Guide to SHIMOKITAZAWA – 12 things to do in hipster Tokyo!

Thrifting, unique eats, and more in Tokyo's Shimokitazawa!

Shimokitazawa, also known as Shimokita is reputed to be Tokyo’s most hipster neighborhood! Here, you can browse through numerous thrift stores, vintage department stores, used music shops, and more. In Shimokitazawa, you can also find unique eats like Japan’s spiciest curry, adorable Totoro cream puffs, and funky latte art. We visited in late 2022 and wrote this guide to share some of Shimokitazawa’s most loved local spots with you. If you’re interested, we also made an entire video guide to Shimokitazawa!

Getting there

Shimokita is located just east of Shibuya in Tokyo. The best station you can explore Shimokitazawa from is the Shimo-Kitazawa station, served by the Odakyu Odawara Line and the Keio Inokashira Line. This neighborhood, rarely frequented by tourists, is only a few minutes from Shibuya and Shinjuku. You will almost certainly be visiting those two areas if you’re already in Tokyo! 

Try some of Shimokitazawa’s unique eats!

Shimokitazawa is known for its funky and inspired foods! We spent hours researching to find the quirkiest, best-rated, and most popular eats in this neighborhood. And we visited these places ourselves to give you our honest experience with them! From adorable baked goods to unique themes and eats to talented baristas – here’s what we recommend to you! 

1. Visit the Studio Ghibli-inspired Shiro-Hige's Cream Puff Factory

If you’re headed to Shimokitazawa, be sure to make Shiro-Hige’s Cream Puff Factory your first stop! That is… if you want to get your hands on its famed Totoro cream puffs! You will love this little cafe featuring adorable snacks, coffee, and a charming terrace opens at 10:30 AM. They only prepare a limited number of these adorable snacks, so make sure you visit early. Once they are out, they are out! 

Get there early!

When we arrived about 20 minutes early, there was already a line out the door! We also missed out on their terrace seating. However, we still managed to grab one of their outdoor seats. 

 

The wait was worth it! Their entire cafe is adorable and filled with Ghibli decor. The staff was so patient, despite the large crowd already forming out of the door. And the cream puffs? You MUST try them if you are a Studio Ghibli fan! We thought they were so cute and tasty!

2. Try “Japan’s Spiciest Curry” at Magic Spice

Make sure you save some room after breakfast! Magic Spice is another eatery you must arrive early to. Especially if you want to try what is reputed to be the spiciest curry in Japan! This funky restaurant only makes 5 servings of this dish per day. You should rush to make their 11:30 AM opening time!

We made our way to Magic Spice immediately after finishing our Totoro cream puffs. Just like Shiro-Hige’s, there was already a line out the door! Despite this, we managed to get the last table at the restaurant! We thought the decor was so fun and funky. However, as foreigners, we thought the ordering process was a bit confusing. You order a base and add on sides. We also managed to get one of the coveted servings of super-spicy curry!

3. Get some amazing latte art at Balon D'Essai Latte & Art

Love coffee and art? Balon D’Essai Latte & Art is for you! This cafe is TINY but has some seriously talented baristas that specialize in latte art! The atmosphere is also great, the walls are adorned with dozens of paintings from local artists and even the menus are covered in adorable doodles! During our visit, we got a relatively expensive, but fantastic latte! My cup featured an adorable cat. Seriously – coffee has no business being that cute!

Do some thrifting!

Shimokitazawa is perhaps best known for its second-hand shops, locally known as recycle stores. While visiting you would think the entire neighborhood is dedicated to them! These shops go far beyond your standard thrift store too! Here you can find converted historic buildings selling used goods, stores specialized in certain regions or eras, there’s even an entire thrifting department store!

 

We aren’t much into shopping. However, we did a TON of research to find the most funky, unique, quirky, and affordable thrift stores in the neighborhood! We’re going to share what we found with you!

