Being surrounded by Shinjuku, Yoyogi and Harajuku hasn’t given Sendagaya an inferiority complex – this unassuming yet dynamic neighborhood stands on its own.
Sendagaya has been around for centuries, so it’s no surprise that it’s home to several historic temples and shrines. Hato No Mori Hachiman Shrine (1-1-24 Sendagaya, Shibuya-ku) is one of the last shrines that still contains a fujizuka mound, a miniature Mt. Fuji built out of rocks from the real mountain. It was constructed as a stand-in for people who couldn’t make the pilgrimage but still wanted to pay respect to the Fuji Sengen deity. Nearby, Senjuin Temple (2-24-1 Sendagaya, Shibuya-ku) is surrounded by a large cemetery. Built in the 60s, Sendagaya Tunnel passes underneath the cemetery and, as a result, taxi drivers tell tales of seeing apparitions and supernatural happenings while driving through the tunnel late at night.
A Night Out
Noh, a form of classical Japanese musical drama, is alive and well in Sendagaya, thanks in large part to the National Noh Theatre (4-18-1, Sendagaya, Shibuya-ku), an ideal setting to catch a performance. Many Noh theater groups and organizations are also based in the neighborhood, and actors can often be seen in costume, practicing their craft in the open theater within Hato No Mori Hachiman Shrine (1-1-24 Sendagaya, Shibuya-ku). If 14th century plays don’t fit your idea of a fun night out, then perhaps you can catch some more contemporary music at Bar Bonobo, a welcoming neighborhood institution that’s equal parts cocktail bar, restaurant, nightclub and art gallery. The atmosphere is relaxed and the clientele is mostly local.
Parks & Recreation
Of course, Sendagaya wouldn’t be a complete neighborhood without its share of outdoor recreational parks. Luckily, the neighborhood is basically surrounded by greenery. Shinjuku Gyoen (11 Naito-machi, Shinjuku-ku), one of the premiere spots in Tokyo for viewing cherry blossoms during hanami season, is to the north. And one of the most visited spots in Yoyogi Park, Meiji Jingu Gyoen (1-1 Yoyogi Kamizonocho, Shibuya-ku), lies just west of Sendagaya. Meiji Jingu Gaien (Kasumigaokacho 1-1, Shinjuku-ku) is to the east, boasting several sport venues, including an ice skating rink and Japan National Stadium. One of the most iconic structures of Sendagaya, Tokyo Metropolitan Gymnasium (Sendagaya 1-17-1, Shibuya-ku), is also nearby, edged by a large plaza where you can get a nice sunset view of the Empire State-like NTT Docomo Building (Sendagaya 5-24-10, Shibuya-ku) and the Shinjuku skyline.
Three Square Meals
Given that Sendagaya is as much a commercial area as it is residential, there are plenty of places to grab a bite to eat at any time of day. Good Morning Cafe (Sendagaya 1-17-1, Shibuya-ku), near Sendagaya Station, offers eggs, French toast, and even healthy açai/yogurt/granola bowls for breakfast. For a quick lunch, Bird & Ruby (Sendagaya 1-21-3, Shibuya-ku) has good espresso and pressed sandwiches. Next door, Monmouth Cafe (1-21-2 Sendagaya, Shibuya-ku) is a stand specializing in tea, quiche and pie. For something more substantial, Hopuken (Sendagaya 2-33-9, Shibuya-ku) is a three-story haven of fatty pork ramen sure to fill your savory needs. Snack time calls for an organic David Otto Juice (2-6-3 Sendagaya, Shibuya-ku) or Kippy’s Coco-Cream’s (2-6-3 Sendagaya, Shibuya-ku) coconut-based ice cream sweetened with raw local honey. For a hearty karē dinner, there’s Curry Bar Hendrix (Jingumae 2-13-2, Shibuya-ku) or Mokubaza (Jingu-mae 2-28-12, Shibuya-ku). And for pun-tastic Vietnamese, Pho321 (Jingu-mae 2-35-9 ♯102, Shibuya-ku) serves delicious pho noodles and bahn mi sandwiches.
It’s the Fashion
Thanks to its location next to Harajuku, Sendagaya is home to dozens of fashion stores, studios and offices, especially in the 3-chome area. Many of the clothing warehouses in the area hold seasonal sample sales and special promotions, making for quite a mob scene of deal-seekers and thrifty shoppers. Fashion brand A Bathing Ape (or Bape) is one such company based in Sendagaya, along with dozens of others. Southern California-based brand Ron Herman has a boutique offering men’s and women’s apparel, as well as a slice of SoCal at its Sendagaya store (Sendagaya 2-11-1, Shibuya-ku), which includes a popular café and surf shop. There are plenty of highly specialized apparel stores too, such as No No Yes – a team of masterful tailors, dealing exclusively in leather.
–Photos by Luca Eandi