Everyone knows Tokyo. They know Shibuya, Shinjuku, and Akihabara. They know the Yamanote Line, Takeshita Street, and Miyashita Park. But what if I told you that there’s more to Tokyo than just the metropolitan area? Tokyo is actually much bigger than most people think it is. There are mountains and suburbs on all corners of the city. Believe it or not, if you go out far enough, you see signs where’s there’s hardly any English. The neighborhood I live in Katsushika is a part of the north-eastern side of Tokyo. It’s not the coolest place but it’s got some hidden gems that even the locals don’t know about. Kuramae, meaning “in front of the storehouse” is an up-and-coming area of Tokyo for its unique artistry and small Brooklyn feel.
Just 40 minutes outside of central Tokyo on the Asakusa line, Kuramae station might not look like much at first glance but deep down there’s a whole town waiting to be discovered. The district is in Taito Ward of East Tokyo, tucked away between the famous Tokyo Skytree and Asakusa, so it makes for a perfect stop for a day trip through Edo Tokyo. Kuramae is well known for its handicrafts, leatherworking, and other artistry that have been around since the Meiji period. The district dates back to the Edo period when the Shogunate stored tax rice levied from the fields. The area was home to 67 rice granaries with 8 canals at intervals for transport by boat on the Sumida River. The granaries Asakusa mikura– Asakusa store houses is what is known today as modern day Kuramae.
The area is small and easily traversed in two minutes but it has a lot in store. Along the main road, “Edo-Dori” are numerous cafes, stores, and workshops that have attracted a much younger, hipper crowd.
Places to Visit
Torigoe Shrine is a large Shinto shrine on the west side of Kuramae. Torigoe shrine is one of Japan’s oldest shrines with roots that go back to the mid- 7th century. For New Year’s, the shrine features a tondo-yaki bonfire fed by that year’s traditional New Year decorations.
Japan is filled with alleys, and Kurame is no exception. The Okazu-yokocho is a small old-timey shopping district that connects the main street to Torigoe Shrine. Okazu is Japanese for snacks and many of the shops align the road to sell just that.
Kakimori & Inkstand
For those that love the feel of filling up of notebook, Kakimori gives book lovers a truly unique experience. Visitors can choose the paper and covering to build their own unique notebook. If at the end you need a bit more of a personal touch, at the station inkstand visitors can create their own personal ink color as well.
An interesting store along with the main strep that serves as the home base for H Concept, a company involved with design consulting for Japanese manufacturing businesses. The store is filled with cool knickknacks from all over Japan to take home and show how cool Japan is.
First established in 1694 Kuramae shrine was the birthplace of kanjin sumo– wrestling tournaments held to take donations for shrines and temples.
The Misuji has been around since the Showa period (1951) and still preserves its traditional architecture and antique roof. It’s open from Tuesday -Sunday from 3 pm and the entrance fee is 460 yen.
Although it might not seem like it at first Tokyo’s got a lot more to it than meets the eye. Although the metro area is great, sometimes you really want to be somewhere with a much slower vibe. Have you ever been to Kuramae? What areas of Tokyo do you recommend exploring?