I initially came across Kiyosumi-Shirakawa while researching cafés in Tokyo. It turns out that the neighbourhood is often referred to as “Coffee Town”, as there is quite an abundance of coffee shops and roasters there. Naturally, I had to go there. Seconds after leaving the subway station, I found out that there is so much more to the area than just coffee:
Belonging to the old Shitamachi neighbourhoods of Tokyo – those located in the Eastern parts of the metropolis, where merchants and artisans have been living since Edo times – it has quite a unique vibe. While it does not have an old-town atmosphere like Yanaka, it is mostly made up of warehouses and post-war buildings – blame the Great Kanto Earthquake of 1923 and the Air Raids during WW2.
So, while the houses might not be super pretty, the neighbourhood feels super relaxed and laid back, much more so than the bustling areas in Western Tokyo, like Shibuya or Shinjuku. There are no skyscrapers or large commercial complexes, but beautiful gardens, quaint Buddhist temples and Shinto shrines, as well as what seems like a tight-knit community of specialist stores and small boutiques. So, my trip to Kiyosumi-Shirakawa, was a pleasant surprise and the neighbourhood quickly made it to the list of my favourite areas of Tokyo. If I’d ever move to Tokyo, I would even consider it as a place to live.
I urge you to visit Kiyosumi-Shirakawa on your trip to Tokyo. You can easily reach it by the Toei Oedo or the Hanzōmon Line from Shibuya and Roppongi. As it is not a very big neighbourhood, you won’t need a whole day to explore it and can very well combine it with a trip to Ginza, for example.