“Shimokitazawa is a playground for the carefree” This is the way a friend likes to describe Tokyo’s bohemian district. Take a glance at the neighbourhood and you will immediately see what she means.
The moment you step out of the station you are surrounded by colours and sounds that bear little resemblance to the rest of the city. Vintage stores, independent fashion retailers and small cafes line the narrow streets; fair trade food stores, vegan ramen restaurants and all sorts of artisans call this area home. And who can blame them for choosing this small corner of Tokyo when everything about it seems designed to add to the laid back atmosphere? Everywhere you look visitors and locals alike seem genuinely happy to be here! They walk without haste, stopping to listen to street musicians. They sit outside, sharing a bottle of wine with friends. Carefree indeed.
This laid back atmosphere is the reason visitors flock to Shimokita on a daily basis.People with diverse tastes in music, fashion and food all choose to come here, each hoping to get something different out of the visit; at the end of the day few will leave disappointed. Some may spend hours shifting through endless racks of vintage clothing and trying on eccentric accessories. Others are here for the small cafes that serve food as tasty and healthy as a home cooked meal. Many are here for the live music venues offering everything from classic rock to synth-punk and everything in between.
Part of Shimokitazawa’s charm is the lack of so many things most other neighborhoods in Tokyo take for granted: streets that lead where you expect them to lead, blocks of tall residential buildings, office towers, a park here and a shrine there. Instead it has small alleyways, houses with gardens, pets walking around without a leash because the streets are too narrow for cars. For all that, Shimokita is by no means quiet. The main streets around the station are crowded, brightly lit and just noisy enough to remind you that you are only a stone’s throw from Shibuya.
So what are some things visitors can do here? I’m glad you asked.
Depending on your taste and budget, the shopping opportunities include the above-mentioned vintage clothing stores, independent labels, designer furniture and handmade trinkets.
Foodies can enjoy themselves here too, considering the number of small establishments and the care they put into their dishes. Vegetarians will be happy to learn that a number of restaurants and cafes are either 100% or mainly vegetarian/vegan while others will be happy to prepare something according to each customer’s needs.
But what good is all this without a nice cup of coffee to recharge your batteries between activities? Thankfully a number of small establishments serving exquisite artisan coffee can be found all over this area. Take a break, enjoy the aroma of freshly ground beans.
After all this, you may be tempted to head home; don’t. The Odakyu Line to Shinjuku runs until about 00:30, so there is no rush. Find a gig that suits your taste and go to that instead! After all you are carefree and Shimokitazawa is your playground.
For more information, check here.