Hidden among the sprawl of Tokyo’s railway matrix are huge train stations that even many Tokyoites have yet to come across. Nestled up in the northern suburbs, Kita-Senju is one such station. But with a constant barrage of trains barreling in from all corners of the Kanto district, Kita-Senju Station has become a focal point of the Tokyo transport system, receiving well over 200,000 passengers daily. If the station makes an appearance on your vacation schedule, check out this handy guide to see you through.
Kita-Senju Station overview
Kita-Senju Station, Adachi Ward‘s transport hub, occupies a central point between the banks of two of Tokyo’s great rivers: the Arakawa and the Sumida. It’s one of the capital’s main northern train stations, bringing in hordes of commuters daily from the “sleeper towns” in Ibaraki, Chiba and Saitama Prefectures.
Central city rail lines—like Chiyoda, Joban and Hibiya—run through Kita-Senju Station, while the Tsukuba Express Line, Tobu Skytree Line and inter-city express trains connect it to Honshu’s more northerly reaches.
With such a constant stream of people, Kita-Senju Station has grown into a tricky enough labyrinth to navigate if you’re unaccustomed to it. The number of outlets in and around the station where you can peruse the goods in high-end retail stores, stuff your face with local and international cuisine, purchase some last-minute omiyage, or get a bit of shut-eye for the night has increased exponentially.
Bite-size history: From then, until now
The days of people stopping off at Kita-Senju on their way to (or from) Tokyo is not a 21st-century occurrence. On the old Nikko Kaido route between Nihonbashi and Toshogu Shrine in Nikko (the resting place of the venerable samurai to whom the Tokugawa Shogunate owes its name, Tokugawa Ieyasu), Kita-Senju was the first outpost en route out of the capital. It was a journey frequented by the local aristocracy during the Edo period, and as such, Kita-Senju has welcomed some of the greats of Japanese history to its doorstep.
Around the station a few remnants of that era still remain—a hidden shrine here, a humble temple there—but no overly obvious reminders of its former status. Most of this can be attributed to the destruction of Japan during World War II, and Tokyo’s rapid urbanization over the past 70 years.
Kita-Senju is now mostly entombed in concrete, though around the station it’s splashed in color through hulking billboards and neon signage. Directly opposite the station’s West Exit is a huge LED screen placed conveniently above a raised public walkway; you can watch the evening news with crowds of homebound commuters here if you’re so inclined. This is the Tokyo of today.
Dining at Kita-Senju Station
Kita-Senju Station has the standard trimmings of a large Tokyo train station: a midori-no-madoguchi (ticketing office for local and intercity trains), several sections of ticket machines (that dispense both paper tickets and all-purpose IC cards), convenience stores, vending machines, coffee shops, onigiri (rice ball) counters, passport photo booths and bathrooms with real toilets (some of the older stations in Japan still sport the dreaded hole-in-the-ground-style lavatories).
Beyond the immediate station confines is where the real culinary highlights are to be found. The main building of the train station occupies the bottom two floors of a Lumine department store (one of the major department store chains operating in Japan).
Up on the 8th floor, the food options run the gamut from cheap and cheerful to inscrutably refined. Grab ‘n go burger shops and establishments dishing out leaning piles of doughy pancakes sit shoulder to shoulder with an urbane sushi restaurant and a smorgasbord of continental Asian cuisine.
Pho Hanoi, the Vietnamese restaurant sitting directly in front of the escalator, is hard to look past—literally—for lunch or dinner. Go for their osusume (recommended) king prawns in tamarind sauce. Original Pancake House is another great option, particularly if you want to rid yourself of a hangover. Or if you’re feeling something Japanese—and somewhat classier—check out Tsukiji Tama Sushi.
Shopping at Kita-Senju Station
The rest of Lumine is filled with retail variety, though much of it leans towards the pricier end of the spectrum. Each level of the building is set up in classic department store fashion, with wide-open spaces housing frontless shops, and a host of retailers peddling a variety of wares.
Lumine features homeware stores, watchmakers, jewelers, and clothing stores—from affordable brands like Uniqlo, to women’s high-end fashion. Squeezed among them are shops selling gleaming beauty products and health-boosting vitamins, where smartly attired retail assistants glide between the aisles. And of course there are vendors offering the kind of eccentric merchandise you’ll only find in a Japanese department store (think pillows shaped like estranged ghosts and pumpkins).
If crowds of shoppers are a good indicator, Cosmetic Kitchen on the 4th floor is one of the most popular beauty product stores in the building. While the Beauty&Youth United Arrows store may be the pick of the bunch for the latest trends in men’s and women’s pop fashion.
Omiyage, the Japanese conceptual word for “gifts” or “gift giving”, naturally plays a role at the station too. Omiyage shops selling distinctly Japanese treats line the station hallways and are dotted around the immediate vicinity. Guruman is a pop-up stall selling cream buns filled with anko (sweet bean paste). Cheese tarts from the Bake stall inside the station, near the West Exit, are another top seller; though you won’t be able to keep these for much more than a day. I wouldn’t worry if you have to eat them yourself however, they are simply divine.
Accommodation near Kita-Senju Station
As Kita-Senju Station has grown, and continues to field more passengers each year, the need for hotels and accommodation options nearby has increased likewise. The fact that most of the bars in the nearby yokocho remain open into the small hours of the evening is also a likely contributor. Here are three decent accommodation options in the area:
Hotel Grand Coco
Hotel Grand Coco is a relatively affordable hotel just a short skip from the station’s West Exit. It’s a pretty standard Japanese business hotel with a breakfast buffet, a little onsen spa and rooms from around 8,000 yen a night.
Spa & Capsule Hotel Grandpark Inn Kitasenju
Spa & Capsule Hotel Grandpark Inn Kitasenju, as its name implies, is a capsule hotel; a great option for those who want to experience this Japanese budget accommodation fad. On top of the individual capsule beds, the hotel has a spa and sauna, a relaxation room with PCs and comics, and offers a breakfast buffet. Capsules go for as little as 2,000 yen a night.
Nestle Tokyo Cozy House
Nestle Tokyo Cozy House, a guesthouse located 5 minutes from Kita-Senju Station on foot, may not look like much from the outside, but the interior is distinctly more modern and spacious than first impressions would belie. The basic single rooms come with shared bathrooms and common spaces, so at around 4,000 yen–5,000 yen a night, it’s a good deal for a one-night stay.Tags: kita-senju, tokyo stations
This post was written by David McElhinney