Koenji needs little introduction. One of the most beloved areas of Tokyo and one of the hippest towns which, over the years, has attracted a great deal of foreign press and interest from an array of celebs—including Lady Gaga and Pharrell Williams—drawn to Koenji’s eclectic and vintage fashion offerings. Summer's two-day event, Tokyo Koenji Awadori, attracts around 1 million visitors with the Koenji Fes event program also popular throughout the year. It's easy to see why Koenji is becoming popular among foreign visitors attracted to the area's energetic vibe.
Koenji, although it contains hipster vibes, represents a smorgasbord of influences and types of people from artists, students, elderly and office workers. With a spectrum of different kinds of shotengai in addition to retail, dining and live music options, it's an area which Tokyoites have really taken to their hearts.
It can be quiet and peaceful during the day and raucous at night as well as cool, discerning and sophisticated and, conversely, the antithesis of all of these. It's a puzzling area, not quite sure of what it actually is and taking in everything, anything and anyone as their own.
Koenji's shotengai are legendary and Look Street, which runs from near the JR station to the Shin-Koenji metro stop, is a fascinating window into Koenji's love for vintage, food and drinks. It's a real community with the store owners helping and assisting each other. Steampunk fashion, stores brim full of Americana, tattoo parlors and whale meat restaurants are all to be found in Look Street which is a microcosm of Koenji itself.
The area is also known for its kissaten and more contemporary coffee shops. The people here love their coffee and one such store is run by art lovers who wish to fuse the worlds of art and coffee together. Art, creativity and coffee are important in Koenji and Clouds Art + Coffee is the leading establishment in this movement. Minimalist and showcasing the curated work of local artists, it's an essential part of the Koenji creative environment.
Another institution that brings art and hospitality together is BnA Koenji. A boutique hotel, bar and events space the BnA is a whole movement in itself. Fostered by the belief in community relationships, the BnA creates artwork for the various rooms and spaces within the complex in collaboration with local artists with the design rotating every few months. It's another example of collectivism which is in the DNA of Koenji itself, a location which believes strongly in communal experiences and spirit and keeps going from strength to strength.