Shimokitazawa, aka Shimokita, aka Tokyo’s answer to Dalston and Williamsburg, is an area with a distinct sense of character. Just a short ride from Shinjuku, it’s a popular place for twenty-somethings, who you’ll spot speckled about the place in beanie hats and vintage (zakka) clothing – Shimokitazawa is swimming with secondhand clothes shops.
To add to the mix, you’ll find outlets selling miscellaneous items from the 70s and old toys – one specialises in troll dolls and windchimes – clothes shops with names like Juztaposition (one with a Last Supper illustration on the wall next to a broken piece of tree), a gift shop named D.O.G. (Domestic Original Gift) with a model dog outside, and a range of art galleries and coffee shops (the infamous Bear Pond, roastworks and Coffea Exlibris to name a few). It’s not unusual to spot people coated in tattoos (a decidedly rare sight in Japan), and a host of interesting graffiti and street art. There’s too much here to cover in a single article, but below are some definite highlights.
Named for the Indonesian portion of Borneo, “Kalimanatan” bills itself as a clothes store, but there’s plenty more to appreciate here, from authentic Indian jewellery to exotic musical instruments to quirky items of stationery. The charmingly cluttered exterior with its assortment of accessories gives the impression of a local market, and the products up for purchase fit that theme well.
Need a decorative ornament to kitsch up your apartment? It’s got them, along with miniature statues, ceramic pots, colourful flowery coasters, saris, hats, baskets, beads and more. The staff are friendly and welcoming too, whether you’re buying or browsing. Worth a look.
Having only been open since March 2015, Bistro Burger is one of Shimokitazawa’s newest eateries, a picturesque little shop just north of the station.
The burgers themselves are pricey but vast, and make use of “original croissant buns,” which are as moreish as their website suggests. Don’t worry if burgers aren’t to your liking though – a number of steaks and other grilled grub are up for grabs as well. The menu changes throughout the day, so be sure to get there between 11.30 and 15.00 for their lunch menu offer.
The shop front suggests there might be less space here than meets the eye. Be sure to check out the back of the shop, where you’ll find an extended seating area and also a second floor, with intriguing décor like old American Heritage signs and posters with warm slogans like “You are as welcome as the flowers in May.”
On hot days, you can sit out on the veranda, and when it’s cold, you can sit in the back with one of the many varieties of coffee on offer. The décor outside looks a bit like a Greek café – ideal for Summer days.
Wego is an Instagram user’s dream come true. Like Kalimantan, it labels itself a clothes store, but there’s far more going on here than just that.
For Americans especially, it’s like stepping back in time – Members Only jackets, used jeans and dresses from the 60s and 70s – effectively, clothing that looks like Andy Warhol’s flung them together and slapped a price tag on them. Crammed with Disney merchandise, and other renowned brands like The Simpsons and South Park, Wego even has a PlayStation 1 in the entrance, linked up to a TV and video combo, and an N64 you can play Super Mario on. This store seems intent on giving new meaning to the word “eclectic.”
Wego is open from 11:00 to 21:00 daily, so you’ve plenty of time during the afternoon to explore. Every Monday, it’s half-price on vintage clothes, so if your wardrobe is missing a hat from the 60s or a skirt from the 80s, be sure to head along at the start of the week.
LANP is a Toho Department Store located at the north exit of the main station. Another secondhand clothes shop, LANP specialises in women’s clothing, leaving the handling of men’s clothes to its sister shop VALON (not far away). If you’re after a hat from as early as the 1900s, LANP is the place to go. Most of its line-up is selected from the USA, and whilst the range is extensive – hats, bags, shoes, it’s all here – you’re unlikely to find anything postdating the year 2000. Open from 12:00 to 20:30, the shop’s main aim is “to convey merit and pleasure of secondhand clothes to the customers,” and with its diverse selection of clothes from all across the 20th century, it succeeds in doing just that.
To quote Dude’s website, “dudes always know how to chill. We are all dudes ourselves and thereby naturally provide a very relaxing atmosphere and service to our customers.” What follows is a description of three different categories of “dude” by “The World Dude Committee,” including “original,” “conscious” and “uber.”
Not a quote from The Big Lebowski, but the website of one of Shimokitazawa’s top hairdressers. The district is dotted with barbershops – one with a noteworthy Spiderman statue outside – but what sets Dude’s apart is how it aptly markets itself as “the most bohemian hair salon in Tokyo.” Again, as the website states “dude is for people who really want to chill at the hairdressers.” Maintaining a Zen demeanour whilst having a trim is what this place is about.
The Dude himself, Kaz Taira, is an extremely affable professional. He’s well-travelled and worldly, and received his training in London, meaning he not only speaks fluent English, but that he also has extensive experience cutting Western hair, an asset when you’re a foreigner in need of a trim. The atmosphere in the shop is extremely relaxed and friendly, with good music on the radio. Although it’s a non-smoking vicinity, smokers are catered for with a designated smoking area just outside.
Costs run at about 6-7000 yen for a haircut, and it’s about twice that price for more specific requests (e.g. highlights and colouring). A consultation is offered completely for free beforehand.
In addition to the above, honourable mentions go to Million Dollar, Tabatha, the Southern Hills Café and New Chicago, which are all worth investigating.
If fedoras and neon flamingos aren’t your thing, you might worry about feeling out of sorts in Shimokitazawa, but the welcoming vibe will ensure that won’t happen. It’s the perfect place to discover your inner hipster (or outer, if that’s your thing), and explore an amalgamation of different quirky styles.
And if it all gets too much, you can still find chain restaurants like Freshness Burger and McDonalds to make sure everyone feels at home.