Pic: Light Studios


Shimokitazawa — often shortened to Shimokita — is a trendy, bohemian neighborhood just a few train stops from central Tokyo. The narrow streets here are stuffed with vintage clothing shops, quirky cafes, live houses, indie fashion outlets, and artist studios. It’s an oasis for creative types, as well as cheapos looking to snag some bargains.

In fact, because of the extremely high hip-to-yen value ratio, we once voted Shimokita as the #1 neighborhood for cheapos to live in Tokyo.

If you’ve never been before, get a sense of the neighborhood by watching our video above and listening to our Shimokitazawa podcast episode.

What’s new in Shimokitazawa?

Regular visitors to Shimokita will know that there always seems to be construction going on. The good news is that some is finally finished, with the opening of Tefu Lounge in January 2022. This five-story complex, which is part of the Nansei Plus development located near the southwest exit of Shimokitazawa Station, has a mini cinema, cafes, retail spaces, co-working lounges, shared offices, and an event space.

Where is Shimokitazawa?

Shimokitazawa is a neighborhood in Setagaya, a large, largely residential ward to the west of Shibuya ward. It is just a few stops from major hubs Shibuya (Keio Inokashira Line) and Shinjuku (Odakyu Line).

What is Shimokitazawa like?

Shimokitazawa was originally a farming community, and to this day it hasn’t lost its laid back attitude — despite its close proximity to some of the busiest parts of Tokyo. It’s considered a fashionable area, but in a hipster way: think vintage clothes and record players at indie coffee shops instead of the latest fashion and newest hits at a popular cafe. In summer, the neighborhood returns to its more traditional roots with popular events like the Bon Dance Festival and Awa Odori Festival.

Shimokita’s Awa Odori festivals see dancers take to the street | Photo by Chris Kirkland

What is Shimokitazawa known for?

Shimokitazawa is best known as a popular and affordable shopping and entertainment area. It is among Tokyo’s best spots for thrift shopping and vintage clothes. There is a wide range of shops including a few well-known vintage clothing chains, such as Chicago, as well as many smaller independent shops.

Shimokitazawa is also well known for its live music and stage theatre scenes.

What to see and do in Shimokitazawa

One of the best things to do in Shimokitazawa is wander through the streets, stopping in anywhere that sparks interest. In addition to secondhand clothing stores, there are excellent record shops, cafes, and restaurants, too.

There are also a number of small shopping malls to explore. Most of them are recent developments, like reload and Mikan.

used record shops shimokitazawa tokyo
Shimokitazawa is a popular place to look for bargain vinyl | Photo by Greg Lane

Check out our article on things to do in Shimokitazawa for even more ideas!

Is Shimokitazawa a good place to stay?

Given its easy access to both Shinjuku and Shibuya, Shimokitazawa can be a great place to stay. Especially if you’re looking for an area that’s a bit more laid back but still has plenty of food and nightlife options. Unfortunately, there aren’t actually that many hotels or hostels in the area. Luckily for you though, we’ve done the ground work and can recommend Mustard Hotel Shimokitazawa .

Where and what to eat in Shimokitazawa

Independent coffee shops are the go-to in Shimokita. You’ll find them all over the neighborhood, each with their own unique atmosphere. Keep in mind most of these places are quite small, so they’re more suited for individuals or small groups of two or three.

Somewhat surprisingly for such a small neighborhood, there is a good range of international foods, especially at Mikan. Mikan is a new shopping mall under the Keio tracks and is home to Thai, Korean, and Vietnamese restaurants (among others) and a popular bakery.

You’ll also find restaurants selling foreign food like tacos, pizza, and kebabs dotted throughout the streets, complimented by Japanese classics like yakiniku and ramen. In general, food prices are reasonable — you can get a vegan donut for ¥340, or a curry and naan set for around ¥1,000.

Nightlife and entertainment in Shimokitazawa

Shimokitazawa is not known for its nightlife in the way that Shibuya or Roppongi are, but it still has its fair share of offerings. There are plenty of small izakaya and bars tucked away in the narrow streets here, so you can definitely make a night of it in Shimokita. There are also several small live music venues and fringe theaters.

Shopping in Shimokitazawa

Shopping in Shimokitazawa is all about vintage and thrifting. You don’t come to Shimokitazawa for brand name clothing; however, if you’re willing to put in some elbow grease and dig through the racks there’s a chance you’ll find a treasure. The thrifting nature of shopping in Shimokita also extends to other things like records and even antiques.

Village Vanguard Shimokitazawa
Village Vanguard, which sells all kinds of fun, random stuff, is a popular spot in Shimokita | Photo by Gregory Lane

How to get to and from Shimokitazawa

Shimokitazawa Station can be reached via the Odakyu Line from Shinjuku Station (10 minutes) and the Keio Inokashira Line from Shibuya Station (6 minutes); on both lines, all trains (including express and special express) trains stop at Shimokitazawa Station. Note that because they are owned by different railway companies the lines have different entrances, exits, and ticket gates. So when you’re heading home make sure to enter the correct part of the station.

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