When we arrived in Kichijoji the streets were empty. Well except for Starbucks of course. It was around 10am and my first impression wasn't enriching. I asked our guide, so what do you mean Kichijoji is the neighborhood of choice for Japanese housewives? She just smiled and said you'll see.
Turns out Japanese housewives want...wait for it...a big park? We spent the majority of our time walking around Inokashira Park.
The park was nice. Actually very nice. I must come back during Cherry Blossom Season I thought. It had a pretty shrine, an athletic field and a famous Anime museum called the Ghibili Museum, which we didn't go into. Apparently Ghibili is thee studio for Anime and has a contract for distribution through Disney. If I knew anything about Anime I would know this. If we had kids this would definitely be a place to come back to.
We ate lunch at a Thai restaurant in the park. The weather was so nice and the food was great. The set menu was a good deal.
After lunch we walked back through the park towards the station. The streets, which in the morning had been so empty, were now crowded with sidewalk merchandise and hoardes of housewives shopping. Ok, now I get it. There were lots of interesting little shops, with friendly vendors, inviting us in. She lead us to a large no-vehicles-allowed shopping street. Our guide explained that most of the vendors have been there for years and the citizens of the town get to know each of them personally.
She, apparently knew one vendor in particular whom owns a tea shop call Ocharaka. He was French. He had samples of his tea waiting for us when we arrived. The thing about his tea shop, unlike other Japanese tea shops, is that he adds other flavors to his tea. I'm thinking, what's the big deal? They do that all the time in America. But apparently that is a big deal. Japanese tea makers do not add ANYTHING to their tea. Period.
But this guy, did I mention he was French, named Stephan no less, explained how he is a sommelier and wanted to apply his sommelier finesse to tea. Ok, I'll bite. Um, I mean drink. His staff passed around more samples as we all settled in, drawn by the romantic tilt of his oh-so-French accent. "You were saying...oh yes, tea.....go on." Sigh.
Apparently his tea is so well regarded it's endorsed by the Japanese government in an effort to increase tea exports. When he brought around his newly minted special Christmas blend we were all smitten and couldn't get our pocketbooks out fast enough.
The tour concluded there but our imaginations didn't. We all vowed to come back and Christmas shop.