Everyone needs a happy place, especially in a bustling city like Tokyo. Inokashira Park, otherwise known as Inokashira Koen (井の頭公園) in Kichijoji is my happy place. That is, to say, I spend far too much time there. As I mentioned in previous posts, my favorite thing to do is people watch, while riding the swan boats on the Inokashira Park Lake. I think living in Japan has made me weirder.
And while I’ve taken those boats nearly 10 times in the 9 months I’ve been in Tokyo (don’t judge me), other people might want to branch out and do something new. If you want to know the best things to do in Kichijouji / Inokashira Park, look no further.
Top 10 Things to do at Inokashira Park in Kichijoji
1. Ride the Swan boats on the lake. You didn’t seriously think that I would skip this one, did you? For tips on how to ride the swan boats at Inokashira Park, click here.
For a quick summary, Inokashira Park is apparently “cursed” by the vengeful sprit of Benzaiten (Hindu goddess Saraswati). They have a shrine dedicated to her near the lake with the swan boats, apparently she gets jealous seeing all the happy couples out rowing on the lake and tries to curse them, fating them to break up.
I don’t blame her. Seeing happy couples day in and day out is enough to make even the best person crack. Ryosuke and I go out to test our luck once a month; so far she hasn’t sabotage our relationship (though, some would argue that I’m doing a pretty good job sabotaging it all on my own).
2. Grab some Kettle Corn (Popcorn).
The shop outside of the swan boats has some of the best kettle corn I’ve tasted in Tokyo – for a reasonable 200yen – 300yen ($2-$3). I try to buy a pack every time I visit Inokashira Park.
3. Go to the Inokashira Park Zoo.
The Inokashira Park Zoo is a small zoo broken into two sections, for an affordable 400yen (foreigners with a passport get a 20% discount). When you buy your ticket, you get the two separate tickets. The smaller of the two parks is right across from the swan boats, the larger is a good 500 meters away, across the street.
I did a write-up about Inokashira Park Zoo for Tokyo Cheapo (where I am a part-time blogger). If you’re interested, check it out.
4. Watch some free shows.
I love going to Inokashira Park because I love live music and shows. Every time I visit, regardless of the day or time, I always find a couple musicians, comedians, or magicians scattered around the park. The artists at Inokashira Park are unique because most of them do ask for money (or either have a hat where you can donate or purchase one of their CDs).
They don’t ask for money. The ones at Inokashira Park do. It’s interesting (but also perfectly acceptable to just give them 10yen, $0.10)
5. Walk along the side street to Kichijoji Station.
This side street has all sorts of fun vendors, unique food, and used clothing. I love going on weekends and browsing for deals.
The crepe stall on this small street is surprisingly delicious.
6. Visit the Benzaiten shrine. It’s a beautiful, vivid red that looks especially breathtaking during the cherry blossom season. Aside from housing an apparently jealous or vengeful spirit, it is a great place to stop and relax for a bit.
Not to mention take some awesome pictures.
7. Feed the fish.
You’re not supposed to. They have signs scattered around the park telling you not to feed the fish….
But there are these huge, brightly colored koi fish just waiting for food. Not to mention, when the cherry blossoms started falling, they got confused and kept swallowing the flower petals. I just felt sorry for them.
8. Feed the ducks.
The ducks are a lot cuter than the fish. And, if you’re on the boats, a mob of them will follow you around the lake. If they were intimidating animals, I would be scared, but since they’re so cute, I usually end up throwing them a couple chips.
I know, I’m ruining the ecosystem of Inokashira Park Lake. I’m sorry.
9. Find the smaller, un-named shrine. No one knows what it’s called. In the forest, across from the Benzaiten shrine, there is a small path with a red tori gate. It leads to this tiny shrine that always has one cup off sake (alcohol) in front of it.
It’s a nice, relaxing, and peaceful spot off the beaten track.
10. Eat some kakigori (shaved ice). When I got to Inokashira Park during the summer, I always get some green melon flavored shaved ice.
Why melon soda? Because Melon Soda is one of the greatest Japanese inventions.
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