I initially came across Kiyosumi-Shirakawa while researching cafés in Tokyo. The neighbourhood is often referred to as “Coffee Town”.Seconds after leaving the subway station, I found out that there is so much more to the area than just coffee. Here are some impressions from and things to do in Kiyosumi-Shirakawa.
The Unique Vibe of Kiyosumi-Shirakawa
Kiyosumi-Shirakawa belongs to the old Shitamachi neighbourhoods of Tokyo. These are those areas located in the Eastern parts of the metropolis, where merchants and artisans have been living since Edo times. Today the neighbourhood is mostly made up of warehouses and post-war buildings – blame the Great Kanto Earthquake of 1923 and the Air Raids during WW2. So it does not have an old-town atmosphere like Yanaka, another, more preserved Shitamachi neighbourhood. But, it does have its unique vibe.
It’s quite a contrast to the bustling areas in Western Tokyo or nearby Ginza. There are no skyscrapers or large commercial complexes. Instead, amidst the residential buildings and warehouses, you will find beautiful gardens, quaint Buddhist temples and Shinto shrines. But what is most remarkable, is the tight-knit community of specialist stores and small boutiques. Some are coffee-related, others dedicate themselves to fashion or craftsmanship. But the small business owners in the area do have one thing in common: they are not rivals. Instead, support each other in their business endeavours. You can feel this support and community when you explore Kiyosumi-Shirakawa, as it results in a very relaxed overall vibe of the area.
Things to Do in Kiyosumi-Shirakawa
Kiyosumi-Shirakawa is a Tokyo neighbourhood you can explore on your own by foot. Also, keep your eyes peeled for free maps provided outside many stores in the area. These are quite handy as they list boutiques, cafés and restaurants worth your while. Apart from that, these are some things I think you should not miss out when planning a visit to Kiyosumi-Shirakawa.
Take a Stroll Through Kiyosumi Garden
Kiyosumi Garden is a landscape rock garden dating back to the Meiji era. Fun fact: at one point it was acquired by the CEO of the Mitsubishi company as a place to rest for the company’s employees. Later it was a place to entertain foreign guests. Today Kiysoumi Garden is a public garden that you can visit for a small entrance fee of 150 Yen. If you are into Japanese Gardens or crave a stroll away from the city streets, this is your place to be.
In the intro to this post, I said that there was more to Kiyosumi-Shirakawa than coffee. Still, you should not miss out on all the superb coffee places in the area. I went to Blue Bottle and to Arise, but there are many more cafés for you to discover. In case you want to dig deeper, check this post by Tokyo Coffee.
Visit Old-Tokyo at the Edo Museum
The Edo Museum located in Kiyosumi-Shirakawa gives you the possibility to walk the streets of Tokyo before it even became Tokyo. You can enter and explore reproduced buildings, from a watchtower down to a noodle cart. Also, there is a cat living inside the museum, too.