Shimokitazawa Tokyo – Tokyo is one of the biggest cities in the world right now. Its popularity transcends borders in so many more ways than you would think. It’s consistently voted as one of the top safest places in the entire world to live in and to travel.
Its unique culture seems to go from strength to strength, year on year, with no signs of faltering or slowing down and succumbing to modernism, much like many other culturally-rich countries. Most importantly, its people are impossibly thoughtful, friendly, helpful, and just plain wholesome. It’s hard to not be intrigued by a country which offers so, so much.
Within the wonderful city of Tokyo lays Shimokitazawa. When developing an itinerary to best maximise your time exploring Tokyo, you’ll most likely be looking at at least a few hours in Shinjuku, Harajuku, Shibuya, Akihabara, Ginza, and the rest of the popular suburbs.
Whilst we’re definitely not trying to discourage you from including the aforementioned onto your agenda (we wholeheartedly love all those suburbs, and they are popular for a reason!), we just think that there’s so, so much more that Tokyo has to offer in terms of suburbs full of character that you’ll be able to gain a unique experience visiting.
One such suburb is Shimokitazawa.
Literally a few minutes away by train from Shinjuku and Shibuya (and within an acceptable walkable distance, if you’re feeling adventurous), Shimokitazawa is a seemingly small, post-modern suburb with a twist. It’s home to an eccentric crowd, laid-back indie vibes, clusters of funky shops and small Instagram-worthy alleys that have developed a dynamic reputation and following.
One thing that distinguishes Shimokitazawa from most other suburbs in Tokyo is its underlying retro culture, fortified by the plentiful vintage stores lining the small alleyways and laneways, all offering unique and much-sought after pieces – and yet none offering clothing that’s anywhere near the same as the store next door. It’s also got a smattering of adorable cafes that live up to Tokyo’s reputation of beautiful food, beautiful taste, and beautiful aesthetics.
Before to dive into this article, why not walking (virtually) with us in Shimokita:
How To Get To Shimokitazawa?
From Shibuya Station, take the Keio-Inokashira line. It will cost 130 yen for a one-way train ride, take 3-minutes, and the train comes every 7 minutes. It is a 45-minute walk if you’re up for it, station to station.
From Shinjuku Station, take the Odakyu line. It will cost 160 yen for a one-way train ride, takes 7-minutes, and the train comes every 3 minutes. It is a 60-minute walk if you’re up for it, station to station.
Where To Stay in Shimokitazawa?
If this hipster suburb sounds like a great place to settle down for you, and you’re on a budget, let us introduce to you the Shimokitazawa Hostel, located literally a stone throw away from Shimokitazawa station, situated amongst a plethora of cafes, shops and clubs.
It’s the best option for those who want a bit of day time adventure, a slice of the night life, a comfortable and clean place to retire back to at night. It’s also incredibly affordable in the grand scheme of things.
Why Guests Love It: The location is the best thing about this place, because you can access almost all the major stations from there. The staff here speak fluent English so language barrier will never be an issue. For a budget accommodation, many past guests made remarks about just how clean and well-maintained this place was.
Book It Now: Shimokitazawa Hostel
Illi apartments match perfectly with Shimokitazawa mood: stylish, modern and artistic. The 4 apartments are one minute away from Shimokita train station and they are absolutely amazing. If you are traveling with a group of friends, the Illi apartments are exactly what you need.
But Illi apartments are not only convenient for travellers but also for people living in Tokyo. Indeed, Illi team offer what they call a “Sleepover Experience”. The concept is simple, you rent the apartment, you party with your friends and you sleep over! More and more people don’t have enough space to party at their places, specially in Tokyo, but you can now do it at Illi apartments.
In terms of equipments, there’s really everything you need to enjoy your stay with your friends. You can find confortable beds, fast wifi, wine glasses, coffee beans with a manual grinder, bluetooth speakers, a vintage record players and even a polaroid camera! A self check-in is also available so you can get the keys easily.
Book It Now: Illi Shimokitazawa
The Wardrobe Hostel FOREST Shimokitazawa
A bit of jungle in the urban, the Wardrobe Hostel FOREST is a sanctuary in the middle of the city, whose aesthetics includes hanging vines and leaves, and cool tones for that all-natural look and laid-back atmosphere. It’s all about location, location, location with this one, being only 3-minutes from Shimokitazawa Station, 700m from Shinganji Temple, 700m from Kitazawa Hachiman, 1.8km from Hanegi Park, and 2km from the Japan Folk Crafts Museum.
Why Guests Love It: The free amenities in the bathroom provided was much appreciated by most guests, as was the cleanliness and tidiness of the place at all times. The location is pretty much perfect whether you’re part of a larger group or whether you’re a solo traveller.
Book It Now: The Wardrobe Hostel FOREST Shimokitazawa
For more tips about accommodation in Tokyo, you can also check out this blog post: Where to stay in Tokyo.
Let’s discover now the best things to do in Shimo!
This is one of the major reasons why any locals would visit Shimokitazawa, or Shimo as it is affectionately referred to. There’s an abundance of vintage shops located all around the suburb, each with similar pricing and similar types of offerings but of course every piece is unique. Some suggestions about where you can go for a browse are below:
A clothing shop that offers all its vintage pieces for a mere 700 yen. Shop to your (retro) heart’s galore here and pick up hard-to-find, one-of-a-kind pieces for the price of a bowl of ramen!
- Address: Japan, 〒155-0031 Tokyo, Setagaya City, Kitazawa, 2-chōme−2−14-16
- Hours: 11:00am – 9:00pm
New York Joe Exchange
A cult classic in Shimo, this particular vintage store sources unbranded used clothing from the U.S, and sells them for a fraction of the price you’d expect to pay.
