Shimokitazawa (下北沢)— referred to in my Tokyo circle of friends simply as Shimo— is a neighborhood in Tokyo you won’t find in any edition of Lonely Planet, which makes it quite the gem. It is an organic, mood heavy place, replete with quaint restaurants, cafés and bars, [thrift, vintage and trendy apparel] boutiques, antique shops filled to the brim with vinyl and old books, and a perfectly tucked away [intentionally designed to look like a hole-in-the-wall] hookah bar (that just so happens to serve an amazing cup of tea). The neighborhood is beautifully marked with wall murals and well-thought-out grafitti; pair this with its art-loving, modish inhabitants and mellow, late 60s San Francisco vibe, and one can say the area itself is a complete work of art.
It’s almost unfathomable to think one would tire of visiting such an immensely fascinating place, with new things to discover at every turn. From tranquil to chaotic, brooding to boastful, the area can offer one an array of choices. There are certain charms about the place. A characteristic all its own that weeds out those who aren’t as free spirited as time spent in its care would permit. But that’s the allure: one gets a sense of authenticity that can’t be forced or duplicated. It’s a special place because of this, a place deservedly noted, yet at the same time, a place we all would like to keep secret, so as to preserve it’s greatness and authenticity. -VJ
To get to Shimokitazawa, take the Odakyu Line from Shinjuku.