Maybe we got the name mixed-up, maybe it was supposed to be Kichioji.
At the recommendation of a friend, Melissa and I decided to check out Koenji today after our Japanese class. It was supposed to be a quieter version of Shimokitazawa, a yuppie town filled with indie boutiques, thrift stores and other curios.
It was just a 7-minute ride on the Chuo Rapid from Shinjuku, but it felt like another country altogether.
We randomly walked into a quaint Italian restaurant and had lunch there. The meal was surprisingly good and value-for-money, but Melissa noted that only girls worked there, and most of the customers were female with the exception of a guy on a date. The restaurant was also pretty quiet, with some hushed conversation and the two of us bantering away in English.
After lunch, we continued walking the streets without a map to navigate us and stumbled upon some shops selling the most random things, like a shop selling snacks at ridiculously low prices, a used shop selling, among other things, a vintage luminous Bigen hairdye sign, old plastic binders and (gasp) a porn video with a very graphic cover. And then there were electrial appliance stores with old models going for cheap, and a store selling crazy expensive clothes and other accessories coated in a light layer of dust.
The entire town was dead quiet, to the point where I felt like I couldn't as much as breathe lest I offend someone. The people around us were pretty much walking solitarily, and I have never encountered so many cyclists before, none of whom seemed to be equipped with a bell.
Imagine our reaction when we saw a big building that said "Koenji West Bicycle Parking Station" and we looked inside to find rows and rows of bicyles packed like sardines, both on the ground and hanging from the ceiling. Considering most Tokyonites park along the street or at a small lot near their apartment, it was really bizarre!
As we ventured farther from the station, it seemed as if the place was stuck in a time warp, with the residents dressed like country folks, barber shops with the rotating sign, tailors who looked a hundred years ago and with a very outdated sense of fashion. If not for the convenience stores along the street, I would be convinced I had been teleported back to the 80s.
It was the weirdest and depressing experience ever, and we decided to head back to the station.
I wanted to scream in delight when I found myself back in Shinjuku surrounded by skyscrapers and crazy crowd.