Have you discovered Shimokitazawa in Tokyo? Shimokitazawa is a charming coffee filled Tokyo neighbourhood! I am excited that Carl Kay and staff at his experiential tour company Tokyo Way (www.tokyoway.jp) will be contributing an occasional column to Best Living Japan. This first post is about the charms (and especially the coffee) of Shimokitazawa.
Like its location just outside the Yamanote line circle, Shimokitazawa tends to fall just out of the view of international residents living in central Tokyo. Yet the neighborhood, which is just 7 minutes from Shinjuku or 2 minutes from Yoyogi Uehara on the Odakyu Line, combines casual charm with just enough high touch, and a high density of shops and restaurants with just enough residential greenery, to offer a great place to spend an afternoon or a day, or to visit often. Discover Shimokitazawa!
One of the best coffee shops in Tokyo, if not the world, is Bear Pond Espresso located at Kitazawa 2-36-12 (closed Tuesdays). At Bear Pond all the focus is on the coffee: little energy is wasted on the décor, and the service is best described as “serious.” But the coffee is extraordinary. Their famous espresso is only available until 1:30pm. Be sure also to try a Dirty, an exquisite drink of multiple layers of coffee and milk.
Coffee abounds in Shimokitazawa. Just a block from Bear Pond is Ballon D’essai located at Kitazawa 2-30-11. The shop’s tag line “Latte and Art” has a double meaning. The space doubles as a coffee shop and a small art gallery with frequently rotating shows by local artists, and every latte is capped by a unique work of beautiful foam art.
Even with all the great coffee shops in Shimokitazawa, one still wants to make good coffee at home sometimes. Frustratingly, many beans advertised as “strong” or “dark” in Japan are much weaker and lighter than the ones I became used to back in Boston in recent years. After much searching though, I can say that Book Ends Coffee Service Kitazawa 2-11-17 (Japanese site) in Shimokitazawa sells relatively affordable beans that make a satisfyingly strong and delicious cup of coffee
Affordable is in fact one of the keywords about Shimokitazawa. The neighborhood is filled with many reasonably priced restaurants and boutiques, and the prices are certainly one important component of the area’s charm.
Discover Shimokitazawa — A few offbeat shops:
B Side Label, Kitazawa 2-36-2 (Japanese site) is filled with thousands of stickers and labels for all tastes.
Sendaiya, Kitazawa 2-27-8 (Japanese site) is a retail outlet of the eponymous producer of Japanese health food natto in Yamanashi Prefecture. If like me you already love natto, you can ignore the English mistakes in this poster that makes their (actually quite tasty) natto doughnuts sound rather scary. If you (like many) don’t like natto, well, here’s further reason why. Their other store in Ikejiri also has a small restaurant.
Caricature Japan does portraits from real life or photos and can add various backgrounds such as famous Japanese tourist sites. They closed their Kitazawa shop, but have stores around Tokyo and Japan.
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