Shimokitazawa is Tokyo’s coolest neighbourhood, so it goes without saying that when I returned to Japan, that is where I would be based. You can eat vegetarian here, you can drink Kirin at hole-in-the-wall bars, shop vintage or at Muji, play arcades well into the night, or get lost in alleys and find your way back with ease. And it’s around 4 minutes on the train into Shibuya.
We opted for an Airbnb place near the station’s South Exit – it was actually just around the corner from the Darwin Room, which I mentioned in my last Shimokita post. This was a less-explored part of Shimokitazawa for me, and held a different vibe from my last visit – but one I really loved. We actually had everything we needed – great food, a cool-as-hell locals bar (more on that below), close access to the station, and ARCADES! We got totally addicted to the drumming machines, where you have to whack the drum to the beat of the song on a screen filled with cute cartoon characters. Local Japanese people playing these machines had some mad drumming skills, us not so much. OK, Skymie was OK, but I had less coordination than a pre-walking baby. But it was SO MUCH FUN so we basically returned with a handful of coins every evening.
EAT: Shirube Izakaya which is at 2-18-2 Kitazawa, Setagaya-ku (maybe best to ask a local) is a must for dinner in Shimokita. It has an English menu (which can be rare in Tokyo) and the food is delicious. We were seated at a low table on cushioned seats, but the floor dips down around the table so your feet can extend down rather than having to cross your legs or crouch. It’s super comfy. We were over-the-moon about the home made cheese tofu with baguette, which came silky and drizzled in a honeyed sauce. YUM!
Our first morning in Shimokita, we couldn’t resist the smoothie and juice bar near our pad Live Juice Japan – both for the summery looking drinks and the smiling accordion player out the front. The staff were really friendly and it felt right to start off our trip with a bit of healthy hydration after the long flight from London.
I plan to do a post shortly on vegetarian Tokyo eating, because it can be a challenge to navigate non-meat meals in Japan, but you can always eat donuts as a vego and Mister Donut in the south end of Shimokita is where its at. They even have little buckets of mini donuts! Also seek out Curry House Coco Ichibanya for a delicious Japanese-style veg curry and right near the south exit to the station there is a ramen place that does a mean vegan ramen. But more on that in an upcoming post.
This is one of my fave places to stay in Tokyo. I truly love this area as it is vibrant and cool, but still a little grungy around the edges as well. One night we saw a long-haired guy give an animated manga reading to an audience of enraptured onlookers against the shutters of a closed shop near the station. The place has heart. And there is so much to explore you could do many a repeat visit and still discover new things each time.
DRINK: We fell in love with Scarecrow – a tiny little alleyway bar with about eight or so seats, run by Takeshi Nozawa who was such a dude! Despite the language barrier, we shared singalongs with the locals, tried new drinks and felt like welcomed friends in our few visits here. We may have had a bit too much fun at Scarecrow on our last night in Tokyo, but NO REGRETS!