Machida: All The Shopping, Dining & Sightseeing of Central Tokyo, Half The Crowds

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Want a day in the city without all the crowds? Then Machida is your stop!

Twenty-seven stops from Shinjuku might make this neighborhood sound like a distant journey from central Tokyo, but Machida is still a big part of the metropolis and is certainly one to pin on your must-visit neighborhoods.

Located in the Tama area of southern Tokyo, Machida city stands almost on the verge between Tokyo and Kanagawa Prefecture and is easily accessible via the Odakyu Odawara Line (which coincidentally also services the Shimokitazawaarea), JR Yokohama and the Keio Sagamihara Line. From Shinjuku, it takes between 30 minutes to an hour to reach Machida, depending on whether you take a local, express or the fancy Romance Car train.

Historically, the Machida area was largely a farming and fishing area until the Meiji period but became a bedroom community for the greater Tokyo and Yokohama areas as urban industrialization advanced. In the station area it’s a lively, bustling hotspot, but even walking a kilometer away will put you back into suburban or even rural spaces. This duality makes Machida a great place to spend the day. You can surround yourself with nature in the morning, shop ‘til you drop in the afternoon, then enjoy some of the latest gourmet or nightclub spots at night.

What to do & Where to go

With hundreds of interesting places to see and go to, the more accurate question should be what can’t youdo in Machida. But let’s start from somewhere.

Machida Squirrel Garden(まちだリス園): While squirrels are a common sight overseas, they’re an adorable zoo attraction in Japan, and one that families with kids will love. Though operating since 1988, the Machida Squirrel Garden is still a little known spot for non-Japanese travelers and residents of Japan.

The Machida Squirrel Garden is 20 minutes away from Machida Station (take the bus from the #21 bus stop if you don’t want to walk). Admission costs ¥400 for adults, ¥200 for children, and a bag of sunflower seeds will set you back another ¥100. Make sure you get those seeds, though: they’ll have you surrounded by some of the 200 Pallas squirrels that call the garden home in a snap.

They’re friendly, well-cared for, and very adorable to watch as they jump, romp and all around show off their skills among the trees. The Machida Squirrel Garden isn’t just home to squirrels though — there are also chipmunks, rabbits, prairie dogs, guinea pigs, and even two tortoises that freely stroll the grounds.

Machida Yakushi Ike Park(町田薬師池公園): Machida Yakushi Ike Park is right next to the Machida Squirrel Garden and is an ideal place to picnic, take a stroll or just relax. This park is centered around a 7700 square meter pond which is home to koifish and turtles, as well as plenty of wild birds. There are historic homes from the Edo period, a stunning Japanese bridge, and teahouses which sell traditional Japanese sweets and drinks too within the grounds.

From spring to summer, this historic park is full of flowers — cherry blossoms in spring, a peony garden from April to May, irises from May to June, lotus from July to August, and dahlia from July to November. It’s also quite charming in winter, especially if there’s been some snow.

You can surround yourself with nature in the morning, shop ‘til you drop in the afternoon, then enjoy some of the latest gourmet or nightclub spots at night.

Buaiso — Ahistorical home and museum(旧白洲邸 武相荘): If you’re interested in Japanese history, antiques, and home-cooking, then a visit to Buaiso is in order. Buaiso is the name of the former home of Jiro Shirasu, a Cambridge-educated scholar and aide to Japan’s post-war Prime Minister, Shigeru Yoshida. Jiro Shirasu’s wife Masako was a famed art historian and essayist, and with their combined talents, they made their home into a treasure-trove of traditional Japanese arts and crafts as well as modern Western conveniences.

Buaiso is also one of the few thatched roofed wooden houses in Tokyo and has lovely gardens and a cafe where you can enjoy of Masako’s own recipes that have been handed down through her personal notes and collections.

The Machida City Museum of Graphic Arts(町田市立国際版画美術館): This lovely spot is one of the few museums solely dedicated to prints in the world. Here you can not only appreciate the art of printmaking, but also learn about the process, tools, and steps to its production from a Japanese perspective. It’s just a 15-min walk away from the station, which makes it a very convenient place to visit if you are on a tight travel schedule.

Admission to their permanent exhibition is free, and ticket prices will vary to their special and seasonal displays. They also offer workshops and classes, sometimes in English as well, if you are feeling inspired and want to take a hands-on approach to printmaking yourself.

Where to shop

Shopaholics, fashionista, and curious window shoppers will love Machida. There’s a little bit of everything there to enjoy. There are countless shopping malls, with popular Japanese and international brands, plus the latest cafes too. Machida Lumine, Machida Tokyu Twins, Remy Machida(formerly Machida 109), Marui Machida, Machida Modi, and my personal favorite Jorna Machidaare all within a 3-minute walk of both Machida stations.

If you prefer a more classic Japanese approach to shopping though, the Machida Nakamise Shopping Streetis home to some truly unique little shops, bars, and eateries. Actually, this shopping arcade is a definite must for foodies — the burgers and dumplings you’ll find here sometimes have people lined up down the block. These shops are quite small though (some only with space for up to six people), so you’ll want to get there early if you want a seat.

Where to eat

In addition to all the small dining spots in the Nakamise Shopping Street, Machida has plenty of other great eateries to choose from. There are classic chain locations of Japanese and international restaurants, but fans of Japanese cuisine should definitely check out the following restaurants.

IchibanIchiban(一番いちばん) is a soba shop with some of the springiest noodles and most flavorful broths around. This place is a must for fans of classic Japanese fast food.

Yamatoya(やまと屋) is a really cool yakitoribar and grill that serves generous portions of grilled chicken alongside classic izakaya favorites like agedashi tofuand edamame. They’re only open from 4 p.m. until 11 p.m. though and can fill up fast on weekends, so it’s a good idea to get there early.

Kappo Tonkatsu Matsumura(割烹 とんかつ松村) is a shop that specializes in tonkatsu, or fried pork cutlet, and it is simply amazing. A Japanese friend of mine would like to point out that this is the best tonkatsu they’ve ever found in the Kanto region, so if you are looking to compare cutlets, you should really check it out. The restaurant is again, on the smaller side, but well worth the visit.

Machida might not be a simple two or three stops away from central Tokyo, but what it lacks in proximity it more than makes up for in amenities and atmosphere that central Tokyo can’t offer. It’s a perfect day trip spot — so why not head there on the weekend and discover the charm of outer Tokyo?

Getting there

Machida can be easily reached by the Odakyu Line from Shinjuku, the JR Yokohama Line from Yokohama, the Tokyu Den-en-toshi Line from Shibuya (get off at Minami-Machida) and the Keio Sagamihara Line via the Tama Sakai station.

  • Machida Squirrel Garden:733-1 Kanaimachi, Machida, Tokyo
  • Machida Yakushi Ike Park:3270 Nozutamachi, Machida, Toky0
  • Buaiso:7-3-2 Nogaya, Machida, Tokyo
  • Machida City Museum of Graphic Arts: 4-28-1 Haramachida, Machida, Tokyo
  • Machida Nakamise Shopping Street: 4-5-13 Haramachida, Machida, Tokyo
  • Ichiban Ichiban:1-28-24 Nakamachi, Machida, Tokyo
  • Yamatoya:1-18-2 Nakamachi, Machida, Tokyo
  • Kappo Tonkatsu Matsumura:3-4 Asahimachi, Machida, Tokyo