Tokyo isn’t exactly a city that lacks in artsy, hipster hangouts. From Nakameguro and Kichijoji to Koenji and Daikanyama, the Japanese capital covers all bases. Shimokitazawa (下北沢), however, is, essentially, hipster central. Not that long ago Shimokita (as it’s known more affectionately to Tokyoites) was a quiet suburban town a few train stops from both Shibuya and Shinjuku. Approximately 15 to 20 years ago, however, Shimokita flourished into an uber cool hangout for Tokyo’s creatives and bustling vintage scene.
The newly renovated station which serves both the Odakyu and Keio Inokashira lines is the natural gateway into the cramped and serpentine backstreets which are ideal for getting lost in and exploring the multitude of little nooks and crannies which embody the area. Probably the characteristic which most reflects the town of Shimokita is its multitude of vintage stores. It’s become one of the most renowned and most comprehensive vintage and thrift store areas anywhere in Japan and, perhaps, the world. From low-end to high brand, Shimokita has just about everything. From stores devoted to one brand (e.g. legendary Comme des Garcons) to streetwear, Shimokita has become the first stop for fashion buyers, stylists and influencers.
Shimokita also plays host to an array of music venues such as the renowned Shimokitazawa THREE and Shelter which cater for up-and-coming bands as well as international touring acts. British pub Good Heavens has, in recent years, become a hub for comedy and huge international acts such as Aziz Ansari, Phil Wang, Steve Bugeja and local emerging comedians. It also does a mean fish and chips too.
If coffee is your cup of tea then Shimokita is an essential stop off point when travelling in Tokyo. They take their beans very seriously in this part of town and the area hosts a plethora of small, independent coffee shops who give the big names a run for their money. If you’re a foodie then the myriad of international cuisine on offer will have you coming back for more. From European and Asian to fusion and the best Japanese dishes it really is a cultural melting pot, seen rarely outside of central Tokyo. The town also runs an annual curry festival which sees Shimokitazawa transform into the “holy ground of curry” for a two week period.
For record lovers, Shimokita also hosts a huge variety of stores dealing in vinyl and music merchandise. Loved by the area’s huge gang of musos, the vintage and music subcultures fuse as one and becomes the epicenter of Tokyo’s hipster scene.
Shimokitazawa, with its bustling backstreets, vibrant nightlife, cuisine and role as the capital’s vintage clothing mecca is charming, popular and colorful. It’s a destination in which to get deliberately lost in, to immerse yourself and to, ultimately, appreciate what the area has to offer.