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Only for Those in the Know! Sugamo, the Town of Longevity and Health

What is the first thing that comes to mind when you hear Japan? Sushi, samurai, otaku, geisha…, besides these typical associations you might come up with, longevity is another thing Japan is known for. Japanese people have by far the healthiest and longest lives in the world. While you can list food, lifestyle, mindset and various other determining factors, there is one place in Tokyo that offer support to the healthy and long-living Japanese population. It’s Sugamo. Sugamo is filled with foods, fashion, temples etc that can offer support for a healthy living. Come visit this town and discover the secrets of the healthy and long lives of the Japanese.


The Town of Sugamo


Sugamo is one of the towns under the same ward as Ikebukuro, Tokyo. The main railway station of the town, JR Sugamo Station, is only two stations from Ikebukuro on the Yamanote Line. Thick clusters of houses stretch far and wide along the railroad and a long street running across the residential area is lined with many shops and stores which support the households. The commercial area called “Sugamo Jizo Dori Shopping Street” is a very popular tourist spot. Many Japanese consider Sugamo “a Harajuku for seniors.”  Actually, most of the people you will see walking on the streets here are seniors. With an abundance of senior-friendly foods, clothing and so on, this town is almost designed for old people and provides ample benefits for their health and longevity. Many people visit here and learn the secrets of long lives.


Togenuki Jizo-Son Koganji Temple: Pray for Your Longevity!


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As already mentioned, many people readily think Sugamo as a “Harajuku for seniors,” but actually, visitors of all ages and genders come visit here. The first destination for many of such visitors is “Togenuki Jizo-Son Koganji Temple.” While “Jizo” is the name of a very popular Buddhist saint, “Togenuki” means “thorn removal,” which symbolizes the good benefits this temple is believed to bring to the health and longevity of visitors.

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The things you’re supposed to do here as you would at any other temple is to make a bow at the entrance gate, wash your hands, throw some donation and join your hands in prayer. As you calm your minds with folded hands at the main temple hall, you will surely feel some mysterious power emitted from the beautiful Buddhist statue sitting right before your eyes. It will feel even more effective and healing for those who have some health concerns. 

Related: Learn for Your Trip to Kyoto: Differences in Etiquette for Shrines and Temples

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Then the next thing you must take a look at here is Arai Kannon. Literally meaning “wash Kannon,” it is a small statue of Kannon, the Buddhist deity of compassion, which is believed to improve the affected part of your body as you caress or wipe with a hand towel the corresponding part of the statue’s body. When you have a headache, for example, you pour water over the statue’s head and carefully wipe it with a hand towel. Then you will find yourself relieved of the pain before long. Probably for such great effect, people make a long cue on weekends to perform the ritual with the statue.

If you have a chance to visit Sugamo, you cannot miss out on the Koganji Temple!


Tokiwa Shokudo: Get Healthy from Within!


Let us move on to gourmet. Sugamo has a lot of restaurants. From manju (bun with sweet filling), senbei (rice cracker), soba (buckwheat noodles) to kaisen-don (sashimi & rice bowl); they are all healthy, delicious and cheap! Manjus you can buy here, for example, are made from fresh ingredients and not overly sweet. The delicacies in this town will make you feel happy!

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Among those many restaurants in Sugamo, Tokiwa Shokudo is especially popular and you can always see many people queuing up for it. While deep-fried shrimp is very famous here, all the other items on the menu are traditional Japanese style dishes such as sashimi, grilled fish and tonkatsu (pork cutlet). With fresh ingredients delivered every day from the wholesale market, the restaurant can always offer fresh and delicious meals.

Serving cheaply priced yet delicious dishes, the restaurant is always busy with customers and filled with a lively vibe. Not only the food but even the atmosphere here will make you healthier!


Maruji Red Underwear: Feel the Enigmatic Power!

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“Red underwear” of the underwear store Maruji is another thing which Sugamo is well-known for. It is said that those red underwears you can get here will make you healthy and live longer just by wearing.

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The store’s official explanation says their red underwears are effective for its warmth keeping effect on the dantien, the energy center in the lower abdomen. But the immense popularity of these items, which attract a lot of the fans and make the store often short of stock, might be due to their even more mystical power. You can see almost 80 percent of the people walking along the shopping street of Sugamo carry the bags with the store’s logo, which indicates how well these are selling. It might be a bit cringeworthy to have someone spot your red underwear when your pants sag, but it can at least be an interesting choice to add to your wardrobe!


Bustling with Crowd ! – “Lucky Four Market”

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In Sugamo, dates with a compound number four; 4th, 14th and 24th every month, are set as festive market days and the shopping street will be busy with many street stalls and visitors.

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Sugamon, the mascot of the shopping street, will join the visitors around the street and stir up the festive mood!

If you want to enjoy Sugamo at its best, any day with number four is perfect.


In Sugamo, you can learn about many secrets of the healthy and long lives of Japanese people, which you can utilize to make your own life healthier and longer. Even if you are free from any health issues, this town is well worth visiting as a nice tourist spot where you can learn deeply about Japanese culture. Located only a couple of stations away from Ikebukuro, with the shopping street easily accessible from the railway station, Sugamo can be a great destination for your side trip whenever you happen to be somewhere in the middle of Tokyo.

Related: Try Eating Miso: The Japanese Super Food

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About the author

Hi! My name is FJ. Travelling is fun and it's something that gives you life lessons and enriches your life. I hope travelling to Japan becomes one of those times for you too. I'm here hoping to help you have good times in Japan by providing information and tips on many kinds of things. Enjoy your travels!

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