Alive with independent businesses and pedestrian traffic, Shimokitazawa’s narrow streets are a bohemian hub.
Secondhand to Heart
Vintage clothing stores are a dime a dozen in Shimokita, and that’s not where the deals end. Haight & Ashbury and Flamingo are popular destinations for classic American threads and European fashions, while New York Joe Exchange offers more modern duds, as well as cold hard cash for your unwanted clothing. For finding that perfect pair of well-worn jeans, hit up Taro’s House or Bears. While you’re in the market for pre-owned merchandise, there are numerous used record stores in the area as well. Disk Union has a great selection of records to flip through, and General Record Store restocks their bins daily with great vinyl.
Damn Good Coffee
Shimokitazawa wouldn’t be a center of hip youth culture without its share of coffee houses, and luckily, it offers up a wide array of choices. On top of that list is Bear Pond Espresso, specialty coffee luminary Katsuyuki Tanaka’s place. This java shop is serious about its craft, and there are strict rules to follow, such as no espresso after 2pm, no photographs, and no wi-fi to leech on. If you don’t do well with rules, perhaps you’ll want to visit more lenient establishments, like Frankie, Ballon D’essai or Zebra.
One of Tokyo’s better-regarded performing arts theaters, the Honda Gekijo is located right next door to another popular attraction, the Village Vanguard books and gifts store. If stage shows aren’t your thing, there are plenty of live houses in the area. Basement Bar and Shelter are good spots to see indie bands do their work, while Apollo is a basement bar offering jazzy jam sessions. For established domestic and international touring acts, Live House Fever is a stop away on the subway, near Shin-Daita Station. But why not grab the microphone for yourself? Karaoke spots are found all over the neighborhood and they’re a fun, cheap option for quality entertainment.
The dining options fit the vibe of the neighborhood, and eating out is seemingly more economical than in the rest of central Tokyo. Samurai Curry and Magic Spice all offer flavor-packed hearty goodness for a fair price. Rabukyou and Thicchai will satisfy your craving for spicy pho or other Thai fare. Avocado does modern Tex-Mex, but be aware that their margaritas and other tequila-based cocktails can get pricey. For Japanese standards, Tonsui has dealt in tonkatsu for nearly 50 years, having only raised their prices a couple times along the way, and Kotetsu is a great spot for ramen.
Pour Me One More
There’s perhaps no better place to get a drink in Shimokita than Mother. From its facade, a mosaic of colorful tiles and plaster, to its interior, carved wooden benches and mirrored tiles, the place is visually striking. The drinks and snacks are trendy and the soundtrack is provided by their vast collection of hip 60s and 70s vinyl. If craft beer is more your speed, Ushitora has both a sit-down and a stand-up bar, depending on your mood. For cocktails, Barnitas has got you covered, or head to Never Never Land for a friendly neighborhood bar atmosphere. In the warmer months, outdoor Petite Garden is a tool shed-turned-bar complete with wooden lawn furniture.
All photos by Luca Eandi