Ikebukuro Line

Delicious local bread, espresso, and wine bring happiness. Parlor Ekoda's presence enhances Ekoda's charm.

Ekoda Station on the Seibu Ikebukuro Line is home to three colleges and universities, namely the Nihon University College of Art, Musashino Academia Musicae, and Musashi University. Despite being known as a college town, Ekoda features a bakery to which bread connoisseurs from around Tokyo and even across Japan would gladly make a trip to. This bakery is Parlor Ekoda. It opened in 2006 and is now part of the neighborhood's charm. This article reflects on the shop's history with Mr. Koji Harada, the owner, and his connection to this neighborhood.

Mr. Koji Harada 14 years of residence along the Seibu lines

He lived near Hibarigaoka Station as a Musashi University student. A few years later, he started to live in the Kotake-mukaihara Station area and then moved to Ekoda upon relocating the bakery.

His initial plan was to start an espresso stand from his vehicle...... What caused him to open the iconic bakery in Ekoda?

The bakery's showcase is packed with a wide range of bread, including whole-wheat and rye-based hard bread made from wheat flour and raisin yeast, loaves of sandwich bread, and buttery brioche, all baked in the bakery. Each type of bread at Parlor Ekoda is unique and eye-catching. Although the bakery is renowned for its delicious bread, Mr. Harada revealed that, contrary to popular belief, the "bakery" actually started as an espresso bar.

When Mr. Harada stayed in Australia on a working holiday visa, he encountered a café with an espresso machine, and was inspired to open a café, which culminated in the creation of Parlor Ekoda.

"I still consider my establishment to be an espresso bar. In fact, I started to bake and serve bread as an ingredient for the sandwiches that accompany the coffee. I never dreamed that my bread would become the flagship product."

In addition to the surprising truth of the shop's origin, Mr. Harada also told an interesting story as to why he opened the store in Ekoda.

"At that time, I was driving an old Volkswagen bus and wanted to use it to start a business. I came to Ekoda to look for a place because it is close to my home and was familiar to me as a Musashi University graduate. In fact, I was seeking a parking space instead of a property. However, something happened and I got my license suspended (laughter). My dream of running a mobile expresso bar was shattered, and I had no other choice but to visit a real-estate agency. Since it was right after the Lehman shock, I was able to rent a property at a good price."

I want to share my idea of deliciousness while talking with customers.

"That was how Mr. Harada came to rent a small property of approximately 285 square feet located near the north exit of Ekoda Station, where he opened the café of his dreams. The proximity to Musashino Academia Musicae was also a deciding factor.

""Since many professors and students at music colleges are conscious of European culture to some degree, they are more likely to welcome the espresso and bread products that we offer. One day, I picked some opera songs as background music on a whim, and a customer who happened to be an opera singer told me about the songs and Italian culture. Since the café then was so small that it had just seven seats, it was natural for me to automatically start conversations with my customers.""

Mr. Harada's bread soon became popular in the neighborhood and was featured in an increasing number of magazines and media outlets such that Parlor Ekoda has come to be regarded as the face of the neighborhood. Even after relocating to the current property, which is equipped with a spacious café area and kitchen, Mr. Harada still serves his customers with a side of conversation."

"That's because I want to convey what I think is delicious. I want my customers to say that my bread is delicious, so I make suggestions while chatting with them."

The dine-in menu is filled with details on the characteristics of the yeast used in each bread product and its taste, and is well worth reading. Candid comments such as "delicious but a bit hard to bite" make you feel as if you are talking with Mr. Harada.

I would be overjoyed if customers come to the café and think "I'll live in Ekoda because I can eat delicious bread here".

Aside from Parlor Ekoda, Mr. Harada also runs Machi no Parlor, a café inside a nursery school in Kotake-mukaihara, and Parlor Sakae, a natural wine bar and shop that opened in Ekoda six months ago. Customers can choose wines while learning about the wineries and producers and tasting the wines (paid service). These days, Mr. Harada spends most of his time at the wine bar. With people from neighboring eateries and local wine connoisseurs dropping in, the wine bar and shop has already become a new hangout in Ekoda.

On the second Sunday of March, June, September, and December, Mr. Harada holds a food market known as Rojimonoya alongside the owner of MaiMai, a Vietnamese restaurant near the south exit of the station.

"I want to provide a local alternative to those who go all the way to large markets in the city center. The same goes with restaurants and bars. If there are good establishments in the neighborhood, everyone can go straight home from work, and then dine and drink in their own neighbourhoods. This is better because they can still go home on foot even if they drink too much."

Satisfying the needs of residents right where they live "helps make the neighborhood and residents more affluent and also reduces food miles," said Mr. Harada. As a final topic, Mr. Harada spoke about a recent development in this neighborhood that made him happy.

"Parlor Ekoda is more and more likely to be included in the neighborhood information whenever a new condominium is built, which makes me quite happy. (laughter) They include my establishment as an essential business along with other facilities, like how many minutes it takes to walk to the supermarket, how many minutes it takes to walk to school, and how many minutes it takes to walk to Parlor Ekoda. It means a lot to us if someone wants to live in Ekoda because of our delicious bread. Likewise, I want to be part of the reasons charming places emerge, by enlivening the neighborhoods along the Seibu line together with equally enthusiastic people."

