The Immensely Small Sangenjaya

The Immensely Small Sangenjaya


One moment you feel at the heart of the hive: a place bustling with life, made of neon strapped buildings and teared apart by Blade Runner-esque stacked motorways. The next, you could be lost in streets barely large enough to walk in, or taking a dip in a calm “Sento” straight out of another age. But there’s a catch.

  • Do you speak English?

    Chances are you’ll be asking this question quite a lot. Luckily, in Tokyo, the situation is the best in Japan, meaning: quite bad really. While touristy places should offer a decent amount of English information, limiting yourself to, say, restaurants with an English menu means you’ll miss out on most of what is available. This is especially true for lesser known places where locals actually live and go out, and Sangenjaya is one of those.

  • Wait, what’s a Sento?

    Have you heard of “Onsen”? These are natural Japanese hot springs, or Spa, found mostly in the countryside. But what if you live in a city? Sento are basically mini-Spa, but most of them use tap water. They used to be just public baths, a necessity in big Japanese cities where homes are extremely small and even now, sometimes not include a bathroom. They still serve that function and their price are regulated as public service, however while their number has dwindled with the availability of private bathrooms, many of them have been modernized and are enjoyed as a leisure. It is a staple of Japanese culture and many locals have their favorite. Sangenjaya has a selection of both modern and older ones, but finding them is not always easy! Then of course, there’s the sento manners and etiquette, that one has to study beforehand to avoid embarrassment.

  • Izakaya paradise

    Izakaya are often called Japanese bars, which is close enough but a bit unfair. Bars do also exist in Japan, but tend to be treated as different kind of establishment. Izakaya offers food and drinks, and it’s actually quite uncommon to not eat while drinking in Japan. While the Golden Gai of Shinjuku is one of the most famous spots for small, cosy izakayas and bars, the hidden back alleys of Sangenjaya has nothing to envy to it. More importantly maybe, there will be no unscrupulous bars trying to rip you off with absurd and unadvertised seat charges. Fancy larger establishments or coming in a larger group? Sancha (the local’s name for Sangenjaya) also has plenty of options.

  • The peaceful Tokyo

    Japan and Tokyo especially are places of contrast. Sangenjaya offers both the shockingly busy streets most expected in Shibuya or Shinjuku, and the unbelievably calm residential areas typical of Tokyo. The latter are a must seen often overlooked, but definitely worth a visit. Simply take a stroll in one of the car-less streets, enjoy the faded sounds of the city, the silence of the night, and the beauty of the real Japan. Don’t know where to go? Leave it to a local guide!

    Want to check this place out with a local? Visit


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