Shimokitazawa: The Shelter and Other Places to See

While technology these days have made it possible for people to access different kinds of music as long as they have a smartphone and internet, nothing still beats being able to listen to live music and to watch live performances. All over the world, there are numerous concert halls and small or large music spots that people can visit in order to listen and experience the rawness that live music has to offer. One of the places in Japan that are composed of several music spots is none other than the district of Shimokitazawa in Tokyo.

An Overview of Shimokitazawa in Setagaya, Tokyo

By Stephen Kelly from San Francisco, CA, USA (Dense Street in Shimokitazawa) [CC BY 2.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

Known as not just a commercial district but also an entertainment district, Shimokitazawa is located in Setagaya in Tokyo. Its name is considerably long so some people prefer to call the district just “Shimokita.” Aside from live music spots, the district is also famous as a venue for shopping, as several small independent fashion stores can be found here. Furthermore, the place is also crawling with cafes, bars, and theaters.

The area gives off a retro atmosphere. This may be due to its long history. Initially, Shimokitazawa was composed of a farming community. However, the area underwent a major transformation and became a residential district following the Great Kanto Earthquake of the year 1921. This was the result of the migration of several residents from Tokyo to the countryside in fear of being victims of a future calamity.

During the Second World War, the area was able to survive against air raids. It, later on, became an American second-hand market for soldiers. This was during the occupation period. Up to this day, remnants of this market still survive. The area underwent another major transformation in the 1970s. With the introduction to the hippy youth, Shimokitazawa incorporated a bohemian theme, which is still present today.

Shimokitazawa is composed of the streets that surround the Shimokitazawa Station. It is also the same station that serves as the intersection between the Keio Inokashira and the Odakyu Railway lines. Shimokitazawa consists of two official areas, namely, Daizawa and Kitazawa. Because of its composition of several small stores, Shimokitazawa is sometimes likened to the backstreets of Koenji and Ura-Harajuku. Due to the limited access to vehicles in the area, the neighborhood and its mini fashion retailers thrive.

Aside from being a hotbed for shopping, the area is also known as a place for stage theatre and live music. Shimokitazawa houses the ancient Honda Gekijo theater. In fact, the area hosts several theater festivals every year. The area is also brimming with cafes that visitors can relax in after a day of walking and shopping. To this day, the district is highly popular among the Japanese youth.

A plan for the redevelopment of a huge chunk of the city was released in the year 2004 by the Setagaya City Council. This redevelopment consisted of building a number of high-rise structures and constructing an extension of Route 54 across Setagaya. With the streets being narrow and highly intersected, this charm that Shimokitazawa offers may be compromised. Hence, some people were actually against the redevelopment plan.

The Odakyu Line rail tracks underground were also relocated in March of the year 2013. Redevelopment of the Shimokitazawa Station also went underway with the result improving the rush hour crunch in Odakyu. The traffic decreased by 150% of train load as of this year.

Enjoy Live Music Played at the Shelter in Shimokitazawa

By Rick Hall from Hollywood, CA (Tokyo CrampsUploaded by shoulder-synth) [CC BY 2.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

Known as a hip place by the Japanese youth, Shimokitazawa also houses several music spots that young people would definitely enjoy staying in. Music scenes all over the neighborhood are vibrant and alive, with a number of gigs happening on a regular basis. Several upcoming artists and musicians actually opt to play in Shimokitazawa as part of their coming out to the public. Shimokitazawa is definitely considered as among the definitive hubs for music in all of Tokyo.

One of the most well-known music spots in Shimokitazawa despite its small size is none other than the Shelter. The music venue serves as a part of the Loft group. The place is so popular that it is almost always booked with not just new artists but also with established local bands in the metro. Even bands from overseas also sometimes play in the Shelter. Despite its old age, having been around for more than 10 years now, the place is still highly popular.

The Shelter is part of what is known as the Loft Project. It is a collection of live music spots. Other music venues included in the group are Shinjuku Loft, the Shinjuku Loft Plus One, and the Naked Loft. The Shelter is the smallest venue out of all the music spots just mentioned. Nonetheless, the place is always packed, so it is best to arrive early for an event.

While the venue showcases different genres of music, it tends to lean towards the rock genre. The Shelter just celebrated its 25th anniversary in October of the year 2016. There is at least one performance in the Shelter in a day. Most performances in the venue are of the hard rock genre.

The audience capacity of the Shelter is 250 people. It closes around 5 in the morning. Tickets bought on the day itself cost around 3,000 yen while drinks begin at 500 yen. The address of the Shelter is B1, Senda Building, 2-6-10 Kitazawa, Setagaya-ku, Tokyo. Its telephone number is 03 3466 7430.

The Shelter can be accessed via public transportation. Upon arriving at Shimokitazawa Station, take the South exit. Following the train tracks, turn left. At the end of the street where there is a T-intersection, turn right. Walk straight and pass by the following small intersection. Walk along the narrow lane and search for the entrance down to the Shelter on the right side just before the lane ends on a large street.

