Shimokitazawa (下北沢) is a unique neighborhood and a great place if you’re looking for Retro, Vintage, Zakka, record shops or if you want to visit theaters and live houses. Shimokitazawa is a small town close to Shibuya and Shinjuku and is filled with unique, charming shops selling new and second hand stuff. The atmosphere is very laid-back and so are the people. One of the most recommended spots in Shimokitazawa is the Toyo Hyakkaten Garage Department Store (東洋百貨店). You’ll find a collection of arty market stalls located in an old industrial space. Unique, hand made accessories, clothing, art, you can find it all and for decent prices too!
There are many trendy cafes and bars where you can find all kinds of foods, luxurious cakes, delicious coffee (with latte art) and Tea (Especially Lupicia Tea is highly recommended!) Balloon D’essai is one of the most popular Latte Art cafes in Shimokitazawa. They’re Latte Art is absolutely gorgeous and you can even make requests! They also have Latte Art workshops. The beginners course is available without a reservation. If you prefer a cup of tea you can visit Lupicia, which is a modern tea shop selling various blends of green, white and black tea and other interesting floral and spicy flavors. It is a bit pricey but definitely worth your money! Lupicia has several stores and a few cafes around Japan.
Besides shopping, game centers, restaurants and art houses, there are some famous events to enjoy in Shimokitazawa. At the end of January / beginning of February there is the traditional Tengu Matsuri festival, a parade of people dressed up as Tengu. Every February you can enjoy the Theater Festival (month-long event), where various plays are performed at the theaters. Every July there is the Shimokitazawa Music Festival, where you can enjoy live music in the alleys scattered around town. Early September you can enjoy the Mikoshi Matsuri, in which local people will carry a heavy portable shrine along the roads of Shimokitazawa.
Shimokitazawa is just a few minutes by train from Shinjuku (Odakyu Odawara Line) and Shibuya (Keio Inokashira Line) station.
Official Lupicia website (in Japanese): http://www.lupicia.com/shop/default.aspx
Official Balloon D’essai website (in Japanese): http://www.ballondessai.com/
Official Toyo Garage website (in Japanese): http://www.k-toyo.jp/frame.html