Sangenjaya is a railway station in Setagaya Ward, which is an affluent district of expensive residences in south-west Tokyo, Japan. Located just two stops away or 5-minute train ride from Shibuya on the Tokyu Denentoshi Line, it is a place where you can experience, explore, and get the feel of the local life.
Learn More About Sangenjaya in Tokyo
Sangenjaya, also known as “Sancha”, is an old Tokyo-style, close community, where neighbors know each other well. It ranked as number 21 of “22 Best Places to Live in Tokyo”, even if the price of land is extremely high. Sangenjaya’s residential layout is characterized by a series of old wooden houses that give it such a unique character, so much so that it seems like they were frozen in time. The place is teeming with culture and has a slower momentum than the big city, possessing a sleepy village feel.
The area is compact, with narrow streets and jumble of stores that looked like they’ve been there for decades. The maze of shops is so tightly knit that there exists the possible danger that a fire, due to any accident or earthquake, has the potential to destroy this well-loved section of Tokyo.
A Fixture in Southwestern Tokyo
During the day, the place is all abuzz with women doing their daily groceries, children walking home from school and store owners getting busy, making a living. The people who live here need not go far for their needs since there are all sorts of shops available like meat shops, fruit and vegetable places, hair salons, massage parlors, bakeries and even dry cleaners. These local shopping streets called “shotengai” (商店街) provide not only a place to supply the locals with their needs but also a place to catch up with each other and instill a sense of unity among them.
The Night Life in Sangenjaya
The scene in Sangenjaya changes quite drastically at night. It is when the bars or pubs and restaurants open with young men and women standing outside yelling “irashaimase” (welcome) to attract customers. The entire area becomes a lively setting of shop owners trying to get your attention. It has become a favorite hangout for young and hip Tokyo residents and salary men who love to drink.
Two Sides to Sangenjaya
Sangenjaya today is made up of two sides. One side is a town made up of chain stores in modern large buildings, and the other side is made up of small alleys filled with people from all levels of society, sitting and sharing the space shoulder to shoulder as they have done for generations.
The History of Sangenjaya
During the Edo period (1603-1867), a large number of Tokyo inhabitants would go on pilgrimages to temples and shrines outside the city. One shrine was on a mountain called Oyama on the border of Isehara, Hadano, and Atsugi in Kanagawa Prefecture. To reach the mountain where the shrine was, the route, called Oyama Michi or Oyama Path, would begin in Akasaka, passed through Shibuya, reached Sangenjaya, traversed the Tamagawa River, and continued along to Nagatsuda and Ebina before finally arriving at the sacred mountain. The other route was the Naborito Michi or Naborito Path, also used by pilgrims on their pilgrimages and these two paths crossed Sangenjaya. As a result, travelers diverged to Sangenjaya as a layover to get a quick meal or have some refreshing tea, thus launching it to become a popular place as a stopover.
The Etymology of Sangenjaya
Sangenjaya means “three tea houses” in Japanese. It was named after these three tea houses that were in the area. Shigaraki (it was bombed during the war), the Kadoya (eventually went out of business) and the Tanakaya (got burned down in a fire and re-emerged years later as a ceramic shop now called Tanaka Ceramics.)
During the Meiji Period (1868-1912) the area became famous for selling western soaps and cheap candies. Many snack shops opened and bars, where you can drink standing, made good business during this period
The Meaning behind “Yokocho”; a Characteristic of Sangenjaya
Discover another side to the big and noisy city of Tokyo, with its tall buildings and neon lights as that of Shinjuku, and venture into these hidden secret places that have preserved the look and feel of its historic neighborhood, streets and authentic Japanese way of life.
You can do this by taking a step beyond the main street, which sometimes leads you to a small walkway shopping area, holding some interesting and quaint boutiques or thrift stores. You may end up finding yourself enjoying with the locals while having some exclusively Japanese fare like yakitori, yakiniku, or the street food favorite, takoyaki. Congratulations – you are in a Yokocho.
“Yokocho”, are homey, little back alleys found all over Tokyo where you can discover traditional and cheap Japanese cuisine served in little bars (Izakayas) and eatery options. The shops, bars, and restaurants are usually all crammed up side by side in small crowded streets.
Places to Eat and Drink in Sangenjaya’s Yokocho
In Sangenjaya’s yokocho, you can find a place called Komeda’s Coffee which is a popular coffee shop amongst the locals. It is packed full most of the time but it has a very comfortable ambiance, so it is worth dropping by and tasting that delicious coffee.
