With what’s left of the rainy season fading off in the rearview mirror, we’re looking at a head-on collision with the dog days of summer, and their enervating, inescapable heat and humidity. But have a little hope! There are plenty of cheap, easy ways to beat the heat and enjoy summer’s simple pleasures in this city that never ceases to surprise.

By Sarah Custen, with interview translation by Yuko Nakamura

Daily Chico Ice Cream Shop
Nakano Broadway Building, B1F, 5-52-15 Nakano, Tokyo
Open daily, 10:00–20:00
Price: under ¥500

Daily Chico is tucked away in the basement of the quirky Nakano Broadway building, best known for its shops selling knick-knacks, nostalgia, and other collectibles. Since 1974, Daily Chico has been serving up softcream, courtesy of Mr. Suzuki, a kind, soft-spoken Tokyo native, who also runs the attached udon shop. “I like Udon, and I like soft cream,” he explained. “It’s something I can put my heart and soul into.”

Suzuki-san, the man behind both counters

Suzuki-san, the man behind both counters (Photo by Sarah Custen)

Though their best seller is simple vanilla, they offer a range of flavors, including coffee milk, matcha, and ramune (those Japanese sodas with a marble in the bottle), as well as seasonal flavors like yuzu and banana. Then there’s the Tokudai, a towering challenge of the shop’s eight flavors. This cool, creamy, rainbow-hued treat attracts customers from near and far, along with plenty of foreign media attention.

“There are so many non-Japanese people these past few years,” Mr. Suzuki said, noting that he’s gotten a lot of mileage out of a single youthful year spent abroad in England. He says that in the afternoon, the Japanese/foreigner mix is about 50/50, with around 200 customers per day taking the Tokudai challenge. For less than ¥500, it’s definitely worth a try, and worth the trip, though backup is strongly recommended.


Photo by Sarah Custen


Aojiru Raw Juice Stand
Nakano and Asagaya locations
Open Monday through Friday 12:00–20:00, Saturdays 12:00–19:00, Sundays 12:00–18:00
Price: under ¥600 per person

If a tower of sugary softcream isn’t your thing (or if you need to recover), there’s a quick fix just down the street, as you head back to Nakano station—a shot of raw kale juice, made fresh daily. Aojira has been pressing raw juice daily for 20 years, with kale and carrot as their staples, cut with an assortment of fruit juices, upon request. Many of the employees have worked there for decades, like Mrs. Sasaki, who explains, “If you work as a shop clerk, you can drink up to 200cc/day free. That’s a full daily serving of vegetables. It’s very healthy.” They also offer add-ins like royal jelly, and kale connoisseurs can buy Shizuoka-grown leaves for only ¥600 a kilo. Juices run ¥200–600, depending on the size and variety, and are “best drunk in the morning,” according to Sasaki-san.

Tokyo Dome City Wonder Drop Waterslide
Tokyo Dome
Open daily, 10:00–21:00
Price: under ¥700 per person

Let’s be honest: Tokyo Disneyland is overrated – a long way to travel to spend a lot of money to stand in line for a long time, especially if you’re just looking for a fun, easy outing with the family. Tokyo Dome City is about half the price, located a stone’s throw from Suidobashi, Iidabashi, and Korakuen stations. Reminiscent of Coney Island, the rides span from a gut-dropping roller coaster and high-in-the-sky Ferris wheel to carnival-esque go-carts, merry-go-rounds and games. You can also pay per ride, which means that for ¥620 and a short wait, you can get soaked on the Wonder Drop waterslide, then happily dry out in the sun or shade with a snack or treat from one of the many surrounding food spots. It’s a pleasant way to pass the afternoon, whether you’ve got kids or are just a kid at heart.


Photo from Japanize

Meguro Cinema
Meguro Nishiguchi Building, B1F, Shinagawa Kamiosaki 2-24-15, Tokyo 141-0021
Open daily, screen times vary
http://www.okura-movie.co.jp/meguro_cinema/now_showing.html (Japanese only)
Price: under ¥1,500 per person

If you prefer a less active reprieve from the sun’s incessant rays, you can cool down by catching a quick flick in this quaint, compact, single screen theater, located right near Meguro station. With a constantly changing line-up of Japanese and foreign films–including new releases, old classics, and everything in between–Meguro Cinema is the perfect place to catch a movie that you missed or revisit an old favorite. Already less than big, blockbuster movieplexes, Meguro Cinema also offers several unique discounts. High school students in groups of three or more pay the “high school friendship price,” ¥1000 each, and the last movie of the night is always ¥900 per person. Snacks are limited, but the staff are friendly, and there are complimentary blankets, to combat the age old problem of movie theaters being too cool an escape.

Main photo from Japanize