Neighbourhood crawl: Shimokitazawa, Tokyo

Having heard and read extensively of and about the trendy and alternative allure of Shimokitzawa, we could hardly wait to begin the first of our neighbourhood crawls in Tokyo. Armed with our trusty Café Mag companion, laden with information on the area’s coolest cafes, we began our adventure headed towards Shibuya Station. From there, a mere 4 min train ride on the Inokashira express line brought us directly to the heart of Shimo-Kita, as it is fondly known by the locals. Wandering around without a plan is highly recommended as part of the fun is in getting lost and stumbling upon hidden gems tucked away in many of the side streets.

The South exit will lead you to the busier part of the area, where most of the action radiates from two main arteries.  Along the way, you will pass an eclectic mix of vintage stores, florists, izakayas, bakeries and quaint cafes. Do stop by local’s favourite Angelica’s bakery and Moldive Coffee, a cozy take-out only coffee shop which roasts its coffee on-site. Further on, you will pass cafes such as City Country City (part café part vintage vinyl record store), the very grunge looking Gopal (with the most impressive looking Blueberry Cheesecake) and Free Factory (you can’t miss their Andy Warhol installations!). Wander into any of these and you will be very very content. NB: Most cafes are on not on the ground floor so do look out for shop listings on the building walls.

Keep walking farther down, where both arteries converge and you will see a tiny white house on the left.

Coffea Exlibris – This specialty coffee place is tiny and only serves (you guessed it) coffee. Everything in here is so miniature and dainty that you can’t help but feel like you are part of a scene in Gulliver’s travels. If you want character though, this place is oozing with personality and charm, albeit in a Lilliputian sort of way.

Single origin beans are ground and served in a coffee press starting from ¥600. Several award winning grand cru beans are also available and can set you back a cool ¥1000 per press.

The shy barista / owner behind the tiny counter is so serious about his coffee that with every order, he grinds the individual portion of beans, times the steeping process to precision, and samples each pour before it is served. He speaks English too and was able provide us with information on the characteristics and notes of the different bean varietals.

When you are ready, cross over to the North side away from the madding crowd, where a myriad of wonderful bohemian stores and cafés await at every turn and corner.

Some of our favourites include Deli and Baking, Co , Sunday Brunch (serves very affordable set lunches for ¥1500 and has a retail lifestyle store), North Side Café (has a cute American Diner feel to it) and of course Waffle Café ORANG (mmm…’nuff said).

If you’re lucky enough to wander round to one of the side streets past Deli and Baking Co, you’ll see a furniture shop NOCE which has a wonderful collection of miniature vintage and modern designer-esque pieces. If you’re lovin’ what you see in the cafes around the area, you’ll probably find some of the furniture pieces here.

On the way back to the train station, stop by Kaldi Coffee Farm to stock up on international and local goodies (we picked up some De Cecco linguine, Sakura Soba and our new favourite sea urchin cream sauce). There is also a fab 2-storey supermarket near the train crossing which has a wide variety of seasonal fruit and produce as well as all your cooking essentials.

After a day’s fruitful adventure at Shimo-Kita, you will leave (somewhat reluctantly) with beautiful memories and ready to plan your next visit to this wonderful bohemian neighbourhood…we guarantee 🙂

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7 Comments

Filed under Japan, Travel

7 responses to “Neighbourhood crawl: Shimokitazawa, Tokyo

  1. Anonymous

    Sounds (and looks) like a charming neighbourhood indeed; away from other busy streets in Tokyo. Will keep this in mind the next time I find myself in Tokyo. Just curious abt the coffee (yes, the 1000 yen coffee), is there any distinct flavour?

  2. Siti

    Ooops… sorry, forgot to leave my name

    “Sounds (and looks) like a charming neighbourhood indeed; away from other busy streets in Tokyo. Will keep this in mind the next time I find myself in Tokyo. Just curious abt the coffee (yes, the 1000 yen coffee), is there any distinct flavour?”

    • Yes you should definitely check it out, think you will love it 🙂 The award winning grand cru had a low body/high acidity with a rich floral flavour. I also tried a Kenyan single origin which had blueberry and apricot notes. Still prefer my blueberries in my cereal though, am a bigger fan of dark roasts :p

  3. Mint

    “Wandering around without a plan is highly recommended as part of the fun is in getting lost ” – well said!
    the pictures totally look like you have stepped into another world. looking forward to more neighbourhood series!

    • Thanks Mint, I did feel as though I stepped into another world, one with loads of character and authenticity..I like! Maybe consider coming to Tokyo instead? 😉

      • Mint

        Definitely under consideration, just that accomodation are quite ex. I took a look at google map, the streets are so linear, won’t get lost easily.

  4. What are you referring to when you say this? “Armed with our trusty Café Mag companion”
    Thanks.

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