If hearing the words butter chicken curry bread, curry calzone, fried chicken curry burger, curry cheese sandwich or even curry cream soda has you at all interested, the ninth annual Shimokitazawa Curry Festival might be worth venturing to. This festival features 113 vendors from a huge variety of Shimokitazawa restaurants all selling their unique curry-inspired dishes. The festival runs from now until October 18, 2020, so it is certainly possible to make several visits if you are a particularly dedicated curry lover.
How to Find Curry at the Shimokitazawa Curry Festival
Unlike many other food festivals where all vendors are packed into a tiny event space overrun with long lines of hungry people, the Shimokita Curry Festival takes place all across Shimokitazawa, with participating restaurants selling out of their own stores. To make it clear as to which restaurants are participating, they each have a poster hanging outside showing the festivals logo and also what unique curry dish they’ll be selling.
To make the hunt for these stores easier, the curry festival created their own map, which can be picked up in front of the station. For those who want to lower their carbon footprint the app, iloveshimokitazawa (ilove下北沢), can also be downloaded for Android or iOS.
Curry Festival Stamp Rally
Although the curry festival app is a little clunky, it is essential for one of the festival’s most fun elements, the digital “stamp rally.” If you have been in Japan for a significant amount of time, you are probably familiar with stamp rallies. If not, they are events where you travel around to different tourist sights, train stations, parks or other places to gather stamps in a dedicated stamp rally book or pamphlet.
If you collect enough stamps, you can win a prize. The curry festival stamp rally is held digitally, each restaurant has a QR code which you scan with the app. The app then keeps track of which places you have dined at. Prizes include rice, curry, a bowl and if you are dedicated enough to eat 20 curry dishes, a T-shirt. To participate in the stamp rally you will have to pay ¥500 at the festival booth located just outside of the main exit of the station’s Odakyu line.
Protections Against Spread of Covid-19
This year, the festival promoters have made a strong effort to abide by Covid-19 guidelines. Every place has the option to do takeout, and there is also a large outdoor seating area where you can enjoy your meal away from the cramped interiors of some Shimokita establishments.
Having visited the festival on a Friday night and Sunday afternoon, I can say that the streets were reasonably crowded, but it was still easy to find participating establishments that had few patrons. Restaurants are also expected to limit the number of people allowed inside at once, but as some of Shimokitazawa’s most beloved establishments can be a little cozy, it might be a good idea to look out for places without large crowds. With 113 options to choose from, it won’t be too hard to find a place that you feel comfortable eating in.
What Curry Dishes Can You Find at the Shimokitazawa Curry Festival?
Pro tip: before visiting the festival, check online to see what each shop is offering and make a game plan accordingly. With 113 stores selling 113 different curry dishes it’s easy to get overwhelmed. Luckily, most shops are offering small or half sizes, which makes it much easier to eat a variety of different curry dishes.
There are some fairly standard curries, like homemade curry with chicken nan-ban to a duck soup curry or lamb curry with couscous. On the other end of the spectrum, there are some interesting curries with unusual ingredients, like black squid ink curry, or smoked bacon and walnut curry. If you don’t feel like having curry, you can opt for a curry-flavored dish, like curry gyoza, curry poutine or curry tsukemen.
Discover Hidden Shops at Shimokitazawa
For me, the single best part of the curry festival is getting a chance to check out restaurants I wouldn’t have otherwise visited. Even for those who frequent Shimokita, the maze of streets can be confusing, and navigating every backstreet and path is seemingly impossible. The curry festival is shining a light on those harder to find restaurants, those places that are usually tucked away down small alleys, hidden away up steep staircases or on the top floor of seemingly empty buildings.
I found myself navigating back and forth across the neighborhood, stopping at interesting looking shops along the way. Whether you have been needing a reason to make another trip to Shimokita, or you’ve never had the chance to visit her streets, take this chance to get to know the area a little better at the Shimokitazawa Curry Festival.