Everyone knows about the Yamanote Line. Central Tokyo has almost all of the must-see sights to visit for first-timers in Japan. However once the glitz and glamour of the city wears off on you, you’ll be ready to escape the tourist sights and head to the areas the locals actually hang out at. Only a few stops away from Shibuya, Shimokitazawa is a bustling part of western Tokyo famous for its abundance of second-hand stores. From designer clothes to new phones, it’s possible to find everything you need for at least 20% of its original sale price. This bustling neighborhood has a lot to offer in terms of a local Tokyo experience, so in this article, we’ll outline the ten best things to do in Shimokitazawa.
- Try Cute Cream Puffs at the Totoro Cafe
- Watch Indie Films in Tollywood
- Shop for Vintage Records
- Explore Art Galleries
- Visit Kitazawa Hachiman Shrine
- Enjoy Books and Coffee
- Vintage Clothes Shopping
- Walk Around Shutter Gallery
- Browse Through the Local Flea Market
- Try Shimokitazawa Street Food
- Recommended Tours
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Try Cute Cream Puffs at the Totoro Cafe
If you’re a fan of Japanese culture then you’re probably a fan of Ghibli movies. My Neighbor Totoro is one of the most popular movies in Japanese cinema and now you can enjoy some Totoro-inspired cream puffs at the cafe. Not far from the station, The Totoro Cafe is in the Setagaya-Daita area of the city and is surrounded by backstreets, and trees making it seem like it’s straight out of Hayao Miyazaki’s world. The Totoro shaped cream puffs are only 420 yen and come in several flavors.
Shiro-Hige’s Cream Puff Factory
Open 10:30am – 7pm
Close every Tuesdays
Watch Indie Films in Tollywood
Fans of Japanese cinema will appreciate this small little theater in the city. This small independently owned theater features short indie films from up-and-coming directors around Japan. They feature everything from comedy, romance, and drama as well. There also might be some opportunities to see some exclusive films before they’re released in theaters or even some foreign animated films.
Please check the time schedule from the website
Shop for Vintage Records
No bohemian-style neighbor is complete without a variety of music stores in the area. With making music easier than ever these days there’s always a need to collect exclusive tracks or even dive back into the old school for nostalgic sounds.
Some of the local favorites include Flash Disc Ranch, JET SET, and Disk Union.
Explore Art Galleries
If you’re looking for contemporary art, Gallery HANA is the best place to visit. It’s on the main Ichibana shopping street. The gallery is small but it’s a staple for up-and-coming artists who want to showcase their work to the public. The large open windows make it an incredibly inviting space for both art lovers and casual passers-by. The displays rotate frequently so you’ll likely see a variety of work including illustration, oil paintings, sculptures, and much more.
Visit Kitazawa Hachiman Shrine
In the northern area of Setagaya ward, you’ll find Kitazawa Hachiman Shrine, the main Shinto shrine in the whole district. Kitazawa Hachiman is the guardian of the shrine and the shrine was established in the late 15th century. It was grand, and quickly became the centerpiece of Shimokitazawa which developed around it. It’s one of the most exciting shrines in Tokyo, as it has festivals all year around. The main festival— the Kitazawa Hachiman Festival happens the first weekend in September, taking over the whole neighborhood with stalls and events.
Enjoy Books and Coffee
The most hipster town in Tokyo is also well known for its abundance of coffee shops. The coffee scene in the neighborhood has become a blend of eccentric, traditional, international, and artisanal. Bookends Coffee Service is a popular spot with locals as you can browse through old records. For those who are looking for instagrammable spots, w/o stand is also another hip spot to grab a drink at.
At B&B Books with Beer, while the bookstore does serve its own unique style of coffee, visitors can also enjoy a beer while they browse through the shelves of books.
Vintage Clothes Shopping
Shimokitazawa is synonymous with vintage and thrift fashion. Walking through the neighborhood, you’ll easily see plenty of vintage shops that suit almost every aesthetic from hip-hop, Americana, to traditional Japanese. It can be somewhat intimidating for first-time shoppers but some foreigner-friendly shops make a great stepping stone for getting into thrifting. Stores like Kinji, New York Joe, Chicago, and Flamingo have clothes varying in pricing, styles so everyone can have something to wear.
Shimokita Garage Department is something very unique where you can get a unique Shimokitazawa vibe pretty well. A shopping space with over 20 small shops crammed with vintage clothes and hand-made accessories, thrift shopping in Shimokitazawa will never be completed without visiting this one!
Walk Around Shutter Gallery
While strolling through Shimokitazawa, you’re likely to see many different artist shutters around the streets. These aren’t graffiti, instead, they’re murals created by local artists. In collaboration with the district association, the city pays for the art supplies and the artists volunteer their time to show off their skills. They add a bit of character to the neighborhood and are great for an instagramable background.
Browse Through the Local Flea Market
Just a five-minute walk from Shimokitazawa’s East Exit, the Senrogai Akichi is an open area where locals and visitors alike can gather to hang out, shop, and try some food. While relatively quiet on the weekdays, on select weekends the area comes alive with a flea market filled with thrifted goods and handmade accessories. Aside from the nearby restaurants, there are also some food trucks in the area that sell delicious meals such as burgers, shaved ice, curry, specialty coffees.
Try Shimokitazawa Street Food
Everyone loves street food and while Tsukiji and Ameya Yokocho are well-known spots Shimokitazawa has some hidden spots that will satisfy everyone’s sweet and savory taste buds. For those with a sweet tooth, milked shaved ice at the Gram Factory, baby castella at Aoi Renga and cute cupcakes from New York Cupcakes are worth a try.
For those with savory tastes, onigiri (rice balls) covered by BBQ meat instead of seaweed from Nick’n roll, and curry-pan from Tenmaya are highly recommended.
Also, Shimokitazawa is popular for their Curry Festival which is held once a year. Over 100 restaurants in the area joined the festival to compete for the best taste! But even outside of the festival period, you can still try some delicious curry anytime in Shimokitazawa. The popular curry restaurants are Mikazuki Curry SAMURAI, Curry no wakusei and Nan Station. Each restaurant serves a different type of curry, so you can even enjoy curry-hopping if you are hungry.
Shimokitazawa is a great area to explore and it’s nice to get away from the bustling area of Tokyo. New stores, styles, and trends pop up every day leaving us with something new to behold. How about you? Have you ever visited Shimokitazawa? What do you want to do in this neighborhood?
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There’s no better way to explore an area than taking a tour with a knowledgeable local guide. You will have the chance to learn about the history and interesting background stories of Tokyo, as well as discover some hidden gems which can be hard to do without a guide.
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Jamila Brown is a five-year resident of Japan, teaching in the day and writing at night. She enjoys movies, reading, cosplaying, and eating good food in her downtime.
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