- Address: 3 Chome-26-4 Kitazawa, Setagaya City, Tokyo 155-0031, Japan
- Hours: 12:00pm – 8:00pm
You May Also Like: Best Things To Do In Setagaya
Little Trip to Heaven
If you’re looking for clothing that’s a bit extra, why not check out Little Trip to Heaven? Its offerings mainly revolve around Victorian-era inspired garments that are as beautiful as they are detailed. Shop here for that retro look, or if you’re looking to put together a fancy costume.
- Address: Japan, 〒155-0031 Tokyo, Setagaya City, Kitazawa, 2 Chome−26−19 Hills 2
- Hours: 11:00am – 9:30pm
For some fashion inspiration, you can discover here these popular Japanese fashion trends in 2021.
And if you are into vintage products, we started to sell online super cool Japan vintage posters here.
Shop Around at Funky Stores
Flash Disc Ranch
A popular record store, which specialises in 60s and 70s music, is owned by Tsubaki-san, who’s always ready to discuss music with you.
- Address: Japan, 〒155-0031 Tokyo, Setagaya City, Kitazawa, 2 Chome−12−16 2F
- Hours: Monday-Friday: 12:00pm – 10:00pm, Saturday-Sunday: 2:30pm – 10:00pm (Closed Wednesdays)
An acronym for “Book and Beer”, head over to B&B if you’ve always wanted to wander around in a foreign bookstore whilst sipping on a cold, refreshing glass of local draft beer. You know you want to.
- Address: Japan, 〒155-0031 Tokyo, Setagaya City, Kitazawa, 2 Chome−5−2 B１F
- Hours: 12:00pm – 11:00pm
The Best Cafes In Shimokitazawa
For a bit of a Melbournian throwback, head to Frankie for a cup of heart-warming, freshly ground coffee. It’s one of the most popular hole-in-the-wall coffee shops in Shimo, and is a standard meeting place for Australians in Tokyo. For those coming from Down Under, besides the chain coffee stores, you might not be able to find flat whites or cappucinos as easily as you do back home, but rest-assured, Frankie’s serves it all. Feeling a bit homesick? Head here for an Anzac biscuit, a toasted slice of banana bread, and some smashed avo.
- Address: 2 Chome-12-15 Kitazawa, Setagaya City, Tokyo 155-0031, Japan
- Hours: Sunday – Thursday: 10:00am – 8:00pm, Friday – Saturday: 10:00am – 9:00pm
You’ll almost always see a line at Flipper’s in Shimo. It’s located on one of the busiest streets, and has been claimed by some to serve up some of the fluffiest pancakes in all of Tokyo. It’s a sweet-tooth’s pancake paradise.
- Address: Japan, 〒155-0031 Tokyo, Setagaya City, Kitazawa, 2 Chome−26−20 1F
- Hours: 11:00am – 8:00pm
The Best Restaurants In Shimokitazawa
Izaka Ya Ism
For a more traditional Japanese dining experience, Izakaya Ism offers a fun and playful atmosphere, exciting Izakaya dishes to sample, and affordable alcohol to get the night started. It’s fairly popular in the area, so there may be a bit of a wait, especially on the weekends, but if you’re looking for a place to dine in that’s ‘happening’, Izakaza Ism is where it’s at.
- Address: 2 Chome-18-2 Kitazawa, Setagaya City, Tokyo 155-0031
- Hours: 5:30pm – 12:00am
Hunting for a bargain? For only 650 yen, you can fill your stomach up with a delicious bowl of ramen right in the middle of Shimo! That is seriously dirt cheap, and you’d be cheering about this bargain once you take a sip of the flavoursome broth, complete with bamboo, nori, and slices of tender pork.
- Address: 155-0032 Tokyo, Setagaya City, Daizawa, 5 Chome−36−13 1F
- Hours: 11:30am – 1:00am
The Best Bars In Shimokitazawa
Visiting this little gem hidden away in a small alleyway near Shimokitazawa station is quite an adventure. The owner has decked out the entire interior to look as though it belongs on the sunny tropical island of Hawaii – imagine tropical plans, colourful neon lights, and cute little ornaments placed all around the bar.
The drinks here are not what you’d find on an average menu. Although we’re fairly certain that if you’d like a mojito, you can surely order one, here, we’d recommend you have a chat with the bartender/owner and let him take the reins and serve you up with his latest concoction.
- Address: 2 Chome-23-6 Kitazawa, Setagaya City, Tokyo 155-0031
- Hours: 5:00pm – 2:00am
With a name like that, we won’t believe you if you say you’re not the least bit intrigued. Here, the interior is decorated to look rather glitzy, with glass tiles nailed to the walls for that glam look. It’s rather ethereal, as though you’re in a cave somewhere far away. They play a variety of rock music here, and also serve variations of Vietnamese and Chinese cuisine for you to pass by the night.
- Address: Japan, 〒155-0031 Tokyo, Setagaya City, Kitazawa, 2 Chome−26−14 Ｃｏｏ２Ｆ
- Hours: Monday-Friday: 11:00am – 9:00pm, Saturday-Sunday: 10:00am – 8:00pm
As you can see, Shimokitazawa is so much more than meets the eye. It doesn’t necessarily fit in with the glamour of some cities, nor the ‘Old Japan’ feels of others. Rather, it stands on its own two feet as one of the most vibrant yet relaxed, eccentric yet slow-paced hippie suburbs that Tokyo has to offer. For those looking to just have a no-strings-attached, unplanned day of fun exploration, expect the unexpected at Shimokitazawa.
Did you like Shimokitazawa? If yes, you are going to love Koenji!