Tokyo has so much to offer in the way of restaurants, bars, culture, history, fashion, architecture, shrines, and festivals. It is no wonder that millions flock to the city annually. But Tokyo is also home to at least fifty reasonably large shopping districts which sell everything imaginable from food to fashion, ready to satisfy any shopaholic. Some of these districts, such as Akihabara, are hard core shopping areas focused on one particular niche, in this case electronics.
Today, I want to tell you about another “hard core” shopping neighborhood which may be lesser known by the average shopper but is a haven for musicians throughout Tokyo. I’m talking about Ochanomizu (御茶ノ水), a university neighborhood that is known for its high concentration of musical instrument shops. Located near the Kanda River, Ochanomizu literally translates to “tea water.” It is said that the second Tokugawa Shogun Hidetada visited here once and enjoyed a cup of green tea made using the local spring water, thus the name. Meiji University, Tokyo Medical and Dental University, and Juntendo University all have main campuses in the area. Prior to the Great Kanto earthquake, Ochanomizu University was also located in the area, but was relocated to the Bunkyo area following the devastation.
Ochanomizu is home to about fifty music stores, thirty of which exclusively sell guitars. The shops are generally open between 11 AM and 8 PM and include large retailers such as Big Boss, Ishibashi, and Kurosawa. You will also find specialty shops such as Guitar Planet and various second hand stores offering great bargains on used guitars, particularly replicas of Fenders and Gibsons made and sold only in Japan by Aria, Burny, Fernandes, Greco, and Tokai. The variety of guitars available in Ochanomizu is mind boggling! You can get anything from amazingly good $80 Fender Stratocaster copies to vintage American instruments in mint condition selling for tens of thousands of dollars.
Although you can spend hours browsing the various music stores, the fun does not stop there. Ochanomizu is also famous for its ski and snowboard shops located just a short walk from the station. While in the area, stop by at the Holy Resurrection Cathedral (Nicholai-do), the main cathedral of the Japanese Orthodox Church. It was established by the Russian Orthodox priest Nikolai Kasatkin, St. Nicholas of Japan, in 1891 when he came to Japan from Russia for his missionary work. The building is designated as a nationally important cultural property.
If you get hungry, try one of the many restaurants on the main strip. You will find anything and everything from McDonald’s to soba to udon to Indian curry to sushi!
If you are not a musician but want to pretend to be a rock star, you can do so in a private karaoke box at Karaoke Pasela, a chain with shops located in Ginza, Shibuya, Shinjuku, Ikebukuro, Okachimachi, and Ochanomizu. The daytime fee per person is ¥100-250 for 30 minutes. Night time fees are ¥500 per person for 30 minutes. If listening to music is more your game, drop by Disk Union, a chain specializing in used CDs and DVDs.
Whether you are a musician or just a curious tourist, Ochanomizu is a great place to visit.