Old TokyoKagurazaka was an upscale neighborhood from the start. It was located in a prime spot relative to Edo Castle at Ushigome bridge that spanned the castle's outer moat.
Tokyo developed from Edo Castle outwards. Kagurazaka is one of the city's oldest neighborhoods. The area was urbanized by the 17th century. By the turn of the 20th century Kagurazaka was a dense residential, commercial and geisha district (花街, hanamachi).
Geisha Fire AlarmIn many ways the 1930s were Kagurazaka's golden age. There were approximately 600 geisha in the area at the time. Kagurazaka was filled with upscale restaurants, culture and art. It was the type of neighborhood where you could expect to run into a famous author or artist. Kagurazaka of the 1930s was also the location of much political intrigue.
Old time Kagurazaka residents say that there was a area-wide fire alarm in the early 1930s. At the time, fires were a huge threat in Tokyo — Tokyo was a jumble of wooden buildings built side by side. This fire occurred in the early morning. Area residents scrambled out of their homes in pajamas. As the fire encroached, Kagurazaka's Geisha emerged into the street last of all — with their kimono, hair and makeup perfectly in place.
Apparently it was quite a sight to see hundreds of Geisha in full regalia evacuating a fire alongside sleepy locals in robes and pajamas.
Today there are still several Geisha Okiya and tea houses in the area.
CuisineKagurazaka is well known for its fine Japanese cuisine. There are several Ryotei restaurants here that serve kaiseki ryori — considered the pinnacle of Japanese cuisine.
Ryotei are upper class restaurants that many Japanese people have never experienced. At one time they were by invitation only. These days, they may except reservations. It's common for customers to invite Geisha to entertain at Ryotei (Ryotei usually provide customers a private dining room).
Kagurazaka also features many less expensive dining alternatives. It's a good place to experience many varieties of Japanese food.
French CultureKagurazaka is well known for its French expatriate community. It's home to two French cultural institutions — the Lycée Franco-Japonais de Tokyo and the Institut Franco-Japonais de Tokyo.
The area is also known for its French restaurants and cafes.
UniversitiesKagurazaka is located between two highly rated schools: Waseda University and University of Tokyo. The University of Tokyo is widely considered Japan's best university.
Residential AreaKagurazaka is a popular residential area. It's relatively quiet, central and appealing.
Kagurazaka Awa Odori FestivalThe Kagurazaka Festival celebrates the traditional dance of Tokushima in southern Japan — The Awa Odori (Dance of the Fools). This dance style is lively and fun. It's quickly becoming one of Japan's favorite traditional dances with festivals sprouting up all over the country.
The Kagurazaka Festival (July) is small compared with the Tokushima Awa Odori and Koenji Awa Odori. However, it's a perfect neighborhood for a festival. The Kagurazaka Festival has a relaxed atmosphere (some Japanese festivals can be quite intense).
LocationKagurazaka is located in Shinjuku-ku to the northwest of the Imperial Palace. It's in the center of Tokyo close to central business districts such as Otemachi. Kagurazaka is also close to Shinjuku (Tokyo's largest neighborhood).