Shimokitazawa, said to be the sacred land of subculture, is actually quite a trendy sightseeing spot to those in the know. It is a relatively small area that is densely populated by cafes, crepe and other gourmet food shops, secondhand clothing stores, general merchandise shops, one-of-a-kind record stores and a whole lot of fascinating shops. Here are some recommended areas in Shimokita.
When you visit Shimokita, a town with a unique avant-garde vibe that is unlike the mainstream feel, Toyo Hyakatten Shimokita Garage Department is where you must go to enjoy the fun type of chaos the town has to offer. It is a place that is full of various kinds of stores.
Adopting the nostalgic atmosphere of shops in the Showa era, this facility is packed with around 20 fashion, art and general merchandise stores. The condition when setting up a store here is that your store must be a "store that carries handmade, original products." In light of this, this department store is filled with unique and "one and only" items. It is basically open the whole year round, but the shops inside do actually close according to their schedules. We're pretty sure you will see something unique that will only be available on the day you go there or some item that you can only find in Shimokitazawa even if you look for it all over the world.
Toyo Hyakatten Shimokita Garage Department
Do you want to try unconventional sweets in Shimokitazawa, where new things are always born? Then you must look for the Natto Crepe which you can get from the famous crepe shop Andrea in the area that's nade with fermented soybeans. This crepe is filled with fresh cream, sweet sauce, and behind it all is natto, a healthy food product that is the pride of Japan. If you're someone who can't handle natto, you probably can't imagine it being delicious when served as dessert. This store's Natto Crepe comes in different flavors, the most popular of which is the Natto Coffee Jelly and Fresh Cream Crepe. But Andrea also has other delicious crepes in its menu that use ordinary fruits, such as the Custard Banana Chocolate and Fresh Cream Crepe. Crepes here are reasonably priced at around 350 JPY to 600 JPY. Be careful, though, because this shop is quite hard to find. It is not only a small stall, it also does not have a sign. Its landmark is the small pink window decorated with tropical ornaments. It opens at 2:30 pm, so take note of that when you visit. Eat a crepe that brings about a new sensation and create an exciting memory here!
Tokyo Retro a.m.a.store is a select shop of furniture and general merchandise that is located way off the Shimokitazawa Ichibangai Shopping Street. It is packed with nostalgic and fashionable items, from valuable antiques from the Meiji and Taisho periods (1868 - 1926), up to the daily necessities during the Showa era (1926 - 1989). Here, you can find a lot of brightly colored and cute furniture, lights, tableware and general merchandise that will make you feel the vibrant life that people led during those days. But Shimokitazawa is the kind of place where antique shops are not just places for fancy antiques. The "strange things" they have in this shop that make customers smile while thinking, "What is this used for?" and "Wow, they had this strange design!" also have top-class quality and quantity. Furniture costs somewhere between 4,000 JPY and around 30,000 JPY, while the tableware and general merchandise are priced from 1,500 JPY to the 10,000 JPY range. How about buying a surreal item that is hard to find in modern day Japan and then giving it as a souvenir? A die-hard fan of Japan would probably be wowed and yell "awesome!" This shop has irregular holidays, so it would be best to check in advance before coming.
Tokyo Retro a.m.a.store
The usual teishokuya (restaurant with set meals) in Japan is not a place where you can take your time in drinking your alcohol. Sankaku, however, is a friendly restaurant that was built on the concept of "teishokuya where customers can drink alcohol." Here, you can eat a wide range of homemade dishes such as tempura, croquette, menchi katsu (minced meat cutlet), fish stewed in soy sauce and sugar, and stewed vegetables. There are 10 types of main set meals that are priced from 700 JPY, but you can also order ala carte dishes. Add 200 JPY to the ala carte dish you want and they will turn it into a set meal with rice, miso soup and pickled vegetables. Lunch in this restaurant costs a little below 1,000 JPY, while dinner with alcohol costs around 3,000 JPY. It is famous for its beef tendon stew meal (800 JPY), a meal in which the beef tendon that has been boiled to soften its infused with distinct flavors. Sankaku has irregular holidays, so check first before you go there. This is a place where you can eat while relaxing.
Kaminariya is a tavern that is located near the south exit of Shimokitazawa Station. The vegetables you will see piled in front of the store are not just decoration, but are fresh ingredients delivered every day by contracted farmers. The seafood and eggs they use are also shipped in by the store's partner farmers and fishermen from all over Japan. This restaurant is famous for its extensive range of dishes that abundantly use fresh ingredients and authentic plum wines, unknown liquors, and standard sake. It is situated close to the train station, so you can come here alone or with a few friends. It has a full bar menu, and in that menu, what you should consider ordering is the Kakizukushi Course (4,500 JPY (incl. tax)) which offers the freshest oysters together with 2-hour unlimited drinks. If you only want the meal, then it would cost you 3,300 JPY (incl. tax). Oddly enough, this restaurant also serves the "Today's Oyster" meal during lunchtime, so to those who love oysters, go check out this restaurant!
Shimokitazawa is also a town with music in its heart. Many musicians from the past and today have performed here, with the town holding the Shimokitazawa Music Festival every year. Among the crowds that love music, Fu-Chi Ku-Chi is the popular coffee bar. Featuring an array of CDs and records on the wall, there is often a live band playing here at night. We have heard that you can also request a song from the records and play it on the permanent turntable. While there a lot of cafes playing Japanese music that let performers play in the basement or close their windows when there are performances so the music doesn't escape the building, this coffee bar has a terrace with seats at the fourth floor of the building. What a place to enjoy the music and the food while feeling the wind and looking at the sky! As for food, it has a reputation for serving delicious pasta dishes (prices start at 1,000 JPY). It also has a rich variety of alcohol. At night, it usually opens at 6:00 pm. But on nights when there are live performances, the business hours may change and the food will have a live performance charge and require a one-drink order, so check their homepage ahead. Fu-Chi Ku-Chi also serves lunch on weekdays. Eating lunch here is also wonderful as it is filled with bright light, but make sure to drop by to watch the live performances at night to experience Shimokitazawa's music scene.
Built on the catchphrase "bookstore where you can play," Village Vanguard is a complex shop that carries books, general merchandise and CDs/DVDs. It is nicknamed "Villevan" by those who are sensitive to culture, especially young people. It sells books and CDs, of course, but as a "place where you will encounter something fun," it plays a pivotal role in Japan's culture. Village Vanguard has stores all around Japan, with its branches in famous areas like Shibuya, Ikebukuro, Koenji and Kichijoji already frequented by a lot of customers. But the one in Shimokitazawa is a special one, seeing as it is described as "Village Vanguard's craziest shop of all time" in its homepage. You just have to go to this store as soon as you set foot in Shimokitazawa. Get pop culture books and CDs, or shop around for the perfect item to bring home as souvenir. Check out "Villevan," Japan's craziest place!
Village Vanguard - Shimokitazawa Branch
Shimokitazawa is a town where anybody can freely enjoy what he wants however way he wants to. This motley-looking, vivid pop culture paradise will surely make you foresee the next movement that will come from Japan. When you're there, you live by the mantra "you are free as a bird to do what you want to do." Go around this small town with that feeling.
*Please note that the information in this article is from the time of writing or publication and may differ from the latest information.