Where to go in Shimokitazawa, Tokyo
Aha. It depends what you want or what you wanna do. So here’s details on what’s what in the five main areas of Shimokitazawa (下北沢, in kanji) as you come out of the train station:
The five main areas:
North (go out Shimokitazawa station North exit)
West (go out Shimokitazawa station West exit)
South (go out Shimokitazawa station South exit)
South-East (South exit, then a short walk east)
Deep South (South exit, then a short walk south)
*There is of course, an East area, but there’s no East exit at Shimokitazawa Station. We’ve grouped it with South-East for convenience sake.
While one of the best things about the neighborhood is that everything is sort of lumped in together- you’ll find a ramen shop next to a used record store, on top of a basement bar next to a brand new women’s clothing shop- there are some differences between the areas. So if you’re short of time, this might help:
North mostly independent businesses. more clothing stores than the other areas. Locals describe it as more bohemian and chill than the South. Elegant, yes. But it also tends to be a bit pricey.
West probably the least developed area, but new stores are appearing. If you want quiet you can’t lose.
South this is where all the musicians go. It’s where most of the clubs (livehouses in Japanese) are and where most of the rehearsal studios are. Shimokitazawa is “manga, music, theater” in the words of local playwright Iwai Yuuki. Unlike most areas of Tokyo where you’ll wake up to the pounding feet of marching office workers, here it’s guitar armies. It’s also a favorite drinking spot for Japanese university students. Generally…the South is where the party is.
South-East if you go far enough, just to the south bend of Chazawa Dori (茶沢道り), you’ll see one of the older cooler landmarks of Shimokita, The Suzunari (ザ・スズナリ)。It’s a collection of old gentlemen’s drinking clubs aka snack bars, mild hostess clubs. It’s also a theater and used to have a cinema, but that’s now gone. Surrounding the Suzunari are a bunch of small awesome old bars that extend back toward the station. A great place to drink nights.
Deep South this used to be a stretch of nothing, the long walk south from Shimokita to Sangenjaya, another funky neighborhood, if you head in the opposite direction from the Suzunari. If you’re exhausted, there is a bus (210 yen) that runs along Chazawa Dori, but…the walk is getting a lot more interesting. There’s some great new coffee shops, bakeries, junk shops (recycle shops in Japanese) and clubs that have been building up of late.