Tokyo - Shimo-kitazawa

Shimo-kitazawa is a cosy little neighborhood in Tokyo. It’s considered a hip neighborhood to live in for young people. It’s relative proximity to Shibuya and Shinjuku makes it a popular place to live. If you want to shop for second hand clothes, drink an exotic organic coffee or attend a live music performance, this is the place to be. It’s a tiny version of New York’s Williamburg neighborhood.

For a good walk around the neighborhood, take the south exit at the station, take a right and walk the streets lined with shops.

Shirube

Shirube is a nice restaurant close to Shimo-kitazawa south exit. Well, actually, anything in Shimo-kitazawa is close since it’s so small.

The restaurant is an izakaya-style joint, with a large counter where you can see the cooks doing their thing.

The dishes are between ¥700 and ¥1100 but you will also get charged for the miso soup and salads they bring, so don’t be surprised if you end up with a ¥5000 bill for two persons.

Nonetheless, the restaurant is definitely worth going to.

Yanaka Coffee

Yanaka Coffee is a small coffee place in Shimo-Kitazawa where you can buy and sample organic coffee from all over the world. This is actually one of more than twenty Yanaka locations in Tokyo.

What makes this store unique is a “pay it forward” system for the coffee. Each coffee you buy at Yanaka earns you a stamp. When you have 12 stamps you can give away a coffee to the next person by leaving a small card on the Onokuri board. You leave a message, for example, this coffee is intended for a cat lover (from a cat lover).

Bar: Trouble Peach

This dark smokey bar comes with a unique atmosphere. While the crackling record player emits old tunes - favorites include The Beatles, Bob Dylan and Velvet Underground — tired looking Japanese rockers play a domino game. Stacks of old records almost pop out of the wall and every few minutes, the music stops - the record has to be turned. The bar comes with a good drink selection but be prepared for a ¥400 cover charge. Trouble peach stays only closes at 7AM.

Red Mango Frozen Yoghurt

Not really a Japanese thing but this place has some delicious frozen yoghurt. Choose from a variety of toppings and enjoy, but be warned that the seating floor is full of noisy teenage girls.

Tenka Sushi (天下寿司)

Tenka sushi is a chain of conveyor belt style sushi restaurants. These places are really cheap. I often walk out with a full stomach having spent only 100 yen.

My advice is to ask for an English menu (Eego no menu arimaska?) and then ask the chef what you want directly, for example “Sake kudasai!” will get you 2 pieces of salmon onigiri.