The Best Secret Spots in Tokyo's Jiyugaoka!
Yes, Jiyugaoka is a hidden Tokyo gem in itself. But there are so many secluded shops and eateries in this favorite town of ours, that many passed us by the first dozen times we went there. So, we decided to make a follow-up post to our first travel guide to Jiyugaoka. Here are a few hot spots that we didn't notice until we had hung out in Jiyugaoka for months.
Jiyugaoka's Hidden Gem #1 | Mont-Blanc Patisserie
Do you know Mont Blanc?
No, I’m not talking about the mountain, or the fountain pens. In Japan, one of the most popular sweets at patisseries is a cake covered in a mountain of chestnut cream. This decadent treat is referred to as an Edible Mont Blanc, since it looks like the cake version of the famous French/Italian mountain.
Or as Husky called it when he first saw Edible Mont Blanc: Candy Ramen!
Sidenote: «Japanized» dishes inspired from western countries are called «Yôshoku / 洋食» in Japan. Edible Mont Blanc is categorized as «Yôgashi / 洋菓子», which is the sweets version of Yôshoku.
Jiyugaoka is the birthplace of the Japanized version of the Mont Blanc cake. The patisserie – who was named Mont-Blanc by its owner – introduced the chestnut-covered treat to Japan in 1933.
Luckily for us, the original recipe is still intact and used to make the same Mont Blanc as the patisserie served when they opened their doors in the 30s. There are no other branches though, so coming to Jiyugaoka to visit the historical Mont-Blanc patisserie is a unique Tokyo experience.
Sidenote 2: Chestnut cream is not only used for Mont Blanc, however. It has snuck into many Japanese snacks like a candy ninja. Especially in chestnut season (September-November), you will find all kinds of chestnut-flavored treats, like ice cream and sandwiches with chestnut cream.
Jiyugaoka's Hidden Gem #2 | Café Cocoocen
Do you like Anko? (Japanese sweet bean paste - あんこ)
Not everyone is as exited by Anko as Japanese people. If you are feeling a little adventurous, however, and would like to try some traditional Japanese sweets, we recommend a charming little tea house called «Café Cocoocen by Quolofune».
This place is perfect when you need a relaxing break, with gently flavored Japanese sweets and fresh brewed Japanese tea. Note that Anko is not the main attraction at Cocoocen. It is more like a side character that steals the show and wins the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor.
Jiyugaoka's Hidden Gem #3 | Original Souvenir Shops
After getting your suger levels sky high at Mont-Blanc and Cocoocen it might be a good time to check out a couple of Jiyugaoka's more unique souvenir shops. The following two offers lots of gifts that is hard to come across elsewhere:
Camera enthusiast might want to pop by Popeye Camera (ポパイカメラ). It is a small shop with a huge selection of new and vintage cameras, as well as all the kawaii camera accessories you can think of. How about decorating your physical prints with some memorial goods from this cozy camera institution in Jiyugaoka?
Sense of Wonder is a great place to shop for designer kids’ clothes. The store has a big selection of «western» clothes with a touch of Japanese flair to them. Most of the items are made by organic cotton.
Jiyugaoka's Hidden Gem #4 | Chinese Medicinal Dining
After a stroll through Jiyugaoka, shopping for souvenirs, and trying some appetizing Asian street food, it is nice to sit down in cozy surroundings and fill your belly with the ethnic taste bombs at this Chinese fusion restaurant:
Bac-kabou appears somewhat hidden underground, behind what looks to be a rather uneventful building entrance. Once inside you'll be surprised by chic design, high ceilings and the exciting flavors of «medicinal hot pots». You might be equally surprised to learn that Chinese medicinal cooking is widely believed to maintain outer beauty.