This is a book-lover’s utopia. Known as Tokyo’s district for used-books and publishing houses, this is also an academic district, with the Meiji University and Nihon University Hospital nearby. There’s also a good amount of antique shops around. While many of the book stores only carry Japanese literature, it’s still a welcoming sight for any reader.
This is also a great area to go to get some work done in Tokyo. It might come as a surprise, but WiFi is not always readily available in Tokyo. Thankfully there are a good many cafes with good WiFi connection.
Paper Back Cafe is a great spot. There are three sprawling floors so you don’t feel cramped in, and there are plenty of plugs to go around.
Like the Williamsburg of Tokyo, Shimokitzawa is a hipster’s paradise. Lively and trendy (in a slightly removed way of course), this district is filled with stylish independent shops, second-hand stores that oddly enough are filled predominately with Western inventory and nondescript bars and cafes.
Walking through the winding streets, there’s definitely a sense of exclusivity in the district. There are those who are only visiting and then there are the ‘regulars’, who’ll know which top floor store carries the best vintage items and which unremarkable hole in the wall serves the best grub.
Lastly, venturing further from the district metro station and centre can surprise you. I had dinner at a small ‘restaurant’ (probably the cook’s own living room) away from the main alleys. It was probably the best ramen I had in Japan – and he was able to make it vegetarian for me!
Luckily, I had a local friend show me around this district. Let’s just say never forget to look up, as many smaller and even quirkier shops occupy upper floors.
Also, don’t be afraid to venture through doors that don’t even look like a shop, chances are they are shops. And if they’re not, the Japanese are extremely patient and will just kindly ask you to leave their home.
During my time in Tokyo, Koenji was my home and I feel so fortunate to have found this charming neighbourhood! Similar to Shimokitzawa, Koenji is a laidback district, bustling with alternative youth culture. There’s second-hand shops scattered everywhere, as well as eccentric bars and restaurants. While it’s still considered a very residential area, Koenji has a fresh and emerging energy to it. Unlike Shimokitzawa, where it feels established there’s still an unknown to Koenji, where the district is still growing into whatever it’ll become.
There’s always a couple street performers around the metro station. Grab a beer from the convenience store and enjoy their talent with locals. It’s a guaranteed great time!
Odaiba (Tokyo Bay)
Odaiba is the largest artificial island in Tokyo Bay. It’s a super touristy area, with two gigantic malls. The malls aren’t particularly interesting, as they’re filled with North American brands, but this is a great place to step out of the city and enjoy the sparkling Rainbow Bridge (at night).
This is also a good spot to catch the sunset. Just know that it’s not a secret at all and can be bumping if the weather is nice.