Enjoy the Verdant Beauty Along the Keio Inokashira Line in Shindaita, Just One Stop from Shimokitazawa

The Keio Inokashira Line connects downtown Shibuya to Kichijoji, home of the Ghibli Museum Mitaka, also passing through popular tourist destinations like Shimokitazawa and Inokashira Park. For this edition of our “Area of Japan” series, we visited Shindaita, a station next to Shimokitazawa that has been ignored by tourists for far too long. The quiet and elegant atmosphere of this Tokyo area full of green spaces, cafes, bakeries, general stores, curry shops, flower shops, and other staples of everyday life will make you forget that you’re actually in one of the busiest cities in the world. Let's explore this urban oasis together.

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Shindaita Station on the Keio Inokashira Line

We boarded the Keio Inokashira train from the always-lively Shibuya and headed west. Ever so slowly, we started seeing fewer people and more private houses. Arriving at Shindaita, we exited the station only to be greeted by the incessant traffic of Ring Road No. 7. Looking around, we noticed that except for a live music club and a convenience store across the street, the area was completely residential and full of locals out on a stroll. Although Shindaita is located in Setagaya Ward and within walking distance of the popular Shimokitazawa, a lot of people’s first impression of the area is that it has a unique, local flavor.

We started walking along the Inokashira Line towards Higashi-Matsubara Station as we headed to our destination, slowly going deeper into a world of green that turned into paradise in front of our eyes.

Hanegi: The Hidden Treasure of a Quiet Residential Area

We found ourselves in an area called Hanegi, lined with chic condominiums designed by creative architects and beautiful two-story houses like elegant seams in the fabric of a quiet, tree-lined street. The left side featured Japanese-style houses while the right was dominated by concrete and glass, creating a fascinating contrast of tradition and modernity.

Amidst the lush greenery, we spotted a few stores along both sides of the street contributing to the area’s relaxed atmosphere with their calm displays. They blended into the surroundings while still retaining a kind of individual charm that had people popping in and out of them, but always at their own leisurely pace nurtured by the tranquility of Hanegi. Even though we were in Tokyo, I realized that I was free of the hustle and bustle of the big city and found my mind relaxing. It was afternoon when I arrived, and I excitedly headed toward my first destination of the day.

A Gentle Blend of Curry and Spices Transcends Borders at kitchen and CURRY

kitchen and CURRY, a curry and spice-themed restaurant, has no sign at the entrance. Instead, there is a blackboard with a cute hand-drawn picture of a cat on it. My first impression of the eatery was that it was modest and inviting.

Hidden away in a corner of Hanegi, kitchen and CURRY is the actual storefront of the "and CURRY" brand of rentable curry shops that have been popping up in all kinds of places. They serve spiced curry, beer, and spiced drinks during lunch and dinner. In addition, they serve as a research place for curry and spices.

Yukina Abe, who runs and CURRY, is a veteran of the world of curry and spices. At first, she operated a kind of “floating curry restaurant” where she’d rent a store once a month to sell curry, but then she realized she was becoming deeply interested in the richness and diversity of curry and wanted to bring its appeal to more people. And so, in 2018, with the help of a friend, she opened kitchen and CURRY in Shindaita, which celebrated its 5th anniversary in July 2023.

Abe hopes that curry will become an integral part of the Japanese diet, like miso soup. For this reason, kitchen and CURRY doesn’t stick to the curry traditions of any one country like most similar establishments do, but rather transcends borders, taking curry to new places based on the personal preferences of Abe and her customers.

The restaurant menu consists of three types of curry made from seasonal ingredients, which can be ordered individually or combined to your liking. On the day that I visited, Abe was serving Crispy Bell Peppers and Beef Curry, Thai Basil Pork Keema Curry, and Seasonal Vegetable Sambal. When I ordered the three-curry combo, I received a plate of three curries, two side dishes, raita with yogurt sauce, and rice.

Eating various spiced curries from the same plate and freely combining any ingredients you like is said to be the traditional way of eating in Sri Lanka. I also tried a method recommended by Abe. First, I tasted each of the three curries separately, then gradually started mixing the different flavors together to create something new. Then, I mixed the different curries with different ingredients and, finally, tried them all at once.

All three curries had very pleasant mouthfeels, flavors, and aromas with a smooth, mild finish. They also mixed together beautifully, and when I finished eating, my mouth and heart were filled with a mellow and refreshing pleasantness through which I could feel Abe’s devotion to her craft. In the end, I also ordered an egg achaar, a very tasty half-boiled egg with a rich, spice aroma that sent a shockwave through my nose.

If you like seasonings or want to experience brand-new flavors, try the Turmeric Milk made with six different spices. Similar to Indian chai, the drink goes down smoothly and helps cool you down.

You’ll need reservations while in Japan. See our writers’ top picks!

WASABI-Elişi Breathes New Life Into Traditional Turkish Needlework

On the same street as kitchen and CURRY, you’ll also find plenty of other stores with a strong local flavor including a flower shop and a bakery. But I had my eyes set on WASABI-Elişi, a shop with small ethnic-style pendants hanging in the large windows. It turned out to be a specialty store mainly selling Turkish textiles and handicrafts, a rarity in Tokyo. The shop will celebrate 9 years in Hanegi in autumn of 2023.

When I opened the door, I was greeted by the owner, Akamatsu, with her short hair and a big, wide smile. The name of the store, "WASABI-Elişi," comes from the Japanese "wasabi" (the fresh, leafy variety) and the Turkish word "Elişi,” meaning “handicraft.” Akamatsu used to showcase Turkish handicrafts at exhibitions but eventually decided to sell them at an actual shop. The idea behind this impressive store was to provide an inviting and comfortable atmosphere for encounters with the unexpected. Akamatsu says that she spent a great deal of time looking for the right location for the store, and although Hanegi didn’t look like it does today at the time, she felt the potential of the area after witnessing the fashionable houses and the atmosphere created by these unique surroundings.

