Style is something that is relative and can vary from person to person. There are many kinds of style and it evolves through years. It can also vary from country to country and religion to religion. It is also rather personal and depends on the personality of a person. It does not have any limits as a style can grow and progress depending on the person’s creativity as well as mood. Styles can range from conservative and simple to fashionable and gothic. There are a plethora of styles all over the world and a person can have more than one style that he or she likes.
On the other hand, there are certain places in the world that embody a certain type of style. In Europe, Paris is among the top cities to visit for those people who are into fashion as the range of style in Paris is wide. The Parisian style itself is popular not just in its own city but also in other countries as well. Many may not be aware of this but another place that would be great to visit for those into a specific type of fashion and style is Japan. Aside from the more well-known otaku culture of anime and manga, Japan is also home to various styles that one can think of. It is in this country where the Harajuku culture and style originated, wherein people can freely express their own style that is usually vibrant and quirky. For the millennials who are into the hipster style, one of the many places in the Land of the Rising Sun that may be of interest is Shimokitazawa.
A Guide on Shimokitazawa in Tokyo: History, Maps, and Stations
Located in Setagaya, Tokyo, Shimokitazawa is a district that specializes in commerce and entertainment. Better known as Shimokita among the locals, Shimokitazawa is brimming with small and independent shops that are dedicated to fashion. Cafes, bars, and theatres also line the district, along with various live music venues. The neighborhood itself can be likened to the backstreets of Ura-Harajuku and Koenji. Due to its limited space for stores and restricted access for cars and other vehicles, Shimokita is not highly popular among international fashion brands. In contrast, this concept gives more opportunities for small stores and independent retailers to survive and even flourish.
To give a brief background of the district, it was originally just a farming community. However, many Tokyo residents moved to this district after the Great Kanto Earthquake that occurred in the year 1921 for fear of a future urban destruction. Hence, they transformed the farming community into a residential district. However, the Second World War came. Still, the district was relentless and miraculously survived the allied fire bombings. After the war, it was changed into a U.S. market that sold second-hand items to soldiers. Until today, some of these still exist within Shimokita. It was in the 1970s that the hippy style of the youth was introduced to the district, and that is where the present reputation of Shimokitazawa began.
Currently considered as the center of live music venues and stage theatres, Shimokitazawa also houses the significant Honda Gekijo Theater. Theatre festivals are also being held in Shimokita throughout the year. Held in the month of February every year, the Shimokitazawa Theater Festival is held all month long. Accompanied by several plays performed in eight different small theatres, many people flock to Shimokita to celebrate the festival. Another festival to watch out for is the Shimokitazawa Music Festival that is held in every month of July. At this time, live music can be enjoyed not just within live houses but also in each alley of Shimokita.
Celebrated either at the end of the month of January or at the beginning of the month of February, one of the most recommended festivals to look out for in Shimokitazawa is the Tengu-matsuri Festival. Among its main features is the parade of people that dress up as the specter of the legendary Tengu, with its long nose and vibrant red face. This festival truly gives off that casual and friendly charm of the district. Another festival that is highly recommended is the Mikoshi-matsuri Festival.a portable shrine festival, the Mikoshi-matsuri Festival is a lively celebration that is held in early September of every year in Shimokitazawa.
Situated on the western side of Tokyo, Shimokitazawa is heavily popular among the young folks. The district is considered to be among the top choices of people that are young of age when it comes to a place of residence. A lot of the shops in Shimokita also have young owners that sell genuine, hand-made items. Most cafes in the area also serve great coffee partnered with food tidbits. Some coffee shops are also combined with a record shop or a small store that sells small things, which just shows the ingenuity of the owners.
With the atmosphere of peace and relaxation, Shimokita is a great place to take a stroll in because of the limited vehicular access and the narrow streets. Walking in the afternoon while shopping then relaxing later on in the cafes in the area is the typical day to be spent in Shimokitazawa. There are more than a hundred shops in Shimokitazawa that sell apparels with almost half of them selling second-hand or used items. They consider these products “vintage.”
Accessibility is not a problem for Shimokitazawa. Depending on where one would be coming from, Shimokita can be easily accessed by train. It would only take a passenger an express train ride on the Odakyu line to travel from Shinjuku to Shimokitazawa. Travel time for this would only be about seven minutes. On the other hand, it would only take an express train on the Keio Inokashira line to travel from Shibuya to Shimokitazawa. Travel time for this would only be about three minutes. Local trains can also be taken to travel to Shimokitazawa though it might take a bit longer in terms of travel time.
To get into detail about Shimo-kitazawa Station, it is an interchange station. Both on the Odakyu Odawara line from Shinjuku in Tokyo and the Keio Inokashira line, which is 12.7 kilometers long, from Shibuya in Tokyo. The Shimo-kitazawa Station is presently operated by two private railway operators, namely, the Odakyu Electric Railway and the Keio Corporation. Situated between Ikenoue and Shindaita, the Shimo-kitazawa Station is 3 kilometers away from the Shibuya terminal on the Inokashira line.
