Arts & culture
20 of the Best Things to Do in Shimokitazawa
Trade in the crowded crosswalks of Shinjuku and colorful teenagers of Harajuku for the new life of the hip twenty somethings in Shimokitazawa.
Just a few minutes from Shibuya, Shimokitazawa is a packed mini town that has avoided the mass conglomerate of international corporations with small and independently owned stores. It’s home to vintage shops, stylish cafes, small theaters, and unique snacks, as well as much more you can see and Brooklyn-esque atmosphere, Shimokitazawa puts a new spin on the Japanese hipster. Here are some ideas to help you make the most of your visit to Shimokitazawa!
• Perfect breakfast to start a wonderful day
• Walk around the shutter gallery
• Taste curry at Shimokitazawa’s curry hot spots
• Explore the vintage shops
• Try different types of snacks on the street
• Enjoy cafe hopping
• Visit shrines and temples
• Buy souvenirs at Village Vanguard
• Have lunch at an officially recognized Ghibli café
• Go shopping at select antique shops
• Watch movies at the only movie theater in town
• Watch a play in this town of theaters
• The Suzunari and Suzunari Yokocho
• Check out the retro stores
• Indulge in some art
• Be amazed by Japanese cuisine and sake at an Izakaya
• Enjoy drinks accompanied by live music
• Experience a deep retro cinema bar
• Check out the events at Shimokitazawa Cage
• Go treasure hunting at the record shops
A perfect breakfast to start a wonderful day
Woken up early? Why not visit the mixture bakery & cafe! It opens at 7:30 am and offers all different kinds of affordable breakfast sets. The smell of fresh bread and nicely roasted coffee will wake me from my zombie state.
By the way, this is the best place to try Japanese bread if you haven't tried any yet. They have a superb selection of various breads, from authentic European bread to Japanese buns.
Walk around the shutter gallery
The storefront shutters in this part of Shimokitazawa are decorated by mural artists. After years of being covered by graffiti, the Shimokitazawa Ichiban-gai community came up with the idea of asking artists to draw beautiful pictures on the shutters. No one has sprayed paint on them since.
Taste curry at Shimokitazawa’s curry hot spots
There is no doubt about Shimokitazawa being the center of subculture. However, it is also known as “The Town of Curry”.
In Shimokitazawa, you are surrounded by curry shops. Our recommendation is the Mahal cutlet curry for 1,520 yen from PANNYA CAFE CURRY. PANNYA is pretty famous among curry maniacs. Their curry is quite spicy but you can also feel the sweetness of onions at the same time. Make sure you experience this magic on you trip.
Tokyo Setagaya-ku Kitazawa 2-33-6 Suzuki Building 1F
Explore the vintage shops
For those who still don't know what Shimokitazawa's subculture is about, here is a good example: used clothes and vintage fashion. It’s home to plenty of cheap used clothing shops where you can get casual dresses, as well as shops with high-end vintage dresses.
Look around and see if you can find a shop to fall in love with. It won't be too hard!
Try different types of snacks on the street
Extra fluffy cakes, tremendous types of bubble tea, and rice balls rolled up with meat instead of seaweed - Shimokitazawa is a remarkable place for casual snacks.
People just come and go to check out the eye-catching deliciousness. Some of the snacks in Shimokitazawa could be a good conversation topic. Some of them are also great for souvenirs. Others are pretty Instagrammble too! If you are tired of eating at restaurants, why not try small bites of a variety of different snacks!
Enjoy cafe hopping
A unique cafe culture is another thing that makes Shimokitazawa popular. How would you pass the time in a cafe? Work? Talk with friends? Or just drink coffee and relax?
There are all different types of cafes in Shimokitazawa and you can use them according to your needs. Spend time surrounded by the stylish atmosphere, taste good coffee!
Visit shrines and temples
Shimokitazawa has a lot of subculture places but there are also beautiful and traditional buildings. Temples are just one of them.
Shinganji Temple, which was selected as one of the “100 Famous Views of Setagaya” in 1984 is a great place to visit and around 400 years old. Once you enter through the temple gate, you’ll be welcomed by glorious gingko trees.
If you want to visit a Shinto shrine, Kitazawa Hachiman Shrine is the place to head. Established about 500 years ago, it’s been keeping Shimokitazawa peaceful ever since. These two powerful spots are only three minutes’ walk away from each other.
Mori Iwao Ji
Tokyo Setagaya-ku Daizawa 3-chome 27-1
Kita Sawa Hachiman Shrine
Tokyo Setagaya-ku Daizawa 3-25-3
Buy souvenirs at Village Vanguard
Village Vanguard is known as ‘the book store where you can have fun’ The inside of the store is like a maze. Floppy disk-shaped note pads, Beatles figurines, eye-shaped stuffed dolls - interesting things are everywhere.
They have comic books from the 80s too! It’s a great place to find something unique to take home but just looking at all the unusual products is fun too. Visit and experience this random universe.
Tokyo Setagaya-ku Kitazawa 2-10-15 Marche Shimo-Kitazawa
Have lunch at an officially recognized Ghibli café
Are you a Ghibli fan?
