Tokyo Neighborhoods: Kamata
If you’re coming to Japan as a tourist, you probably have heard about the most famous areas in Tokyo: Shibuya, Shinjuku, Akihabara… but you probably haven’t heard about Kamata.
Kamata is considered by many local people as a shitamachi — a run down area or a seedy town. This may be the case for Tokyo standards, which means it’s as safe as the safest area in most countries.
What many would consider a dodgy neighborhood consists of louder than usual types and middle aged men going to izakaya, or Japanese style bars. There are some more dubious, girl-related businesses in the area, but really, most places in Tokyo have a few of these, and especially the ones mentioned above that you’re probably going to anyway.
Kamata’s reputation has seen somewhat of an improvement lately as a more residential area, thanks to the newly built Keikyu Kamata station, the renovation of some of the busiest places, and its proximity to Haneda airport, a mere ten minutes away.
Between the airport and the city center, it’s a great place to spend a couple of hours in if you have some spare time and have to spend your remaining cash before leaving the country. There are plenty of things to do, it’s cheaper than your average Tokyo neighborhood, and there aren’t that many tourists. There are plenty of local bars and restaurants, karaoke parlors, and even natural hot springs — a real rarity within the city of Tokyo. It’s probably most famous for its Chinese restaurants, as there is a sizable Chinese community.
Here’s a more detailed list of things not to miss in Kamata. Keep in mind some of these are closer to JR Kamata station, so if you’re taking the Keikyu line to or from Haneda you will have to walk anywhere between five and fifteen minutes.
This is what most locals know Kamata for. There isn’t a Chinatown in Tokyo per se, like in Yokohama, but this is probably the closest thing the city has. There is a particular kind of fried dumpling that was invented here called hanetsuki gyoza, or winged fried dumpling. It’s called this way because of its crispy “wings” that connect each dumpling. The most famous restaurants serving this are Hoanyon, Nihao and Komparu. They are all said to have invented hanetsuki gyoza, so unfortunately you’ll have to go in blind and hope you found the one. They all serve delicious, cheap Chinese food though, so no worries there. Not many neighborhoods can claim to have its own famous dish!
Other restaurants and bars:
Kamata has plenty of different izakaya and many business people come here after work or on the weekend to drink some shochu or a beer. The street in front of JR Kamata station’s east exit is full of local bars and famous national chains. If you want to try unique things there is a locally popular basashi (raw horse sushi) restaurant. For safer bets, try an izakaya chain like Warawara or Ore No Yakitori. Here you can eat grilled chicken on a skewer for as little as 70 yen. For other Japanese dishes, you can find conveyor belt sushi, takoyaki, and almost anything else. There are many Western style options as well, like the Italian Salvatore Cuomo, the British pub HUB, or the German bar GGC Kamata, where you can taste dozens of beers. Other non-western options include, Vietnamese, Indian or Thai restaurants.
Spending the night out:
If you want to go bowling or play billiards or darts, there are some sports bars in the area, the biggest of which is Athlecitta. This one is open all night, so if you have some hours to kill before an early morning flight or just want to spend a fun night out with your friends, it’s a good option. There are many karaoke parlors as well where you can belt out your favorite songs as long as you want. Some izakaya stay open till really late too, especially chains like the above mentioned Warawara, so look out for those.
Taking it easy:
If you want to avoid the crowds, there are some cafes and other more relaxing places you can spend some time in as well. Kamata onsen in one of the very few real hot spring experiences in Tokyo. If you want to go to a hot spring but have no time for a one day trip outside the city, this is a great option. Rarer still, this particular hot spring is known for its naturally black water, said to be really good for your skin. A less time-consuming option is going to a cat cafe. Exactly what it sounds like, it’s a place where you can pet some cute cats, have a coffee, or take a nap. Another local attraction is the tire park, which has some characters made of tires, such as Godzilla or a giant robot. Not the most beautiful park in Tokyo, but it’s unique.
Off the beaten path and on your way to the airport, Kamata is a great place to spend a few hours if you have the time. Don’t miss out on it.
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