Restaurants to Try Out in Shimokitazawa
Shimokita is not only lined with several small shops but also restaurants that are definitely worth trying. After shopping for a whole day or a whole afternoon, most people would be famished and tired from all the walking. If one would like to relax and have a few drinks when in Shimokitazawa, then look no further than Shirube. Considered as the most popular izakaya in Shimokita, there is usually a long line of customers waiting to be seated. Its main features include the flowing Japanese draft beer and the lively atmosphere. This is the place to be at in order to experience the nightlife at Shimokita.
On the other hand, if one would like a meal, particularly curry dishes, then head on to Nasu Oyaji. Famous for their Japanese-style curry dishes, Nasu Oyaji is well-known not just among the locals but also among the people residing outside Shimokita. The best seat in the restaurant is at the bar wherein one can watch the chef prepare every dish that is ordered while still moving with grace. Food options can range from chicken and beef to fish and vegetable. However, if one is feeling adventurous, then try the special, which consists all of the aforementioned options.
If one is looking for something sweet, try looking for this tiny shop on the side of the street known as Ikkyu Donut. Known for their “soy cream” and cake donuts, Ikkyu Donut is highly popular due to their technique in making donuts. Aside from using dairy in their products, they also add soymilk into the mix, which results to a flaky and crispy donut on the outside while still maintaining the lightness and airiness on the inside. A bite or two of this donut would surely send one to donut heaven.
Steering away from the typical Japanese food is the Robson Fries. A mid-day snack of fries prepared in Canadian p0utine-style, Robson fries contain zero trans fat, as stated in one of the three sentences posted in the store. The first sentence is about making their customers wait because they only fry after ordering, which maintains the freshness of the food, and the other sentence is about the oil they use, which is 100% domestically grown rice oil. Indeed, the care and the effort they put in the ingredients of their food is well thought of.
As for those people wanting to get that Yakiniku experience in Shimokita, try going to Yawaza. For the unaware, Yakiniku is the Japanese style of cooking meat, typically beef, over a grill. They provide not only good quality meat but also a casual atmosphere for people who want to relax after a long day. Apparently, it is also quite popular for couples going on dates. An important thing to take note of though is that servers in Yawaza are not proficient in English so it may be a challenge ordering for foreign tourists.
Spend the Night in Hotels Near Shimokitazawa
While it is not customary to spend the night in hotels near Shimokita after shopping the whole day, one may also be heading on to a new destination that is just near the area anyway. There are little to no hotels on the district itself although there are numerous in neighboring areas. One option would be the Hotel Gracery Shinjuku. Located at 1-19-1 Kabukicho, Shinjuku-ku, Tokyo, Tokyo-to, 160-0021, it is a 4-star hotel that provides amenities such as free Wi-Fi, air conditioning, a computer station, front desk safe, and daily housekeeping. It has 970 guestrooms and 14 restaurants to offer to valued guests.
Another option would be Hyatt Regency Tokyo. Located at 2-7-2 Nishi-Shinjuku, Shinjuku-Ku, Tokyo, Tokyo-to, 160-0023, it is a luxury hotel that houses six great restaurants. The landmark to find this hotel is the Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building. Their amenities include free Wi-Fi, indoor pool, health club, and a full-service spa. Situated at Shinjuku, it is only a station away from Shimokita. With 746 guestrooms, 6 restaurants, and 2 bars or lounges, it is certainly a place to relax and rejuvenate.
For a more affordable option, try checking in at APA Hotel Shinjuku Kabukicho Tower. With their address at 1-20-2 Kabukicho, Shinjuku, Tokyo, 160-0021, it is a 3-star hotel that still offers great amenities such as free Wi-Fi, valet parking, front desk safe, air conditioning, and daily housekeeping. Their front desk is also open 24 hours a day so guests can call for requests and ask for guides should there be questions. Rooms in this hotel still provide enough space despite the more affordable price.
Renting Apartments for A Cheaper Stay in Shimokitazawa
Aside from hotels, unit rooms in apartments can also be rented at a much cheaper price. While it does not provide that luxurious feel that a hotel can offer, units in apartments give more of that homey feel to it. It is now easier to rent apartments through Airbnb. Apartments in Shimokitazawa usually provide that cozy and warm atmosphere, perfect for a person or two to stay in. Most of these apartments are furnished with a comfortable bed and with good air conditioning. Because the Japanese are strict with cleanliness, it is guaranteed that most apartments for rent are free from dirt and dust.
While Shimokitazawa is only a small district in comparison to other shopping areas in the Tokyo metropolis, it is still worth checking out because of its charm and authenticity. Not only would one be able to relax while strolling around the area but one would also be supporting the small businesses emerging in Shimokita. Great and affordable finds are assured while food choices are certainly a must-try.