At this officially recognized cafe, TOLO COFFEE & BAKERY, you can eat Totoro-shaped cream puffs for 465 yen (420 yen / take out). Step inside the café and you’ll feel the warm Ghibli atmosphere, just like when you watch their movies.
They offer meals too. Our recommendation is the root vegetable pasta with cream cheese bolognese sauce, which costs from 1000 yen with a drink (the price changes depending on which drink you order).
Tokyo Setagaya-ku Daita 5-3-1
Go shopping at select antique shops
ANTIQUE LIFE ☆ JiN has been open since 1982 and they now have two shops in Shimokitazawa. One is focused on their Japanese small items and the second one has furniture from the early Showa era (dating from 1926).
If you’re looking for antique accessories, Pêche (a French vintage goods shop) is perfect. You can find an attractive selection of cute little things all over the shop, with the owner bringing some items direct from Europe.
antique Life JiN
Tokyo Setagaya-ku Kitazawa 2-30-8
Tokyo Setagaya-ku Kitazawa 2-27-2
Watch movies at the only movie theater in town
Shimokitazawa Tollywood is where you can watch rare films by up-and-coming directors. They show Japanese and international films that include anime and often host a talk show with directors and actors of the movies.
They also host sneak peek previews. Watch a movie there and be a pioneer of a new trend!
Tokyo Setagaya-ku Daizawa 5-32-5
Watch a play in this town of theaters
We can’t forget to mention about the theater culture of Shimokitazawa. There are plenty of small theaters in this town. Among them, Honda Gekijo is considered the most famous and is known as the center of small theater in Tokyo.
Whether it’s famous plays or underground titles, they have been showing tremendous shows since they opened in 1982.
Honda Gekijo theater
Tokyo Setagaya-ku Kitazawa 2-10-15
The Suzunari and Suzunari Yokocho
The Suzunari is a small theater built by Kazuo Honda who is also the founder of Honda Gekijo. At Suzunari Yokocho, small retro-style bars make up the first floor of the theater. It is definitely shaping Shimokitazawa culture.
You should grab a drink there before leaving this town!
Tokyo Setagaya-ku Kitazawa 1-45-15
Check out the retro stores
Vintage stores are housed in regular storefronts, outdoor stalls or even refurbished, graffitied garages. The stores range widely in pricing and can be very cheap or very expensive, depending on the type of store and quality of clothing.
Some vintage stores also specialize in antiques or memorabilia from years past. Film cameras and records are popular commodities as well as retro voting pins and costume jewelry. There are so many shops to peruse from that finding a deal turns into a fun adventure.
Indulge in some art
Gallery Hana is the place for contemporary artwork by up and coming artists. Housed on a street corner, the gallery is a small gem off the beaten vintage store path. Exhibitions are short, normally a week long, and frequent. Each artist brings something new to the gallery in every genre of art, from classic drawings to pop art cartoons to cat toy making workshops.
Stop by to see the newest artists before they enter the museums. For artists themselves, the studio is also a rental space offering availability to artists with a special student discount.
Gallery HANA Shimo-Kitazawa
Tokyo Setagaya-ku Kitazawa 3-chome 26-2 ~ 1F
Be amazed by Japanese cuisine and sake at an Izakaya
Have you tried a Japanese Izakaya yet? Even if you have, you should go to Shirube to experience their open-style kitchen bar!
Shirube has seats surrounding the kitchen and the chefs cook right in front of you. The lively ambience and sense of unity are difficult to find in chain izakaya restaurants. Their freshly cooked dishes taste even more delicious when you eat them (literally) directly from the kitchen!
Enjoy drinks accompanied by live music
The music bar RPM is one place where you can enjoy great music and drinks. They don’t have any limitations when it comes to musical genres and host live shows almost every night.
Some shows are sessions that you can actually jump into! If you want to hear Jazz, APOLLO is the best place for you. Taste their “made in Tokyo” beat in a cozy atmosphere.
music bar rpm
Tokyo Setagaya-ku Kitazawa 2-9-22 EIKO Shimo-Kitazawa Building B1
Experience a deep retro cinema bar
Have a night you won’t forget at the Kinema Club. It’s a bar where you can enjoy food and drinks accompanied by an old cinematic atmosphere!
Movie posters, flyers, and booklets cover the walls and ceilings, and you’ll feel the fabulous retro vibe the moment you step into the building.
Check out the events at Shimokitazawa Cage
Shimokitazawa Cage is a temporary event space that’s open only until 2019.
People can come in and rest inside, just like they do in a park during the daytime.
At nighttime, it hosts a market, a theater, and different types of events. There is also a casual Asian izakaya inside. It’s a good place to talk with Shimokita-based creators.
Shita Kitazawa cage
Tokyo Setagaya-ku Kitazawa 2-6-2 Inokashira underpass
Go treasure hunting at the record shops
Unlike the huge record shops in Shibuya or Shinjuku, the ones in Shimokitazawa never rely on short-term trends.
Most of the shops have been here for a long time. From well-recognized DJs to music nerds, the disc shops in this area are loved by a diverse range of musical people. You can spend forever in these shops!
(Source: Japan Travel by NAVITIME)