Just when people thought that Tokyo is synonymous with temples, neon signs, and streets filled with shops, there is one place that distorts the label given to the capital. That place is Daikanyama, a super chill area that offers a vibe that contradicts what people often associate Tokyo with — this area is modern, trendy, and calm. It's often referred to as the "Little Brooklyn" of Japan's capital. What makes it even more unique is that this cool atmosphere is still within the limits of one of Tokyo's biggest hotspots, Shibuya.
Don't ask me how I felt when I landed my feet on the streets of Daikanyama. Imagine yourself leaving a jam-packed street to enter a quiet building, with gentle music playing and everyone inside looking neat — the typical clamor of a big city suddenly disappears. Yes, that's what Daikanyama is all about. The fact that it's slightly tucked away from the capital's buzz means that Daikanyama offers elements visitors don't usually see in Tokyo, including minimalist boutiques and fashion ateliers, hipster bookstores, and tranquil pedestrian streets lined with trees. It is stylish and sophisticated, but not necessarily luxurious and untouched. Everyone can come to enjoy the atmosphere of originality and creativity in Daikanyama!
Browsing through the shops and galleries
Daikanyama would never be labeled as "The Brooklyn of the Japanese Capital" if it weren't for its slow-paced vibe, and for its anti-mainstream collection of original shops! Places that are all about art and culture like galleries, interior design studios, and furniture shops, all the way through to independent barber shops are common sights you'll see around this cool area.
Daikanyama T-Site may well be at the forefront, as it boasts a variety of hip options including shops, art galleries, cafes, and dog parks. Even its ultra-modern architecture has become an icon of Daikanyama as it depicts the area's personality. Tsutaya, a famous bookshop slash CD/DVD rental shop in Japan, is at the heart of T-Site (which originally earned its name from the book store).
Shopping at designer boutiques
When I said that Daikanyama is "stylish and sophisticated", I really meant it. While Tokyo serves its shopping clientele through its famous department stores, Daikanyama offers a collection of exclusive boutiques with a more fashion-forward sense. In terms of area, Daikanyama is actually not so large, but the dominance of independent designer boutiques here is uncanny. Some of them even combine their stores with art galleries, like Lift Etage does. Besides the original boutiques, other familiar options can also be found here—although expect to find less-typical brands than what you'd usually find in Shibuya or Shinjuku. Check out this article for more shopping guidance.
Clean and calm eating
Oh, don't ask about the variety of culinary options here... of course there are many, and they are all in sync with the attitude of the fashion stores. Healthy eating is what people seek in Daikanyama, so don't be surprised to see unique restaurants and cafes offering foods like avocado toast, vegan sandwiches, salads with various toppings (try Crisp Salad Works for this), granola bowls, smoothies, and other organic menu items. One spot worth a try is Sign Allday, which really captures the spirit of Daikanyama. Of course, there are plenty of other menu options at other restaurants, but as expected from an establishment in Daikanyama, everything is chill and minimalist, with slow tunes playing in the background and super cozy corners where young people can hang out for hours to chat with their friends.
Hanging out for coffee and ice cream
If you're not in the mood to eat, the smell of brewed beans wafting from coffee stores will fill your nostrils even from afar in Daikanyama. With various hip options at big to small shops, and indoor or open-air, I think it's clear why Daikanyama earns the attention of younger visitors. Not a caffeine lover? Don't fret, as the area also has lots of ice cream shops!
Strolling around and enjoying the atmosphere
Without even having to visit its stores or eateries, Daikanyama still ends up capturing hearts. The slow-paced vibe is real, and everyone here seems so relaxed. You'll find students in uniform checking out boutiques from the outside, young moms walking along the sidewalks while pushing their baby strollers, and hip kids shop-hopping while giggling with each other, all in this laid back atmosphere almost impossible to experience in central Tokyo. I guess that's enough to make people forget that they're still in the midst of the city.