So long ume, hello sakura.
Today’s brief entry chronicles adventures on the Keio Inokashira Line, my old stomping grounds from my early days in Tokyo. The Inokashira Line spans a vastly underrated and very pleasant area of Tokyo spanning from Shibuya through Shimokitazawa (where the Natsu no Sora anime is set) to delightful Kichijouji – where I lived in a guesthouse for my first month here. Along the way are quiet, unassuming neighborhoods and parks that make you feel like you’re a long way from the busiest metropolis on the planet.
My first stop was Senrigan, a hugely-popular (despite its out of the way location) Jiro-style ramen joint near Ikenoue Station. Senrigan may just be the best Jiro-kei ramen I’ve had – it has all the richness but just enough delicacy not to be as gut-destroyingly heavy as most Jiro places. The chashu is superb and best of all, they offer a “han-ban” noodles option, which means you can finish a bowl without killing yourself. Even the high-school guys in line ahead of me went this route, so I didn’t feel like too much of a yowamushi for doing so myself. They also offer a unique topping called karaage – but this isn’t fried chicken, rather spicy tempura batter bits. It adds an interesting bite and crunch to the finished product.
Afterwards I walked to Shimokitazawa, about a mile away. This isn’t my neighborhood – it’s really for hipsters in their early 20’s – but it’s a good deal of fun for people-watching and window shopping. The real point of the journey was Hanegi Park near Higashi-Matsubara station, one of Tokyo’s premier ume-viewing locales. I missed the peak here by several days, though the weather had a lot to do with that, but it’s still in pretty good form. There are a lot of ume here – Tenjin would love the place – and I imagine a week ago it would have rivaled sakura season for sheer spectacle.