Apart from the forever-busy shopping streets of Harajuku and Shibuya, rests a small suburb in Tokyo called Shimokitazawa or Shimokita for short. It is the home for the hippies, Indies, quaint cafes and second-hand shops. Many bohos and hipsters visit the neighbourhood to get their daily dose of not coffee, but, its lively atmosphere and to go for thrift shopping. Most of the shops you see here sell antiquities, it’s truly heaven to these groups of people. What’s great about Shimokitazawa?
Before this neighbourhood was converted into a residential-hippie town, it was actually a farming area. It all changes when people from Tokyo migrated to Shimokitazawa to look for a sanctuary during the Great Kanto Earthquake in 1921. Then, after surviving World War II, they transformed the place into a U.S second-hand markets area for the soldiers. In the 1970s, a huge number of hippies came to this place and turned this town into their very own Garden of Eden. Interestingly, Shimokitazawa became one of the most talked about places for millennials to live.
If we flip through any fashion magazines or websites, we will notice that the fashion designers are bringing back the early 70s to 90s fashion trends in most of their collection. Why? Because this is what the youngsters have been wearing nowadays. For instance, fanny packs, neon jackets, colourful sunglasses, multi-pattern dresses and jumpsuits. To get some of these attires in a cheap price, you need to look for vintage shops and go thrift shopping.
Flamingo. Image Source: Ryosuke Yagi.
This neon ‘Flamingo’ shop sells clothes ranging from the 60s to 80s eras to fit both female and male preferences such as flannels, retro jackets, fringe bags and knitted cardigans. If you want to shop for a cheaper price, you can go to Stick Out, where the clothes are all worth 700 yen. One of the recommended shops in Shimokitazawa, Chicago provides you with everything you need from casual attire to Japanese traditional clothing such as kimono and yukata. Other vintage clothing shops you can go to are Ocean Blvd, Ragla Magla, Grown Up Tabitha and Haight & Ashbury.
Other than that, this one particular shop called New York Joe Exchange is quite interesting to most people because it was once a public bathhouse. This shop is quite well-known due to its eccentricity as can be seen throughout the interior. The remnants of the public bathhouse such as the floor tiles and doors are still kept and used to represent the shop’s image. Here you can buy, sell and trade items in which you will receive a discount in return.
New York Joe Exchange. Image Source: Travel Navitime.
Cafés and Coffee Shops
Need a break? There are plenty of interesting coffee shops as well as idyllic cafés here for you to explore. The first shop is called the Darwin Room. The exterior part of the shop is covered in mossy-like feature that is very inviting and attractive to look at. On the inside, you will see many weird statues and also taxidermies, which is quite confusing since this is a coffee shop. Other than that, you can also read books provided by the store while sipping your cup of coffee by the glass window.
Darwin Room. Image Source: Shimokitazawa Statut on WordPress.
Do you still remember Totoro? Have you ever wondered what Totoro tastes like? Shiro-Hige’s Cream Puff Factory is a bakery shop that makes and sells Totoro cream puffs. Their cream puffs are filled with all sorts of flavour such as strawberry, peach chocolate cream, caramel banana, matcha and chestnut. Complete your meal by ordering matcha latte or iced chai latte.
Totoro cream puffs. Image Source: Jacqsowhat on Blogspot.
Frankie is a coffee shop that sells Melbourne-style coffee and brewed using imported beans. Their bestseller is Frankie Melbourne Espresso and it tastes wonderfully good. Apart from coffees, they also sell homemade Australian dessert called Chocolate Lamington.
Besides that, Shimokita Cage is an outdoor dining space that features the night market and food stalls. Occasionally, the site is used as an event space, so you can check them out when you’re here.
Chocolate Lamington and Espresso at Frankie’s. Image Source: Frankie Official Website.
As we mentioned earlier, Shimokitazawa is the perfect spot to watch live performances such as gigs. The main venue that frequently organizes live music concert is at Garage. Only one of the hottest music venue in Japan, Garage is always packed with music goers to catch performances by their favourite artists and DJs. It has been operated since 1994, hence the reason why Garage is famous. Other than Garage, Liveholic is also one of the top spots to enjoy live shows. If you are metalheads and love loud music, then Liveholic is your go-to gig.
Check out other venues like Fever, Shelter, Daisy Bar and Club 251 to get a gist of what Shimokitazawa has to offer.
Alicetales performing in Garage. Image Source: Alicetales on Tumblr.
Other Popular Places
This might be the coolest bookstore in Japan because in B&B (Book & Beer), you can browse for books while drinking beer, which costs only 500 yen. For the non-drinkers, you can order a ginger ale, tea or coffee.
For vinyl records collector, make your way to Flash Disc Ranch to purchase second-hand vinyl records. The price of each vinyl can reach as low as 100 yen and 10 yen. It’s crazy cheap! In addition, this grunge-themed store was opened in 1982 and consists of many genres ranging from soul, hip-hop, R&B, rock, jazz and more.
Flash Disc Ranch. Image Source: Shinjuku-Guide.
How to Get Here?
Coming from Shinjuku, take a train on Odakyu Line and embark at the second stop which will take 7 minutes. From Shibuya, take a train on Keio-Inokashira Line and get off the first stop. It will take around 3 minutes.
As you discover the neighbourhood, you will also come across a myriad of shops and murals cum photo spots. Please take note that most stores don’t open until 11:00AM, so you can visit this neighbourhood later in the afternoon and also, most stores are closed on Tuesdays.