Kichijōji continues to boom, seemingly well on the way to becoming a small city in its own right – in the manner of Shinjuku or Shibuya – rather than just a well developed, over populated and highly sought after village – such as Shimo-Kitazawa or Jiyūgaoka. It’s yet to be ruined though. Still plenty to draw the casual diner, and enough “nostalgic” establishments remaining to bring a tear to the eye of seasoned Tokyoites.
An area (block?) brimming with such attractions is the old covered market/ traders ground across the road from the central exit of the station. What was once little more than a fetid warren of rundown alleys and stalls is now a frightfully hip dining and drinking spot clustered with “postmodern/ retro/ neo-Asian” bars and izakaya, many of which appear to be part of the increasingly sprawling empire established by the folks behind the Mishima Bar (opposite Iseya at the entrance to the park).
Ko-panda nestles amidst the lanterns, moldering electric meters and crumbling stalls of the alley known as noren komichi. Think black and white Kurosawa movies such as Stray Dog. At best you’d squeeze in 10-12, if slim. Little counter, little tables, little stools, little menu, little izakaya. A staff of one – the proprietor one would like to think – takes orders and pokes at the vat of tepid oden.
The most memorable thing about Ko-panda is the vaguely nightmarish paper-wrought little panda – think Silent Hill only with China’s favoured fluffy diplomatic pawn. The food is limited, not costly and intended to accompany your booze more than satisfy your appetite.
We did the oden, which to fair be was less hateful than it’s wont to be; some tasty yet overpriced cubes of cheese and some seasonal takenoko. The latter were enjoyable, but clearly at the lower end of the quality scale.
Great fun, but hardly worthy of a long stay. Visit before, in between or after dining spots.