The bohemian district Shimokitazawa was formerly farmland before it became a residential area known for shops selling secondhand American items after World War II. Now, Shimokitazawa is an area that's populated by artists and musicians and has maintained its fame as an eclectic district full of retro vintage shops. Creative souls will feel at home here, enjoying the thrift shopping and entertainment, from small theaters to live music and comedy shows. When you are done sifting through old records, browsing endless shelves of books, or trying on second-hand clothing, it's time to find out where to eat in Shimokitazawa, so you can get some grub alongside the hipster natives of this artsy Tokyo district.
Under the train tracks near Shimokitazawa Station lurks Shimokita Cage, a popular event space. During the daytime, it's a nice place to take a breather in the shade or wait out a sudden spring downpour, but in the evening, Shimokita Cage truly comes alive with performances, pop-ups, and movie screenings. Sometimes, people even gather to sell their secondhand clothes and records here and it turns into something like a night market. Shimokita Cage has a hodgepodge of food stalls like Long Vá Quá, serving various treats in a communal-style dining experience. Some pop-up events include food, such as their past organic wine event. Check out the Shimokita Cage website for a list of upcoming events, but note that the fleeting pop-up venue is closing in September 2019.
For those who love more traditional Japanese fare, sink your teeth into some okonomiyaki, the specialty at Daikonman (a restaurant that, surprisingly, does not actually serve daikon dishes). Choose either the Hiroshima-style okonomiyaki (which consists of layers of thin pancake, cabbage, noodles, egg, and meat) or the slab of Osaka-style okonomiyaki (in which batter, eggs, meat, and other ingredients are mixed and cooked all-in-one). They also serve takoyaki and yakisoba. It's quite an intimate setting, with only a few tables available, and Daikonman's quirky personality (marked by the Italian decorations left over from the previous tenant) is on full display.
On the other hand, if you want to taste a unique style of soba (Japanese buckwheat noodles), head to Dashin Soan, which serves sudachi soba. Sudachi is a lime-like Japanese citrus fruit that adds a refreshing kick to dishes. These chilled noodles are sure to cool you down on a summer day. Plus, at Dashin Soan the noodles are entirely homemade, from the milling the buckwheat to making the dough and cutting noodles by hand. With a nice view of the garden, you'll be enveloped in the soothing, zen-like atmosphere while you slurp your handmade sudachi soba.
To taste the flavors of Okinawa in Shimokitazawa, Champ Rouse is your best bet. The chef hails from Okinawa and cooks up Okinawan staple dishes including goya champuru (bitter melon, egg, and tofu stir fry), mozoku tempura (battered and deep-fried Okinawan seaweed), and hirayachi (Okinawan savory pancake). You can also enjoy classic Okinawan drinks like Orion Beer and awamori (a distilled alcoholic beverage made from indica rice) as you drink in the relaxed, retro vibes of Champ Rouse.
Ramen for ¥650? You can find it at Torisoba Soruto, with their signature chicken shio ramen. The broth is quite light, almost clear, but deceptively flavorful. It packs a nice umami punch which customers rave about as one of the best bowls of salt ramen in Tokyo. Feeling extra hungry? Order up a plate of gyoza to go along with your ramen.
Fans of the finer things in life, like seafood and wine, will feel right at home at Oyster Bar Jackpot. It's a casual, unpretentious bar offering the freshest oysters from various regions of Japan, each with their own distinct flavor. While the taste and texture of fresh, raw oysters varies from rich and creamy to light and refreshing, you can also pair them with citrusy sauces or enjoy them baked on pizza, tossed in spaghetti, and even fried! You can also try some recommended oyster and wine pairings.
Fans of Hayao Miyazaki's My Neighbor Totoro must come to Shiro-Hige's Cream Puff Factory, which is run by Miyazaki's sister-in-law. They make adorable Totoro-shaped cream puffs in various classic and seasonal flavors. They are nearly too cute to eat and will be sure to brighten up your Instagram feed. The store also features original sketches drawn by Miyazaki himself. For more about Shiro-Hige's Cream Puff Factory, check out our article, 6 Must-Try Bakeries in Tokyo.
So you have some ideas about where to eat in Shimokitazawa, but where should you grab a drink after the sun goes down? Fortunately, if you end up in Shimokitazawa in the evening, you'll find there are lots of things to do after all the thrift shops and coffee shops close. Enjoy some drinks and tunes at Little Soul Cafe, home to 15,000 records and different liquors from around the world; or check out Music Bar Rockaholic Shimokitazawa, a bar that plays, what else, rock music! Meanwhile, fans of craft beer can't miss Beer Bar Ushitora, which has 35 beers on tap and a variety of bar foods like chicken karaage and pickles. Shimokitazawa also has a range of comedy clubs and little theaters where you can catch some shorts and cap off the night with a laugh.
Shimokitazawa has long evolved from farmland to a hippie land—a melting pot of what’s cool, retro, and artsy. Its array of restaurants, bars, cafes, and shops are appealing to all ages, so it's no wonder Shimokitazawa is ranked as one of the top places to live by Japan’s youth. Now that you know where to eat in Shimokitazawa, go discover this eclectic Tokyo district for yourself!
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