Unanimously known as Tokyo’s hippest neighbourhood, this place is scattered with many charming vintage stores, cool cafes and indie entertainment. In this article, we’ll give you a taste of the eccentric Shimokitazawa.
Shimokitazawa (often shortened as Shimokita) is a neighbourhood that houses an abundance of independent and secondhand fashion retailers, alongside its offbeat youth culture and entertainment. Whilst Shimokitazawa is comparatively unpolished to the nearby Shibuya and Shinjuku districts, it has that alluring charisma and atmosphere that makes it a perfect area anyone to probe. Shimokitazawa may also be smaller, but it definitely has a lot to see.
And along the Odakyu Line and the Keio Inokashira Line, Shimokitazawa is just 10 minutes away from Shinjuku and Shibuya, and 15-25 minutes from Kichijoji.
Shopping: Paradise for Vintage Enthusiasts and Knick-knack Lovers
Shimokitazawa is well-known for being a neighbourhood flooded with small-scale vintage fashion stores that are enjoyed by many Japanese youth. For the thrifty fashionista, Shimokitazawa definitely presents itself as an attractive destination, with many of these stores selling trendy clothes much cheaper to its fashion-centric counterparts of Shibuya and Harajuku.
But don’t be fooled by the price tag. Japan is renown for its high quality secondhand clothes at reasonable (if not, surprisingly low) prices.
Many stores here set their prices as low as 200 yen per piece. There’s also Stickout at the south side of town that sells great quality clothes at a fixed price of just 700 yen (excludes tax). There are, of course, many retailers that sell higher-end vintage pieces, with prices going as high as 30,000 yen.
Each store has its own type of fashion style – some stock more frilly and elegant sorts of pieces, whilst others more rough and grunge around the edges. All in all, it can take a bit of store hopping in this small neighbourhood to find certain items that match both your budget and your style.
Both the North and South sides of Shimokitazawa are densely cluttered with stores. Being all within walking distance from each other, there is no need to catch a taxi to and fro in this town.
For those who love vintage knick-knacks and the like, Shimokitazawa also accommodates a number of handsome antique stores (and stands).
In addition, just a one minute walk away from the train station is the popular Village Vanguard. Village Vanguard is known to be a variety store that sells imported goods namely from the US and Great Britain. It’s probably best described as a hybrid book-fashion-music-strange stuff store, as they also stock a vast range of items too.
The store’s façade is coated with a crowd of gachapon machines (capsule toys), making it a popular meet-up spot for young locals.
What I personally love about this store is that there’s a perfect mix of mainstream pop culture and indie, lesser-known artists. The Village Vanguard experience is an enjoyable blend of discovering your next favourite Japanese musician to laughing at the most unnecessary thing you’ve ever seen.
Shimokitazawa, particularly Village Vanguard, is a fantastic place find a new beloved water bottle or a hot chocolate mug, together with a giant pug-shaped pillow you never knew you needed.
Coffee: Densely Packed with Hip Cafés
Shimokitazawa is also one of Tokyo’s independent café hubs. Unlike big café franchises, many of these coffee shops offer tasty coffee made from coffee beans that have been hand roasted onsite or locally. Like the passionate coffee culture of Melbourne in Australia, many cafés in Shimokitazawa carefully curate their drink menus by choosing coffee beans and ingredients they know they can trust.
South side Shimokitazawa’s FRANKIE Melbourne Espresso lets customers have get their hands on a delicious cup of Melbourne coffee/chai/hot chocolate in Japan. They also sell mouthwatering Australian treats, such as lamingtons, banana bread and lemon slices.
Why not take a calm sip of coffee away from all the crowded buzz, as a perfect way to wind down in this neighbourhood?
Food: Tantalizingly Delicious
Complement your day in Shimokitazawa by trying out some of the flavourful foods within the area. The soup curry here is a definite crowd-pleaser, with many places allowing customers to adjust their curry according to their tastes – spiciness level, toppings, curry base, rice amount, etc.
For the strictly vegetarian, Shimokitazawa has places that offer vegetarian ramen and vegetarian options – for example Chabuton Ramen and Curry House CoCo Ichibanya.
If you want to experience Tokyo youth culture on a more local and unique scale, Shimokitazawa is that whimsical town that is a must-see. Although it lives under the shadows of Shibuya and Harajuku, the distinct laid-back and free-spirit air of Shimokitazawa intertwined with its wealth of things to see makes it the perfect place for exploration.
See you next time!
Shimokitazawa, Setagaya-ku, Tokyo
Station: Shimokitazawa Station (Keio Inokashira Line – Local and Express, Odakyu Line)
|It’s surprisingly easy to find vegetarian friendly options in Shimokitazawa, but the rest of Japan? Check out our previous post about vegetarian food in Japan here: Vegetarian Japan: 6 ways to eat without fear.|
|Kichijoji is a nice suburban area in Tokyo. It’s also along the same train line (Keio Inokashira Line) as Shimokitazawa, only 15 minutes away by the express service! Read about Things to do in Kichijoji.|
Photo credits : Shinawatra Tachapiroontong