Chofu, a charming area of Western Tokyo filled with much tradition and things to do, is only a short train ride away from Shinjuku Station. Despite it being an easy place to access by public transport, many of those visiting Tokyo often miss out on exploring Chofu, simply because the area isn’t considered a must-visit tourist hotspot unlike places such as Shibuya, Shinjuku and Asakusa.
The area has a relaxing and almost nostalgic atmosphere, given that it is home to some rather historical attractions including the Fudaten Shrine, Jindai Temple and Jindai Botanical Garden. Unknown to most, Chofu also has a rich and lively history in producing soba, with many small soba stands lining up the traditional street.
The ideal destination for a short afternoon or day trip, Chofu really is one of Tokyo’s best kept secrets. Keep reading to check our some of the things we got up to on our most recent visit:
Visit One of the Oldest Shrines in Tokyo
The first thing you will want to see is Jindaiji Temple, one of the oldest Buddhist Temples in Tokyo. This wonderfully preserved temple is surrounded by lush greenery and woodland and has been blessed with fresh spring water, which has long been used to help produce the soba.
On the grounds of the temple, there are a few different things to see including the Main Gate which is over 300 years old, the Bell Tower, the Main Hall where the statue of Amida Nyorai (Buddha) is enshrined and the Ganzandaishi Hall where many pray for good luck. Interestingly, the Heian monk Ganzandaishi, which the hall was named after, is said to have created Omikuji (fortune-telling slips).
Similar to all other shrines across Tokyo, Jindaiji Temple hosts a number of annual events including a Soba Festival which takes place in the middle of October.
Paint Your Own Pottery
After you have spent some time walking around the grounds of Jindaiji Temple, head back out through the main gate and take in the beautiful surroundings and the charm of the small traditional street.
One store in particular stands out, with its carefully-crafted pottery and other porcelain items displayed outside of it. Musashino-Jindaiji-Gama is a ceramic shop which has been around since 1957 and is the perfect place to pick up some special souvenirs or some Japanese-style crockery for your home.
For those creatives who enjoy traditional art, you may want to look into booking a pottery making class. Most people however choose the option to paint their own pottery as not only is it an unique experience and more affordable but it can be taken home on the same day.
There are many pieces of unglazed pottery to choose from including mugs, rice bowls, vases and ceramic animals. Prices range from around ¥700 to ¥2000, depending on what product you end up choosing. Although it is recommended to book an appointment in advance, on less busy days you will be able to just walk in.
Conveniently, there are instructions on how to use the paints as well as design pattern books to help you feel inspired. You do have a set amount of time to paint, most people stay between 30 minutes to 1 hour creating their unique piece of pottery. After you have finished painting, you can get it glazed for no extra charge. This does take around 20 minutes however, so we would recommend making sure that you have enough time to pick up your final piece. Alternatively, there may be options to get it sent to a local Japanese home address.
Savour Some Soba Noodles
Try Out Different Local & Street Food
Finally, to round off the day trip, you will definitely want to try some of the delicious street food from the local street vendors. Next to its main restaurant, Yaoki also sells traditional sweets such as mochi and dango. The dango was our personal pick, having tried and enjoyed the soy flavour and matcha anko.
When walking a bit further down the street, you will see a big GeGeGe no Kitaro shop. For those of you who are unfamiliar with what GeGeGe no Kitaro is, it is a famous manga series from the 60s which centres around different spirit-monsters. The author of the series, Mizuki Shigeru lived in Chofu explaining why you will see some of these obscure looking ghost characters around the area.
Next to the GeGeGe no Kitaro shop, there is a small snack bar, part of the Kitaro-chaya restaurant, which sells a few different sweet treats and snacks. However, it was the strawberry and vanilla mix ice-cream which caught our attention. Given that many people were standing outside the stall, eating this particular ice-cream, we knew it must have been something special.
This part of the street was also filled with a few stalls selling local foods like senbei and other sweets as well as darumas (a Japanese good luck symbol), something else that Chofu is famous for. All of which would make a great gift for friends and family back home!
- From Shinjuku, take the Keio Main Line to Chōfu Station
- This trip takes 18 minutes from Shinjuku Station and costs ¥280
To visit Jindaiji Temple, you will need to catch one of these buses from the North side of the station: 吉14, 調34 or the 鷹66
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