Other Music Spots in Shimokitazawa

By Junya Ogura from Tokyo, Japan (Live Rehearsal) [CC BY-SA 2.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

Aside from the Shelter, there are several other live houses in the Shimokitazawa that are worth checking out. One of the top live music venues in the area is Shimokitazawa Garage. Located just north of the station, Shimokitazawa Garage has been hosting live performances since the year 1994.

It welcomes foreigners by offering a 50% discount on entry when they present their foreign passport. The venue has a capacity of 200. Aside from live performances, Garage also houses its own store that sells CDs of the bands that perform in the live house. Shimokitazawa Garage is located at B1, 3-31-15 Kitazawa, Setagaya-ku, Tokyo.

Another live house worth checking out in the area is called 440. It is best known for acoustic pop performances as well as folksy acts. The space is kind of small with a capacity of only around 80 people. Nonetheless, people who like to chill may find this venue pleasant. 440 also serves as a café during the daytime. It is located at SY Building, 5-29-15 Daizawa, Setagaya-ku, Tokyo. Its telephone number is 03 3422 9440.

For people interested in reggae and ska, the place to be is Drum Song. It serves as a bar from Tuesday to Friday. On the other hand, live performances can be expected during weekends. Its doors close at 5 in the morning. Drum Song is also closed on Monday.

However, should Monday be a public holiday, Drum Song would be open. The first drink costs 1,000 yen and the following drinks after would cost 500 yen each. Entry is free. The venue is located at 3F, Daiichi Shuwa Building, 2-19-13 Kitazawa, Setagaya-ku, Tokyo. Its telephone number is 03 3487 0716.

A newcomer in town is Liveholic. This live house opened in the year 2015. The theme of this live house is loud rock. Located on the 5th floor, Liveholic sits above Music Bar Rockholic Shimokitazawa. Visitors can free transfer between the two venues throughout the night. Liveholic has a capacity of around 180 people. It is located at 5F, Rui Building, 2-6-5 Kitazawa, Setagaya-ku, Tokyo. Its telephone number is 03 5738 7169.

A music spot in Shimokitazawa that has been present in the music scene for quite a while now is Club Que. Its line-up consists of a wide range of performances that would suit any musical taste. Many DJ parties are held in this music spot with some events happening on a regular basis. The club requires visitors to present their IDs before entering the place. Foreigners may present their passport as their ID. Club Que is located at B2F, Big Ben Building, 2-5-2 Kitazawa, Setagaya-ku, Tokyo 155-0031. Its telephone number is 03 3412 9979.

For people who are more into the genres of pop and acoustic, the best music spot to check out is Mosaic. Located at 1F&B1F, Moai Chazawa Building, 2-2-14 Kitazawa, Setagaya-ku, Tokyo 155-0031, Mosaic represents the mellow side of the music scene in Shimokitazawa. The establishment is comprised of two floors with the second floor serving as a bar and café. The ground floor consists of a performance space that has a capacity of around 200 people. The venue’s telephone number is 03 5787 4559.

Truly, Shimokitazawa is the place to be if one would like to check out several unique live houses. There are live houses that are great for people who would like to drink and party while enjoying loud music. However, there are also other live houses that are great for people who wish to chill out and relax while listening to mellow music.

Other Places to Check Out in Shimokitazawa

By Aw1805 [CC BY-SA 4.0 (], from Wikimedia Commons

When going to Shimokitazawa, there are other places that one can also visit prior to heading on over to The Shelter and other live houses in the area. The best way to explore the beautiful district of Shimokitazawa is by foot. There are several small lanes in the area that are worth exploring if one has the time of day. Because the streets are quite narrow, they are limited to only pedestrians. Hence, people can take their time while strolling and shopping.

In the morning, Shimokitazawa depicts a relaxed district perfect for people who wish to unwind. Most stores and cafes in the area only begin to open shop at 11 AM, if not later. Furthermore, it is common for most of these establishments to be closed on Tuesdays. From the station, visitors can take the north exit and shop in several second-hand clothing stores.

If one is into the theater arts, definitely check out the Honda Gekijo Theater. It is located near the south exit of the station. Performances in this theater are typically produced by famous and established writers and directors. The plays are quite popular so tickets usually sell out fast.

Just 5 minutes from there lies another theater called the Tollywood Short Film Theater. This theater offers several short films that one might enjoy watching. These films are usually those produced by young Japanese, as well as international, animation directors. If one has some time to spare, definitely check it out.

Shimokitazawa can definitely be considered a paradise for laid back people who just wish to explore on a beautiful afternoon. They can opt to chill out in a café while enjoying coffee or stroll along the streets and shop to their hearts’ content. Several thrift stores line the streets of Shimokitazawa, which some shopper may find enticing. It is such a quaint neighborhood when visited in the morning or in the afternoon.

People wishing to go to a party may also find Shimokitazawa the place to be. Visit the area at night and hop from one live house to another. The number one live house to check out is, of course, The Shelter. This live house would definitely be the one that would make visitors want to come back again and again whenever they want to have a good time. Enjoy the live performances, good music, and great company in The Shelter in Shimokitazawa.