has changed over time.
The history of Kagurazaka
Kagurazaka was once an old entertainment quarter that was the most brilliant and liveliest in Tokyo of the early 20th century during the Taisho Era. Following the 1923 Great Kanto Earthquake, merchants started coming over from Nihonbashi and Ginza, and the area became filled with night shops with the slopes becoming shopping streets. It was also called The Town of Writers as the old area also became popular with authors and men of letters. In recent years, the former liveliness of Kagurazaka has faded with new shops and store chains popping up, and with the construction of condos, that old elegance has become lost, but even now, Kagurazaka still has 5 ryotei restaurants and 25 geisha to keep on the tradition of the entertainment quarter. And the fact that the flavor of that old geisha district has been retained with the ryotei on those stone-paved roads makes Kagurazaka an extremely precious commodity as the only neighborhood of its type in Japan. Reference: Kagurazaka Shopping District HP
Kagurazaka, a gourmet heaven
When it comes to geisha entertainment at the ryotei, there is an area rule that no first-time customers are allowed without an introduction, so it is hard to enter these places right off the street. However, there is a deeply-rooted reputation of Kagurazaka being “a town of tastes” based on the old tradition of hospitality. It’s not just the venerable Japanese restaurants, but also the newly-opened restaurants serving French, Italian and other cuisines, cafes with their own character and multi-ethnic eateries that have made the Kagurazaka of today famous as a gourmet heaven. It is a surprise that the tiny area which has its restaurants packed in together has reached a level in which 17 of them have received one star each on the Michelin guide. The prices vary from high-class restaurants to reasonable bistros. If one is asked about what to do in Kagurazaka, then “Have something delicious” is the suggested response.