There is a newly renovated restaurant worth checking out and it is called Umaebis. They only serve fresh, juicy and top-quality horsemeat. Japan has had a long history with equine cuisine and here in Umaebisu, the horsemeat can also be eaten raw.
If you are still in an adventurous mood, go to Gasa Restaurant. Here, the owners of this snack bar are licensed to handle “fugu”, which is the infamous poisonous puffer fish. The fish, if eaten and not cooked correctly, can be deadly. If you are brave enough, get a taste of their grilled “fugu” with a cup of hot sake.
Apartments Available Around the Sangenjaya Area
Falling in love with Sangenjaya already? There are many options for you to rent an apartment here. You can visit GajinPot and see their apartment section, which usually has many available in the Sangenjaya area. Many of the apartment buildings were built in the 90’s, and some of them were built as late as this year. You can find options as cheap as 85,000 yen, and as expensive as 133,000 yen per month. Most of them are 1K apartments.
If you don’t want to book a hotel (which there are many of in this area), you can also opt for AirBnB options in Sangenjaya.
Tips While You Explore the Sangenjaya Neighborhood
Sangenjaya is a neighborhood packed with old buildings and tiny intimate bars, and Japan is home to some great beer, sake, and whiskey. Combine those two, and you’ll get to experience the best way to observe how locals live in their own habitat. Visit their local drinking holes and go bar hopping with friends as a great way to enjoy the night, and let them be your guide.
Most of the shops, pubs, bars, and restaurants in Sangenjaya are owned by small business people who really love what they do. Try to communicate with them as best as you can. Ask for help and recommendations if you need them and they will meet you halfway. Do not be afraid to reach out.
Be adventurous and keep an open mind. You may discover new favorite flavors by going out of your comfort zone every once in a while. If you see a photo of a dish that you like or have read about, most often the dish looks exactly like it. If the photo looks delicious, then go give the dish a try.
Japanese always carry some kind of business cards with them so if you happen to make friends with some interesting people in one of those closet-sized jam-packed Sancha eateries, it would be best if you also had your own name cards so you can trade cards with them. Memories will surely be made this way.
The Carrot Tower
Sangenjaya’s most famous landmark is the Carrot Tower. This high-rise building was named by local schoolchildren because of its brick orange exterior. The commercial building where many offices are located was completed in 1996. This 26-story building also has shops, a public theatre, a radio station, and a gallery.
You can go to the top floor on the observation deck, free of charge, and enjoy an exciting view of Sangenjaya and Setagaya. A night view would be amazing too. On its 22nd floor, the game development company, Game Freak, Inc. (the creators of the most popular game Pokémon) have made it their current headquarters.
Sankaku Chitai; the Triangle of Sangenjaya
The famous part of Sangenjaya is a place called Triangle Corner or Sankakugai. “Sankaku” means triangle and “gai” means street. Situated somewhere between Shibuya, Nakameguro, and Shimokitazwa, the bars here were built from the ruins of World War 2. During that time, Japan was burnt to the ground by allied bombing, and the people struggled to rebuild their lives. Thus, the mom-and-pop shops were built, and hole-in-the-wall establishments were erected.
This triangle is one charming yokocho that stands out from the rest. There are many izakayas which offer very interesting typical Japanese fare and it can get crowded mostly by working men. The constant redevelopment in surrounding the area is a threat to the unique charm of the yokocho. The alleys may be narrow and space an expensive commodity but here is a mixture the old and new Japanese way of life.
Information about Sangenjaya Station
Sangenjaya Station is operated by Tokyu Corporation, a private railway operator. Sangenjaya Station’s address is 2 Chome-15 Taishido, Setagaya, Tokyo 154-0004, Japan. It opened and started its operations on March 6, 1907. Its telephone number is +81 3-3419-0393
The Tokyu Setagaya train line and the Tokyu Den-en-Toshi Line begin at Sangenjaya. The Setagaya train looks more like a street car than a small train. The Setagaya is 5 kilometers long and it can be a fun experience to ride it. The trains can get packed full in the mornings and evenings.
How to Get from Sangenjaya to Shibuya
You can easily travel from Sangenjaya to Shibuya and you have many options. Firstly, you can go by train. The train ride will cost around 120 JPY-170 JPY and it will take only 4 min. A taxi is another option and it would cost around 2,100 JPY-2,600 JPY. The ride also will be 4 min. A more expensive luxurious choice would be to take an Uber and it would cost 2,600 JPY-3,700 JPY or you can go walk it for a whole hour.