Akamatsu is very passionate about Turkish handicrafts, and her ardent gaze and words she used while introducing pieces around the store really stayed with me. She said that exciting and fashionable designs are hiding in traditional Turkish needlework and she hopes to breathe new life into the craft by bringing them out and showing the public that there is so much more to these Turkish treasures.

Turkish women are very good at handicrafts, especially a type of embroidery called "Oya.” Oya techniques are usually passed down from grandmother to mother and from mother to daughter. In the past, Turkish families used to make a lot of their daily necessities themselves using these precise techniques. In the old days, everyone would sit around, drink tea, and chat while working on their needlework. However, in today's efficiency-oriented world, those traditions are becoming less and less common in some of the bigger cities.

A thing that really impressed me about WASABI-Elişi is that the embroidered goods sold in the store aren’t made by full-time craftsmen, artisans, or stores that mass-produce tourist souvenirs. Rather, they all come from Turkish traditional markets and private stores from when Akamatsu visits the country. According to the owner, in the past, many Turkish people used to say that "a good embroiderer makes a good wife,” so whenever someone in the family got married, traditional women would make many embroidered items to give to her husband's family and relatives. Some of these pieces would be sold to private stores or given away to friends, as they often made more than could be used in a lifetime. The embroidery crafts in the store are all made by amateurs, and not only are they real artifacts of Turkish culture that you won’t find in any tourist stores, no two pieces are exactly the same and each one tells its own story. They can be used as decorations or as a scarf, a mask chain, or a pouch.

In addition, the walls of the landing area between the first and second floors of the store are decorated with "kilim" traditional Turkish plain weave carpets. All of them are antiques that have been carefully stored over the years. In the past, Turkish nomadic tribes lived in tents and they spread the thin and light kilims on the ground no matter the season.

In addition to Turkish embroidery, WASABI-Elişi also sells handicrafts and antiques made by Japanese artists. The second floor serves as a gallery for seasonal exhibitions of Japanese and Western clothing, ceramics, glass, hats, and more. The third floor is an atelier and a space for holding hands-on classes. In the past, the shop has collaborated with Ñanduti from Paraguay, emerging artists from Japan, and other partners to hold a new joint exhibition every month or season, all with the theme of “needlework” to bring people and different ideas together.

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Bole COFFEE & ICECREAM’s Second Location is Popular for Its Handmade Ice-Cream and Thick Lattes

Bole COFFEE & ICECREAM, located across the street from WASABI-Elişi, has a simple and chic concrete exterior that stands out among the retro and warm atmosphere of the Japanese-style houses in the area. This is the second branch of the popular Nihonbashi Bakurocho cafe Bridge COFFEE & ICECREAM, which opened in Hanegi in June 2023 and sells the same delicious coffee and ice cream made from scratch using carefully selected ingredients and production methods.

The first floor of the café is an inviting open space with high ceilings where poured concrete and wooden details work together in perfect harmony to create a modern, relaxed vibe. Customers can sit right by the preparation station or on a bench with low tables facing the baristas. The back wall is floor-to-ceiling glass, filling the café with light and giving customers a view of the backyard garden. It’s a sight that really leaves an impression on you. The basement floor is where the homemade ice cream is made. On the day I visited, I sat on the first-floor terrace and enjoyed a cold drink and ice cream while gazing at the lush green scenery, escaping the summer heat and relaxing my body and soul.

The menu, as seen in the photo above, is divided into two sections: coffee and ice cream. You can choose from various types of black coffee such as espresso, americano, cold-brew, and hand-drip, as well as coffee and milk combinations including latte, flat white, cappuccino, and macchiato. For handmade ice cream, customers first choose the number of scoops they want, then the flavor, and finally whether they want a cone or a cup. The café offers about eight flavors daily, including such favorites as milk and chocolate, as well as special flavors such as pistachio, strawberry rhubarb cream cheese, and apricot-kernel amaretto and apricot, which are quite rare in Japan. You’ll definitely want to try all of them, so here’s hoping you leave plenty of room for dessert.

On the day I visited, I ordered an iced latte and handmade pistachio ice cream based on the staff's recommendation. Drinking the latte with its perfect ratio of coffee and milk was heaven on the scorching summer afternoon, helping soothe the summer fatigue. The ice cream made with Italian pistachios paired well with the cone, and the unique flavor of the nuts was rich and silky yet not too sweet, remaining delicious until the last bite.

In one corner of the store, scones and other baked goods are available for purchase and can be enjoyed with the café beverages and ice cream. I could hardly imagine a better afternoon than enjoying delicious sweets in this relaxing, elegant space.


Relax with a Stroll Through Shindaita’s Hanegi

Shindaita is located only one stop from Shimokitazawa, but it has a very different atmosphere than the lively Shimokitazawa neighborhood. The area around Hanegi in particular has a calm, laid-back vibe that makes strolling through it very relaxing. The stores that line the streets of Hanegi are all full of individual charm that will help you leave the hustle and bustle of Tokyo behind and enjoy the peaceful scenery of everyday Japan. A 10-minute walk from the town of Hanegi is Hanegi Park, famous for its ume plum festival held every February. Next time you find yourself on the Keio Inokashira Line, take some time to relax in Shindaita and make the memories of a lifetime.

▼Recommended hotel in the vicinity of Shibuya Station: Mustard Hotel Shibuya

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Kanto Feature

The information in this article is accurate at the time of publication.

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About the author

Fuchi Pan
Tokyo based Taiwanese writer/ editor. Passionate about Japanese food culture, culinary traditions and local/seasonal quality ingredients.
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