We’ve been lovin’ Azabu Juban since we arrived in Tokyo for two reasons. One, it’s close to where we are; only a 15 minute walk from our apartment or 1 stop away by subway on the Namboku Line; and two, it has an understated sophisticated neighbourhood charm which evokes a sense of traditional tranquility, despite being only 10 minutes away from the hustle and bustle of it’s better known and rather boisterous neighbour, Roppongi.
Azabu Juban is an attractive residential area for many expatriates as it is close to the Central Business District and located within the belt of foreign embassies (Embassy of Singapore included) and international schools. Our favourite area in this neighbourhood is the Azabu Juban Shopping District. The vibe is cosmopolitan yet understated, making it a relaxing oasis in which to catch up with friends or to simply spend some alone time. This district has a mix of cafes, restaurants and small food specialty stores lined up along a long shopping strip rendering navigation straightforward (pun fully intended). You can either walk eastwards from Roppongi (follow the signs to Azabu Juban from Roppongi Hills) or take the subway westwards directly to Azabu Juban itself. We recommend the latter, where Exit 4 will lead you directly to the shopping strip, just past The Darjeeling.
After you are done drooling over the gorgeous cake displays at The Darjeeling, head straight down and you will past Precious Coffee Moments, a popular local cafe which specialises in a variety of freshly roasted coffee beans which you can bag for the home on your way out. They also do a very tasty matcha ginger latte. If coffee really ain’t your cup of tea, perhaps Koots Green Tea might do the trick. This matcha specialist also serves a variety of very tempting hot and cold desserts. Keep walking and you will see (and smell) Mont-Thabor boulangerie. There is another bakery along this stretch, so take your time to peruse and sample while enjoying the free smells of freshly baked bread. To the left of Mont-Thabor is the über cool and very popular Frijoles, a burritos and taco joint.
Keep your eyes peeled as you continue down the main street because there is a tiny glass window on the left where you can watch soy bean pancakes being freshly made the old-school way with delectable fillings of custard cream, cheese and azuki beans. Don’t hesitate to get one, they only cost ¥130 and are guaranteed to put a smile on your face. Just across the road on the right is a shop which sells Japanese rice crackers and flavoured nuts. They fry their rice crackers on their premises (which you can watch from outside) so everything is super fresh and crispy, without the preservatives (we think!). Buy some back for the family, they’ll love you for it.
As you step out of this store, you should see a gorgeous white-washed French inspired doughnut stall, Nico. Now we’re not the biggest fan of fried bread but Nico makes the most gorgeous home made doughnuts from soy beans which even we can’t resist. They taste incredibly natural, wholesome and refined, not at all like the oily and artificially sweetened ones we’re used to (where have we been all these years?!).
Cross back onto the left side and just past the pet grooming salon and you will arrive at our favourite cafe, Soys Cafe. This is our soy mecca where we come to get our matcha or goma soy latte fix – today we were adventurous and tried their curry and brown rice lunch set (¥1000) which included a miso soup, cold tofu, a soy starter and a sweet soy pudding (and a matcha soy latte, of course). Simple, wholesome and chockful of isoflavins.
Keep walking further down and there are several Italian restaurants, a wine and sake specialty store and several small izakayas and local restaurants which liven up in the evening. There is also both a local and an international supermarket (and a great 100 Yen shop) on the strip to complete your neighbourhood experience. If you’re up for a short walk, continue ahead towards Roppongi Hills or Roppongi Mid-town and transit back into the ubiquitous Tokyo pulse.
We will continue to look forward to our days chilling out at Azabu Juban, book in hand, as long as we are here. Ah, the simple pleasures and comforts of life.