Check Out Yoyogi-Uehara, a Laid-Back Town Close to Shinjuku
Along the Odakyu Line you will find the peaceful station of Yoyogi-Uehara, only a few minutes from Shinjuku. This station was opened by Odakyu in 1927. At first glance, it appears to be a quiet and cozy residential area with only small shops and greenery. However, this small town is a lovely place to spend a beautiful day.
Start at Yoyogi-Uehara Station
Good Town Bakehouse
I started my day with coffee and a doughnut at Good Town Bakehouse, an American-style café located a minute’s walk from the station.
Through the window, the large and colorful doughnuts were very tempting! When I entered the café, I found the atmosphere to be very delightful as well. The interior décor was trendy yet casual – there was space to spend either quiet time alone with a book as well as space to catch up with friends.
I was surprised to discover that the menu had specific meals and drinks for each meal of the day. Apart from doughnuts and sweets, they also offer a variety of original sandwiches and hamburgers (even mini burgers!) and a large selection of drinks, including authentic craft beer. There is truly something for everyone!
Address: 1-30-1 Uehara, Shibuya-ku
After the sweet start to my day, I decided to visit Tokyo Camii, which is a few minutes’ walk from Good Town Bakehouse. Tokyo Camii is a Turkish mosque that is culturally and architecturally impressive.
Tokyo Camii is officially known as New Tokyo Camii, as it was rebuilt in 2000 by Kajima Corporation. Kajima is one of the major construction companies in Japan, and the mosque was built in collaboration with master Turkish artists.
Before you enter the mosque, you have to take off your shoes at the entrance. Both men and women are expected to wear modest clothes. Women are expected to wear ankle length, loose fitting, non-translucent skirts or trousers and a long-sleeved, high-necked top. Likewise, men should not wear short pants. A headscarf is also essential for women. There are scarfs and long skirts that you can borrow at the entrance to the mosque.*
Taking pictures during prayer is forbidden. You can do so before and after if you have permission from the office. You can check the prayer times directly on the Tokyo Camii website.
The mosque has an amazing and bright interior, elegantly decorated in blue, green, red and gold tones. Both the interior and exterior of the dome has gorgeous and detailed ornamentation. When the light filters through the colorful stained glass window, the atmosphere turns harmonious and spiritual, befitting of a place of worship. The entire building is a wonderful piece of art. It was great pleasure visiting this place of worship that is special to so many.
After the visit, there is a space on the ground floor where you can have some traditional tea or coffee and buy some souvenirs.
Address: 1-19 Oyama-cho , Shibuya-ku
*Information on proper dress sourced from: http://www.tokyocamii.org/info/rules
After visiting Tokyo Camii, I decided to do some shopping. First, I found a beautiful store filled with Japanese “omiyage” (souvenirs) called Kokkoma. They offer many traditional Japanese handicrafts such as dishes, ceramics, postcards, bonsai, bags and a variety of other decorative objects. The cozy atmosphere makes this shop a must-go.
There is a large price range, so you can find cute things at very low prices, as well as more delicate and high-priced souvenirs. I definitely recommend Kokkoma for its interior and variety of nice gifts.
Address: 1-33-17 Uehara, Shibuya-ku
Since I am into natural and organic foods and goods, I decided to visit Gaia, a 3-minute walk from Kokkoma.
There are two Gaia stores right across the street from each other. One specializes in organic and macrobiotic ingredients. At this shop you can find vegetables, condiments, organic wine, dry foods, cereals, and some sweets from Japan and overseas.
The other store specializes in organic cotton clothes and natural and organic cosmetics. They carry products from both Japan and overseas. Gaia is committed to offering safe and healthy products, so you don’t need to worry when you shop here.
Address: 3-23-6 Nishihara, Shibuya-ku
To refresh after my long day, I visited Daikoku-yu, a sento (bathhouse) located in the heart of Yoyogi-Uehara that has been operating since 1975.
As soon as you get through the entrance, you will feel as if you have been transported to the late Showa period. Old pictures with celebrity autographs line the walls from the entrance to the locker rooms. The place is decorated with objects and souvenirs collected by the owner.
In the bathing area, you can admire beautiful tiles decorated with European landscapes. In the men’s shower space, the wall depicts Kinkakuji, the famous “Golden Pavilion” temple in Kyoto. The women’s side is decorated with a view of Nikko. Going to Daikoku-yu is almost the same as going to a museum!
There are many baths to enjoy in Daikoku-yu, such as a massage bath, a steam bath, an electric bath, a cold bath and a sauna.
Some advice for enjoying “sento”:
- You can bring some bath items like a towel, soap/body wash, shampoo etc. if you want. However, it’s not a problem if you go empty-handed (“tebura” in Japanese). You can rent or buy everything you need at the front desk for a small fee.
- You have to take off your shoes at the entrance of the sento and put them in a shoe locker before paying the bathing fee at the front desk. Sento in Tokyo all have the unique price of 460 yen (use of the sauna requires an extra fee). You will need to remove your clothes in the changing room before entering the bathing area. Take your small towel with you to dry yourself before going back to the changing room after your bath, in order to keep the changing room clean and avoid making the floor slippery.
- It’s good to tie up your hair if it’s long (if you forget to bring a hair band, you can usually improvise using the bracelet attached to your locker key).
- Carefully wash yourself in the shower space before entering the bath.
- Never put your small towel into the bath.
- If you use the sauna, rinse your body in the shower space before entering the bath again.
- Don’t hesitate to talk with people! The public bath is a space to share. People are very nice and you can easily communicate (even with some gestures if you can’t speak Japanese).
Address: 3-24-5 Nishihara, Shibuya-ku
Offf Botanical Table
After an amazing bath, I caught up with friends for dinner at the charming Offf Botanical Table, located only a few steps from Daikoku-yu.
Offf Botanical Table has a cozy and welcoming atmosphere. It is a great place to relax on a date or with friends. Organic food lovers are sure to enjoy the food served here!
We started with organic red wine from Hokkaido. It was delicious and paired well with the food. We tried many dishes, including herb fried chicken, the catch of the day, herb grilled potatoes, grilled vegetables and Caesar salad. All of the dishes were very tasty. Though everybody was full, we still tried some desserts since they looked so delicious – and they did not disappoint! We all had a great time.
One of the friends I met up with is a vegetarian, but she was able to have a full meal thanks to the wide selection of vegetable-based dishes on the menu.
Address: 3-25-4 Nishihara, Shibuya-ku
Yoyogi-Uehara may be an area that is often overlooked by tourists and locals alike, but it is a great place to spend a peaceful day in Tokyo. If you’re looking for a place to spend a low-key day, this is the perfect area to do it!
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