The Tokyo Neighbourhood Dubbed ‘Little Europe’


When you think of Tokyo, images of towering skyscrapers, busy streets and neon lights come to mind. However, tucked away in the southern part of the city lies a neighbourhood that couldn’t be further from the typical Tokyo scene.

Jiyugaoka, which was named after a well-known school in the area with liberal education and translates in Japanese to ‘Liberty Hill’, is often referred to as Japan’s ‘Little Europe’. Located in southern Meguro in Tokyo, the lesser-known suburb offers a European charm blended with Japanese history.

Its wide, tree-lined streets feature buildings inspired by European architectural styles. They house shopping boutiques, trendy cafés and cute bakeries that look like they could’ve been plucked straight out of Emily in Paris.

Throughout the year, Jiyugaoka transforms to embrace different seasons and festivities. During winter, the neighbourhood is adorned with Christmas lights and decorations, creating a European-style winter wonderland.

Jiyugaoka Tokyo
Image: Getty Images

Despite how much it offers, though, Jiyugaoka still remains somewhat of a well-kept secret among Tokyo’s locals and a hidden gem for travellers who do manage to venture to it. If you’re one of those folks, read on for a guide to the area.

How to Get to Jiyugaoka

Jiyugaoka has a train station, Jiyugaoka Station, which you can get to on the Tokyu Toyoko Line and Oimachi Line. From Haneda Airport, it’s 50 minutes by train, while it’s just over two hours from Narita Airport.

If you’re coming from Shinjuku, take the JR Yamanote Line to Shibuya and then transfer to the Tokyu Toyoko Line for Jiyugaoka. It’ll take you a little less than 30 minutes.

From Tokyo, take the JR Yamanote Line to Shibuya and transfer to the Tokyu Toyoko Line for Jiyugaoka. It’ll take you about 45 minutes.

Where to Eat in Jiyugaoka

As you’d expect for a ‘Little Europe’, Jiyugaoka is famous for its cafés, patisseries and bakeries. They offer European-style pastries, cakes and coffee, as well as an ambience that feels just like stepping into a European café.

Australians feeling homesick might want to swing by Aussie-owned Bills, which is known in the area for its breakfast options, including ricotta hotcakes. If you’re a pizza lover, Savoy is a must-visit. The restaurant specialise in authentic Neapolitan-style pizza with a thin and crispy crust. And for Japanese food, Shonzui is known for its seasonal kaiseki (multi-course) meals and is a great place to experience traditional cuisine.

Jiyugaoka is also known for its sweets, with a range of sweet shops and dessert cafés. It’s home to the famous pâtissier Hironobu Tsujiguchi’s Mont St. Clair. Another great place to satisfy your sweet tooth, Jiyugaoka Sweets Forest, has various desserts and delicious treats.

What to Do in Jiyugaoka

Shopping is a big thing to do in Jiyugaoka, with its many fashion and design stores, often run by independent creators. Trendy Tokyoites often visit the area to pick up unique clothing and homewares.

Shop interior décor and antique furniture at ACME or Idée Shop. It’s also the perfect area for strolling through zakka (shops), where you can find a little bit of everything from stationery to dishes and fashion accessories.

Spend an afternoon wandering Jiyugaoka’s Parisian-style streetscapes and visit La Vita, a miniature version of Venice, complete with a canal and gondola. And for those interested in architecture, the campus of Jiyugaoka Seikei University is known for its modern and unique design.

Where to Stay in Jiyugaoka

The centrally located Hotel Pulitzer Jiyugaoka fully embraces the European influence, albeit in more of a kitsch nod to the continent.

Jiyugaoka also offers a sprinkling of Airbnbs, but for more extensive accommodation options, consider staying in nearby areas. Hotel Claska in Meguro is a boutique hotel known for its stylish design.

At Ebisu Yokocho in neighbouring Ebisu, you can also find a variety of accommodations, from luxury hotels to smaller guesthouses. Both the Tokyu Toyoko Line and Oimachi Line extend as far as Jiyugaoka Station and Shibuya and Shinagawa Station can be accessed easily.

Related: 3 Tokyo Neighbourhoods to Visit Before TikTok Tourists Take Over

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