With my Muse concerts behind me, my last day in Tokyo was spent in Kichijoji, a district located a forty-minute metro ride outside of the center of the city. If I ever live in Tokyo and could pick my dream location, Kichijoji would definitely be my top choice. It’s consistently ranked as one of the most desirable residence neighborhoods in Tokyo, and it’s easy to see why. BMWs, Audis, and Mercedes outnumber the Hondas and Toyotas, and the houses are often gated, which creates an interesting juxtaposition with the overall offbeat, artistic, and slightly countercultural atmosphere. It reminded me a lot of Shadyside, a neighborhood outside of Pittsburgh that I love for its artistic community, Victorian mansions, and tiny shops.
I stuck to my morning routine of finding a local bakery to indulge myself in a pastry and then headed to Inokashira Park. Rather than enter the park at the point closest to the station, I decided to walk a bit further to the far entrance (the thinnest, easternmost point on the map). There, I found a bench along a stream and plunked myself down on it to eat breakfast and watch the early birds out on their morning walks. This was around eight a.m. on a Sunday morning, so they’re weren’t many people, but when I returned four or five hours later, the park was bustling with young families.
For now though, I was content to just wander up and down the park’s length. For someone who likes to just walk and walk with no real goal in mind, this park was pretty much perfect for me. The main attraction of Inokashira is the central pond, which is lined by 桜 (sakura, cherry blossom) trees that cover the pond and its surrounding paths in one huge cloud of pale pink petals. Like Shinjuku Gyoen’s summer colors, it’s one of the main reasons I look forward to returning to Tokyo in the warmer weather.
Even though most of the trees are bare in winter, the central lake is still beautiful (and popular for those who want to rent duck paddle boats) and I was lucky to find an empty bench that faced the water. A small shrine sits at one end of the lake, and it was easy to see remnants from people’s 初詣 (hatsumode, the first shrine visit of the year). Wooden plaques with written resolutions were hung around the shrine, and I found one in English that I particularly liked.
Once it was lunchtime, I headed off for my café of choice. Mahika Mano was the real reason I had come to Kichijoji in the first place. Tokyo hosts many niche restaurants that range from oddly cute (like the famed “cat cafés”) to the downright bizarre. Mahika Mano, though, is just plain amazing. It’s been on my Tokyo “to do” list for months, and you’ll understand why: there are no chairs in this café. Only hammocks. I assure you, it is as phenomenal as it sounds.
Unsurprisingly, Mahika Mano is wildly popular, and there’s often a two hour time limit enforced a diners to ensure a logical turnover of tables. Full disclosure: I stayed there for the entire two hours. There was a line to get in, even though I showed up a bit before the place opened. With its bohemian atmosphere, delicious food, friendly staff, and unconventional seating, it’s easy to see why people line up.
Because I was alone, I sat at the bar, where the hammock seats are suspended a bit higher than those surrounding the ten or so tables in the main area. I was content to comfortably hang in my hammock while I ate my way through my lunch set, which included a small bowl of creamy potato soup, a salad, and the main course, which was gnocchi with tomatoes, onions, mushrooms, and bacon in a spicy white sesame sauce.
I finished my food fairly quickly, and then indulged in a massive メイプルチノー (a cappuccino flavored by maple) while I read until my two hours were up. Though I’d initially planned on heading back into Tokyo to the Meiji Shrine for the rest of the afternoon, Mahika Mano was so relaxing that I ended up spending the rest of the day in Kichijoji, content with wandering in the park and reading in another café until it was time to catch my nightbus back to Aomori.
By the time I climbed on the bus, I was relaxed, content with my weekend’s adventures, and ready to sleep. And as groggy as I was when I climbed off the bus the next morning in Aomori, the winter gusts that greeted me left assured that I wasn’t in southern Japan any longer.