Shimokitazawa | Tokyo, Japan
On our way back to Shinjuku from Doraemon Museum, we passed by Shimokitazawa, commonly known as Shimokita. It’s only a few stops away from Shinjuku station. Located at the western part of Tokyo, Shimokita is a small hipster town that’s popular among the young crowd. It’s comparably smaller and lesser known than Shibuya. Nonetheless, it’s an attractive place with its laid back and indie atmosphere. Relatively cheaper too!
Is Shimokita recommended? I read online that it’s generally good for people who have an afternoon to spare and are not visiting Tokyo for the first time. But we went ahead even though we only had 1-2 hours for this town and were first timers. Why not popped by since we were passing through the area?
Stepping out of the train station, we were a bit confused. Were we at Shimokita already? There wasn’t a definite signboard welcoming us nor a specific direction we should head towards.
Without a clue of where we were going, we walked through narrow pedestrian alleys meandering around the neighbourhood. After a while, we started to feel the weekend buzz. Instead of tall buildings towering over us, the architecture is generally shorter and certain shops designed with distinct character. This area has similarities to Cat Street, although the latter has a more atas (expensive) feel.
It turns out that the train station divides Shimokita into north and south parts. The north is edgy and sophisticated, while the south is lively and crowded. You can walk from the northern part of Shimokita and stroll down into the busier south. Exit from the station’s north exit and turn right into Ekimaedori. Walk on and explore~ :)
To the north, you can find graffiti art on shutters, improvised garages for shopping and coffee houses with art exhibitions. To the south, you can catch a variety of performances and also find live music venues, restaurants, bars, tattoo shops and arcades.
If you love Japanese fashion but the price tag has been putting you off, you’ll find a gem in Shimokita. It has many second hand clothes shops around that you wouldn’t need to dig hard to find your favourite piece. Moreover, if you are a fan of the vinyl, you can find quite a few secondhand record shops here, such as Flash Disc Ranch, and Disc Union Shimokitazawa (more about them in tokyocheapo.com). Otherwise, stumble upon shops offering vintage items such as animation-themed toys.
We encountered this flea market and enjoy its buzz during our Sunday there. A few vendors were selling second hand clothing cheaper than the shops, but the offering is also less fashionable.
Coffee & Food
Kate Coffee is a restaurant café serving up breakfast and quality coffee, a library with its shelves of books for the bookworms, and a music/art/décor shop with its collection of albums and prints. This kind of combination shops is common in Shimokita, whereby ingenious owners express their eclectic preferences through their shops of mixed genres.
There are many other affordable snacks and small eateries around the area. Or have an Izakaya experience at Shirube and don’t leave without tasting the mackrel (saba fish) roasted at your table. You can also find many bars and live houses too, such as Hishimo which serves beer and international tapas.
If shopping and eating are too mainstream for you, head to one of their relatively cheap karaoke places and sing your hearts out. Or head to the Marche Building to check out Village Vanguard, a bookstore stocked not only with heaps of books but also filled to the brim with quirky stuff such as weird sunglasses, wigs, lava lamps and character T-shirts.
As mentioned, there are many arcades, gaming centers and shops filled with claw cranes machines in the southern part of Shimokita. Other stuff you can do is to have cartoon caricature drawn. As you exit the train station’s north exit and turn right into Ekimaedori, turn right again at the end of the road into Sakurazaka alley, you’ll find the cartoon caricature shop.
In addition, Shimokita has a wonderful underground music and arts scene, so it’s no surprise to catch street performances and amateur troupes’ performances in small theaters such as the Honda Gekijō and Suzunari.
Shimokita has many festivals throughout the year. Firstly, around the end of January or beginning of February, there’s the Tengu-matsuri Festival. You’ll witness a parade of people dressed as the mythical Tengu with its long nose and red face.
Then it will be the Shimokitazawa Theater Festival, a month-long event held every February. Various plays will be performed at eight small theaters. Come every July, Shimokitazawa Music Festival allows you to enjoy live music in live houses and alleys throughout the town. And in early September, there will be the Mikoshi-matsuri Festival (portable shrine festival).
With so many things happening in Shimokita, you’ll not feel bored! Too bad we didn’t have the whole afternoon to stroll through the streets and explore the shops in details. >.<
Do you have other recommendations of what to buy and eat in Shimokitazawa? Tell us below or on our Facebook Page or Instagram. Moreover, bookmark this page > Overview Itinerary: Hokkaido and Tokyo (Winter/Spring 2016).