Shimokitazawa is to Tokyo what Williamsburg is to New York or perhaps what Newtown or Redfern is to Sydney. It smacks of urban modern cool, but remains a little grubby around the edges. It’s an intersection of long-standing businesses, hipster cafes, hole-in-the-wall (as Japan does best) eateries and laneways full of vintage and new fashion. It has energy.
SHOP: Marble SUD – if you love hiking and bears and pine trees in national parks and other wild places (which, clearly I do hello wild spin) then visit this cute (kawaii in Japanese) store which has all of these things and more printed onto dresses and bags and caps and hankies and other objects you can keep close to your body. It’s Japan does Alaska – what’s not to like about that?!
I’m super grateful to Ebony of the amazing Hello Sandwich blog for giving me some pointers of where to eat and drink in Shimokita, like an afternoon drink at the lovely family-run Mois Cafe which is in an old Showa era house! (When you’ve read this post, head over to Hello Sandwich for loads of Tokyo inspiration – and pick up her Tokyo Guide too – mine is in the mail!)
SHOP: Soffitto – an unassuming ladies fashion store that you would generalise at first glance as being a little plain, that is until you peek a bit closer and see that the styles and fits are unique, very Japanese, and in fact uber-effing-cool. I bought a few items from this store, and still periodically long for the ones I tried on, that looked great and I didn’t purchase. Goddammit! But the purchases I did get also came in super handy when I spilled chocolate sauce on my jeans a few hours later when hoofing down some small powdered donuts at a shop not far from the train station.
Shimokita is a neighbourhood in Setagaya, just west of Shibuya on the Keio Inokashira Line. It’s quite compact so easy to explore by foot. It’s main streets are bustling and electric – figuratively and literally- with phone cables and wires often snaking overhead, as in much of inner city Tokyo. It’s worth veering into some of the little laneways though, as that is where you’ll find some of the coolest little cafes, a seat or two on the footpath, or a hip little (unfortunately closed) outdoor beer garden tucked into the end of a small side-street.
Take a wander up through the suburbs towards Daizawa if you have time. The domestic architecture is quite incredible. Think small houses and driveways covered in mini tiles, hedges and push bikes leaning all over the place. In this area you should find Darwin Room, a natural history haven rammed with animal curiosities. Further down the street is the Kaiso Bakery, which word has it is the bomb, but I wouldn’t know, because I showed up at 5:05pm, just after it closed!
Shimokitazawa and surrounds are certainly worth keeping half a day aside for at least. The only thing not cool about it is this place… (da hell?!)
NEW POST: Return to Shimokitazawa – check it out here.
Want more? Check out my Wanderlust on Bondi Beach Radio Japan Special featuring interviews from this trip as well as loads of great Japanese tunes!