About Parlor Ekoda, the business featured in this article

■Location: 41-7, Sakaecho, Nerima-ku, Tokyo
■Phone: 03-6324-7127
■Business hours: 8:30 AM - 6:00 PM
■Closed: Tuesdays

* The information presented in this article is current as of the date of the interview; it may differ from the latest information.

Favorite spots!

Fujizuka at Ekoda Sengen Shrine
Mr. Harada is so fond of Ekoda Sengen Shrine in front of the station that he wanted to open his mobile espresso bar in its parking lot. He has never climbed the Fujizuka mound next to the main shrine building, but he has always been curious about it.
Fujizuka at Ekoda Sengen Shrine
Fujizuka of Ekoda (commonly known as Ekoda Fuji) is approximately 8 meters in height and 30 meters in diameter, and has been designated as an important tangible folk-cultural property. It is normally off limits, and can be climbed only on the first three days of January; July 1st, which is the first day of climbing season; and the second Saturday and Sunday of September.
うっそうと茂る森に囲まれた岩山を頂上まで登ると、清々しい気分に。年に三度のチャンスを狙って、江古田で富士登山してみては? 神社は江古田駅北口の階段を降りて目の前にあります。■住所:東京都練馬区小竹町1-59-2
Fujizuka at Ekoda Sengen Shrine
Climbing to the top of the pile of rocks in the dense woods will make you feel refreshed. Why not take a three-times-a-year chance to climb Fuji in Ekoda? The shrine is in front of the stairway down from the north exit of Ekoda Station. ■Location: 1-59-2, Kotakecho, Nerima-ku, Tokyo
Auditorium of Musashi Academy
Mr. Harada is a graduate of Musashi University. "I like old buildings. This auditorium was designed by Dr. Koichi Sato, the architect that created the Okuma Auditorium of Waseda University and the Hibiya Public Hall. Both its exterior and interior designs are phenomenal."
Auditorium of Musashi Academy
The building is structured in the Gothic style with a pinch of modernity to create a simple space. Since many parts of the auditorium exude a classical atmosphere, a number of movies and dramas have been filmed there.
2016年2月17日に「武蔵大学3号館」とともに、練馬区の登録文化財に。講堂の一般開放は通常行っていませんが、2階の展示室は誰でも見学が可能です。■住所:東京都練馬区豊玉上1-26-1 ■電話:03-5984-3748(平日10~16時・武蔵学園記念室)
Auditorium of Musashi Academy
On February 17, 2016, the auditorium was registered as a cultural property of Nerima City along with Building 3 of Musashi University. Although the auditorium is usually closed to the general public, the exhibition room on the second floor is open to everyone. ■Location: 1-26-1, Toyotamakami, Nerima-ku, Tokyo ■Phone: 03-5984-3748 (10:00 AM - 4:00 PM on weekdays, Musashi Gakuen Archives)
ランチはハンバーガー、夜はお肉と自然派ワインがメインのお店。「赤身肉の炭火焼きが絶品! 〈パーラーさか江〉のワインも扱ってもらっていて、ここで飲んだ帰りに、さか江に寄ってくれるお客さまもいらっしゃいます」(原田さん)
Niku to Yasai to Natural Wines Sato
This restaurant mainly serves hamburgers for lunch and meat and natural wines for dinner. "The char-grilled lean meat is exquisite! They offer wines from Parlor Sakae, and some diners drink at Sato's and then drop in at Sakae." (Mr. Harada)
Niku to Yasai to Natural Wines Sato
The rare patty made of 100% Kanzakiushi beef is a specialty packed with savory flavor. The buns can be changed to Parlor Ekoda's specialty buns (+150 yen). Rare hamburger set: 1,360 yen (120 grams of beef with buns upgraded), glass of natural wine: 750 yen
店主の佐藤さんは江古田ご出身で、昨年3月にこの店をオープン。岩手の門崎丑や熊本の赤牛などの炭火焼と、福島にある斉藤農園の有機野菜を使った料理を味わえます。■住所:東京都練馬区栄町40-12 ■電話番号:070-3991-4430 ■営業時間:11:30~16:00(15:30LO) 18:00~22:00(LO) ■定休日:不定休
Niku to Yasai to Natural Wines Sato
Mr. Sato, the owner, is from Ekoda and opened this restaurant last March. The restaurant offers char-grilled beef, such as Kanzakiushi from Iwate and Akaushi from Kumamoto, and organic vegetables cultivated at Saito Farm in Fukushima. ■Location: 40-12, Sakaecho, Nerima-ku, Tokyo ■Phone: 070-3991-4430 ■Business hours: 11:30 AM - 4:00 PM (Last call: 3:30 PM), 6:00 - 10:00 PM (Last call) ■Closed: Irregular

Area Map of the Seibu lines


Neighborhoods convenient for commuting to work and school. Hanako's original map
of the Seibu lines