A secret world awaits you above the bright lights of Kabukicho. 

One of the first images that comes to mind when people think of a Japanese department store is the “depachika” (“department store basement”), where you can find loads of delicious sweets and meals sold by a variety of esteemed purveyors. However, true fans of the department store will know there’s likely to be an equally enthralling space hidden away on the rooftop, and that’s certainly the case over at Shinjuku Isetan.

Our reporter Mariko Ohanabatake has long been exploring Tokyo’s department store rooftops, seeing them as hidden oases above the hustle and bustle of the city, but the I-Garden on the roof of Shinjuku Isetan is one place that hadn’t been on her radar.

However, after a friend recently raved about how good it was, she made her way over there to see what it was like, and this being May, she had an extra hour to enjoy up there.

Isetan is known for its upmarket vibe, and the stairs to the rooftop exuded a sense of luxury as she made her way up them.

▼ The stained glass with plant motifs was a particularly nice touch.

When she stepped out into the rooftop garden, Mariko grinned in delight at the expanse of blue sky above her.

▼ Bathed in sunlight, this was an incredibly peaceful oasis.

▼ The main features here are the lawn, trees, flowers, and benches.

The trees and greenery offer pockets of shade in the otherwise sun-drenched location.

There’s plenty of room for children to run around here, and there’s even a play area next to the Isetan logo that sits at the top of the building, which acts as a reminder of how far up you are.

One thing that always surprises Mariko about department store rooftops is how few people there are. Despite being such a gorgeous site, there are no crowds to contend with, making it even more of a sublime location.

Spring is a particularly nice time to visit, as you get to enjoy swathes of colourful flowers.

Bird lovers can enjoy a spot of twitching, as posters indicate the rooftop has a variety of winged visitors.

Despite being above the red-light district of Kabukicho, the rooftop is a peaceful space that feels like another world, and given that you can spend as much time as you want here, Mariko decided to extend her stay by treating herself to a solo picnic.

There are a number of picnic tables for guests to use, as well as vending machines, restrooms, and trash cans.

The only thing missing was a rooftop stall or store where she could buy a bite to eat, but then she remembered she was an elevator ride away from the depachika.

Descending from the very top to the very bottom of the building, Mariko took this opportunity to splurge on some treats she wouldn’t usually buy, namely…

▼…a Shofuku Dorayaki, exclusive to Shinjuku Isetan, made by esteemed sweets specialist Taneya

▼…and a take-out iced green tea from Ippodo.

▼ How cute is this packaging?

Making her way past all the tempting bento meals, Mariko took the lift back up to the rooftop, where she settled down on a bench to enjoy her elegant purchases.

With the sun and blue sky rejuvenating her, Mariko took a sip of her tea and concluded that it was one of the best teas she’d ever tasted.

Taking a bite of her cream-filled dorayaki, this too had a taste that exceeded anything she’d ever enjoyed before.

It was as if her surroundings added an extra level of sweetness to the taste of everything, and the sound of birds and the sight of people taking naps around her made her feel as if time had slowed down.

Soothed by the slow beauty of the rooftop oasis, Mariko found herself dozing off in the sunshine after her meal, and by the time she returned to the office, she felt like a whole new woman.

The rooftop is a fantastic way to get away from the madness of Tokyo below, and Mariko highly recommends stopping by when you need an escape from it all. It might not have Monet’s Pond, like the Seibu Ikebukuro department store rooftop, but it’s definitely just as beautiful.

Store information
Isetan Shinjuku store rooftop i-garden / 伊勢丹新宿店 屋上 アイ・ガーデン
Address: Tokyo-to, Shinjuku-ku, Shinjuku 3-14-1
Hours: 10 a.m.-7 p.m. (March to October), 10 a.m.-6 p.m. (November to February)
Closed in bad weather

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