It seems like only yesterday that the most trendy “it spot” for thrifting and Insta-worthy cafes in Tokyo was Koenji, but just as trends go through cycles, popular hot spots among Tokyo locals go through transitions as well. As the city’s dynamic pulse constantly shifts, Shimokitazawa has emerged as one of the top neighborhoods to visit in Tokyo. This article will serve as your personal tour guide through this vibrant urban neighborhood. Whether you plan on relaxing at a trendy cafe, exploring curated second-hand shops, or immersing yourself in Tokyo’s underground music scene, we will guide you in making the most of your day in Shimokitazawa.

Shimokitazawa Then & Now

Attracting individuals from all walks of life, this vibrant neighborhood has witnessed a surge in popularity in recent years among younger generations due to its proximity to neighboring universities and its vibrant shopping and nightlife scene. Initially, the heart of the area was originally focused closer to Daizawa, but with the establishment of Shimokitazawa station in 1927, a rapid flux of residential and commercial properties took hold, outpacing city planning efforts. As a result, Shimokitazawa now boasts a labyrinth of narrow streets which can be considered its most unique identifiers among residents and tourists alike.

As Shimokitazawa’s popularity continues to soar, the neighborhood has seen further renovations and additions. For example, in 2022, a multi-story facility named Mikan Shimokitazawa was unveiled. Situated on the former underpass and embankment of the Keio Inokashira Line, Mikan has breathed new life into the area, offering five floors of shops, offices, a cozy seating area, bicycle parking, and an array of restaurants. Mikan stands as a testament to Shimokitazawa’s celebrated blend of the past and present, perpetually embracing change. Its name, derived from the Japanese term “tsune ni mikan” (常に未完), meaning to “always be incomplete,” encapsulates the neighborhood’s ever-evolving nature.

Coffee and Cafe Culture in Shimokitazawa

No matter where I’m visiting or what I’m doing, the first thing I like to do is stop by a local cafe and sip on a fresh cup of brew. Whether you enjoy the buzz of caffeine or are strictly a non-caffeinated beverage drinker, Shimokitazawa has a great selection of trendy cafes that offer many options. If you’re in the mood to start your day with something a bit over the top, take a stop at Ogawa Coffee Laboratory, located in the Reload shopping mall. This modern coffee shop is great for those who like to have a bit of control over brewing methods and beans. Originating in Kyoto, this shop offers a total of 22 different types of coffee including 9 recommended blends. Seating is a bit limited but Reload is great if you’re willing to take your coffee to-go and explore the rest of the mall.

Wellness lovers will want to stop by Flux Cafe to try their delicious light meals, protein drinks, and healthcare goods. They even have some of the seating retrofitted with exercise machines so you can break a sweat on your midday Shimokitazawa tour! For cozy latte art in the shapes of cute animals, make a point to visit Ballon D’Essai Latte & Art. This cafe menu offers a variety of different types of coffee with milk alternatives as well as a delightful selection of desserts.

Vintage Treasure Hunting: Thrifting & Secondhand Shopping in Shimokitazawa

Before hunkering down for lunch in Mikan Shimokitazawa’s food hall, make sure to peruse the backstreets of the station area for hard-to-find vintage goods and curated thrift shops. A popular reason why individuals come to Shimokitazawa to shop is the simple fact that most items have a high percentage of being one-of-a-kind. Not only that but given that most stores in the area only carry second-hand garments, you’ll be refreshing your closet while also shopping in a more sustainable manner. While it would be impossible to list all of the secondhand shops in the area, especially given that new ones pop up quite frequently, a few of my favorites include Chicago, Stick Out, Little Trip to Heaven, and Wego Vintage. If you’re more hands-on and want to scope out your own favorites, just exit Shimokitazawa Station in any direction and you’ll soon find a treasure trove of shops to discover.

Can’t get enough of thrifting in Japan? Read this article for more information on secondhand shopping within Tokyo.

Shimokitazawa After Dark: Live Houses & Bars

While Shimokitazawa is an excellent spot for shopping and trendy cafes, the area also boasts a vibrant scene for music enthusiasts seeking live shows hosting local artists. The area is most known for its draw to rock and indie music, but no matter what type of music you enjoy, Shimokitazawa is sure to have an option for you. Some of the most recommended live houses are Shelter, Shimokitazawa Three, Flower Loft, ERA, Shangri-La, LOFT, and Basement Bar.

Nightlife in Shimokitazawa is also quite versatile and for those who prefer bar hopping, there’s no shortage of options. For a relaxing drink paired with chill music, take a load off at & Bar before sinking deeper into the backstreets. If you’re more into pubs, Good Heavens is a popular spot among the foreign community and often hosts bi-monthly events like Quiz Night for the extra competitive patron. Lastly for those looking to discuss music and revel in retro neon, Bar Juice might be your new favorite place.

Shimokitazawa is a hidden gem that often escapes the attention of first-time Tokyo visitors. However, as soon as you set foot in this dynamic and ever-evolving cultural hub, you’ll quickly grasp why it is revered as one of Tokyo’s finest destinations. What part of Shimokitazawa will you explore first?