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Travel consultant Anna now resides in Boulder, Colorado, but when she’s back in Japan she wastes no time heading to Shimokitazawa, a quirky corner of Tokyo.
Shimokitazawa is one of my favorite local neighborhoods in Tokyo, full of personality, community, and an amazing music scene. It’s also a great place to have an afternoon on the cheap.
Here are my top five places to have fun without breaking the bank.
First off, starting from the South Exit of Shimokitazawa Station, head south on the main drag. My first recommendation is a few minutes down the road on the left.
Japan, 〒155-0031 Tōkyō-to, Setagaya-ku, 世田谷区Kitazawa, 2 Chome−１４−３ 下北沢ＫＤビル
A wonderful place to sample okonomiyaki in Tokyo, with a reasonably priced menu (available in English) that includes both Hiroshima and Osaka style savoury pancakes. Daikonmon also has half-price drinks and free supersized portions at lunchtime.
The decor is a peculiar but charming mix of Greek vase tiling and Japanese dive bar while remaining impeccably clean. Anime fans may notice that its walls are lined with multiple copies of the same piece of art from the anime Evangelion; it depicts the three heroines and their penguin sidekick throwing back some beers in the very seats you’re sitting in.
If you continue on, you’ll find some excellent vintage shops, with Chicago being one of the standouts.
Japan, 〒155-0032 Tōkyō-to, Setagaya-ku, 世田谷区Daizawa, 5 Chome−５−３２−５
Consisting of mostly American clothing, including a 580yen t-shirt rack, Chicago is one of the most noticeable vintage shops in the area, with its retro neon sign. It also offers things like yukata (summer kimono) for reasonable prices. Divided by section, you can shop specifically for old sports goods, knock-off Simpsons merch, denim jackets, or 1980s Disney t-shirts, along with seemingly endless other options. Look around the entire ShimoKita area for more bargain used shops, some with flat pricing for all items!
Next up, we recommend backtracking slightly, and heading right when you hit the fork in the road – the left side heads back toward the station. In a little while you’ll happen upon a great game center on the east side of the road.
Japan, 〒155-0031 Tōkyō-to, Setagaya-ku, Kitazawa, 2 Chome−３−６
One of many arcades in the neighbourhood, look out for cheap purikura (photo booths) with its cheapest machines on the third floor and a first floor currently dedicated to rhythm games; including older games like Dance Dance Revolution (which is hard to find these days), perennial favorites like Taiko Drumming, and newer games like the arcade and mobile crossover, Jubeat. (Bonus: there are a ton of UFO catchers to be found in adjacent arcades, but do note these are not always a bargain!)
Just a little further on is another used clothing treasure chest.
Japan, 〒155-0031 Tōkyō-to, Setagaya-ku, Kitazawa, 2 Chome−４−６
Specializing in re-selling brand clothing, it doesn’t have as low prices as some used shops, but has a great selection of high-quality items for both men and women. This includes an entire Lolita section on the top floor, which is a great opportunity for anyone out there who is interested in trying Lolita fashion and making a purchase or two without going overboard. It’s generally a quiet shop soyou can take your time browsing and trying on the gorgeous dresses.
Finally, continuing on the same road you’ll notice some great places to have some refreshments.
Japan, 〒155-0031 Tōkyō-to, Setagaya-ku, Kitazawa, 2 Chome−１１ 北沢2丁目11-17 エスバイエルマンション下北沢
If you’ve tired yourself out with all the shopping it might be time for a pick me up. Good cheap coffee can sometimes seem hard to find in Japan with the prevalence of chain coffee shops, but if you know where to look you can often get a great cup. There are many excellent coffee shops in the area, but Bookends has a reasonable price tag for take away coffees and adjacent outdoor seating to boot.
Japan 〒155-0031 Tōkyō-to, Setagaya-ku, Kitazawa, 3 Chome−２０−1
ShimoKita Cage is a new addition amidst the seemingly endless station improvement going on in the area. It offers a surprisingly relaxing place to take a break in the middle of the urban neighborhood. (Bonus: If you’re ready to trade your cold brew for something more evening appropriate, there is a 180yen beer place if you continue down all the way down the road past the next train crossing!)
Honourable Mentions with high cool if not low cost:
Flash Used Records, Japan, 〒1550031 東京都世田谷区Kitazawa, 2 Chome−１２ 北沢2-12-16
Kinema Club, Japan, 〒155-0031 Tōkyō-to, Setagaya-ku, Kitazawa, 2 Chome−９−２１
Neither of these are particularly cheap, but both have style in spades. Flash is located across from Grand Bazaar and has an impressive selection of both Japanese and foreign used vinyl, and Kinema Club is a cocktail bar down the road past Bookends Coffee with decor to die for. You’ll need to look up to find the bar, but it’s hard to miss. If you reach the 180yen beer place, you’ve gone too far. (Or perhaps just far enough?)