4. Thrift at the NYJE (New York Joe Exchange)

This is the first shop of a small chain in Japan also known as NYJE. Here you can visit a massive thrift store. Their shelves are stocked with tons of funky clothing and unique accessories. You could spend hours browsing around this one. Here you can also sell your own used goods in exchange for cash or store credit, which is allegedly still uncommon in Japan. So what is so cool about this shop? It was built directly into an old bathhouse! You can see all of the original tiling and features. We thought this was neat!

5. Browse Flamingo (Shimokitazawa location)

This is a part of another small second-hand store chain in Japan. Flamingo is also filled with funky goods that you can browse. So what is so special about this one? Flamingo is unique because it specializes in American clothing from the 1940s to the 1980s. We thought this was a more expensive option in Shimokitazawa. However, if you are interested in old American clothing, this shop is sure to have a gem!

6. Thrift Affordably at "Flat Rate" Stores! (Stick Out)

Are you interested in a recycle store that has more practical clothing? We recommend that you stop by “Stick Out”! You can visit any of the three locations in Shimokitazawa to browse! “Stick out” is a “flat rate” store, meaning that you can buy any item they sell at a flat rate of  ¥800 per item! 

7. Explore an Entire Secondhand Department Store! (Toyo)

This was our favorite store in Shimokitazawa! If you are a fan of thrifting, we think the Toyo Department store is a must-visit. Are you wondering why yet? It is an entire department store dedicated to thrifting! There are over 20 vendors all selling used and vintage goods. You will notice many shops had a little theme of their own too. At some, you could find old work jackets. At another, you could find only dresses with fun prints. One shop was dedicated just to men’s ties! We thought this shop was a ton of fun to browse.

8. Shop Antiques and More!

Shimokitazawa’s Haight and Ashbury shop closed about a month after we visited in 2022. But we still decided to share a little bit about it because it was a great example of the cool and unique things you could find in Shimokitazawa. Haight and Ashbury had plenty of vintage clothing, but something that made it special was its selection of clothing dating back to the 1800’s! These pieces were expensive but available to you! Maybe there is another similar store that you could find nowadays?

Explore Tokyo's Vintage Music Scene

Shimokitazawa is also widely known for its music scene. Unfortunately, we could not stay until the evening to catch some of their live shows. However, we did browse some of the most popular vintage music shops – which have huge selections of secondhand instruments, vinyl records, and more!

9. Browse old records at Flash Disc Ranch

Here you head up a decorated staircase to the second-floor shop and find a huge room filled to the brim with old records! Flash Disc Ranch, which opened in 1982, specializes in records ranging from the 1950s to the 2000s! You can also find some extremely low prices here 0 with some CDs and records selling as low as ¥100!

10. Find new music at Jet Set

Are you looking for something a little more modern? You should check out Jet Set! Instead of vintage music, this shop specializes in independent label records. You can find local musicians and imported music alike! This shop is great if you want to find someone new, or just break things up a bit!

11. Find a gem at a secondhand instrument shop!

We did not spend a lot of time on this, but there are a few options if you are interested in finding any secondhand instruments! We noticed many shops which carried used instruments at a discount. As well as others that specialized in vintage instruments! We think any musician would have an amazing time browsing through the various offerings at the shops!

Explore the neighborhood!

Shimokitazawa is undoubtedly filled with all sorts of funky eateries and secondhand stores, but there are also many tranquil areas to be found. While there are a few different parks and areas, we found ourselves at Hanegi Park!

12. Stroll through Hanegi Park

We took a quick stroll just outside of Shimokitazawa to find this small park. Hanegi Park has a small recreational area that you can visit. However, it is probably best known as a secret spot where you can peacefully view Japan’s cherry blossoms! You would have to visit Japan during their sakura season to get the best of Hanegi Park. Or in our case, in the Autumn season for beautiful fall foliage. Either way, it is a great place to relax after a full day in Shimokitazawa!

Want to learn more about Tokyo’s Shimokitazawa?

We visited Shimokitazawa in October 2022 and made an entire video guide to this funky neighborhood! In this video guide, we show you all of the best things to do in Shimokitazawa! Be sure to check it out! 

Thanks for reading! Do you want to visit Tokyo’s Shimokitazawa neighborhood? What would you do?

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